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Laurie Penny: ‘Women shouldn’t apologise for the pitter-patter of tiny carbon footprints’

In our series marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, the author calls for an end to blaming mums for everything, including climate change

Everyone has mummy issues these days – including climate scientists. A recent study made headlines by suggesting that the number-one thing a person can do to reduce their carbon footprint is to have fewer children. Right on cue, a neo-Malthusian chorus seized on the study as another opportunity to shame women for their reproductive choices. Averting climate catastrophe is a collective responsibility – but it’s far more comfortable to blame your mother, or someone else’s, for every social ill.

I’ve just crossed the invisible rubicon between the age when you’re shamed and terrified out of the very idea of breeding and the age when you’re coerced and cajoled into it – if you have a uterus, of course. If you don’t, you can pretty much sit back and wait for some woman to do the donkey work of organising your genetic legacy, safe in the knowledge that you’re unlikely to be judged on your reproductive choices. I’m consistently taken aback by the number of men my age and older who speak offhandedly about their “future children”, without having planned in the slightest for the arrival of these notional sprogs – simply assuming that it’ll happen someday, when they’ve had time to dedicate themselves to their life’s work.

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