Monday, May 07, 2007

Children are Bad for the Planet

I normally criticize the right on this blog, but this comes from the decidedly left and all I can say is, no.




Having large families should be frowned upon as an environmental misdemeanour in the same way as frequent long-haul flights, driving a big car and failing to reuse plastic bags, says a report to be published today by a green think tank.

The paper by the Optimum Population Trust will say that if couples had two children instead of three they could cut their family's carbon dioxide output by the equivalent of 620 return flights a year between London and New York.

John Guillebaud, co-chairman of OPT and emeritus professor of family planning at University College London, said: "The effect on the planet of having one child less is an order of magnitude greater than all these other things we might do, such as switching off lights.

"The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child."

In his latest comments, the academic says that when couples are planning a family they should be encouraged to think about the environmental consequences.

"The decision to have children should be seen as a very big one and one that should take the environment into account," he added.

Professor Guillebaud says that, as a general guideline, couples should produce no more than two offspring.

Thank you professor for that keen insight. Let me offer my commentary:

"Bwahhhhaahhhaaahhhahhhhhhaaaa!!!!" And just in time for Mother's Day.

(H/T: Vision Forum Blog)


Heather said...

That is just so ridiculous. That's all I can say ... (*rolling eyes*)


Elder's Wife said...

The United Nations Dept. of Economic and Social Affairs has a report out at that encourages "replacement migration" for 8 low-fertility countries (populations that do not replace themselves), including the U.S. Other countries include France, Germany, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Italy, Russian Federation, & the U.K. Two of the problems they address in the report are those of both population decline and population ageing.
In the U.S., we can see one of the effects of the ageing problem in the strain it is putting on the social security "industry". In the days when a large nuclear family was the norm, the family was expected to provide the social security for their aged. Today, government programs are needed to fill that gap.
As we have become more educated and more consumer-driven, we take less and less hands-on responsibility for our own families (both the young & the old). And, we choose to maximize both our financial & time resources by choosing to have fewer or no children. Then, we whine because there will be no money left in the social security piggy bank for us...and nobody left to fund it!
At the same time, we, as a nation, are resisting migration replacement of our declining native-born population by opening our doors to easier immigration by those people who will contribute to our social security industry.
Paradoxical, isn't it?
BTW, Based on the above, how would you respond to the French/German/British problem of a growing Moslem population of voters and declining post-Christian populations? Sharia, anyone?

amy said...

I had not seen article and frankly it is in left field. People want to "save the planet" and are grossly negligent in saving the family. That is unbalanced and way out there. I agree with Heather. It is ridiculous. Thanks for sharing.

Streak said...

To be contrarian, I don't see why this is so ridiculous. He isn't advocating abortion or forced family planning, simply suggesting that population does have an impact on the environment. I admit, Tony, that this is bad timing, and I certainly am not criticizing large families, but I just wonder if we can have a conversation about population and the pressures on resources and the environment?

Kat, as someone who doesn't have children, I am not sure quite how to take your comment. Nor am I convinced that your assessment of past family history is even accurate. It smacks of nostalgia rather than actual history. Social security, I would point out, did not arise out of some consumer driven decline in fertility, but in response to severe challenges to our economic structure.

And finally, why is it ridiculous to be concerned about global warming? Or trying to save the planet?

jen said...

My simple answer to Streak's questions:
"And finally, why is it ridiculous to be concerned about global warming? Or trying to save the planet?"
It is ridiculous because believing that we really have any control over global warming or the fate of our planet usurps the sovereignty of God.

Streak said...

It is ridiculous because believing that we really have any control over global warming or the fate of our planet usurps the sovereignty of God.

Excuse me? So humans don't have any impact on their environment? And questioning that means that I am questioning the sovereignty of God? Seriously?

jen said...

My comments were not meant to be offensive or irritating nor were they meant to condone wastefulness, as that would make us poor stewards of God's creation. Obviously humans do have an impact on their immediate surroundings/environment (some examples, littering, noise pollution, etc). But to think that use of conventional light bulbs instead of compact flourescent or that having three children instead of two will send our Earth spiraling out of control into a fiery destruction is ridiculous--to give "human impact" that much credit takes ultimate control away from God and makes it a work of man to create or destroy or save our planet.

