A Letter To My Non-Existent Daughter
Dear Non-Existent Daughter,
I don't have the words to describe the hope you've given me for the future. I mean, I literally don't have the words to describe anything about you, because you're not real. Since I have decided to not have children, you will never exist; as a result, I don't spend an awful lot of time thinking about you (sorry).
But on the other hand, in a way you do give me hope for the future — or, at least, your state of non-existence does. Because while I chose to forgo having children for personal rather than environmental reasons, I have learned, in the years since I made that choice, that not creating you in the first place does indeed have environmental benefits for the future; more than I could ever accomplish simply by riding a bike, using reusable bags, or composting. I consider spending my prime childbearing years popping birth control pills and being preoccupied with Bill Murray movies my greatest contribution to making sure that the world you won't grow up in is a better world than mine.
Could I do more if I was a billionaire who had invented a technology that allowed the world to see what people they loathed in high school think about Donald Trump? Possibly. But given the life choices I have made (namely, to professionally blog about my vagina, instead of become a billionaire), I'm doing the best I can, by preventing your existence in the first place.
But don't take my word for it — luckily, some other people have already crunched the hard numbers. A 2009 Oregon State University study, reported on by Scientific American, found that "every American child born today will add roughly 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere under current conditions. For comparison, a Chinese child would add roughly one fifth that amount while a boy born in Bangladesh will add 1/160th. Having one fewer child would reduce a family's climate burden 20 times more than driving a fuel-efficient car or using energy-saving appliances, according to this statistical analysis."
See, not all childbirths are created equal, especially when it comes to their environmental impact. As Daniel Engber wrote in Slate, "[a]ccording to U.N. projections, the world population is likely to increase by 2.5 billion people—to a total of 9.2 billion—by the year 2050. That won't necessarily drive an equivalent percent increase in CO2 emissions, since most of the growth will be confined to the developing world, where per capita emissions are at their lowest. But we can also expect to see significant growth in the United States, where individuals do the most damage to the environment."
Can we collectively lighten our carbon footprint? Can we reverse or at least slow down any of the damage we've done to our land, seas, and skies? Can we stop using the editorial "we" because we think it makes us sound really serious and thoughtful, like we're a character in a movie being played by Morgan Freeman?
So, N.E.D. (may I call you N.E.D.?), while I do know that in many ways things are getting better in this world — the country you'll never be born into has cool stuff like marriage equality, the Affordable Care Act, and a Fargo TV show — things are still far from great. We seem to have done irreparable damage to the planet's environment, and that damage is now manifesting itself.
According to nonprofit advocacy group Union of Concerned Scientists, global warming has led to extreme weather patterns, causing increased flooding and more droughts; and the Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory predicts that ocean acidification — a process where carbon dioxide is absorbed by sea water and makes the ocean's pH more acidic — will continue damaging plants and animals that reside in the ocean, which can have ramifications all the way up the food chain.
I could go on, but you get it — in my eyes, we're pretty screwed. I'm scared for the future of this world long after I'm gone, and I'm worried that for more and more people, this planet will become a very tough place to live, no matter how much we technologically innovate.
I believe that all lives have equal value, including the lives of future generations, and that's one of the reasons why I've chosen not to have you. I would never tell anyone else what to do with their lives or their uteruses — "pro-choice" definitely contains the word "choice" for a reason — but I know that taking a pass on childbearing is one of the easiest and most effective ways for me to help out with the problems future generations will face.
Because while I do think technology is really cool — hey, technology allows me to make the money I'm currently spending on those pumpkin spice lattes instead of saving for your college education, right? — I think that for many people, the future won't be a grand experiment in seeing how great a human life can be. Instead, it will be a struggle to stay healthy and happy, and find safe places to live.
Consider disease. According to a 2006 report created by the World Health Organization, "more than 13 million deaths annually are due to preventable environmental causes....Over 40% of deaths from malaria and an estimated 94% of deaths from diarrhoeal diseases, two of the world's biggest childhood killers, could be prevented through better environmental management." So while it is great to give money to research for cures, it is also important to examine how environmental and social factors like overpopulation are allowing disease to run rampant in the first place.
Can we collectively lighten our carbon footprint?
Can we reverse or at least slow down any of the damage we've done to our land, seas, and skies?
Can we stop using the editorial "we" because we think it makes us sound really serious and thoughtful, like we're a character in a movie being played by Morgan Freeman?
I dream that all of these things can become a reality, which is one of the many reasons I will never create you.
For the record, though, I would have been totally sick at baby Instagram.
Images: Pexels; Giphy (3)