The Future Belongs to Those Who Show Up for It, Part II

Here‘s an article on environmentalists who sterilize themselves for the sake of the planet. Some quick points: (1) Surely this fails the test of Kant’s categorical imperative. What if everyone were to act on the same maxim? The human race would die out—something no rational agent could will, for it would entail the extinction of rationality. This would, moreover, be bad—showing that it also fails the test of general utilitarianism. (2) Isn’t this attitude self-defeating in a more direct sense? Like the Shakers, environmentalist extremism seems destined to die out due to an inability to reproduce itself. (3) Environmental extremism arises from giving the relatively distant future a heavy weight in one’s deliberations. But doesn’t unwillingness to reproduce turn the future over to those who do not share one’s attitudes? Presumably those who do show up for the future will not have been raised to give it a similarly heavy weighting. (4) What a life-negating philosophy! Where’s Nietzsche when you need him? Consider the words of one of these women, who was sterilized at 27:

We used to say that if ever we did want children, we’d adopt, as there are so many children in need of a loving family. At least then, we’d be doing something positive for the world, rather than something negative.

But the value of a human life is positive, not negative. Human beings are a resource, not an expense. (Most of them, anyway.) (5) It’s hard to see anything about the “carbon-footprint” arguments these people use that’s unique to humans. Other animals seem to impose similar costs on the environment. If the life of a human being has negative value, then, it would seem, the lives of dogs, cats, lions, tigers, bears, deer, etc., also have negative value. (6) It’s hard to take the moral argument seriously when people say things like this:

Every year, we also take a nice holiday—we’ve just come back from South Africa. We feel we can have one long-haul flight a year, as we are vegan and childless, thereby greatly reducing our carbon footprint and combating over-population.

So much for moral imperatives; this appears to be a lifestyle choice.I’ll tell you what: I’ll have kids and promise not to take an intercontinental vacation each year. We’ll probably come out about even on the carbon-footprint scale. But my kids will have been raised to think that worrying about “carbon footprints” is stupid and self-defeating.

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