Why Have Kids?, 40°

It's not as homo sapiens is an endangered species. Why do people have this need to have not only one kid, but a whole housefull of them? Do you think that's an extremely selfish choice that only harms the rest of the world and future generations? Why shouldn't we ban people from using infertility clinics? The biggest problem the world faces is human overpopulation, because there are not enough resources to go around. Quite frankly, shouldn't all nations adopt China's one child policy or at least give out free hysterectomies and financial incentives to those of us who choose NOT to have kids? What do you think?

30 replies

Also, out of curiousity and not sheer bull-headedness, what about adoption? Wouldn't that give the adults the same lessons as having your own children?

Written in July 2008

"because I doubt anything so sendible as low-cost tube tying of chemical vascetomies would ever in the United States."

One day I will learn how to type. That should be "so sensible as low-cost tube tying OR chemical vasectomies would ever happen inthe United States."

Written in July 2008

Leanne V. 197°

Hi Rena,

Good point about adoption. Unfortunately, babies up for adoption in most western countries are rarer than hens' teeth. In South Australia, where I grew up, there are an average of 6 babies put up for adoption each year. And to be eligible, you have to be some sort of wonder-person.

As for overseas adoption, the waiting list is horrendous - we looked into it, and some friends of ours who adopted two girls from overseas waited nearly four years, and coped with a lot of stress and heartache. They were really determined, and succeeded in adoption in the end, but it was NOT easy.

Although you would think, with the number of kids suffering in the world, that is SHOULD be easy to adopt from overseas, it is not. And to foster kids in your own country from terrible homes and conditions isn't easy either - my aunt has been doing it for years (through her church and associated charity groups) - it puts a huge amount of stress on her family and her own children.

Putting it bluntly, it is usually easiest to have your own kids, if you can. But it's also sensible to manage our numbers, and advocate for small families.

I'd like to see international adoption laws loosened, fostering laws loosened, and also western governments advocate smaller families. I'd also like to see charities that work in famine conditions advocate birth control, and do a bit of pre-emptive work rather than helping starving kids after population numbers have soared out of control. Unfortunately, a lot of these overseas charity groups are run by right-wing religious groups, and so advocating birth control is not on the cards.

Written in July 2008

Actually, fertility treatments (at least where I am) are quite expensive already, which means that only people with money can afford to remedy the increasing problem of infertility (with hormones in meat and water, etcetera).

And giving out free hysterectomies is brutal. Why should women have to bare the brunt of a promoted end to reproduction? We're not like machines. You can't just take out the part and think the problem is solved. Hysterectomies lead to hormonal imbalances which can lead to cancer, etc., etc.

To me, this is just more of the same thinking that human beings are an infection, when in fact we are a brilliant species, capable of remarkable things and incredible evolution. Yes, we need to re-focus ourselves and reconnect with the earth but an official end to reproduction is not the right way to do it. An official end to reproduction cuts ourselves off entirely from our bodies and therefore the earth.

It seems to me that protesting the whole anti-birth-control/pro-abstinance nightmare in the U.S. - especially as it's tied in with international aid - might do a bit more good than treating ourselves like objects.

Lauren (0 kids, but not by choice)

Written in July 2008

I have 2 things to add here.
1. What is the carbon footprint of ADOPTION?
2. The Catholic Church is still promoting overpopulation when it subsidizes the education of catholic children in catholic schools. I pay 7000/yr to educate my ADOPTED daughter at the same school that charges 3000 for the first catholic child, less for the second catholic child in a family, even less for the THIRD catholic child in a family and NOTHING FOR ALL CATHOLIC CHILDREN THEREAFTER IN THE FAMILY. We have friends who are still producing, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 12 children in one family. What are they thinking?

Written in July 2008

Over population isn't the problem here. You say:
"The biggest problem the world faces is human overpopulation, because there are not enough resources to go around"
A problem is that we are using too many resources. The rest of your statement is certainly not fact based.
Hysterectomies to reduce emissions. I like it. Can't wait to see the article when you're done.
A single western child is an environmental catastrophe greater than if the child were born in the 3rd world. Herein lies our problem.
... and don't get me started on the catholics.

Written in July 2008

Shom Teoh 70°

Rena, I must congratulate you for taking on such a hot-button subject and I'm looking forward to your article.

