With future generations facing ecological catastrophe within decades, some believe that the best thing they can do for their offspring is not to have them at all. In Ireland one in five women, either by choice or circumstance, will never become mothers. Birthrates have plummeted in Greece. Marked declines in fertility rates have been measured since 2009 across most of Europe, the US and Australia.
Children born in 2016 will still be in their early 30s by midcentury and likely by then to be facing their own decisions about parenthood. For those paying attention to environmental science 2050 has a deeply ominous ring. Carbon-dioxide levels will by then have more than doubled since preindustrial times, on current trends, locking in dangerous climate change for millenniums. And acidification, pollution and overfishing are on track to have rendered much of the world’s oceans almost lifeless in the same timeframe.