If You Love Kids – Don’t Have Any More
July 11 is World Population Day. We recently passed 7.6 billion humans alive on the planet, while scientists’ best estimates place sustainable world population at about 2 billion. This is an important occasion to have a conversation about our procreative choices.
Isn’t it time for the recommendation to go out far and wide that young couples should choose to have no children, or at most one child, until world population coasts back down to a sustainable level? The connection between family size decisions, climate change and carbon footprint has been getting more and more press, so we at GrowthBusters wondered if the time had finally come.
Is the public ready to acknowledge we have a moral responsibility to have fewer children?
We took to the streets of Colorado Springs yesterday morning to find out, and we were pleasantly surprised. While this is by no means a scientifically valid sample, it was completely random. We chatted with young and old, men and women, people of limited means and people who were materially well off. See for yourself what kind of responses we got:
The good news is most of the people we encountered were not offended by the idea of suggesting or recommending fewer children.
No one favored “sending SWAT teams into the bedroom” to enforce mandatory restrictions on procreation. But most felt it’s a good idea to let people know the benefits of a little less procreation and a little more contraception. The time has come. Perhaps we can get the Ad Council to start putting out public service announcements and billboards recommending we all do our part.
I’d like to give a shout out to Colorado College film and media students Kaitlyn Hickmann and Ben Bacher for doing the filming of our interviews, and to Kaitlyn for editing this masterpiece. Thanks, also, to Sasha, for being the subject of our first ever dog-on-the-street interview.
A few interesting facts:
- Current world population: 7.6 billion
- Time it takes to add another billion: 13 years
- UN medium scenario projection of population in 2100: 11.2 billion
- 2100 population if we manage .5 children less average fertility than projected: 7.3 billion
We can make a huge difference just by making small families cool, and doing all the smart things we know about to enable every couple around the world to make the loving decision to limit their family size. If we do this well, there is no need to pass any laws or force anyone to reproduce less. We can voluntarily do the right thing.
More interesting facts:
- Lifetime carbon emissions reduction from being an eco-hero (LED bulbs, energy conserving appliances, driving a lot less, etc.): 388 metric tons
- Lifetime carbon emissions reduction from having one fewer child: 9,441 metric tons (see OSU Carbon Legacy research)
These figures are for the average North American. We have a huge footprint, so even though our average fertility rate (1.8) is below the world average (2.5), every child born in our (over)developed world has a drastic impact on our climate and other ecosystems. This means our small family decisions are as important as those of the citizens of Niger (7.6 fertility rate).
Note that at 7.6 billion we are so far into overshoot that reversing population growth is not enough. We in the (over)developed world must also scale back our levels of consumption. But that is a topic for another day. Today is World Population Day.
What can I do?
- Take the Sustainable Population Pledge at World Population Balance
- Display your small-family pride with a stick figure family sticker
(Childfree, Stopped at Zero, Stopped at One, Stopped at Two)
- Wear a T-Shirt and start some conversations
- Choose to conceive no children, or – at most – one
- Support family planning around the world
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