megan wanted to know what effects having kids has on the environment. i told her that i thought i read somewhere that you could have the worst car ever, fly everywhere, etc. etc., and you still wouldn’t have a worse carbon footprint than having a kid. i don’t know how TRUE that is, so i decided to do some research.
(first, i would like you to know that, unlike some political candidates, i think fixing the environment is a top priority. in fact, it’s MY top priority. like hank green said, what good is universal health care if there’s not an earth to live on? [if i could find the video, i would post it, but i cannot find it.])
ok, so i google “carbon footprint and having children” and HOLY CRAP 1 million results.
wading into the fray, what i find most plausible is a study done by statisticians at oregon state university. from my quick read through of the press release, i gleaned some interesting points:
“…the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives – things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.”
“When an individual produces a child – and that child potentially produces more descendants in the future – the effect on the environment can be many times the impact produced by a person during their lifetime.”
in the US, a child adds about 9,441 metric tons of CO2 to the carbon footprint of a parent, which is 5.7 times the lifetime emissions for an average person (i’m guessing sans child). other countries will have less of an impact since the US is all about consumption – a child born in china will have 1/5th the impact as a child here. (this may change in the future, as china and india are upping their CO2 outputs.)
to top it off, the stats peeps mentioned that this research is relevant to other environmental concerns, such as shortages of potable freshwater consumption.
i don’t know what to tell you parents and parents-to-be. obvs we wouldn’t be here without reproduction, but with 7 billion people on the planet, and populations doing nothing but rising, the probability of the human race dying out is pretty slim.
i go back and forth – on one hand, there are studies like this. environmentally, it would be better to not have kids right now. but then there’s the old “your ancestors were strong enough, smart enough, and attractive enough to get to this point in the universe, and you’re going to choose not to perpetuate your genes?” argument. which makes me feel horrible and like a bad member of humanity.