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Radical Environmentalists Wage War Against Babies

Article illustrative image Partner logo The planet is crying too

PARIS – Contraceptive pills pollute, condoms are not biodegradable… So here's your solution: sterilization.

To combat overpopulation before it destroys the planet, those who believe in boycotting the uterus have decided to take action. Their motto: Don’t have children.

Last May, during a happening in front of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Paris, an anti-natalist group distributed condoms, shouting "If you love your kids, don’t bring them into the world: it's a garbage bin;" and "Maternity is a weapon of mass pollution."

In October, 2011, humanity crossed the seven billion threshold; in all likelihood, there should be around nine billion of us on Earth in 2050. And then what?

"We’re on the Titanic, it would be reckless to take more people aboard when the boat is about to sink!" says Eléonore, a retired 70 year-old anti-natalist activist, whose two sons have had a vasectomy.

Odette, who is 68, sees it all in very practical terms."It's not political, it’s mathematical: we cannot keep on reproducing forever in a finite space. I had one child and that’s plenty enough."

Younger activists hold even more radical opinions. "If I got pregnant? I wouldn’t keep it," says one girl.

One European child = 620 Paris-New York flights

In France, these advocates of a reduced population growth shot to prominence in 2009, when Green MP Yves Cochet started militating for a gradual reduction of benefits for families with three children or more -- arguing that "a European child has an environmental cost comparable to 620 Paris-New York flights."

Last summer, anti-natality crusaders protested when the Beckhams -- David and his wife Victoria -- celebrated the birth of Harper Seven, their fourth masterpiece. Their movement gained momentum when Al Gore rallied to their cause.

They even invaded fiction, with the main protagonist of Jonathan Franzen’s bestseller Freedom embarking on a crusade by founding the anti-natalist group Free Space. Supporters of the cause are growing by the hour, and people in favor of decreasing the world’s population are swarming from country to country like organic pollen. In the UK they are called “Optimum Population Trust,” in Belgium “One Baby,” and in the U.S. they have GINKS: Green Inclination -- No Kids.

"In the world of Jesus Christ, we were 35 times fewer, and when man set foot on the Moon, the population was half of what it is now," worries Didier Barthès, the spokesman of Démographie Responsable, a French association that boasts some 100 members fighting for "modest demographics." "I have two daughters, I would have gladly had more, but at least my wife and I do not participate in the growth of the population," says president Rémi Manso.

They hand out leaflets on which lions, trees and oil barrels have been crossed out with an ominous red X -- indicating that species are on the verge of extinction, that nature is a mess and that resources are being depleted.

 "When I was a little girl, the city was 25 kilometers away from here, now it’s only eight," laments Meryl, a 36-year-old art gallery owner -- without children. "The beauty of the wilderness is disappearing and it pains me."

The "No Kids" activists often trigger hostility and are used to being the target of insults. "'Fascists', 'F*cking Malthusians’: I’ve heard them all," says Didier Barthès. "When it comes to children, people tend to get emotional. It’s a gut reaction," says one antinatalist.

In the 18th century, economist Thomas Malthus advocated birth control, but also reducing government welfare. These sorts of ideas will, at best, make you look like a pessimist. At worst, like a eugenicist. Some choose to make fun it, with a bit of black humor – ranging from rather inoffensive jokes to the provocations of the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement (VHEMT), an American group that boasts nearly 3,000 fans on Facebook. Another group, the Church of Euthanasia is composed of a handful of extremists, whose solutions include "sodomy, suicide and euthanasia." That should do the trick.

To sterilization and beyond

Some child-free environmentalists went as far as to be sterilized. Although Elodie looks nothing like a proselyte, this sweet 29-year-old saleswoman has an iron will. "I’ve known for the past 10 years that I didn’t want to have kids," she says. "I don’t like our society. There are already too many of us and I don’t want to give birth to someone who’ll be used by a small elite that wants to keep its privileges. Contraceptive pills pollute the water and mutate the fish. That’s why I’m going for permanent contraception."

Anti-natalists most often simply advocate condom use. Démographie Responsable’s logo, for instance represents the Earth wearing a latex cap. For them, having protected sex is like recycling: a gesture for the planet. Last July, the Family Planning summit in London focused on the issue of the 215 million women worldwide waiting to have access to contraception, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. "We need to educate women so they refuse to be mother hens," says philosopher Yves Paccalet.

Meanwhile, child-free activists can go online to check’s "human counter", ticking away faster and faster. On July 20 at 12.00, we were 7.025.905.459. And now?

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