The Daily Mail profiled two women who have made a rather radical choice: deliberate childlessness in the name of eco-friendliness. The paper describes the decision by Toni Vernelli to terminate her pregnancy and then get “sterilized at age 27 to reduce her carbon footprint.” Vernelli feels glad, according to the article, that she opted out of creating a new human being to “use more food, more water, more land, more fossil fuels, more trees, and … [add] to the problem of overpopulation.” While Vernelli’s choices seem radical, there has been an ongoing discussion of childbearing-as-consumerism in the media of late.
Earlier this year, feminist magazine B*tch addressed the idea of families deliberately limiting the number of children they have in response to our consumerist culture. Author Kara Jesella wrote that large families are, to the “environmentally friendly progressives … the human equivalent of a Hummer.”
Jesella cites Alan Weisman’s bestseller The World Without Us, in which he suggests the neccessity of several generations of one-child-per-family practices to stem population growth and its negative effects on the planet. Jesella later goes on to quote Richard York, sociologist from the University of Oregon, writing, “The consumption of energy and materials is fairly closely inked to population — although there are many factors, especially economic growth, that are also important — and this in general population plays an important role in resource depletion and waste generation.”
The magazine article goes on to describe some eco-activists who are critical of families who choose to have numerous children while also critiquing the ways that we live, calling our current crisis not one of population, but one of consumption.
Given this dialogue, folks like Vernelli, while taking extreme, surgical measures, seem part of an interesting movement against consumerism. Vernelli describes her activism to the Daily Mail, citing her vegetarianism and other environmentally friendly passions.
Vernelli is joined by Sarah Irving, who, along with husband Mark Hudson, decided to live “the greenest possible lives,” according to the article. Irving spent her life “agoniz[ing] over the perils of climate change, the loss of animal species and destruction of wilderness” and decided never to have a child. Irving and Vernelli both, according to the story, have always felt it was their duty to not reproduce, from a very young age. Irving and Hudson discussed this belief from the beginning of their relationship and agreed that Hudson should have a vasectomy in the name of the planet. The couple also absconds from other consumption-driven activities like driving (they don’t own a car and instead travel by bike) and flying and eats only locally produced food.
The Mail quotes Hudson discussing the family’s decision to remain a twosome: “Sarah and I don’t need children to feel complete. What makes us happy is knowing that we are doing our bit to save our precious planet.”