"Why can't I get sterilised in my twenties?" asked Holly Brockwell in the Guardian this week, before proceeding to recount her various thwarted attempts at infertility. Time and time again the doctors she sought help from turned her down. They said she'd change her mind. They rhapsodised on the joys of parenting, and told her patronisingly that, at 29, she was still 'too young' to make that decision. I need hardly point out that Holly is a full 13 years older than many girls decide to have kids - she does so herself, most cogently. What interests me about Holly's experience is the resistance she encountered, and its implications for what seems to be a growing new trend.
"The world's going to shit," declared my friend the other week- admittedly half a bottle down, but still dead serious. This was not the wine speaking. "By 2050 - when our theoretical kids will be our about age - we're predicted to have food shortages, extreme weather, serious flooding, and increased conflicts as a result. Who wants kids in that?" she exclaimed. Never mind the fact - indisputable given the current housing crisis - parents of my generation won't own a property, ever, unless their own parents can help them: this was the bigger picture my friend alluded to, and one with which I reluctantly agreed.
In September 2013 climate scientists warned that without "substantial and sustained" reductions in greenhouse gas emissions we will breach the symbolic 2C. Beyond that, we've been repeatedly told, there's no return. In order for it to hold, the total amount of carbon released from the ground cannot exceed 1,000 gigatons. By 2011, more than half of that was emitted. Four years on, and just what is our government doing about it? Frack all.
For those not quite clear, fracking is basically colonic irrigation for the earth in order to flush out its carbon. This comes out in the form of natural gas, which we will then burn. It's gone down a treat in the US, where climate change is largely classed as below Santa and Olaf the snowman in credibility; I used to think we were saner here. Yet the stupidity of politicians, and their location today is irrelevant when you look at humanity's prospects globally in the - well, not even long, more medium term.
So women - and men, of course, but wombs have the last word - have this quandary: how can we justify propagating? How reconcile reproducing on a planet that's overpopulated, and in all probability headed for ruin? Is it even worth it? It's not like we can really afford children, after all - and with our parents and elders expected to soldier on for many years, alive in body if not in brain, we'll have dependents enough to cope with. Our economy will be in tatters of course, but at least we'll have somehow limited human suffering.
Which is where power comes in. We might not care about the economy in the face of global doom, but politicians do. So do big corporations. They need our money, they need our labour - and they need our young. I don't know why Holly Brockwell has come to her decision about kids - it's none of my business - but it's inspired strong reactions. Women not having children historically bothers authority. And while they may do so for myriad reasons today, as more and more women follow suit and cite the environment as the cause, it will be interesting to see what happens: whether politicians, apparently deaf to the marches, petitions and scientists, will listen to prospect of our hollow wombs.