Streak said...

I am not irritated or offended, merely confused. But I don't understand your thinking here. Humans make an impact on the environment, but not at the level of climate change? We can make a difference with littering, but we can't reduce our emissions? Or shouldn't?

I think the science is clear--our use of carbon based fuels has led to climate change. Whether that will lead to a "fiery destruction" is not really the point. It will continue to melt glaciers (which supply many urban centers around the globe with water), raise ocean levels, etc.

You are right. One light bulb and those of us who don't have children will not, in and of themselves, change anything. But this climate change issue didn't start with a huge event. It was car after car--smokestack after smokestack--airplane after airplane. None of them, individually, caused anything bad. Removing any of them, individually, will not fix the problem. But why not do what we can at the individual level to reduce carbon emissions?

I won't debate the sovereignty of God, mostly because I don't understand it. But I don't see how pushing to change the way we use resources and pollute our environment is challenging God's control.

Heather said...

Streak -

You asked, And finally, why is it ridiculous to be concerned about global warming? Or trying to save the planet?"

I didn't say that it was ridiculous to be concerned about these things you list, I said that the premise of the paper is ridiculous.


Streak said...


Point taken. I still wonder if there is room to discuss population and its impact on the environment?

I reacted rather strongly, and I suspect it is because elder's wife's response annoyed me. But she also made a good point about population. It certainly is not a clear cut issue--less population has other impacts--and not just regarding social security.


Elder's Wife said...

Sorry I annoyed you with my comment about large nuclear families. I wasn't looking at that from a nostalgic POV, but from a rural, 60-yr. old perspective. I am from a family of 5 children. Families worked together, and it was not uncommon for a grandparent to "live with". As a young married woman, I helped care for my 95-year-old grandmother in her home for several months after she had a stroke. Today I am doing laundry for my own 88-year-old parents, who still live down the road from my house.
I say all this, not to blow my own horn, but to point out the benefits of "homemade" social security. (Which we have also seen in Indonesia when we spent some time there.)
BTW, we do have 2 biological children, but we have also adopted one of our children. "The Lord sets the solitary in families."

selahV said...

Tony: is this not the most ludicrous thing you ever heard of! No wonder they support abortion. Our children are trash bags. Shall we take all third-born children in the world, line them up cram them into recycling dumpsters? What does that say about the fourth and fifth-born children? Are they maggots and sewage? Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do. selahV

Streak said...


I really do understand. Perhaps I am overly sensitive because children never worked out in my own life. When those with children speak rather critically of those without, I sometimes take offense--and often that offense is not intended.

I also understand that past generations have done better at incorporating multiple generations, but would also note that Americans have been more about the nuclear family from the very beginning than other countries. That approach also is complicated as our economy has become more and more complex.

My nostalgia comment, btw, was because I often encounter people who see some utopian past in American culture where school shootings didn't occur and families stayed together. In some cases, that is accurate, but in many others, the past is simply different--not necessarily better.

Selah, I think you are misreading the article and also misstating their arguments. How do you know, for example, if they support abortion? Do you really think that all abortion supporters do so because they see children as trash?

Tony said...


Thanks for stopping by and participating. Ridiculous argument, huh?


I just wonder if we can have a conversation about population and the pressures on resources and the environment?

Absolutely! The argument here in this article, similar to your post on Sheryl Crow about waste, should be presented more cogently. Addressing waste from the point of toilet paper usage, though I know she framed it that way for the purpose of hyperbole, carries very little weight with me as a significant argument.

Likewise, to frame an argument that people do indeed have an impact on the environment smacks of the same sentiment. Yes, people do have an impact on the environment, but to compare having two children instead of three is comparable to 620 return flights a year between London and New York? And then to further justify in the sense of switching off lights? Do switching off lights and a jet plane flight damage the environment in the same way?

This is not pro-environment, it is anti-family, plain and simple. Or else it should be framed differently. "The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child." So the answer to global warming is in fact to breed ourselves out of existence?

That's my point here. Do we love the earth more than people?


