Several media outlets and talking heads have encouraged parents to rethink having children because human beings — even small ones like kids — risk polluting the world and causing global climate destruction.
News and op-ed headlines have come out in unabashed support of having few or even zero children over the years. One example is from NBC News Think in 2017: "Science proves kids are bad for the earth. Morality suggests we stop having them." Another headline from the Guardian that year declared that the answer to saving the planet was simple: "Want to save the planet? Have fewer children." Or as one New York Times writer asked in 2021: "To Breed or Not to Breed?"
A climate reporter posed a similar question to parents and parents-in-waiting in a Washington Post analysis piece this month: "Should you not have kids because of climate change? It’s complicated."
That analysis piece promoted climate guilt over having children, telling the story of one mother who "couldn’t shake the feeling that, by giving birth, she might be doing something bad for the earth." As a result, she and her husband "decided that having a child — a single child — could fulfill their desires without putting undue burden on an overheating world."
Earlier this month, ABC's "Good Morning America" interviewed meteorologist Ginger Zee on "whether or not to have children at all." Zee said the issue was a personal one for her, recounting a tense encounter with her sister over her decision to have a second child.
"When I was pregnant with my second child, [my sister] said in disappointment, ‘I didn’t think you were gonna do that again for the planet.’ She thought I would adopt," Zee said.
GMA featured celebrity quotes from Prince Harry and pop star Miley Cyrus in support of limiting children. Prince Harry said that he would have only two kids: "Two, maximum!" Cyrus said that "until I feel like my kid would live on an earth with fish in the water, I’m not bringing in another person to deal with that."
In Oct. 2021, CNN featured two women who expressed anxiety over having a child because of climate change. "Gen Dread" newsletter writer Britt Wray told CNN that women were feeling "spooked, anxious, [and in] some cases fully traumatized" as a result of climate change.
"I look at my children and I don’t know if they’re going to be able to live out their full lifetimes," Wray added, recounting fears that journalists related to her about the carbon cost of children. "I'm not a parent and I will not be a parent," University of California, Riverside associate professor Jade Sasser said on CNN. Sasser's specialty is in "gender & sexuality studies," according to her university profile.
A man who wants human beings to go extinct has also received promotion from the New York Times and the TV program "Dr Phil." Voluntary Human Extinction Movement founder Les Knight was likened to Mr. Rogers in a Times profile as he calls for humans to die out.
"Tall and gentle, Mr. Knight comes across as clear-eyed and thoughtful, like a mash-up of Bill Nye and Fred Rogers. While Mr. Knight may be against the creation of more humans, he shows great compassion for the ones that already exist," the profile read.
The debate over climate change and children also rages on other platforms, including TikTok.
One TikTok user, named "@damiensoylash," describes himself as a "satire" artist. He has over 50,000 followers and almost a million likes on the platform and summed up the arguments for a childless world in a video from 2021: "Having children is wrong," he said. "I won’t be having them myself because all the experts agree that the single worst thing any of us can do for the climate is to have a person, have a child."
"That child," he continued, "over the course of their life, will contribute 58 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere. So if you care about the planet, if you care about animals and the ecosystems and the oceans and the levels of carbon, don’t have children."
Children have figured into other emotional coverage of the issue as well. CNN's climate correspondent Bill Weir penned a letter to his newborn son in 2020, apologizing in advance to him for breaking "your sea and your sky."