(Perhaps I could have called this one “does green sex = green babies?” but older, wiser Jenny is actually a little embarrassed to have gotten that term rolling.)
A couple months back a reader messaged me with a good – and weird – question. Like the great blogger and expert time juggler that I am, I promptly never answered her message and lost it in the bowels of Facebook. But! I remembered the inquiry all these months, and I wanted to take a stab at it today.
Her trouble was with a friend of a more progressive stripe who’d been bending her ear on how profoundly “unsustainable” children are, and for this reason, that no one could possibly justify having more than 1 of them.
My reader, troubled though she was by her acquaintance’s apparent disdain for the continuation of the human race, was hard pressed for an appropriate response.
My initial response was to snort laugh through my nose. But then I sobered up, because hadn’t I just driven my gas guzzling mini van to Whole Foods just that past week in search of the cheapest organic formula this side of the internet?
Granted, I had the vehicle filled nearly to capacity and was therefore a candidate for the HOV lane. But I did see her point.
From a purely secular and ecological perspective, things have gotten so crazily out of focus that I suppose it is possible to make the case that HUMAN LIFE ITSELF IS NOT SUSTAINABLE OR RESPONSIBLE.
But what does that mean? Have we come to such a profound depth of self-loathing as a species that we’ve begun to philosophically self destruct over the very meaning and purpose of existence?
Is this the inheritance of relativism and materialistic humanism?
I think (for now) no, to the first, but yes to the second.
I don’t believe that most people are hellbent on human destruction in the name of good stewardship of creation. That rather flies in the face of the essence of creation, at any rate, does it not?
Can’t have a creation without creatures, and creatures gonna imitate their Creator.
But therein lies the bigger problem, a very real fruit of the harvest of a relativistic and materialistic worldview: people are no longer uniquely paramount in the created order, and people are no longer valued based on who they are, but instead are measured increasingly by what they do.
In plainer terms, people only have as much worth as what they can offer back to the world.
Which is why we abort babies with Down Syndrome.
Which is why elderly Canadians are waitlisted for basic medical services in the name of “conservation of resources.”
Which is why babies born out of wedlock to poor, single, black women are targeted more ruthlessly by Planned Parenthood than any other subset of humanity.
If you don’t have something readily apparent to offer in the marketplace, you may excuse yourself from society.
Babies, of course, are about the most useless of all humans. They consume endlessly. Milk, diapers, energy, affection. They produce nothing but waste, quite literally. And so, by the standards outlined above, they are in no way “sustainable.”
Crazy thing is, they’re also who every one of us once was.
It is a foolish bias for the here and now that drives an adult population to utterly devalue the past and the future for the sake of the almighty present.
If there’s one way to easily sum up most of our cultural woes in the year 2016, selfishness might be it.
My body, my free time, my best life now; my convenience and my prosperity and my mental health and my infinite disposable income and leisure.
Children threaten all of those, sometimes terminally. And so children have become one of the enemies of the hip new economy of self realization and fun.
For fear of missing out, we’ve traded away the one thing that really matters: relationship with the other, and that uniquely human capacity to love exponentially into the future, willing the good for a society that does not yet exist, but which will one day utterly replace your own.
(Presumably, that society will still be comprised of people, not just dogs and iPhones.)
Relationships are tricky, though. And they’re often costly. They’re unpredictable and the benefits do not, emphatically, always outweigh the costs.
But if new life coming into this sad, old world isn’t the very essence of what we’re doing here…then what else matters?
Yolo, indeed. Emphasis on the “you.”
But if it does matter? If the future is not some faceless wasteland of McDonald’s wrappers and water bottles and overcrowded parking lots with double parked hovercrafts, but a continuation of the human story? Then it matters very much indeed what we’re spending our time and money and yes, our non-renewable resources into.
Investments wisely made yield dividends into the future.
I could go into the myriad ways that children can be “sustainable” and “green” because hand me downs, carpools, shared toy economies and limited carbon footprints from expensive air travel. But those essays already exist, and the more fundamental problem in my mind isn’t demonstrating whether having a small or medium or large family can be super socially conscious, but rather the fact that the question itself is being raised: are human beings themselves, sustainable?
Without an eternal worldview and an end game sunk deep into immortality, I don’t know how one answers that question.
Which is perhaps precisely why we’re asking it in the first place.
Lose sight of the Creator, lose sight of the dignity of the creature. And the rest of creation, along with it. Which is what Pope Francis has been telling us all along.