For 33-year-old British musician Blythe Pepino the latter is a reality. Her fears about climate change are so strong she has decided not to have biological children.
“I really want a kid,” she told CNN. “I love my partner and I want a family with him but I don’t feel like this is a time that you can do that.”
So far, over 330 people have joined, of which Pepino estimates 80% are women.
‘Inheriting a world worse than ours’
“You are gambling with someone else’s life,” said Cody Harrison, a 29-year-old who recently joined the group. “If things don’t go well, that human is not going to have a very good life.”
“When climate change gets worse, it multiplies other things. It’s like dominoes that are falling,” said Lori Day, another member of BirthStrike. “It goes beyond sea level rise and storms. It affects food production, migration, resources and war.”
“The data says there’s a ticking clock,” said Josephine Ferorelli, a co-founder of the group. “The 11-year window more or less approximates a lot of our reproductive windows as well.
“What kind of harm will a hotter and more painful world inflict on my child? Nobody has the answers for that,” she said.
In March, US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told her 3 million Instagram followers, “there’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult… is it still ok to have children?”
More children, more emissions
In addition to fears surrounding the quality of life for future generations, some BirthStrikers don’t want to have children because of the extra emissions that their kids, and their descendants, will produce.
Most of the world’s projected population growth will be in developing countries, but developed nations have much higher average CO2 emissions. The average American emits 15.6 metric tons per year, while Sri Lanka and Ghana emit less than one ton per capita.
Consumption, not population?
So, should everyone in industrialized countries consider having fewer children, to reduce emissions? It might not be that simple.
The scientists concluded that although reducing population “might benefit our great-great-great-great grandchildren,” it is not a short-term “elephant in the room” solution.
Instead, the study suggests society should focus on reducing the carbon footprint we already have and limiting per-capita consumption.
“If everyone consumes the way the US did, we would need another four to six earths,” said Meghan Kallman, co-founder of Conceivable Future. “It’s not actually about the number of people. It’s how those people consume.”
“From a carbon perspective, one baby more one baby less, the way that you approach it as an individual has no significant impact whatsoever,” said Ferorelli. “It’s about why it is so carbon intensive in the West to have a child in the first place.”
The opportunity cost of a child
Both BirthStrike and Conceivable Future are quick to say that they do not endorse coercive population control methods or judge anyone for having children.
Nor should the groups be conflated with the anti-natalist movement, the philosophy that it’s morally wrong to procreate, because of the suffering that comes with life.
“I try not to judge anybody for their own choices,” said Harrison. “Once I’m ready I’d like to adopt.”
Day even wondered whether a child that is due to be born could be the child who solves the climate crisis.
Creating political action
For the groups, their declarations are less about individual actions and more about a collective effort to prompt political change.
“I did have a sneaky feeling that it was going to rock the boat of certain patriarchal groups,” said Pepino. “I wanted it to freak people out and I think that it has.”
Pepino said that there had been a “violent backlash” online after an interview she did on Fox News, but says now there is a lot more solidarity.
“Knowing that there are people out there who feel the same way helps us come together and say something really politically powerful,” said Kallman. “This is a huge freaking problem and we need to solve it right now.”
The groups also hope to channel the energy they would have used to raise children into activism and rebellion.
“I am in a position to be an activist,” said Pepino. “It’s a stronger calling than motherhood, even though I still mourn the idea.”
“Now is the time to create the disruption and bring the system to its knees because it is just ignoring it,” she said.
“Every day that we don’t act is another day that more people will die, more species will become extinct and more likely we will be heading to a completely uninhabitable planet.”