The Kids Conundrum
Updated: Aug 25, 2020
At the age of 18 I made the decision not to have children. The reasons are complex and varied, but it ultimately boils down to concern over the number of people on the planet and my wish not to contribute to a growing population.
Since then (despite many people telling me otherwise), I have only grown more certain that I made the right decision. All my lifestyle choices are made with one eye firmly on the environment: I’m vegan, I don’t own a car, I use solar energy, I avoid ‘fast fashion’, and I don’t fly. It makes sense that deciding whether or not to have a family would fall under the same criteria.
A lot of this comes down to consumption – globally, our resource use stands at around 1.7 earths. If the entire global population lived as we do here in Europe, we would need three earths to sustain us. If we all lived as they do in the US, we’d need five. But we only have the one. As Friends of the Earth says, There Is No Planet B.
It’s also about greenhouse gas emissions: even if our consumption dramatically dropped, every living person has a carbon footprint, and at a time when we desperately need to reduce our emissions, adding to an already large population will inevitably cause them to rise.
In my lifetime, the human population has doubled, whereas wild animal populations have halved. We desperately need to address the climate and biodiversity crisis, and in order to do that, we need to address the population issue. David Attenborough says it better than I ever could: “All of our environmental woes become easier to solve with fewer people and harder, and ultimately impossible, with ever more people.”
Yet it’s an emotive issue. I get it: I’m from a family of four girls. Kids bring joy, and more kids bring more joy. But we must appreciate our place on the planet, and understand the impact of our choices. Because of course, this is a choice, and it should be one that is made freely. While I don’t think everyone should make the same decision that I have made, I would hope that people would make an informed choice. A fully-considered decision with not just the happiness and safety of their own children in mind, but the happiness and safety of our entire global community – which means avoiding the runaway climate change for which we’re heading.
‘But what about if your child would be the one to save the planet?’ people ask me. I smile and say, perhaps they would. But with a population of more than 7 billion, we already have the brains that are needed to come up with the solutions. Indeed, we already have the solutions – we’re just not using them.
In the end, it’s not about ‘the one’ saving the planet. It’s going to take all of us, in our own way, taking the necessary action to address the environmental challenges that we face. We can and must all play our part. Every choice we make counts.
I sit on the board of Population Matters, a charity that addresses issues of population in regards to the climate and biodiversity crisis. Find out more about the charity here.