Environmental Ethics

Volume 45, Issue 3, Fall 2023

Kalle Grill
Pages 265-286

Procreation vs. Consumption
Harms and Benefits

Recently, it has been argued by several scholars that we have moral reasons to limit our procreation due to the harmful environmental consequences it entails. These calls for procreative restraint are typically made in relation to other lifestyle choices, such as minimizing driving and air travel. In such comparisons, it is assumed that the environmental impact of procreation encompasses the lifetime consumption of the child created, and potentially that of further descendants. After an overview of these arguments, I go on to provide an examination of the main benefits of procreation, in relation to those of consumption, i.e., other lifestyle choices. My normative assumption is that benefits hold moral relevance, alongside harms. Procreation may benefit procreators and may provide more collective benefits. Some benefits tend to preempt the environmental impact associated with procreation. I conclude that the benefits of procreation are substantial and typically greater than those of consumption.