Tuesday, August 14, 2012

For Some, Planet > Parenthood

By Amy Phillips Bursch, Media Relations Manager

I don’t know if you’ve seen this great PSA from Population Media Center. It brings up a crucial point: It’s all of our responsibility to consider the environmental impact of decisions we make.

I try to be a good environmental steward. I recycle everything I can. I bought an electric kettle because it’s much more efficient than the stove. My husband and I own a car, but we hardly ever drive it. We live in a one-bedroom apartment. I should give up meat, but I really love a good burger or steak. Our carbon footprint is reasonably low (for Americans, anyway, which isn’t saying a whole lot.)

But the biggest environmental choice we’ve made is one that most people don’t think about – or at least talk about. We don’t have kids.

Now I know there are probably a few parents out there who are ready to hit the caps lock key and give me a VERY BIG PIECE OF THEIR MIND (Warning: Link is gross but funny.) Please understand that I am entirely pro-choice – what you do with your body in your bedroom is none of my business. If you wanted kids and had them, great! If you don’t want kids and didn’t have them, super! If you didn’t want kids and had them anyway – well, that’s why I support full access to voluntary family planning everywhere in the world. Families need the ability to decide whether or not to add another member.

I’d be lying if I said that 7 billion people plus on our planet is the reason we made the decision to go totless. It’s not. I’d say “severe lack of interest” is more accurate. But environmental concerns ARE a reason many people decide to Just Say No – to reproduction. The costs can’t be ignored, according to scientists at Oregon State University:
  • 20 Americans would need to recycle, buy nothing but compact fluorescent bulbs and drive super high mileage cars – among other efficiencies – to equal the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact an additional American kid will make over his lifetime.
  • An average American kid leaves 160 times the carbon footprint over her lifetime than the average baby from Bangladesh.
  • Each American kid “ultimately adds about 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average parent – about 5.7 times the lifetime emissions for which, on average, a person is responsible.”
You get the picture. Americans are tough on the planet. As the PSA showed, if everyone lived like we do, it would take FIVE EARTHS to sustain us. As far as I’m aware, this is the only one we’ve got.

So some environmentally minded people take matters into their own hands. Or their urologist’s hands. (You know, vasectomies? I’ll be here all week). There’s even a name for it: GINKS. As in “green inclinations, no kids”:
  • “There are a lot of perks to childfree living, not to mention a lot of green good that comes from bringing fewer beings onto a polluted and crowded planet.” – Lisa Hymas, senior editor, Grist
  •  “If you are not the kind of person who wants to [parent], it’s not going to be fair, given the fact that the planet doesn’t need your kids. It’s important to make sure that if you do have kids, that it will be good for you and the planet.” – Peter Wenker, Colorado Springs
  • “Once I fully wrapped my brain around the relationship of overpopulation to climate change, especially in the West, I made a big decision: I won't bring more kids into the world.” – Author Stefanie Iris Weiss
They’ve all decided not to have kids. Others do have kids, but only one or two instead of four or five (or 19 like the Duggar family.) The good news is that reproduction is no longer mandatory – we have choices. And with increased access to affordable contraception, it’s easier to have the family size each of us wants.

For my husband and me, that means no kids. Seven nieces and nephews, but no little people of our own. Given the state of our planet – and my track record at keeping plants alive – that’s probably for the best.


  1. I'm so glad people are talking about this!

  2. hi my name is sha. I was adopted and have no kids or a car. I perfer to date me who had vasectimys

  3. I'm not an envirofreak, but overpopulation was one of the many reasons why my wife and I decided not to have children. Such a decision - to have children or not, and if so, how many - is always very complex and individual. I very much doubt that many couples decide not to have children on purely environmental grounds.
    But not having had children, my wife and I feel free to drive cars that are not minimal, etc.

    1. In the early 1970s we did some calculations & realized that if nothing changed, 40-50 years in the future the would would most likely be overpopulated, resources would be nearly depleted and wars would be fought over water. So we decided not to have children. No kids, no grandkids, no regrets...and we weren't far off the mark!

  4. I made the decision not to have kids. And thus, the planet's wildlife are my kids. :-)

  5. Overpopulation is one of the main reasons I want to adopt. I always tell people, why should I make a kid of my own when there are so many kids in the world without parents.