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August 2009
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Does Having Kids Increase Your Environmental Footprint?

While watching television last night this MACLEANS title flashed across my screen The Case Against Having Kids: They can hurt your career, your marriage, your social life, your bank book. Why bother? And it shocked me … really is that what people think, how naïve. Mind you I come from a family where my mother was uber successful, worked hard but was always there for those ‘big’ moments in life and when I needed her. I decided that it was best that I actually read the article and I was surprised by what I read. The article was in no way a reflection of the title, it more discussed that some people choose not to have children and that it is becoming acceptable to do so (it never should have been unacceptable to NOT have children!)

The Voluntary Human Extinction Movement

Towards the end of the article there was a small statement about the effects of children on the environment. The argument is that as you add another person to the planet you increase your carbon footprint by adding another person. Thus to really minimize your footprint on the earth you shouldn’t have children.

Meet VHEMT (pronounced vehement) a movement (and as they say, not an organization) to stop breeding.

“The Movement presents an encouraging alternative to the callous exploitation and wholesale destruction of Earth’s ecology […] the hopeful alternative to the extinction of millions of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo sapiens… us. Each time another one of us decides to not add another one of us to the burgeoning billions already squatting on this ravaged planet, another ray of hope shines through the gloom. When every human chooses to stop breeding, Earth’s biosphere will be allowed to return to its former glory, and all remaining creatures will be free to live, die, evolve (if they believe in evolution), and will perhaps pass away, as so many of Nature’s “experiments” have done throughout the eons.’

Not for the faint at heart, but an interesting notion.

There might be some rational behind this. The Mayan’s predicted that the earth would see a ‘doomsday’ and mankind as we know it would be eliminated. Like the dinosaurs someone/something might be researching us in the future to uncover what caused our demise. The global warming scientists say that we are destroying our the fragile earth at an alarming rate, even calling it a ‘weapon of mass destruction‘. Some go as far to say that there is no way to reverse the damage, that we are on the path to destruction.

What are the options?

Having children is a personal decision, I’m not advocating either way. I have my opinions and will follow what I believe in. The obvious two options are have children or don’t have children. Another way of looking at it is for every couple have two children; replace yourself when you leave this earth. In the MACLEAN’s article they make a reference to the starving children in the developing countries and if we really are being selfless that we should adopt, since many of those families are large and cannot sustain themselves. Whatever decision you make just make sure it is the right one for you.


Comment from Lisa
Time August 5, 2009 at 1:05 am

If you only knew the discussion around our table last week about this particular article!!! Simon, in particular, was incensed at the assertion that one would regret having children…or at least that the children had to live with the parent who voiced it for all to hear. Personally I think the carbon footprint stuff is a ridiculous defense. Kids cannot be compared to a biocar or composting. They are human beings and if we are to make this world a better place, they are our responsibility. Not everyone has to do it. You are right. It is a personal decision based on that which a (potential) parent is willing and able to give up and what they consider to be a reward. The article was very good in that it has sparked much debate. Great contribution.

Comment from Sasha
Time August 5, 2009 at 12:11 pm

The whole children thing really is an interesting debate. Like some many things in life some people really aren’t meant to have children and others are. And like everything else it is about being responsible.
I love kids… I had a great lunch yesterday with my friend Hayley and her six month old. She had her eco-friendly reusable bowls, bottles, etc in a insulated lunch bag… and her little Lilly is just gorgeous!

Comment from Betsy
Time January 14, 2011 at 4:38 pm

So what this article is saying is that we should allow people that “don’t know any better” to bear children and then we, the people that “know better” would adopt those excess children. Sounds a bit complicated and doesn’t make any sense. Why not provide resources, education and birth control such that people can have children in scenarios where they can provide for them, by choice.