adoption, parenting, green family

Our population has exploded over the past few decades. People are living longer, which is, of course, a wonderful thing, but that’s not to say it isn’t problematic as well. I’m not a scientist, but I have serious doubts that our planet can sustain the abuse of 9 billion people (which we could reach by 2050), especially if we continue to practice the same environmental habits (or lack thereof). My husband and I had agreed early on in our relationship that if we were to have any biological children, we would only have one. We simply could not see a good enough reason to add another human being to this planet when there are already so many who need homes and families.

I think it’s easy for us in the United States to shrug off this argument and get defensive: “Well, I should be able to have as many children as I want as long as I am able to provide for them.” We tend to get very frustrated when things that we see as our rights as threatened, which I think is a sign of a healthy, intelligent society. But I still want to pose a few questions: Is it the right of every child to have a family who loves and cares for him or her? Should we be able to have as many children as we are physically capable of, regardless of their impact on the population? What are the reasons in our society for not adopting? Exploring these questions with our families could lead to a more open-minded approach to considering adoption as an option during family planning.

I’m not suggesting we institute a one child policy like China’s former rule, but I do think that people should remain open to the option of expanding their family through adoption. And we definitely need to STOP glorifying explosive reproduction such as Octomom and the Duggars (now pregnant with baby number 20!). Having the ability to reproduce should not mean, in my opinion, that one has as many children as possible. Even if we take it upon ourselves to raise thoughtful, environmentally concerned children, there are the simple facts of consumption. In Finding Aster: our Ethiopian adoption story, Dina McQueen’s memoir detailing her own journey to adopt from Ethiopia, she quotes the staggering statistic that, “In a lifetime, the average American will throw away 600 times his or her adult weight in garbage.” Another stat: According to a 2009 study, each child adds an estimated 9,441 metric tons of CO2 to a parent’s carbon legacythat’s about 5.7 times his or her direct lifetime emissions. Of course, adopting a child instead of having one biologically does not completely erase those legacies, but it does create less of these environmental impacts simply because there will be less people making them.

adoption, parenting, green family

While volunteering in Ghana just after our wedding, I met a woman who had recently had a tubal ligation after her sixth child. She had only been able to have the surgery because it had been paid for by another volunteer, who had been moved by her story. In essence, the woman’s husband did not care that she did not want any more children and that she didn’t feel they could provide for the ones they had (including a very sick child who at over 2 years old was only the size of a 6 month old). The husband didn’t believe in using protection, and this woman knew she was doomed to spend the rest of her reproductive years birthing more children. She, like many women in patriarchal societies where women are born to breed, had very little choice in her own reproductive health. I feel unbelievably thankful that I am in charge of mine.

I have felt a child grow inside my body, and I have experienced all the accompanying emotions-the elation of feeling those first butterfly wings of movement, the awkward sensation of being kicked in the ribs by some interior force who apparently needs more room, the intensity of the contraction by someone who is ready to meet the world. I didn’t experience any of this with our daughter, but as soon as I saw her picture, she felt as much my own as any child ever could. Throughout the months of adoption preparation, of home studies and fingerprinting, of paperwork and endless, anxious waiting, we fell in love with this little girl just as we would have if she were growing inside me. We are born into certain families and we create other ones-with our friends and our life partners. Creating a family through adoption was a logical decision for us, and I truly believe it should be more supported and explored by the general population.

adoption, parenting, green family

When people find out we are adopting, their knee jerk reaction is to ask if Elijah was adopted as well. The answer (no) is often very confusing to people: Why would we adopt if we were capable of producing children? The idea that adoption is a second-choice or a last-resort option is one that is pervasive and becoming less of a reality. I have to admit-even I fell for this prejudice. I imagined that many of the other couples in my adoption agency to be older and infertile and was surprised when in our first travel group that half of our group of eight had other biological children and had simply chosen adoption. Other couples had decided to start a family through adoption without trying first for a biological child. While this choice was not made for environmental reasons necessarily, the result is the same: being able to create a family with a new child to love, protect, and care for and the added benefit of not contributing another human to this planet.

If this observation seems harsh, it’s because I truly do not feel there is a distinction between a child who is biological and one who is adopted. Having been on both sides of the coin I can honestly say for me, when I look at my children, it makes no difference to me that one shares my DNA and the other does not. I think one of the greatest things about living in this country at this time in history is that we have the opportunity to question, to experiment with ideas, to push ourselves and see how we respond. Even if you decide to have biological children, I think adoption should at least be considered when you are making your decision. Dina McQueen says, “If I can touch just one person, change the course of one family to include an adopted child, rather than giving birth, then I have done my job.” I feel the same way.

Being green can be tedious at times: remembering to carry around our reusable bags, having to go out of our way to find certain eco-friendly products or services. But adopting a child into your family as part of living a green lifestyle, there is no sacrifice, no tediousness; there is only joy. In the oft-quoted words of Ghandi, “be the change you wish to see in the world.” I want to see a world where families are created in different ways and are composed of different cultures and ethnicities. I want to see a world where orphaned children are integrated into families who love them and want them. And I want to see a world where adopting a child is so commonplace, no one even bats an eyelash. And when my daughter, when she is much older, asks why we chose adoption, I will tell her the truth, all the reasons why. It doesn’t change how much I love her. Not one bit.