The ethics of having children in a warming world has become quite a hot topic around the world. The fear of an ‘Ecological Armagedden’ has caused some western couples to make the decision not to have kids as an impactful answer to reducing their carbon footprint.
The first question that comes to my mind around this poignant topic is why would any couple take such a drastic step NOT to have children? Have things deteriorated to such an extent?
The world population is expected to rise to 10.9 billion by the end of the century; a figure environmentalists believe is unsustainable. A recent report found it ‘increasingly unlikely’ that food systems will cope once the population rises above 10 billion. In 2018, the UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned that the planet only has 11 years to prevent catastrophic climate change with larger wildfires, more droughts, loss of vital species and crops, and food shortages affecting millions of people.
In a BBC documentary titled “7.7 Billion People and Counting”, Sir David Attenborough, writer, naturalist and environmental advocate, admitted that it was difficult to even talk about the issue of childlessness as an ecological answer because it is such a ‘precious biological right’ to have kids yet it seems impossible to ignore the planet changing effects of our desire to reproduce.
Save the Planet – stop having children: the argument
Historically, the argument for limiting the number of children we have is a deeply contentious issue – some countries have attempted population control in the 20th Century such as China’s one child policy introduced in 1980 and India’s forced sterilisation camps between 1975 and 1977.
The Birth Strikers are one of many worldwide groups questioning the ethics of having children. Some members declaring that having even one child is too much because of the severity of the ecological crisis and the climate change pressures that would result.
A Swedish study in 2017 calculated that having one fewer child equated to a reduction of 58 tonnes of carbon dioxide for each year of the child’s life whilst in comparison going vegan only reduced carbon dioxide by 0.8 tonnes.
With the exception of sub –Saharan Africa, fertility levels have been falling worldwide in the past two decades resulting in slowing population growth.
It seems many professional couples in developed countries are making the decision not to have children to reduce the man made effects of climate change. Many seem heartbroken by the state of the planet; they want to make an impact and put the planet first by not adding to the population problem and bringing a child into an uncertain future.
Blaming some poorer countries where families typically have more children, but whose carbon emissions are much lower than in developed countries is factually a wrong conclusion to reach.
Most of the world’s projected population growth is set to be in Africa yet developed nations enjoy much higher average CO2 emissions. The carbon footprint of a child in Europe is roughly 58.6 metric tonnes annually, whereas that of a Malawian child is estimated between 0.07 and 0.1 metric tonnes annually. Why does having a child in for example, Germany seem so carbon intensive in the first place? I’m not sure why but climate change can be limited and halted only if we take what the IPCC describes as “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society.”
Readdressing our consumption habits should be non negotiable with the way things presently stand on our planet. In Nigeria, we cannot blindly follow Western habits and lifestyle and disregard our very organic and traditional practices in a quest to appear more westernised. The Nigerian government need to prioritise addressing these issues and educating a largely unknowledgeable population on this BIG topic.
The way forward – Change your habits
The message is simple and clear. Meghan Kallman, co-founder of Conceivable Future states it very clearly – “It’s not actually about the number of people its how those people consume”. Raising environmentally conscious children and changing your family’s habits to be more environmentally friendly, changing your eating habits to appreciate healthy options and where they come from is a far better way to effect change and reduce your carbon footprint and consumption.
The Nigerian government need to prioritise and implement policies to help us fight this problem now. Read more about how climate change will affect Africa – and Nigeria . Upcoming blog posts will discuss 10 solutions Nigerians can implement to help prevent climate change.
Garden World Nigeria is an eco friendly gardening business. As environmental ambassadors, our blogs cover a range of not only gardening but environmental topics close to our heart. Thank you for reading!