Before I even get started talking about this subject, I want to make it incredibly clear that the choice of whether or not to have children should always be completely up to the individual(s) involved. This is simply my opinion, emotions, and thoughts on whether or not to have children.
Growing up I always assumed I would have children. I figured I would get married right after college, wait a few years, and then have a few kids, or perhaps a lot of kids. I grew up in a big family with my mom being one of 16 (yes 16) children. It just seemed like I would have children, no if ands or buts. But now I’m 25, I’m not married, though happily in a committed relationship, and don’t believe that being married even needs to be a prerequisite to have children, because it doesn’t. And for the first time in my life I’m contemplating whether or not I even want to have kids in the future. I am by no means ready for them now and the more I learn and work within the sustainability movement and climate crisis, the more these questions come to mind: Should I ever have children? Do I actually want children? If I have children what will the world they grow up in even look like? What are the environmental impacts of choosing to have children? I have expressed these thoughts to certain people in my life and often get a mixed response. Some people completely get where I’m coming from and share similar thoughts, while others (often older generations) roll their eyes at me and say “oh, you’ll end up having kids, just wait”. Ummm excuse me? The choice to bear children lies with me and my partner and no one else. So why does the environmental impacts of bearing children run through my mind? In the past 100 years the world’s population has nearly quadrupled, from two billion in 1928 to over seven billion in 2019. Each year we are reaching Earth Overshoot Day. This is the day each year where we have exhausted nature's budget for the year. "For the rest of the year, we are maintaining our ecological deficit by drawing down local resource stocks...we are operating in overshoot". The world’s resources are dwindling and we are living amongst the climate crisis. Knowing the current state of our planet gives me pause for two reasons. The first is figuring out whether or not bringing children into this world feels ethical to me. In my short 25 years of life I have watched the world quickly transform. I can’t remember a day as a child where smoke from forest fires filled the sky in western Washington. Yet during the summer of 2020, the state is experiencing the worst fires in recorded history, covering much of the state in hazardous amounts of smoke. This is not a bad year or a one-off incidence, this is the climate crisis in action. I then ask myself what type of world would my potential future child grow up in? The climate crisis is going to continue to worsen before it gets better and there is no telling what the next few decades will look like. The second reason I have pause is because of the environmental impacts of bringing another child onto this earth. By simply existing on this planet we have a carbon footprint, even if we bike everywhere, grow all of our own vegan food, never buy plastic, and thrift all of our belongings. It is impossible to exist without affecting the climate. The research, unsurprisingly, shows that having a child is the most destructive thing a person can do when it comes to the environment. Having just one fewer children per family can save “an average of 58.6 tons of CO2-equivalent emissions per year”. That is the same reduction of emissions as 684 teenagers choosing to adopt comprehensive recycling for the rest of their lives. Saving 58.6 ton per year is a massive amount when you realize living car free per year saves 2.4 tons. So much of my life is shaped around trying to live as eco-friendly and environmentally conscious as possible. Heck that’s why I started this blog and what I write about for a living. I won’t deny that having kids would probably be fulfilling, rewarding, and I’d most likely enjoy it. But I can’t help shake the feeling that having children feels like an incredibly selfish decision (reminder this is how I feel so don’t go get your panties in a bunch). I am only 25 years old but I know that the environmental impacts of having children will shape my decision on whether or not to have kids in the decade to come. I recognize that the growing world’s population is just one piece of the complicated puzzle we call climate change.
Me not having children won’t save the planet and me choosing to having children won’t tip us over the edge. Then again, me choosing to be vegan doesn’t stop the climate crisis but it is a way of living that causes less harm to the planet, the animals, and my body. I don’t have the answers and I don’t know what I will choose in the future. So, whatever I may decide, I hope we can work towards a future where we normalize choosing not to have children while simultaneously creating a world where future generations can thrive.