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Scientific Journal Advocating Child-Free Life Sparks Fury in Low-Fertility Finland

The idea that having children are bad for the environment and should be avoided, supplemented with an image of a baby with a huge X over it hit a sore spot in the Nordic country hit by the worst baby drought in its history.

The 13/2019 edition of the magazine Tieteen Kuvalehti, which addressed climate change and numerous ways of minimising the carbon footprint, has struck a chord in Finland.

After listing more conventional ways of reducing one's carbon footprint, such as abstaining from consuming meat and minimising air and car travel, Tieteen Kuvalehti concluded that the right (and the single best) thing for a climate-aware person to do is to abstain from having children.

The idea that having babies is bad for the environment, complemented by an exed-out image of a baby on the cover, was ill-received in Finland, where the birth rate is currently at a historic low: according to the United Nations report World Population Prospects 2019, the number of children under age five in 2015 was 300 million, compared with 501 million in 1950.

Centre Party MP called for the magazine to be “hidden” in shops, libraries and kiosks.

“I believe conveying the message that a baby is a source of emissions is going too far. It gives children and youth the impression that they are a burden, and I find this horrible”, Aittakumpu told national broadcaster Yle.

Christian Democrat MP Päivi Räsänen was also outraged by on the cover.

“The message of the cover image is offensive to babies and families with babies <…> Children that are well cared for and educated will come up with the solutions to future problems, not be the cause of them. I support a counterattack to propaganda of this nature that says 'All babies are welcome!'”, Päivi Räsänen said, as quoted by Yle.

Esa Iivonen, a senior expert at the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, also found the proposition outlandish.

“It is strange that having a child is a climate problem. Don't we believe that we can change our climate-damaging lifestyle? After all, it is young people who have demanded change. Children have a future in many ways”, Iivonen tweeted.

​Meanwhile, the number of births in Finland fell for the eighth consecutive year in 2018, as the total fertility rate hit a historic low of 1.41 children per women, Statistics Finland indicated. The last time Finland experienced baby blues of comparable proportions was during the great famine that happened about 150 ago.

However, this is not the first time scientific papers suggest abstaining from having children for the sake of the planet. A 2017 study from Lund University in Sweden, suggested having fewer children, living car-free, avoiding air travel and eating a plant-based diet, claiming that these measures are more efficient in reducing emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling or relying on energy-efficient household lightbulbs.

Helsinki University world politics professor Teivo Teivainen stressed that the decision to have fewer children includes many ethical considerations. While underscoring Finland's responsibility, he stressed that the birthrate of the small nation has almost no significance on the global scale.

Tieteen Kuvalehti is the Finnish version of the Danish periodical Illustreret Videnskab, published by the Swedish media house Bonnier Group, which is run by the Bonnier family and operates in more than a dozen countries. It circulation is about 550,000 copies.

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