Our mission at Inhabitots is to report on how to make more eco-friendly choices as a family — from how to stop using paper towels forever to doable and green family New Year’s resolutions. But what if the most eco-friendly choice of all is to not have any children? The concept of the”small-family ethic” has grown in popularity as our world reaches what many scientists believe is a tipping point in climate change. In the next 35 years or so, the average global temperature may indeed rise more than two degrees, which is believed to create a climate change domino effect. These effects may already be evident. July 2016 was reportedly the hottest month ever on record, according to NASA, who also found that in the first six months of 2016, the temperatures were the highest average of any six-month period since the organization first started keeping track of temperatures in 1880. As temperature variations become more severe and portions of our planet straddle the line of inhabitability, it’s important to ponder how having kids or not having them figures into this potentially catastrophic equation, and whether we can just offset their footprint through eco-friendly measures.
Even if you raise your kids to recycle, bike and walk instead of drive and fly, and instill in them the importance of solar panels and buying items that will serve them cradle to cradle — their mere existence will leave a significant carbon footprint. When a person chooses to have one less child, the savings is 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide, according to one study by Oregon State University. By comparison, driving a hybrid, driving less, recycling, using energy-efficient appliances, windows and light bulbs over the course of 80 years will only save you 488 metric tons.
Groups such as Conceivable Future as well as ethicists are looking deeply and not without controversy at the morality of procreation in a potentially perilous and critical time period with regard to climate change. While these groups are not against having babies, they do advocate for a deeper consciousness and more discussion on the subject. After all, it’s our children and the generations that follow who will be more impacted by the consequences of our current actions.
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Opponents of the small-family ethic will argue that this issue is private and precisely one that shouldn’t involve the government, citing China’s one-child policy as an unfair example of population growth restriction (that now has had unexpected and unfortunate side effects). While there isn’t a consensus as to how to encourage adults to voluntarily choose to have less children (or how they would be formally “taxed” if they had more), educating people and making them aware of the effects of having “just one more” baby may be a game changer for future inhabitants of the planet.
Lead image via Unsplash/Crew