My other half and I been pondering this very question recently, so it’s quite funny that today the BBC site has an article on this very subject. Our own thoughts on this matter are that yes, it is selfish and not socially responsible given existing pressures on this planet’s resources.

The main idea behind aiming to limit the size of one’s family to just two kids is to limit the immense impact fast population growth is already having on the environment:

  • There are the obvious examples, such as deforestation, the increasing spread of large cities at the expense of our countryside; increased atmospheric emissions;
  • Others are more questionable, such as global warming, still unproven but suspected to be linked to population growth and our increased industrial activity on the planet;
  • And there are social and economic impacts: for instance, shortage of food globally but particularly in Africa (yes, it is also linked to exploitation of those countries by Western economies and internal conflict, but these are to a large extent all interconnected); appalling poverty in developing countries; overcrowding in the big cities.

Here in the UK, some people also play the system by having a large family. It’s one of the effective ways of extracting benefits from the state. An ex-colleague of mine who still works for a large american bank has 5 children. They got significant subsidies on top of the already rather respectable salary. A few people around the office recognised my colleague’s “efforts” as an effective way to take advantage of the system and supplement one’s income.

An argument that it is possible to successfully moderate one’s life to reduce one’s carbon footprint and thus offset the impact of having more children is, I believe, fundamentally flawed. 

A human being can’t help but produce a carbon footprint. In a recent experiment done by the BBC, a journalist and his family were tasked to live in as green way as possible for a year. They gave up their car, only took UK holidays, and introduced various other far-reaching lifestyle changes. Check out this Ethical Man’s blog. The bottom line is they only managed to reduce their impact by 20% no matter how hard they tried. With more kids in the family, this would have been even harder – the overall carbon footprint would have been larger.

A related aspect of family planning and population growth I’ve been itching to write for a while about are the relative growth rates in various classes of our society. For instance, highly educated professionals choosing to have few children later in life, or no children at all, poorer people tending to have more kids earlier. I will aim to explore this subject soon.


Copyright 2009 by CuriouslyInspired