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Sat 20 July 2019
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The threat of environmental catastrophe has led a growing group of women to become so concerned about bringing a child into the world that they have gone on birth strike.

Children are a hot topic right now.

Meghan Markle, Duchess of Sussex, is reportedly planning to take just three months off from her royal duties once her first child with Prince Harry is born. It would be churlish to point out that she has childcare on tap. We wish her and her baby well.

An average of 58.6 tonnes per year of ‘CO2-equivalent emissions’ could be saved if you forgo having a child in a rich country.

Meanwhile, at the lively Extinction Rebellion (XR) protests, women and their offspring were becoming the poster children for the Climate Change Generation.

Adorable little people stood behind barriers and carried placards, participated in “die-ins” as they lay prostate on the floor of the National History Museum and boiled inside buggies under a blazing sun.

No one will forget the determined face of school strike heroine, 16 year-old Greta Thunberg, addressing the UK Parliament and the XR rebels at Marble Arch.

A growing group of women are so fearful of bringing a child into a world facing environmental catastrophe that they have gone on ‘birth strike’.

The commitment shown by #BirthStrike founder Blythe Pepino and co-striker Alison Brown when they appeared on ITV’s This Morning was, frankly, heart-rending. These women and their partners want children but, here they are, denying themselves the gift of creating a new life and raising a family while they stand at the forefront of climate activism.

Factoring reproductive choices into your life plan has just become a whole lot more complicated. Watch this space.

“BirthStrike aims to put the human back in the environmental narrative to show that we are intrinsically linked to nature, and we are part of, and affecting, our world ecosystems,” Blythe explains.

“We have to hope that the majority wake-up from this in time and are willing to act against the people in power who are against necessary change and that this will happen on the huge, unprecedented scale that is needed.”

Blythe eloquently points out that they do not stand in judgement over those who do want to procreate. “We will celebrate and fight for any new families!”

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Given that a study back in 2017 found that an average of 58.6 tonnes per year of “CO2-equivalent emissions” could be saved if you forgo having a child in a rich country, compared to 2.4 tonnes if you live car-free, there are clearly added eco-benefits to joining the birth strike brigade. The former figure was calculated by taking into account a child’s potential descendants.

‘Birth Strike: The Hidden Fight over Women’s Work’, a book by National Women’s Liberation organiser Jenny Brown, states that low birth rates are widely seen as a threat to a country’s individual economy. Brown reports that Japan, China, Russia, Turkey, Germany, France and Sweden change policies in response to slowdowns in birth rates, improving paid family leave, child and childcare allowances.

Someone needs to tell all the relevant politicians that there is a climate crisis and that the global population is poised to grow from 7.7 billion to 9 billion by 2037.

BirthStrike aims to put the human back in the environmental narrative to show that we are intrinsically linked to nature.

Blythe Pepino

Brown’s fury is directed at the “utter individualisation” of child-bearing and rearing in the USA.

“While the whole society gains the benefits – and especially employers – the costs are privatised onto parents, especially women,” she says.

Unpaid leave in America is limited to three months and four out of 10 workers don’t even qualify for that.

“A quarter of employed moms return to work within two weeks of giving birth – only 13 per cent have access to paid leave. Women have turned to crowd-funding sites so they can afford to take leave,” according to Brown.

Factoring reproductive choices into your life plan has just become a whole lot more complicated.

Watch this space.

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