I think this is the first time you have commented here, and if so, welcome. Please drop in anytime. You raise a good point; "saving the planet" and saving the family should not be mutually exclusive.


Long time, no see! Your point about the sovereignty of God is indeed a good one. Your follow-up comment explained what I was already going to say.

I do not think that working to ease environmental pressures negates the sovereignty of God in any way. I think righteous stewardship of the land is good and always appropriate.

I certainly do not take John MacArthur's stand that "since everything is going to be burned" global warming is therefore a non-issue, but I do think we should take whatever steps are within our means to reduce our carbon footprints.


Yes, I was also concerned about their stances on abortion and if they were indeed as callous as you relate. The article didn't really say, but if they are as anti-family as they imply, I don't know if I would respond with the same theatricality you have but it does make me wonder. (That is what I love about you, though!)


I know some cannot read Kat's link, but you can access it here.

I do indeed see your point about social security but I am not quite sure I follow about how would you respond to the French/German/British problem of a growing Moslem population of voters and declining post-Christian populations? Sharia, anyone? Care to elaborate?

Streak said...

Sorry, Tony, I still don't see how it is anti-family, plain and simple. I can see how you get there, but don't think it is simple. Nor, am I convinced that you are presenting their argument fairly. First, it is hyperbole on your own part to suggest that they are arguing to "breed ourselves out of existence." That isn't what the article said. Second, the comparison is simply to the carbon dioxide output of a family. It isn't suggesting that children are like plane travel or plastic bags, or whatever.

I am sure we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one too. I don't know the analysis behind this study, but I am not convinced that it is either pro abortion or anti family as you all seem to think.

What does it mean to be anti-family, btw?

Tony said...


Somehow or another, these study groups always seem to have to find somebody to blame for perceived problems. In this case, large families are easy.

I see the equation as simple; big family=more carbon usage. Where then does the blame lie, in their opinion? Let's not bother with factory emissions, jet planes, and humongous SUVs, but let's just nip it at the bud. The best way to reduce CO2 emissions is to not allow those future Boeing 757 passengers to come to term, or just prevent their conception altogether.

And no they may not say forced family planning or forced abortions, but the framework for the argument is there. You cannot convince me environmental lobbying groups will not pick up on this study and then connect the dots with family planning groups.

Second, the comparison is simply to the carbon dioxide output of a family. Agreed.

It isn't suggesting that children are like plane travel or plastic bags, or whatever. Are we reading the same article?

Let me reiterate:

Having large families should be frowned upon... That isn't an anti-family statement? So one child is great, two is OK, and three is a misdmeanor? What is four and above, a felony? Forgive me, I am snippy but their argument is seriously flawed.

And if Sheryl Crow can use hyperbole, why can't I?

Streak said...

Ah, so "family planning" groups must be "anti-family" right? So people who push contraceptives? And those of us with small families might be "anti-family" as well?

I think you make a good point that we can and should address resource use. That is a valid point and I think a good one to offer to this study.

Perhaps I am snippy as well. Mostly because I fall outside the norm for family life. Maybe because I really don't understand this whole "anti-family" v. "pro-family" stuff. I know a lot of liberals, for example, who are pro-choice. All of them love their families and are dedicated to each other. Some have children that they dote on. All of them have or had parents they cared for and about.

I agree that this group's argument is poorly framed. And, Tony, I know you are dedicated not only to social justice but to environmental justice. Perhaps I am not as convinced that that sentiment is commonly held among conservative evangelicals where climate change is deemed a fraud.

Tony said...


You accuse me of making logical leaps, so are you my friend.

Because you have a small family does not make you anti-family nor do I think that. There are several families in the church I serve that do not have (and cannot, for whatever reason) children, yet they are the most kid-friendly folks I have ever seen (even more so than I am, if you can believe that).

If you want to talk about anti-family, there are families I know and try to serve that have kids that they just do not want. It's obvious. However, like you pointed out, I also know some liberal families that are pro-choice yet love their kids; they dote on those kids like they were last year's Christmas presents.

My point is that the argument for an environmental persuasion on family planning is built right in to this study; and all the more easy for family rights activists who don't think like you and I do to say that it is perfectly acceptable to abort a child in the name of greening the environment.

