In a recent Grist.org post, the author displays a bar graph which shows in descending impact the things we can do to reduce our consumption of CO2, the greenhouse gas most likely responsible for the rise in global temperatures, attributed to human consumption of fossil fuels.
The bar farthest to the right, and thus with the most impact on CO2 emissions is entitled “have one fewer child.” The choice to the direct left of that bar is entitled “live car-free.” To see these two moral decisions in such close proximity was jarring. If switching to an electric car is good, then living car-free is better. The implication of having one less child being good, is that having no children is better.Obviously, over-population is a factor in the global political ecology of climate disruption, but to lay out such a simple equivalence sends the message that higher population countries bear the brunt of the moral responsibility for climate change, when really it is the consumption of fossil fuel dependent economies in the West that produces the most fossil fuels per capita.
Neo-Malthusian finger pointing raises its head every couple of years, and this graph seems to imply that consumption is less important than global population, a suggestion that depoliticizes the distribution of power, technology, and consumption at the heart of the climate crisis.