Just would like to add my own two-cents worth:

Overpopulation is indeed a problem when you look at humanity as a whole, but to tackle this issue, I think we need to look at the regional situations. Certain developed countries like Japan and Europe have not only stabilized their population but are facing de-population. Yet, what is scary is that many developing countries are caught in the 'demographic trap' - general standards of living, availability of contraception and education have improved by leaps and bounds, but not yet enough to 'roll' them over towards the trend of having smaller families. Think countries like China, Indonesia and even my country, Malaysia. After facing generations of impoverishment, people are dead-intent on catching up with their aspirational lifestyle that mirrors the West. Religions that prohibit family planning and culture (certain Asian cultures consider the capability to 'rear' many children as a mark of personal success, while children may be considered a form of 'investment' who will take care of aging parents financially; therefore the more the better!) complicate the issue.

In poverty-stricken and war-strife regions like Africa, the overpopulation problem is even more difficult. Firstly, in societies where intensive manual labour is necessary for survival (think old-fashioned agriculture, carrying buckets of water from rivers, gathering and chopping firewood), children are prized as 'an extra pair of hands' to ease the burden of parents' work. Secondly, since health facilities are so poor, threat of diseases are high etc infant mortality is very high. Risk of early death of a child born in Somalia due to sickness, violence or other environmental factors is much higher than an American or Malaysian child. Therefore, it is just human nature's defensive statistical logic to have more children as a form of 'insurance' to compensate for the threats being faced.

Improved education (especially for women) and improved standards of living have been proven to reduce family size and thus eventually stabilize or decrease population. Unfortunately, many developing and least developed countries lack the fund to develop themselves, so the population problem cannot be solved. Governments of developed countries are by any measure not doing enough to help alleviate the problem. Except for Sweden, Luxemburg, Norway, the Netherlands and Denmark, others have persistently failed to honour the UN International Aid Target of committing 0.7 percent of GNP to official development assistance funds (For perspective: is it too much for to donate just less than 1 per cent of your income?). Some countries spend waayy more on military weapons, entertainment, government bailouts of messed-up investment banks.

Conclusion: in the developed world, overconsumption is the problem. In the long run, awareness and education will stabilize and even reduce population. One more issue that needs to taken seriously is that like it it or not, many people in developing countries blindly look to developed Western countries as their aspirational way of life. Therefore, developed countries need to 'lead by example' by transforming aspects of their unsustainable lifestyle, including reigning in their population.

On the other hand, MUCH MORE needs to be done to enable development in poor countries so they can escape from the 'demographic trap'. Developed countries must strive harder, not only by relaxing their tight clutch on their national purses, but through other means to help accelerate the development progress of lagging developing countries, for the good of the whole of humankind.

One final sobering point though: even if we realize that de-population may be a positive trend, our economic systems might resist this. Why? Sadly, higher population = larger market = mighty labour force = stronger economic power.

Dwindling populations = many old, sick persons vs few young, productive individuals = labour shortage = less consumption = economic contraction = DISASTER (not to mention, pension funding problems!). Case in point: Japan seriously considers its shrinking population as a national economic threat and is actively encouraging its citizens to have more children! If other developed countries follow suit, will we ever succeed in defusing the human population time bomb?

The world is so messed up. :(

Written in September 2008

1 person thinks this is a cool reply

Rena,
I am totally with you and encourage even far more drastic measures for breeders.

Written in September 2008

Charles M. 110°

Those of you who mock us "breeders", consider...

When you're 95 in a rest home who is going to come change your incontinence diapers and bring you food?
Who's going to be out there growing food for you?
Who's going to be working in the companies that make money and keep your stocks generatinbg dividends?
Who's going to pay taxes to keep care of you?

Extreme generational population reduction is no more sustainable than high rates of reproduction. Balance is the key.

Written in September 2008

Charles M,
I don't plan on turning 95, am a firm believer in quality over quantity and support doctor assisted suicide and eugenics.
I grow much of my own food and support local farming coops/ initiatives.
Congress and the Senate will take care of stocks and dividend issues as they have recently plunged the US into Socialism, speculation and free market manipulation.
Having worked all my life receiving little in return on my tax dollars I have paid more than my fair share of taxes.
We have moved beyond balance. Population, like government are ever encrouching unless active measures are taken.

Written in October 2008

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