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Dublin: 13 °C Thursday 17 October, 2019
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What is 'birth strike' and why are people considering it all of a sudden?

Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez said that people have a ‘legitimate’ reason to not want to have children.

PastedImage-10431 Source: ITV

IF YOU HAVEN’T noticed yet, the weather over the last few years in Ireland has been pretty strange. We’ve had an unusual amount of snow, storms and we also had a ridiculously long heatwave last summer. 

Outside of Europe, things are even worse. 250,000 people had to flee their homes in California last year because of wildfires, while apples are cooking in trees and fish are dying from the heat in rivers in Australia. If the weather’s not enough to worry about, the planet’s oceans are also full of single-use plastic and all the other rubbish we’ve spilled in there over the last few decades.

The actions and decisions of past generations have not made Earth a very nice place for young people today, and unless corporations are forced to take responsibility for the damage they are currently doing (and let’s be real, it is corporations who are responsible for this mess – not you and your plastic straws – as it was revealed in 2017 that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of global emissions) the next generation of humans on this planet don’t stand much of a chance. 

You can see why people wouldn’t want to have kids, with so much uncertainty ahead of us all. The destruction of the planet has accelerated at an unprecedented level in the last two decades, and none of us really know how bad things will be in ten years’ time. Do you really want to bring children into such a miserable world? Is it fair? Aren’t kids just an extra carbon footprint added to this mess?  These are all questions asked by the environmental ‘birth strikers’ – “the men and women who have decided not to have children in respnose to the coming “climate breakdown and civilisation collapse“. 

Now, firstly, the people behind BirthStrike say that they aren’t here to shame anyone who does want to have kids or chooses to start a family at this critical moment in human history. In a recent interview with The Guardian, Blythe Pepino (the person you may have seen on TV discussing the BirthStrike movement in recent weeks) said, “Its aim is not to discourage people from having children, or to condemn those who have them already, but to communicate the urgency of the crisis.”

It is a “radical acknowledgement” of how the looming existential threat is already “altering the way we imagine our future.” They acknowledge that population reduction is not the answer to this issue (and point to a 2017 study that explains “that the crisis is well past the point of being able to be mitigated by the choices of individuals”). When Blythe Pepino spoke on This Morning recently, she said: 

The concern for pretty much all of the BirthStrikers that have joined our little group is that there isn’t going to be a future for those children. We’re talking about the scale of a crisis which is so unprecedented, and there’s so much about it that is terrifying and it’s not going to happen in our grandchildren’s lifetime. It’s going to happen in our lifetime. I’ll be alive when this is happening.

While on This Morning, Phillip Schofield shared some grim statistics from the WWF, who say that 9 out of 10 seabirds have plastic in their stomachs and that between 1970 and 2014, humans managed to wipe out 60% of animals with backbones. Schofield also said that during the 70s, Jacques Cousteau was warning people of the harm we were inflicting on the planet, but nobody with the power to do anything about it listened. Pepino chimed in:

We feel really let down by the authorities. We feel like there’s no management of this crisis. The scale of it is really hard for people to understand because it’s all the different aspects – the rising sea levels, the CO2 problem, the desertification, the eco-system collapse, they create feedback loops so we can’t really predict what’s going to happen.

Source: This Morning/YouTube

What do these women want to happen as a result of their protest? 

Alice Brown, who joined Bylthe Pepino on This Morning said the answer systematic change. 

We’re at the stage where we need political will. Just the other day, MPs debated climate change for the first time in two years and 10 out of 650 MPs turned up. After that happened, Clive Lewis tweeted that because of this situation, he’s making sure that his daughter has learned self defence and basic survival skills. That’s one of our MPs that has said that. 

This climate change debate was called in response to a protest in which 10,000 secondary school pupils walked out of classes and went on strike to draw attention to the escalating ecological crisis. 

Alice reiterated the point that it is gone well past the point of individual responsibility, and that we need political change. 

What’s really going to change this is deep-rooted economic change, political change, the change within the media and for people to find out about what’s really going on and put the pressure on the government. 

At the end of the interview on This Morning, Blythe and Alice said that they really did not want anybody at home trying for a baby or sitting at home watching telly during their maternity leave to feel guilty about their choices. 

We’ve all got friends and family who are having kids right now. I actually just got a phonecall from a friend who phoned to celebrate the fact that she’s pregnant and we pass absolutely no judgement on anybody who’s choosing to start a family at this point in time.

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Kelly Earley

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