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Mother and baby: If you love children, don't have any more

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?

GrowthBusters T-Shirts

  • Choose to conceive no children, or – at most – one
  • Support family planning around the world

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Comments (4)

  • Avatar

    James R. Herman


    We have to be smarter than cats and dogs. Someone needs to tall Hillary Clinton. Yes, she only had one child but at the presidential debate with Bernie Sanders she said China had no right telling its citizens to only have one child. Not did China have that right but they had a duty to do that. So I really question her judgment. I had my tubes tied when I was 23. I’ve never been married and I have no children. That decision and never getting sucked into a 30 year mortgage is allowing me to have a financially secure retirement even though my lifetime income was only $699,000. We also need to end exclusionary zoning so it’s not a crime to live in a small home.


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      James, it’s unfortunate that China’s policy was enforced in some horrific ways. That has set this conversation back a lot. The good news is people are tending to voluntarily choose smaller families, so the trend is there; it just needs to be broadened and accelerated. You’re a great candidate to sport our Stopped at Zero small family sticker on the back of your auto if you have one. I hope you’ll consider ordering one at If we can get these stickers on cars in every city around the world we can make small families “cool.” Thanks for doing your part.


  • Avatar

    Ivan Johnstone


    The issue of population growth is the elephant in the room which many people ignore. If we want to address the issue of climate change by reducing our CO2 and equivalent contributions to the atmosphere, then it is the product of the number of people on planet Earth and their individual consumption rates of fossil fuels etc. that impacts on our climate. To ignore population growth will forestall the best of our intentions to address climate change.

    In the 1970s my wife and I took the Zero Population Growth cornerstone of sustainability very seriously and we subsequently restricted our family size to two children. We were lucky – we had a daughter and then a son. Some 40 years later the right to have as many kids as you want in New Zealand is still regarded as being sacrosanct. Even in more enlightened sustainability circles, I have encountered people who have been offended when I point out that one of the most effective ways of reducing our ecological footprint is to restrict the size of our families. To suggest that all countries, including under developed countries, should restrict population growth by reducing the size of families is regarded as being politically incorrect. A common counter response is accusations of right-wing fascist coercion and the perils of eugenics. Along with rights come responsibilities. We all have a responsibility to our current and future generations to leave our planet Earth in a no less worse state than when we were born into it. Education, and not coercion, is the key to families deciding for themselves to restrict the number of children they have. Families in underdeveloped countries need assistance from richer countries to both improve their standard of living, level of education, and to make a transition to a sustainable economy.


    • Avatar

      Dave Gardner


      Thanks for doing your part, Ivan, and for your comment. You’re a great candidate to display our Stopped at 2 small famiy sticker on the rear window of your auto. Have you considered ordering one? See


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