The Cardus study: do climate change concerns lower fertility?
Fearmongering abounds about climate change.
Doomsayers predict an environmental apocalypse. Exactly when and how this will unfold is “unclear” (media-speak for don’t know).
Back in 2021, the UN issued an environmental “code red for humanity”. Climate change angst has fueled an anti-natalist movement to “save the planet” by not having children. Extreme? What else is new?
Alarmist reporting has enabled this silliness to accrue critical mass. That led Cardus, a pre-eminent Canadian think tank, to commission ace demographer Lyman Stone to see if “concerns about climate change lead women in Canada to have fewer children”. Stone’s research reveals much.
But first, some perspective on climate change consternation.
I once took a course on propaganda techniques. The professor, a retired diplomat, was already a septuagenarian when serendipity landed me in his class. He told us about his high school internship at the local desk of a big city newspaper. One day, the phones were dead, with no wires or couriers coming in. He said to his boss, “I guess there is just no news today.”
“Come with me,” he was told. Keep in mind this happened generations ago.
They went to the zoo and discovered that exotic snakes dined on young rabbits. The next day’s breaking news conveyed the impression that poisonous, slimy, sinuous serpents were being fed cute, cuddly baby bunny rabbits – on the taxpayer’s dime.
You’ve heard of “breeding like rabbits?” Wouldn’t you know, some poor slob in the community was scoring a wee bit of lucre catering the zoo with those adorable furball entrees. Outrage ensued. There were angry letters to the editor. Do-gooders got their knickers in a twist. The editors smiled.
This leporine massacre had been underway for some time. No one had given it a second thought – until the reporter, who taught his teenage assistant, “There is always news.”
Fast forward a few generations, and there is climate change. Get the connection? As the French say, plus ça change. Some believe that not having children, or having fewer children, will somehow save the planet.
Royal renegade Prince Harry has said that he and Meghan would have a maximum of two children out of concern for the environment. Lyman Stone’s research delves into the subject. But first, why is such a study even necessary?
Climate derangement syndrome
Some time ago, the Babylon Bee UK Guardian ran the following headline/subhead:
The next best actions are selling your car, avoiding flights and going vegetarian, according to a study into the true impacts of different green lifestyle choices.
This quite serious piece elicited a few chuckles. Will having fewer children impede climate change? Can climate change be stopped?
Then there was this gem in the British Vogue, read by thousands of young women, headlined “Is Having A Baby In 2021 Pure Environmental Vandalism?”
For the scientifically-engaged person, there are few questions more troubling when looking at the current climate emergency than that of having a baby… the declining health of the planet cannot help but factor in your thinking. Before I got pregnant, I worried feverishly about the strain on the earth’s resources that another Western child would add. The food he ate, the nappies he wore, the electricity he would use; before he’d even started sitting up, my child would have already contributed far more to climate change than his counterpart in, say, Kerala or South Sudan.
Note the lady “worried feverishly.” How about moving to South Sudan?
Here’s a CNBC.com headline: "Climate change is making people think twice about having children".
- Analysts at Morgan Stanley said in a note to investors last month that the “movement to not have children owing to fears over climate change is growing and impacting fertility rates quicker than any preceding trend in the field of fertility decline.”
- Some people are choosing not to have children because they fear that doing so will amplify global warming.
- “Over the last few years, the climate has definitely been a major contributor to us not wanting children.”
This is getting serious. A human-interest nugget:
James has two girls aged three and six. “Worrying about their future is a frequent trigger for me,” he said. “I’m constantly thinking about when it’s going to be appropriate to dissuade them from having children of their own, as I think we’re really past the point of no return.”
The poor fellow is triggered and longs not for grandchildren. Wish I could somehow assuage his angst. But his trauma paled in comparison to that of a 39-year-old teacher lady bloviating, “I refuse to bring children into the burning hellscape we call a planet.”
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I had no idea things were that bad. Here in the Shenandoah Valley, we just don’t see any “burning hellscape.”
There’s a surfeit of such articles. The woke/progressive mantra is that having children is driving climate change. Does that affect fertility? We now have a realistic idea, thanks to Mr. Stone.
Cardus is a leading public policy research group in Canada. They’re Christian. Their mission:
[C]larifying and strengthening, through research and dialogue, the ways in which society’s institutions can work together for the common good.
They tasked demographer Lyman Stone to assess the impact of climate change concerns on Canadian fertility. Stone is Chief Information Officer at Demographic Intelligence and writes extensively on demographics, migration and related issues. His work pops up at Vox, The Federalist, and various big-name legacy media.
The study interviewed 2,700 women of childbearing age selected by ethnicity and other elements for an accurate cross-section of Canadian society. And guess what? Concerns about climate change are not the major reason women are having fewer children. But they are a factor:
- Twenty-eight percent of women under age thirty who desired to have more children than they currently had cited climate change as a concern that influences their family-planning decisions, making this concern the tenth-most prevalent of all concerns surveyed. [Emphasis added]
- Seventeen percent of women under age thirty who desired to have more children than they currently had cited overpopulation as a concern that influences their family-planning decisions.
So women worried about climate change had lower fertility desires, but no significant variance in “actual fertility behaviours” than those not thus concerned. “This suggests that climate-change worries are not a major determinant of Canadian fertility behaviours.”
Another bombshell: “Both women who are worried about climate change and women who are not worried about it are likely to have fewer children than they desire or intend.” Unfulfilled desires and intentions mean fertility choice is impeded.
I was dubious when I first heard about this study. Do people truthfully answer survey questions? Does Mr Stone go full policy wonk, mire himself in minutiae and miss the bigger picture? Not at all:
Concern about climate change is part of a larger set of cultural or political beliefs, and these broader beliefs are actually a stronger predictor of fertility outcomes.
A “larger set of cultural or political beliefs”, i.e., modernism, etc., explains the fear of bringing children into the world. We already knew that children were expensive and a lot of work. But do they also trash the planet? Why, that’s tyke terrorism!
Previous Cardus research revealed two top factors predictive of fertility preferences: 1) religiosity and 2) political affiliation. For wokesters, politics is religiosity – a secular religion. As fanatics, they are beyond reason, brook no dissent, and demonise those who dare disagree.
My family is full of ardent conservationists. Now repackaged as environmentalism, that noble cause has been weaponised for modernism. The Cardus study bears that out.
Climate is always changing. Is it anthropogenic (human-caused)? In part, certainly. To what extent is up for debate. Wars do more planetary damage in weeks than years of peace. Single volcanic eruptions release more greenhouse gases in hours than all living beings do in years.
‘Tis a tall order to fight climate change, but a man-centred Age of Reason-based ethos certainly girds us with the hubris and chutzpah to give it a shot. Upon consultation with scores of eminent scientists, I was informed that climate change was underway even before there were zoos or even snakes. I was further informed that climate change continues and is expected to continue continuing.
Don’t let that limit your family.
Louis T. March has a background in government, business, and philanthropy. A former talk show host, author, and public speaker, he is a dedicated student of history and genealogy. Louis lives with his family in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.
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