The Kids Conundrum
When I was at primary school my sister Sarah and I ran a ‘Save the Earth club’ in our bedroom with whichever friends we could coerce into coming. It was fairly boring: let’s do some wildlife word searches and then go and pick up some litter. The irony that we spent loads of time coming up with planet-saving quizzes then photocopying them hundreds of times for our friends was not lost on my dad, whose office provided the paper. I look back on my younger self and chuckle. Knowing how many orang-utans there were in the rainforest would not particularly make an impact on the world. But it illustrates an interest, a passion that developed and ran deep as I made my way into adulthood.
Now, almost everything in my life is done with an eye on the environment. Every life choice we make has an impact upon our planet, and I want to keep that impact as low as possible. I am vegan, I don’t fly, I cycle everywhere, I conserve water as much as I can, I use a Mooncup, I buy all my clothes in charity shops, I have a composting toilet, my electricity is generated by a solar panel, I waste little, I avoid plastic, I don’t own a car. But still, I consume. Simply by being alive I use the world’s resources.
There are 7.6 billion people living on this planet. By 2050 it’s expected to reach 9.8 billion. Yet there will still only be one planet. And that planet cannot possibly sustain all those people.
Yes, we can reduce our energy requirements, tap into the earth’s renewable resources, all drive electric cars, recycle absolutely everything, find an alternative to plastic, work out how to be less polluting. But the best thing we can do for the planet is simply to stop growing. Fewer people will naturally use fewer resources. As Sir David Attenborough says, “All our environmental problems become easier to solve with fewer people, and harder — and ultimately impossible — to solve with ever more people.”
We all have a choice about how many children we bring into this world. I have chosen to have none; that’s my choice, and that doesn’t mean everyone should make the same decision, but I sincerely wish that more of us would make our choice with the fate of the planet in mind. The world can exist without us. Unfortunately, we cannot exist without it.
I appeared on the BBC website today telling my story. It’s just a snapshot, and focuses perhaps more on it being my personal choice than on the environmental nature of the argument, but the message is simple: an ever-expanding population is unsustainable, and for the good of the planet we should be having fewer children. There is no planet B.
I also blogged on this topic here: The Morals of Having Children
Addendum: None of this means I don’t like children, or that I think people who have children are bad. I have five nieces and nephews that I adore. Neither does it mean I don’t want a family; if that were to happen, I would adopt (probably a child rather than a baby). I do get frustrated when I see big families, though. If we’re going to put a number on it, having two kids is about right for a sustainable population. There is a lot more information at the Population Matters website, including facts and statistics to back up the research.