Not having kids is the next cool fad

We humans are part of the environment.

Really, all those trees, bugs, birds, sand, walruses, ice floes, endangered orangutans … we’re part of that.

Call me out for pointing out the obvious, but this notion was once a big revelation for me.

Humans: the observers of the environment ... pfft.

I studied and worked in a few different aspects of the environment; as a technologist, a student, scientist, a field practitioner, an activist, an idealist and now a journalist.

Throughout most of these experiences, I always pictured myself as an observer, but not necessarily part of any type of ecosystem. I guess you could picture it like being a plumber; you fix the pipes, but they’re not your pipes. Well guess what – they are our pipes.

A simplified carbon cycle - one of the many ways we alter the environment. Poor little bunny.

So, we alter the environment, we change it, we destroy it, we help sustain parts of it and the important thing to remember is that we are integrally in it. We’re in it a little too much, actually. The human population in 2011 is forecast to reach 7 billion people. Think crowded metros, shopping malls, streets, overburdened aquifers, food demand, product demand, fuel demand, everything, really.

I’ve always found it so funny that people will make such a big fuss about snow geese overpopulation while we’re the most critically overpopulated species there is, considering our impact on the planet over the last several hundreds of years and how quickly we’ve grown thanks to technology and agriculture.

Human population growth through the ages, or, in other words, WTF

With so many millions of more people out there, can you imagine the increased strain that will be felt by the ecosystem? How much more food will have to be grown and how ethics will stand to face such increasing demands? We’ll need cheaper meat, more corn, more wheat, more space and so on.

Products will be shipped worldwide to the highest bidders, using more fossil fuels, to reach the throes of demand as nations increase their wealth and opt to live more Western lifestyles. In all honesty, that’s what makes supporting local agriculture such a logical choice since it uses less fossil fuels for transport and boosts your local economy, but I digress.

Human overpopulation is a huge problem, but thanks to Oprah and other celebrities, going child-less is becoming the next hip fad. Last year, Sex and the City’s lavish movie about a group of gals with too much money hit the screens. While there is hardly anything environmentally positive about this film, it makes a powerful statement when the main character Carrie Bradshaw and her husband talk to another couple about how their marriage is just about the two of them – no kids allowed.

Carrie Bradshaw is a pretend person, but it is beginning to hit the mainstream to go child-less and they’re speaking up about it. Less people means less strain on resources, causing the planet to give a brief sigh of relief. Oprah Winfrey and Cameron Diaz are part of the GINK (green inclinations, no kids) crowd who proudly live child free; some with the intention on minimizing their impact on the planet by purposefully keeping an empty womb.

When you look at the impact that each individual has on the planet, like the estimated 9,441 metric tons of CO2 used per person in their lifetime, which is close to a 6-fold increase from our parent’s generation, less people might just make sense.

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  • so, how many kids do YOU have? If you don’t plan on having any, how do you plan on becoming insanely rich so you can pay someone to wipe your bottom once you’re too old to do it yourself?

    Once you’re old, the only people who will feel obligated to wipe your butt, help you get to the store, get out of bed, remember medicines, or fend off con men–are your children! anyone else will demand that you pay them.

    all I’m saying is that it’s not a black-and-white issue. I am in no way a “pro-octomom” type of person, nor religious.

    why don’t we hold polluters accountable anymore? (in a real way, I mean)

  • I disagree with the idea that one should not have kids as a way to help the environment. In first world countries population growth is leveling off. Better health care, lower infant mortality rates, more reproductive freedom, and equality for woman have all lead to families having fewer children later in life. Also, don’t forget that children replace mom and dad, so an only child is (ultimately) population negative…

    The environmental impact is not about more “mouths” to feed, its about the few consuming WAY too much. The US wastes a biblical amount of energy, while huge families in the developing world get by on a fraction. So it’s not that there are more people, but how the people that are here use our shared resources.

    In fact, as a population develops the birth rate drops off. Hans Rosling has a great TED talk about this:

  • Joe – I sense some resentment here! Just to make you feel better, I’ll let you know that I have a step son.
    You don’t have to be insanely rich to go kid free, and you don’t need to go into palliative care when you get too old to wipe your own bum, and not every child will take care of their parents when they’re older. The CLSC and other services exist to help people who live on their own and need help. There are millions of childless old people out there, I guarantee you, and I assure you that polluters ARE being held accountable for their actions, albeit not always to an effective end.

    Drew – I agree. I’ve written quite a few articles found on forget the box about over-consumption. More people does mean more resource use, though, and while people in wealthier countries are living longer, the only-child equation ends up equalizing itself probably around the same time those kids end up procreating. Definitely not a b&w issue. Thanks for the TED talk link.

    Check out the response to this post on reddit:

  • It’s not “over population” that is causing harm to the envirionment, it’s irresponsible environmental practices that is destroying the Earth. There is no need to fear so called “over population”. It’s not the AMOUNT of people that’s the problem, it’s the mindset of the population. People have to be responsible, there is plenty of space on the planet. People really have to get the idea of “over population” out of there head.

  • Silly Jay, overpopulation is totally PART of the problem. It’s not a black and white issue. Read the article again, please, and visit the links on the page.

  • Well,

    If each couple had ONE kid only thats already cutting the population to half the size. Two kids per couple doesnt change anything. Threee, four or more… then thats a problem!

    Go to hell Octomom.

  • People always think that when they have one child to ‘replace themselves’ it’s ok because eventually they will die. But they are not dying when their child is born (hopefully) so for most of their lives there are now 3 people instead of 2 and that’s one extra person who eats, drinks, and is a massive consumer. Now imagine if you have two kids and then become grandparents…. Get the picture! One couple is actually producing a lot more than they are replacing. I’ve wracked my brain and haven’t come up with any good reasons to have a kid – having someone take care of you is not a good reason. If you want be part of raising children, be a teacher, be a mentor, be a good aunt/uncle, or adopt. Having a child is just about doing what’s best for you, not about doing what’s best for the world. If you want to do what’s best for the world…Volunteer! If you read books about happiness ie. Stumbling upon happiness, and other studies of happiness, kids don’t even bring as much ‘joy’ are we are led to believe. But you know what does bring people happiness….volunteering 🙂

  • Mel, good article! Population IS a problem. I am researching different topics concerning population and child bearing for my undergraduate thesis. Its amazing how Americans in general feel like its our right to occupy every square inch of the land on this planet. They are misinformed and uneducated about the subject.
    The reasons for having children make me sick. From being a fad (everyone has them without thinking..a must have), to having a being to wipe their butts when they get old, these deluded thoughts are unethical and selfish. But isn’t that the American way of life? This subject opens a whole can of worms. Why do people in this country feel like they have a right to do whatever they want, even if its not logical or for the greater good? I have several theories. Its this selfish, self indulging mentality that will make this could be utopia of knowledge and technology a complete slum nightmare to live in. Most of these people are simple minded and cannot see the whole picture. They are brainwashed by Sean Hannity and their local pastor to believe that procreating is a god given right, and not a PRIVILEGE (which it should be). You should have to acquire a procreation license to have a child. Overpopulation is just half of the problem. How these children are being raised and the environment they are in is a whole different topic that needs to be addressed. Thanks

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