Harry shared the couple’s news in an interview with renowned primatologist Jane Goodall for the September issue of British Vogue, which Markle guest-edited.
He said becoming a father completely changed his perspective.
“I view it differently now, without question,” the Duke of Sussex said. He and Markle welcomed their first child, Archie Harrison, in May.
“I’ve always wanted to try and ensure that, even before having a child and hoping to have children,” Harry said.
Goodall replied, “not too many!” To this, Harry said, “two, maximum.”
Harry went on to say that he believes the earth is “borrowed.”
“Surely, being as intelligent as we all are, or as evolved as we all are supposed to be, we should be able to leave something better behind for the next generation,” he said.
Harry added that action on climate change needs to be taken immediately.
“We are already living in it,” he said. “We are the frog in the water and it’s already been brought to the boil.”
In October 2018, the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a report that said humans have 12 years to limit climate change damage.
If emissions aren’t cut drastically and soon, the earth’s temperature will rise, authors added.
The report continued, saying temperature increases by even half a degree of what they are now raises the risk of “drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people” significantly.
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The situation is intensifying, and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex aren’t the only ones who plan to have fewer kids (or none at all) in the name of climate change.
A recent survey conducted by Business Insider found that nearly 30 per cent of Americans either strongly agree, agree or somewhat agree that a couple should consider climate change when deciding whether or not to have children.
Climate activist Anna Jane Joyner is one of those people. She co-hosts a podcast called No Place Like Home, which explores the spiritual, personal, cultural and emotional dimensions of climate change.
“If you think about how much each of us use the earth’s resources — especially in the Western world, where our lives are very resource-intensive — [not having kids] is definitely a significant way to lessen your carbon footprint,” Joyner told Global News.
Joyner decided not to have kids because she believes personal behavioural choices are “very meaningful” when it comes to climate change.
“We should all be doing whatever we can within our capabilities to have less of an impact on the earth,” she said.
However, she emphasized that choosing not to have kids is a very personal decision — one that shouldn’t be forced onto other people.
“I don’t think that, morally, you can ask people to make their decisions about their families based on their carbon footprint,” she said.
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Several organizations have formed in cities across the U.S. and Canada, aiming to spread awareness and education about how the climate crisis is a reproductive issue.
The group Conceivable Future believes the climate crisis is a “reproductive justice crisis.” They travel across the U.S. hosting parties for people to share “stories of climate change’s impact on our reproductive lives,” in the hopes that it “will bring public perception of the crisis from ‘over there’ in science/economic/politics into the heart of our daily lives.”
Similarly, BirthStrike is a group of people who have declared that they won’t have kids because of “the severity of the ecological crisis and the current inaction of governing forces in the face of this existential threat.”
Will having fewer children actually help the environment?
According to Dr. Warren Mabee, a professor of geography and planning at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., it’s true high populations will place strain on the earth and its resources.
“If the global population keeps going up… it does become more and more difficult to do all the things we want to do with the planet,” he said. “To grow enough food, to have access to land… basically, to be able to live in an affordable way.”
At the global level, Mabee added, keeping our population “in check” is better for our environment than letting our population grow.
However, he echoes Joyner’s concern that choosing to have fewer or no children may not make that big of a difference. In fact, he’s worried that the Canadian population is already steadily declining over time.
“If the ‘standard’ family size… is two adults and two children, that’s probably not enough to maintain our population,” said Mabee. “We would probably see our population go down and, indeed, in Canada we’re seeing our population decline without the addition of immigrants.”
According to Statistics Canada, the year 1971 was the last time Canadian couples produced enough children to replace themselves.
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Instead of foregoing children, Mabee recommended that Canadians focus on their “moral responsibility” to try to find the best way forward. “If you get many, many people making the right choices, it starts to make an impact,” he said.
For those who decide to have children, Mabee added, it’s critical that they’re raised with an understanding about the climate change crisis and their role in it.
In terms of the Royal Family, Mabee is eager to see what Prince Harry does with his international platform.
“Here’s somebody who has all of the tools to make great decisions and to take a leadership role,” he said. “This is an opportunity for a family that is very much in the public eye to show people how they might be able to make a difference going forward.”
Mabee is more concerned with people who feign concern about the environment and then fly in private jets.
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“I guess the Royal Family might fall into that… but to be fair, I think that Prince Charles and his kids have the opportunity to do things a little bit differently, and I think Prince Charles has been trying to move in that direction himself,” he said.
“It would be great for this new generation to see some role models at that level making conscious decisions that are going to help the world.”
How to talk to your kids about climate change
Dr. Jillian Roberts is a child psychologist and an associate professor at the University of Victoria in B.C. In her experience, learning about climate change can be scary and anxiety-inducing for young children.
One of the ways she mitigates this anxiety is by reminding her clients that “the way we’re going to be able to solve climate change challenges is really through innovation and technology,” she said. “The scientists who are really putting their minds to this have the best chance at fixing our world.”
In her view, removing some of the overwhelming pressure and responsibility to make a change allows kids to see the earth for all its beauty. Then, their desire to foster change will be out of a place of respect — not fear.
“With little ones, get them outside. Help them pay attention to the little caterpillars and the changing seasons and the beauty of the world around them,” said Roberts.
“Instill in them a great, deep love and respect for nature and the world around them.”
As they grow older, focus on education, she said. “Grow them into amazing, scientifically-minded people who can see the bigger picture and be part of the solution.”
It’s important, she added, to keep your children out of a place of despair about the environment, because despair doesn’t incite action. “Don’t panic, don’t feel like there’s nothing to be done,” she said.
“Think about what you can do in your own environment.”