While it’s fun to kit your kids out in cute eco-friendly clothes and teach them how to protect planet Earth, there’s one fundamental question that may cause eco aware parents a few sleepless nights. Our kids may be clever, well brought up and destined to do something wonderful with their lives, but does their presence really do the planet any good? To be blunt – is having kids strictly eco-friendly?
Whether you’re considering a second child or preparing for your first, it’s a controversial question that puts the principles of what it really means to be a parent right in the spotlight. It’s not a subject that people like to talk about in the open, and those who do are often roundly criticised. For example, eco activist Jonathon Porritt received flak from parents and the media alike in 2008 when he suggested contraception and abortion must be used intelligently to help halt overpopulation. His suggestion that responsible parents should not have more than two kids was treated with scorn from all sides of the political spectrum.
The Carbon Cost of Kids
But while Porritt may have been castigated in the press, other groups believe he just might have a valid point. After all, children use up valuable resources that aren’t just limited to their parents’ savings accounts! It’s been estimated that each baby born in the UK will burn the carbon equivalent to 2½ acres of oak woodland (about the size or Trafalgar Square) during their lifetime. Cutting down on the number of kids per household is one sure-fire way of reducing this considerable carbon footprint.
Tackling Over Population
There’s also the point that all these new bodies appearing on planet Earth also take up space – which is becoming a fast-dwindling resource. Experts estimate that the population of Britain will pass 70 million by 2020, while the global population is expected to top 6.7 billion in 2050. This equals a 50 per cent increase since the 1960s – an additional 3 billion people. We already use too much energy for one planet, and the pressure on our natural resources could one day be catastrophic.
A Sensible Solution?
Though in the long term it may be responsible to limit the amount of children we have, there’s the uncomfortable matter of just who decides this magic number – and how it’s enforced. For many people in the West, setting an official limit on children in law has parallels with the workings of a totalitarian state, and would anger many would-be parents.
So what’s the solution? Some people believe that educating more people about contraception would help stop unwanted pregnancies and so ease the strain on the natural world – although this point of view has hit ideological opposition from many Catholic countries. Maybe the answer is for potential parents to think of the needs of the world while planning for a family. And perhaps we should hope that one of our wonderful offspring will one day come up with the cure for climate change that secures all our futures for many generations to come.