Florian Werner, writer, Berlin
The birth of a child is traditionally considered an occasion for joy. For the philosopher Hannah Arendt, it even symbolizes the epitome of happy beginnings, a repetition of the divine act of creation: "The fact that in the succession of generations there is a continuity of these beginnings worth remembering," she writes, guarantees a history "that can never end, because it is the history of creatures whose essence is the beginning."
Today, in the age of the Anthropocene, this optimistic view of natality has been fundamentally shaken. Children are no longer unquestioningly perceived as the embodiment of new beginnings but increasingly as the epitome of endings. On the one hand, they are among the potential victims of the impending climate catastrophe – on the other hand, they are seen as contributors to it. Newborns are converted into pollutant emissions, parents decide against further offspring out of fear for the future, associations like Conceivable Future propagate climate protection through childlessness. The birth of a new human being therefore no longer symbolizes the Genesis, but the Apocalypse.
So, in the age of the Anthropocene, is it still permissible to bring more children into the world – and if so, under what conditions? What should one do, think and hope if one already has children? How can one reconcile them with the fact of their birth in a possibly doomed world? And how does the prospect of a possible catastrophe change our understanding of genealogy, future and inheritance?