guest topic

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.”

and

“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.

greeeeeaaaatt.

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.

thoughts?

6 thoughts on “guest topic

  1. Jane

    i’ve been back and forth on the issue. during high school i had the whole “white picket fence dog in the backyard with 2.25 kids” vision. the more time i spend out in the world as an adult, the more i think it’s just easier not to have. it’s less expensive, less time consuming, less carbon footing the environment, etc.

    i’m all for the “you need a license to drive? you need a license to reproduce” idea. i don’t think it’s gonna fly. the more interaction i have with the human race, the more i believe i don’t need to add to the stupidity we’ve put on the planet.

    and while to some extent i feel i would miss out on a huge part of being female, i don’t think i’ll be having children. of course, a lot can change that opinion, but for now, that’s where i stand.

    1. admin

      i think it’s telling that society hinges, like you said, “a huge part of being female” on having kids. there’s plenty more to being a woman than pushing a little person through your vajayjay. i don’t think you should feel like any LESS of a woman for not having kids.

  2. liz

    as a parent-to-be, i understand where you’re coming from with the huge environmental impact having kids has. however, there is a difference between procreating conservatively to replace yourself and procreating abundantly and needlessly adding to the overpopulation epidemic.

    i personally feel absolutely no guilt adding to the population of the world because i’m adding to the intelligence gene pool. someone needs to make up for all the stupid people who are either having too many kids cuz they don’t know what birth control is or using their kids to get more money from the government (which happens, i’ve met them, it’s sad).

    and i know i’m going to have 2, maybe 3 kids. probably not more than that. and since my sisters probably won’t be having children, my third child is merely replacing your carbon footprint (if we overlook the fact that there will be a significant number of overlapping years here on this earth). 🙂

    overpopulation in asia and africa is a whole different kettle of corn, and i don’t have the wakefulness needed to go on about everything that’s wrong with what’s happening in those societies (the irony of having too many kids, but killing off your female babies because they cost too much and aren’t as valued).

    we could also blame part of the problem on the fact that we’re all living too long as well. what about the carbon footprint of old people in nursing homes who would be better off dead (this isn’t how i really feel and i’m not trying to be mean about it, but it’s a point that could be made)?

    1. admin

      just think if you couldn’t reproduce unless you and your partner had a combined IQ of, say, 110. even 100 (i say combined because, for instance in my case, there is one who is smarter than the other [in certain areas – nate’s more tech/street smart than i am]). that would push the IQ level up and the country’s education levels up.

      but that’s getting a little too “brave new world.”

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