NBC Advises Having Less Kids to Save the Environment

In the name of “morality.”

Kids. Who needs them? Not the Earth, according to a new NBC Think piece that suggests everyone “stop having them” if we care anything about the environment.

Travis Rieder, who holds a Ph.D. and is (get ready) the Assistant Director for Education Initiatives, Director of the Master of Bioethics degree program and Research Scholar at the Berman Institute of Bioethics, didn’t pull any punches when he titled his piece: “Science proves kids are bad for Earth. Morality suggests we stop having them.” Nor in his tagline: “We need to stop pretending kids don't have environmental and ethical consequences.”


In keeping with what Rieder calls “climate change ethics,” the author urges a sort-of future euthanasia of potential polluters before it’s too late:

[H]aving a child is a major contributor to climate change. The logical takeaway here is that everyone on Earth ought to consider having fewer children.

Not only does Rieder consider the positive impact of a human shortage scientifically provable, it’s also the only moral choice with which we’re left. Of course, with everyone gone, who will be there to test if the experiment worked? But never mind those details. On with the show.

Rieder realizes that just about everyone opposes not being alive and that it’s uncomfortable to imagine a world without babies, but “the seriousness of climate change justifies uncomfortable conversations.” So, there.

To that end, the NBC piece squarely places the sins of the children on the parents, i.e. the child’s carbon footprint is directly the fault of his/her parents. And to bolster his point, Rieder uses this preposterous analogy:

If I release a murderer from prison, knowing full well that he intends to kill innocent people, then I bear some responsibility for those deaths — even though the killer is also fully responsible. My having released him doesn’t make him less responsible (he did it!). But his doing it doesn’t eliminate my responsibility either.

Something similar is true, I think, when it comes to having children: Once my daughter is an autonomous agent, she will be responsible for her emissions. But that doesn’t negate my responsibility. Moral responsibility simply isn’t mathematical.

Rieder goes on to say that what matters is being a part of the solution — a “final solution,” if you will:

The importance of this argument for family size is obvious. If having one fewer child reduces one’s contribution to the harms of climate change, the choice of family size becomes a morally relevant one.

We’re sure Rieder is thankful to be alive to warn us all that the only thing that will save us is our extinction. Are they just giving out Ph.D.s to anyone now?