For the Sake of the Planet? — Anti-Natalism in America

Joan Blades describes herself as, among other things, a "nature lover" and a "mother." She is also a co-founder of the liberal activist group MoveOn.org and a regular contributor to the liberal blog The Huffington Post.

In a recent post, Blades wrote about an article she read in her local paper. It described a group that supports the kind of measures Blades expected liberals like Huffington Post readers to support: health care for children, "fair wages" and flexible work schedules for moms.

What Blades found surprising were some of the comments that came into the paper's website. One person "reasoned" that if he has to pay $25 for a dog license, why should parents expect help when they "choose" to have kids. Another commenter simply wrote, "Can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em."

Of course, this is the Internet we're talking about. Still, Blades felt compelled to refute the erroneous assumption underlying those comments, that "choosing to have a child is purely an individual act" and not "a contribution to society as a whole."

Their response to Blades's response was — what else? — More of the same. A "chunk of the replies" objected "to contributing to the wellbeing of children" because they did not want to "reward or encourage" "indiscriminate breeders."

To be fair, many of the replies were supportive of Blades's views. Still, there were enough people using terms like breed and critters, terms normally associated with animals, to prompt Blades to write another article.

This anti-natalism is not limited to liberals. A few years ago, at a dinner I attended, a conservative Christian advocated sterilizing poor women as a solution to welfare dependency. And today, leading immigration-reform groups have links to zero-population growth advocates.

The divide is not between Republican and Democrats or liberals and conservatives — it's between those who regard children as a blessing and those who view them as, at best, a burden.

While Blades is right when she says that plain selfishness accounts for some of the hostility to families with children, there is something else at work here as well. As Catholic writer Erin Manning says, the belief that growth in human population should be controlled is "an important tenet of mainstream environmentalism."

Environmentalists agree that "there are too many people on the earth," and that repairing environmental damage requires "aggressive measures to limit and restrict human population."

In contrast to the Christian idea of stewardship, which "wishes to conserve and protect the natural resources of the planet for the sake of future generations," this viewpoint "wishes to eliminate future generations for the sake of the planet."

This is only one example of the cultural message today driven home to Americans: that is, that large, or even medium-sized, families are an impediment to the good life. Even if the kids are not yours, their existence will have a negative impact on you — whether it's higher taxes or global warming.

Blades was rightly disturbed by the sentiments expressed, but she should not have been surprised — not in a culture where being a "nature lover" and a "mom" is viewed as a contradiction in terms.

This commentary first aired on March 9, 2007, and is part three in a three-part series.

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