Procreation, Adoption, and Anti-Natalism

Here’s a recap of a conversation about having kids and anti-natalism that I recently had with a friend:

> One of the reasons I don’t want kids is because I think it would be difficult for me to unconditionally love someone, and simultaneously pour so much of my time and my resources into them and yet accept that they don’t owe me anything for doing so. Being a parent is so demanding. I don’t want that.

>> You said you weren’t completely closed off to the idea of adopting, though. Why is that different?

> In the case of adoption, perhaps the good I can do for an individual outweighs the costs to me. I could be taking someone out of an orphanage or a foster home or some other terribly abusive situation and give them a home and a stable environment to grow up in. Presumably they’d be much worse off if I didn’t adopt them. I have the ability to make someone’s life infinitely better. That’s not the case with having a biological child. They wouldn’t exist without me. I wouldn’t be making their life better nor would they be missing out on anything – they don’t exist. There’s no good I can do in having a biological child that would outweigh the costs to me.

>> Maybe, but I think there’s something to be said about raising a child to be a good person with good moral values. Regardless of whether that child is adopted or biological, doing that is a good thing.

> True, but you need to take into account the environmental footprint a person leaves on the earth over the course of their lifetime: how much waste they produce and resources they use up – especially in a first-world country. With adoption, you can still produce the good involved with raising a morally upstanding person but at no additional cost to the earth and the environment, since this person already exists and is going to produce waste and use resources regardless of what you do. To bring a new person into this world is to increase the amount of waste/resources that would have otherwise been produced/used-up.

>> That reasoning makes sense, but what happens if we universalize it? Would it be good if everyone stopped reproducing? It doesn’t seem like we’d want that.

> Well, that depends. Good for who? Good for sentient beings and the planet overall? Honestly, yeah it probably would be good if everyone stopped reproducing. Humans wreak so much havoc and destruction on the planet, the other beings that live on it, and even on each other. None of that would continue to happen if we no longer existed.

>> But what if we allowed for our species to live on and we eventually found a way to live peacefully and more environmentally consciously, such that we didn’t pose a threat to the earth or the other animals living on it anymore?

> Well, if we’re going to speculate about “what-ifs”, what if, instead, we continue to live selfishly and without regard for our impact on the greater ecosystem, eventually run ourselves into the ground, and do irreversible damage to our planet such that our way of life drastically changes for the worse because we can’t adapt to the environmental changes we’ve brought about? Now, based on what scientific experts are currently saying, which “what-if” seems more likely?

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