One of my friends has a bumper sticker on her car that reads, “Thank you for not breeding.” Every time I read it, I feel a pang of guilt that I have two children. I know that children in developed countries, especially Americans, use up for more resources than children around the world. The statistics are staggering when comparing children’s footprints across the globe, which causes many environmentalists to suggest that not having children may be the single most important thing you do for the environment. As a mother of two, this is a hard pill to swallow, and I try to convince myself that my children will be part of the solution since they are raised with green family values.
According to Mother Jones, a developed world baby’s carbon footprint is quite large:
Between 2000 and 2050, the U.S. will add 114 million kids to its population. Africa will add 1.2 billion—but their respective CO2 emissions will be the same.
One American child generates as much CO2 as 106 Haitian kids.
Zahara Jolie-Pitt will produce 45,000 lbs of CO2 yearly, compared with 221 lbs if she still lived in Ethiopia.
A typical baby goes through 3,800 disposable diapers in her first 2.5 years.
96% of American babies wear disposable diapers. In China, only 6% do. In India, 2%.
China claims its one-child policy has prevented 400 million births—saving 1.5 billion tons of CO2 in 2004 alone.
China is often criticized for its one-child-policy as a restriction on personal freedom. I am not a proponent of laws that dictate the demographics of a family, but I do think that through education, we can have a significant impact on helping families decide the right number of children for themselves and the environment. I believe in educated choice.
I do have a few friends who have three or more children. One friend was accosted by another mother as being environmentally irresponsible for having three children. For many environmentalists, having children feels like a hypocritical action. Angharad Penrhyn Jones said in the Guardian:
Eco activists spend their lives agonising over the planet’s future – but that doesn’t stop them having children. We mustn’t give up hope.
It is a personal decision whether or not to have children. I believe it is possible to live by environmental ethics and have a child, obviously since I am a mother. The amount of carbon left behind as individuals and families is the most important factor, whether we have children or not. It is all about carbon emissions. If you leave a very small family’s carbon footprint, you are being eco-responsible and can still have children. It is one reason why I live-off-the-grid and grow my food. Just remember:
American children make up 4% of the world’s population, but they consume more than 40% of the world’s toys.