Wednesday, 16 May 2018

The Times/Ben Webster: Leilani Münter, champion of the child-free, urges women to save the planet

The Times
Wednesday May 16 2018

Leilani Münter, champion of the child-free, urges women to save the planet
Ben Webster, Environment Editor

May 16 2018, 12:01am, The Times
The racing driver Leilani Münter joins Sir David Attenborough as a patron of the campaigning charity Population Matters
The racing driver Leilani Münter joins Sir David Attenborough as a patron of the campaigning charity Population Matters
Alex Krohn

When Leilani Münter realised that her relationship was getting serious she sat her boyfriend down to have a conversation about children.

The professional racing car driver told him that she intended to remain “child-free” and if he felt differently they should probably break up there and then. That was 12 years ago and they have been happily married since 2009.

“The only babies in our house have four legs and are furry,” she says, referring to their three rescue cats.

Now Münter, 44, wants to help other women make the same choice by becoming a patron of Population Matters, a British charity that campaigns to end population growth.

The charity, created in 1991, has struggled for years to attract much attention despite having some eminent patrons, most of whom are elderly men, including Sir David Attenborough, 92, the scientist James Lovelock, 98, the biologist Paul Ehrlich, 85, and the economist Sir Partha Dasgupta, 75.

It hopes that its new patron, named one of the world’s top ten female racing drivers by Sports Illustrated, will help it to reach a wider and younger audience. In an interview with The Times, the American said she wanted to change the language used and assumptions made about women who did not have children.

“It’s something expected of people as if that is the natural chain of events: you meet your partner, get married and have kids. When you don’t do that last step people ask, ‘Are you not having kids?’ I always answer, ‘Actually my husband and I are child-free by choice.’

“When you say ‘childless’ it sounds like you are missing something and has this underlying feeling that you wanted children but couldn’t have one.

“People need to feel that it’s an acceptable thing to be child-free. You are doing something in the long run that’s great for the planet.”

She is dismayed that so few fellow environmentalists are willing to speak out about the problem of population growth. She is a vegan, has a Tesla Model S electric car in her garage and solar panels on the roof but says by far the most important decision she has made to protect the planet is not to have children.

“Climate change, ocean acidification, species extinction, loss of biodiversity — all of these are due to human impact on the planet. Overpopulation compounds every single one of them.”

Münter decided to be child-free aged 21 when her biochemistry professor at the University of California showed the class a film about population. “I remember being just devastated. People said to me, ‘You are young, you will change your mind, your biological clock will click in.’ I have never felt that click. If we were ever going to choose to have children it would obviously be adoption.

“But we both have full-time jobs, we travel a lot and we are both very busy. I couldn’t do the environmental activism if I was changing diapers and riding kids to soccer practice.”

She says she enjoys being a “fun aunty” to her three nieces and recently took one scuba diving. “I get that fulfilment. I don’t feel like I have missed out on some big experience in life. I made the choice and I’m happy.”

Robin Maynard, the head of Population Matters, said: “Leilani is an ideal ambassador. She lives according to her principles and uses her status as a top sportswoman to bring environmental messages to places other campaigners can’t reach. She embodies female empowerment and has the courage to speak up on this very controversial subject.

“Like her fellow patron, David Attenborough, Leilani recognises that you can’t fix our environmental problems while adding ever more people to the planet’s population. That’s the vital message she’ll help us to spread and we’re delighted to have her on board.”
The masses

    The world population is 7.6 billion and growing by 1.5 million a week.
    The UK’s was 65.6m in 2016 and is projected to pass 70m by 2029.
    Half of population growth up to 2050 is expected to occur in nine countries: India, Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Pakistan, Ethiopia, Tanzania, the USA, Uganda and Indonesia.
    Countries where the population is expected to decline by more than 15 per cent by 2050 include Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine.
    The environmental impact of each extra person depends where they are born. The carbon footprint of an average American is 16 tonnes of CO2 a year compared with 100kg for someone from Niger.


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Leilani Münter is a 44-year-old American motor racing driver who enjoys a vegan diet and is not averse to being...
May 16 2018

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