Sunday, August 9, 2009

Have Fewer Children To Reduce Your Carbon Impact

A new study by scientists at Oregon State University suggests that Americans should have fewer children to reduce their carbon footprint.

This seems like a logical conclusion, given the way American children (and families) squander resources, overuse, and overconsume.

Yet as a society we do not support men and women who do not want children. Take A., a friend who tried to get a vasectomy in his 20s but could not find a doctor who would agree to perform it. A. felt he did not want to contribute to environmental degradation by producing more of the invasive species known as homo sapiens. The doctors worried he might change his mind later.

A. didn't change his mind. But he did have an accidental pregnancy with his wife that resulted in an abortion. The vasectomy could have helped avoid that.

If we are really serious about Americans having fewer children, we need to make all kinds of birth control cheaper and more readily available. We also need to promote vasectomies and other sterility options instead of discouraging people who seek them out.

If you read the fine print, the OSU study also mentions that, if you look on a more global scale, large families do not have the impact that large American families do. In Niger, for instance, very little carbon is emitted by rural families, who often have as many as 11 children. They do not use electricity, most do not drive cars, they bath in one bucket of water or less per person. Their contribution to global warming is miniscule.

Then you see American families with just one child who consume vast amounts of resources. Most people we know with SMALL FAMILIES have at least 2-3 cars. Many Americans drive gas guzzling vehicles they have no real need for. People take 20+ minute showers, wrap everything in plastic, overheat their houses, and obsessively mow their lawns with gas-powered mowers. They also generate huge amounts of unnecessary trash without being conscious that they are doing so. Our habits in this country are embarrassing. People do not think about their behavior when they put apples in plastic bags at the grocery store, buy food that is imported from New Zealand, and turn on the air conditioning when they can simply open their windows at night and close them in the morning.

The real problem in America is not the number of children we have but how we are raising them: to be selfish, dependent, and over consuming.

To read the article about the new findings, click here.


Alexandra Grabbe said...

Thanks for posting information about the Oregon study. I find its conclusion quite depressing. Education is the way to go, not fewer children. Slowly Americans are learning to care for the environment. I can see the difference in the types of guests we receive at our green bed & breakfast. The ones who leave the lights on when they go out and request extra towels get nudges as to why these choices are not ideal. I do not hesitate to tell the girl bagging my carton of milk not to and gently explain why. If enough of us reach out this way, hopefully we change national habits one person at a time.

Anonymous said...

I agree that the real problem is not that we're having too many children, but how we are raising them. It's so difficult with all of the consumerism on TV, the Internet... you've heard this rant before! I think the best we can do is set a good example and set rules for our children when they are young.