Combatting Climate Change by Pledging to Not Have Babies?

Guest Lecturer Explores Viability of Radical Reproductive Strike Against Fracking

A reproductive strike by feminists in Canada could be a source of major political leverage against ecologically-damaging government initiatives such as fracking and the Alberta tar sands, proposed Niko Block at a lecture in the Simone de Beauvoir Institute on Tuesday.

“It’s not simply a passive signifier,” Block said. “Certainly at the level of day-to-day conversation, it would have a lot of power to be at least incredibly provocative in the media.”

Block, a researcher and writer based in Toronto, found initial inspiration for this topic from a music video to the song “(Nothing But) Flowers” by Talking Heads. In the video, it briefly shows text that says, “Number of Finnish women who have pledged not to have children until Finland bans nuclear power: 4,000.”

After further research, Block found only one English-language publication about the topic through the German Press Agency, which was syndicated internationally to media outlets including the Montreal Gazette.

According to the original article in 1986, Finnish women declared an indefinite childbearing strike as a protest to the use of nuclear power, demanding a renouncement of it by 1990.

The movement began at the University of Tampere in Finland largely due to the ramifications of the Chernobyl disaster of the same year, according to Block.

Differences between Finland in 1986 and Canada today are plentiful. One significant factor is what Block calls a “nationalistic” ideology on reproduction in Finland, which stifles immigration.

Approximately 20 per cent of the current Canadian population was born abroad, compared to three per cent of the Finnish population, he said.

With these economic and social disparities, Block acknowledges that any similar movement in Canada requires nuanced change.

“It would have to take on a different kind of character in Canada,” Block said. “It would have to be effective if it mobilized a rhetoric of activism that was sort of in line with the sardonic, almost sarcastic [styles] current in activism these days.

“I think it would definitely also have to be closely connected to other facets of the environmental movement as well as the women’s movements,” he added.

“For obvious reasons, I’m not very well positioned to lead this kind of thing.”