Babies and Your Carbon Footprint


How many children do you have or want to have? Oregon State University just released a study that having a child dramatically increases your carbon footprint.

“The average long-term carbon impact of a child born in the U.S. – along with all of its descendants – is more than 160 times the impact of a child born in Bangladesh.

My response: Obviously. Your response:

Does that mean none of us should have children? It’s a touchy subject. One that grates sufficiently on me. I understand the reality of dwindling resources. Oil. Water. Food. Someone somewhere is going to lose out; and it’s likely that most people who live in my country won’t be the ones picking at scraps.

But my bone is with the field of science, one I respect and value for being a critical workhorse, one I also find heart-numbing in the way it undercuts a round picture of “humanity.” Because science with a capital S depends on numbers. Science rarely charts the emotional human quotient. What about the capacity of an individual to profoundly affect their orbit, whether that orbit is one of high-powered government officials or the small-town residents at the one grocer who need that smile to get them through the day?

My bias: I assume that each individual is born to offer a unique love, perspective and learning in his/her community. One we can all learn from. But….

Environmentalist Bill McKibben wrote an unparalleled book called Maybe One about his carbon-footprint related choice to have one child. He defends only-children as being sociable, flexible and not strange for lack of siblings. Italy already has a drought of newborns; no one is having babies. We know what used to happen and still does happen to infant girls in China (there are 120 boys born for every 100 girls, the most severe gender imbalance in the world).

Yet, overpopulation is one of the great crises of our time. Using science’s own method of checks and balances, do you think having one less child would make a difference? Can you measure the food, oil, water a person consumes against the intellectual, emotional, and social impact a person might make?

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