I have met some environmental activists that would much rather save a tree than a life and that is not hyperbole.

Please hear me: you don't fall outside the norm of family life. I have heard you talk about your extended family--and I don't want to get too personal for a comment thread, but you seem like a perfectly normal family guy to me. A little liberal for my tastes but I can overlook that. ;)

Streak said...


Calling me normal might be the lowest blow yet!

I was actually employing a bit of hyperbole to get at that whole "anti-family" bit. I know you don't think I am anti-family--regardless of children or whatever. And while I understand your fears vis a vis this particular group, I am still unsure who the anti-family people are. It feels like a big bogey man out there to scare people with.

Anyway, I see your point on the environmental issues. But is family planning the same thing as anti-family? And what are "family rights advocates?"

I can handle being "too liberal." But I am not sure I am comfortable with being "normal." I don't call you names. :)

selahV said...

STREAK: I'm having a bit of a bad day and the only reason I am reading these blogs is to take my mind off things. I probably ought to be reading the Psalms, instead.

I hadn't read any of the comments before I responded which is my pattern with blogs. Came back and read them afterwards. To your response to my commment:
I don't think I misread the article at all.
Equating the left with prochoice is about as easy for me as equating the right with pro-life. That's why I tossed in the abortion issue. If you don't like it, just ignore it.

I usually see any promotion of downsizing the human race as anti-family. Yeah, and I'm sorry, but that includes contraceptives. Uh bad. The only way I can deduct what abortion supporters advocate by supporting abortion is what is done with the remains of the unborn. They are dumped in the trash and recycled into stem cells if they can. So yeah. I think that is exactly what abortion proponents support with their advocacy.

Planned parenthood is more about abolition than prevention. If they were about prevention they would be doing what the Pro-life Pregnancy Resource centers do. They'd be speaking on abstinence in the schools instead of handing out condoms and lobbying Congress to curtail the rights of parents to know of their children's mistakes. They'd be helping them with counseling and their parents too. Not giving them the name of the quickest way "OUT" of their decision. They certainly wouldn't be afraid to share options. But then, there's big business in abortions today. Lotsa money to be made. Gotta love capitalism, huh? Opps...that's off topic altogether, isn't it?

Streak said...

Selah, I had a long response and was about to hit "publish," but decided to resist. I know you are having a bad day. And I am sorry for that. I am sorrier still that you think people like me are so bad. Just because I am pro-choice does not mean I cheer abortions or invest in their clinics.

I can absolutely concede that many pro-life people have the best of intentions. I guess you cannot say the same about us.

Elder's Wife said...

Wow! This blog has had the same effect as a passel of jalapenos in the chili. A lot of heat, depending upon whether or not you like jalapenos.
Sorry I threw in the Moslem comment. It had nothing to do with the environmental impact of large families. It just struck me as interesting that France & Germany (both low-fertility countries) have growing Moslem populations (traditionally with larger families), and both have had either civil unrest or roots to terrorist groups. It seems to me that if we as a society/culture don't reproduce ourselves, we will abdicate the fundamental tenets of our own societies to those who have become the new majority. And I don't know that Islam promotes environmental consciousness. Nor do I wish to live under Islamic law.
This got a bit long, asked :)

I realize that we are no longer living in the little house on the prairie, and it's unrealistic to think that we can ever re-create that lifestyle (which wasn't so great in a lot of ways, either).
Perhaps Tony's comment:
"There are several families in the church I serve that do not have (and cannot, for whatever reason) children, yet they are the most kid-friendly folks I have ever seen..." points us to the role the church must take in not just being "family-friendly", but in being a "family". Multi-generational, inclusive, a place where the never-married or once-married can live comfortably with couples and kids and teenagers. It must be a place where we can share lives, not just seats on the benches.

selahV said...

STREAK: I do not know the depth of your heart. I cannot judge you, nor do I condemn you. I condemn the actions that lead to abortion. I condemn the immorality and societal pressures. I condemn the flagrant disregard for modesty. I condemn the materialistic society for which promotes fancy dancy trips all around the world on humongous jets and the hypocrisy of "greenies" who fly from city to city in their private jets and condemn we pions for having a third child who will most certainly contribute to more gas emmissions for the very fact that one more body constitutes one more seat on the plane or one more car on the road.

