In many ways, it is a miracle that the human species has survived at all. Never mind the various natural disasters to which we have been prey, we have had to survive that greatest challenge to our species: ourselves.
And yet somehow we are still here, thanks to people having children and raising families through the bleakest imaginable periods.
People still had children in the midst of the Black Death and the Great Plague. During centuries of pestilence and famine people still raised families.
Even throughout the horrors of the 20th century and in the shadow of nuclear annihilation, humankind continued to express hope in the future through the gift of new life.
So it is not just strange but alarming that our era is seeing an increase in the number of people who believe that it is not just their choice, but their duty, to avoid having children.
An analysis carried out earlier this year found 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.”
It is an increasingly popular view, parroted by celebrities and politicians alike: “Why have children when we are facing climate change?”
The Left-wing US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said that young people are asking a “legitimate question” when they say: “Is it OK to still have children?”
Popstar Miley Cyrus has mulled the same dilemma. “We’re getting handed a piece of s— planet,” she said in one interview, “and I refuse to hand that down to my child. Until I feel like my kid would live on an earth with fish in the water, I’m not bringing in another person to deal with that.”
One wonders what delegation of marine experts and fishermen might satisfy Miley’s concerns and assure her that the conditions for reproduction were indeed in place again.
Yet while it is easy for adults to scoff at such insane scaremongering, the evidence suggests that many young people do not dismiss such talk, nor laugh at it. They are taking it deadly seriously. And the adults are failing to correct them.
In a speech to headteachers earlier this month, the headmistress of Benenden School, Samantha Price, said that teachers and other adults should take children’s climate worries far more seriously than they currently do.
Rather than dismissing them, Mrs. Price said that children should be encouraged so that their “passion” for subjects from sustainability through to equality does not “end up just going by the wayside”.
While Price drew the line at pupils following Greta Thunberg’s lead in abandoning lessons to make their point, she did say that their “ideas” on how to improve the climate should be raised within their schools.
And, in its way, Price’s speech was a prime example of the problem that a generation of adults has set up for the next generation.
For a generation, politicians and others have told children the most doom-laden stories possible. They have told them that the apocalypse is imminent. They have told them that they may never even get to grow up.
They have told them that capitalism is destroying the planet and killing its inhabitants. They have failed to explain that capitalism has raised a billion people out of extreme poverty just in the 21st century so far.
Instead, they have taken the most fanatical rhetoric into the mainstream, claiming that our planet is on the cusp of annihilation and only a return to some sort of pre-industrial society could possibly save us.
They have given a megaphone to the most radical climate alarmists, and almost everybody in positions of authority has joined in parroting the same megaphoned message.
Only a few years ago Boris Johnson could be seen in these very pages telling people that we needed to cool the rhetoric on global warming.
Fast-forward to earlier this month in Glasgow and the same Boris Johnson could be found telling COP26 that we had just one minute left to save the planet.
Of course, young people do not just listen to celebrities and political leaders, they also notice what is permitted in the world around them.
And in the UK at present, you are allowed to get away with pretty much anything as long as you say that you are doing it in the name of saving the planet. Or “insulating” Britain’s homes, to use the most recent bathetic slogan of this offshoot of the extremists at Extinction Rebellion.
This alarmist movement is much closer to an end-time cult than anything resembling scientific activism. Their claims do not stand up to the most basic scrutiny.
You are allowed to prevent newspapers from leaving the print factories (as XR did last year) and receive the most minimal slap on the wrist for this assault on the free press.
You can plonk yourself in the center of the nation’s highways, trying to cause maximum disruption to an economy still desperately struggling to get back to normal.
And if you do that then the police will most likely just stand around, observing you with interest. Though woe betides any member of the public who does the job the police should do and haul these protestors out of their paths. We built up to this moment.
Two years ago XR extremists carried out criminal damage on the UK headquarters of the energy giant Shell. Rather surprisingly they were actually arrested and put on trial.
The judge in their case declared that the majority of the defendants had absolutely no defense under the law. And yet a jury found all the accused “not guilty.”
One of the defendants crowed afterward that the fact that no jury would convict them for their crimes was a sign of “truth.”
“A broken window is a just response to a breaking world,” he said, imperiously.
The verdict was less a sign of truth than it was an invitation to anarchy. Because, of course, if you decide that we are all about to die, there is very little you might not permit to be done to stop it.
Instead of countering such extremism, figures in authority everywhere have been giving out the message that it is acceptable to do the most outrageous things, and make the most outrageous claims so long as you are doing so in defense of “the planet.”
At the center of this is a terrific fallacy; for the younger generation are merely repeating what they have been told. And because they are young they are highly likely to become defeatist or depressed.
Not just because the situation has been presented as so appallingly bad. But because there is no way that they are yet informed enough to come up with the sort of innovative solutions that will be needed to allow our whole planet to someday come off fossil fuels.
They inevitably bash against the limits of their own knowledge, because they have been taught what to think, rather than how to think.
And so this feeds this strange contemporary delusion that we must feel that the future is completely certain before we can consider bringing children into the world.
Or that the optimal financial or climactic positions must be in place. And that unless this future is assured then reproduction is not just pain but an outrage. As it happens we have countered this before.
In the autumn of 1939, C S Lewis preached a remarkable sermon at the University Church in Oxford. One part particularly stands out today.
For, as Lewis says, human life “has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.” We have always had to live with terrible shadows before us.
But as he puts it: “If men had postponed the search for knowledge and beauty until they were secure, the search would never have begun.”
It is the same when it comes to reproduction. If our species had always waited for the optimal conditions to be in place for reproduction then we would not be here today. The conditions never were optimal. Other species might choose their own paths. But mankind is different from them.
As Lewis concludes: “[We] propound mathematical theorems in beleaguered cities, conduct metaphysical arguments in condemned cells, make jokes on scaffolds, discuss the last new poem while advancing to the walls of Quebec, and comb their hair at Thermopylae. This is not panache; it is our nature.”
That remains quite as true today as it was in 1939. Today’s climate extremists have terrified a generation. In order for there to be a next generation, this one should not be further terrified, but better educated and better consoled.
Read more at Daily Telegraph