Now this is an interesting and timely topic for me, seeing how I've been trying to return to my environmental roots but am also in the midst of trying for baby #2. And while I am aware that each human born will have an environmental impact on the world, I won't be stopping my efforts.
I have to admit that I do not, at this very moment, have a lot of research to cite here, and that this is an emotional enough issue for me that I'm pretty much going to lay my thoughts out here without too much shaping.
Reasons the article and post rub me the wrong way:
- The arrogant tone of those who have chosen not to have children. They are convinced that they are better than people with children and are incredibly condescending.
- The suggestion that my children are as likely to grow up to be "Hummer-driving jackasses" as not. While I can't rule that out completely, I think the better money's on them being environmentally concerned, possibly doing even better than I on reducing their footprints.
- If we pull back and consider other factors, there is a need to approximately replace the population. In many developed nations (gross generalization alert), the fertility rate is below the level needed to keep the population steady, which is going to mess with their economies as the burden of supporting an aging population falls on a smaller number of young workers. (A problem HBM's proposal would fix. But seriously, satire!)
- We need to be looking at the fertility rate on a global level. I don't think it's a bad idea if populations in the developed nations decrease a little, but even a large decrease in those areas wouldn't address the increases elsewhere. So maybe instead of casting insults at the neighbors' rug-rats, that energy would be better put towards improving international standards of living and improving access to birth control and the like.* For an interesting look at how capitalism might evolve into something more environmentally sustainable, have a look at this post from No Impact Man.
As far as I can tell, more people are likely to be inspired to action by our friends' attitude than the people quoted in the article and post. They're not preachy, their arguments are more logical than emotional, and they recognize that there are as many answers as there are people.
Trillian and I decided a long time ago that 2 is our magic number, years before we took any action towards making children a reality for our family. Our concerns about overpopulation played a prominent role in the equation. Now that I know my youngest sister has absolutely no desire for children and that Trillian's brother is not enthusiastic about the proposition, I know that our extended family's net impact will be below the level of replacement (always a chance my other sister will have more than 2, but I definitely don't see her with 6, probably not more than 3!). And I remain pretty convinced that my children will do more good than harm. No I don't think they'll be discovering the cure for cancer or the renewable energy that will revolutionize life as we know it. But I do think that they will recycle, eat local and organic foods, maybe grow their own, and pay attention to the environmental impact of their lifestyles.
Can I guarantee that? No, but there's enough optimist in me to think it's worth a try.
*And no, this is not me supporting eugenics. I am not saying we sterilize all the adults in the third-world. I am saying that if better living conditions were the norm, if health care were available to all, if women had the opportunity to regulate their fertility, if women held a position beyond producers of heirs and cheap labor, I think that you'd see fertility rates drop and more children would be wanted children.