I would like to know exactly why you are pro-choice. I know why I am pro-life. Had my mother had her pro-choice way, I wouldn't be here today, nor would my brother. Oh...but for the grace of God where would my grandchildren be?

I swallowed the pro-choice mantra for years in 1970. Thank God I didn't succumb to it before I had the son born in 1971 who is now deceased. Praise the Lord, my eyes were opened by Christ in 1976 and I became a Christian. My greatest desire is to minister to those who make the mistake of following the evil enticements of the world that draw them away from the Savior and what He has planned for them. In all my imaginings and musings can I possibly conjure up the Lord Jesus telling pro-choice folks "well done my good and faithful servant for supporting the woman's right to destroy the life within her". I just can't. My heart bleeds for does not detest them or you. I repeat, "Forgive them Father for they know not what they do." I am to stand for righteousness, even though my sins are equal to theirs. I am to stand for their existence as adamantly as opponents stand for their right to do otherwise.

I will leave the discussion now. Not because of you, Streak. But because I do not think I can contribute anymore of value to the conversation. God bless you and may His grace be sufficient to meet your needs and abound. selahV

Streak said...

Selah, I think I am out too. I accept that you don't mean to be condemning, but you are. I think I have explained my pro-choice stance before.

BTW, I completely agree that people are hypocritical, but you seem to only think that those who disagree with you qualify. Yep, many enviros are hypocrites, but so are many Christian evangelicals who quote the Bible. With all due respect, I am not sure you are willing to listen to anyone else on this. That is your choice.

selahV said...

STREAK: Well, I'll say you have a way with words. You may have explained your stance, but what is the fuel behind it? I don't know. I really don't.

I cannot control what you think of me Streak. I think who I am and what I stand for are one in the same. I am a sinner saved by the grace of God through Jesus Christ's attoning death on the cross. I stand only for what I believe is true in the Word of God. However, as you and I have gone around that stump before, we do not have anything foundational on which to stand with that stump either.

You write: "BTW, I completely agree that people are hypocritical, but you seem to only think that those who disagree with you qualify." You read me wrong there, too, Streak.
I have been hypocritical myself. I've stood for prolife and voted for Clinton because of the economy stupid. Boy was I an idiot.

I think we are all hypocrites in one way or another. We sit in judgement on others, picking specs out of folks eyes while we have boards so big in our own we cannot see the other's eyes.

You and I could probably collaborate well on the various ways people are hypocritical. However, I was speaking to the topic of environment and the greenies using a third child and more as a comparable for plastic bag recycling and SUV's. Now, evangelical hypocrisy, well...there's a 12-point series of posts in itself. You and I could have a hey-day with that.

I don't see that quoting the Bible does any good with folks who don't read the Bible or accept the Authority of the Bible.

You write: "With all due respect, I am not sure you are willing to listen to anyone else on this."

With all due respect to you, Streak, I am always willing to listen. Not agree, nor waver in where I stand. I listen to understand. I speak to communicate. I'm afraid you assume to much from my lame communication skills. selahV

Tony said...


I don't call you names.

Well, I had to do something; you were getting the upper hand, so the best thing to do is undermine your credibility you names!

Anti-family--there are extreme groups out there that are proponents of abortion on demand and use it as a means of birth control; that is anti-family, IMO. You know I oppose abortion but I will not delve deeper.

I respect your decision to leave the conversation. Bless you, friend.


Thanks for the clarification. I see your point now and I don't know how applicable it is to the current post, but it is interesting nonetheless.

Your point about reproducing ourselves is one I have often heard about Christians in a more general sense. Christians, or at least Baptists, seem to be pro-family planning and tend to have very small families, one or two children.

I once had a seminary professor and I have read on the Vision Forum site that one reason lost people outnumber those who are saved is because they are "out-reproducing" us. By default then, family discipleship and handing down a "generational Christianity" is playing out.

Thanks for the follow-up.