April 22 marks Earth Day, and this year's theme is "Invest in our planet." On this day, environmentalists and nature-lovers around the world unite to appreciate the beauty of God's creation (whether they recognize it as such or not) and advocate for its conservation. However, respect for the earth ought never to be in opposition to respect for humanity -- the pinnacle of God's creation. As some environmental extremists have begun to favor population reduction as a means to improve the planet, it is more important than ever to affirm that valuing the blessing of children and caring for creation are not mutually exclusive.
The anti-natalist vegan organization Stop Having Kids proclaims, "There is an unconscionable amount of needless suffering and death in the world. Birth serves as the catalyst for it all." According to the group's website, anti-natalists believe that human reproduction is "an irreversible, unnecessary, indefensible, and enduring form of harm, regardless of circumstances, situations, or consciousness in living." In other words, anti-natalists want the human race to voluntarily wipe itself from the face of the earth in order to prevent future harm to the planet.
Anti-natalism is one ideological manifestation of the decades-old depopulation movement. The myth of human overpopulation was popularized in the early 1970s by Stanford biologist Paul Ehrlich in his book, The Population Bomb. Ehrlich predicted a trajectory toward tragedies such as widespread famine and the collapse of civilization within 15 years due to overpopulation. Ehrlich admitted that his goal was to increase social acceptance for population control. Unfortunately, he succeeded.
Ehrlich borrowed the title for his book from a pamphlet written by Hugh Moore, a depopulation extremist, former vice president of the International Planned Parenthood Federation, and president of the Association for Voluntary Sterilization. Moore's various groups jumped into action in the 1970s to assist with forced sterilizations in impoverished areas of the world to combat "overpopulation."
Women and children have been most impacted by depopulation strategies. In 1979, when China's population approached one billion, the communist government instituted a one-child-per-family policy. The policy launched China into the demographic crisis that it is desperately trying to reverse. In 2015, the birth limit was expanded to two children per family, and in 2021, the policy was abandoned entirely. In order to enforce the policy, the Chinese Communist Party violated the bodies of millions of women with forced abortions and sterilizations, which resulted in the death or disappearance of millions of pre or post-born children, most of them female.
No policies like China's infamous one-child policy exist in the United States. However, the United States is also guilty of implementing laws that devalue women and children. As the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg once observed, the U.S. Supreme Court's 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade came at the height of global concern about overpopulation. The uncanny timing of Roe legalizing abortion through all nine months of pregnancy in the United States contributed to the anti-children sentiment that has accumulated in the nation for the past 50 years.
Although tragic, it is not a new form of irony to see environmentalists advocating for the planet's well-being while degrading the value of the humans who inhabit it. One of the co-founders of Earth Day, whose name the modern organization has tried to erase from its history, was Ira Einhorn -- a radical environmentalist and anti-violence advocate who murdered his girlfriend after she tried to leave him, then composted her body in his Philadelphia apartment.
In 2021, Elon Musk said at the Wall Street Journal's annual CEO Council, "I think one of the biggest risks to civilization is the low birth rate [...] if people don't have more children, civilization is going to crumble, mark my words." Musk's warning contradicted generations of environmentalists who have argued that the human race was on its way to overpopulation.
Instead of approaching carrying capacity, however, the world's population growth is actually expected to come to a screeching halt by the end of the century, causing all sorts of problems. The solution to this dilemma is simple: keep having kids.
Environmentalists are not wrong to argue that humans must care for the Earth and respect it; many Christians would affirm that these are biblical charges. However, advocating for the well-being of the environment must never be prioritized above respecting the dignity of human life and its uniquely surpassing value above all other biological organisms. Children are not a curse to be ended; rather, they are precious, unrepeatable souls made in the image of God. Children represent an opportunity to instill the principles of stewardship and respect for God's creation in future generations.
A wholistic appreciation for creation is incompatible with the degradation of the value of human life. This Earth Day, let us remember that humanity can make no greater investment in the planet than investing in its children.