Overconsumption, overpopulation, having children

The question “when will I have children?” was never as important to me as “will I have children?” and – perhaps more importantly – “should I have children?”

These are some of my thoughts on the matter…

Should I?

The question of should relates to the ethics involved in bringing another person into the world, and the argument against that is usually the fallacy that overpopulation of the human race is a major destructive force, which is simply not the case. Yes, humans can be destructive, but it’s not a population problem. A person living in the developed world (or “first world”) on average consumes 32 times as many resources as someone living in underdeveloped “third world” nations. Not only that, the idea of “food shortage” is a problem, as it is an issue of food distribution and rising costs and competition rather than a true shortage. The planet certainly has a food crisis, but not a food shortage.

Here’s a great article that covers 10 key points about “overpopulation” -

10 Reasons to Rethink ‘Overpopulation’
A Publication of the Population and Development Program at Hampshire College, No. 40, Fall 2006

Fears of overpopulation are pervasive in American society. From an early age we are taught that the world is overpopulated and that population pressure is responsible for poverty, hunger, environmental degradation and even political insecurity. If we don’t get population growth under control now, the argument goes, our future is in danger.

Conventional wisdom, however, is not always wise. Placing the blame on population obscures the powerful economic and political forces that threaten the well-being of both people and the planet. It leads to top-down, target-driven population control programs that undermine voluntary family planning and women’s reproductive rights. It reinforces racism, promoting harmful stereotypes of poor people of color. And it prevents the kind of global understanding we need in order to reach across borders to work together for a more just, peaceful and environmentally sustainable world.

Here are ten reasons why we should rethink ‘overpopulation.’ …

Click to continue reading…

Blame the “breeders”?

On the other hand, to say we don’t want to have children out of consideration for animals or the environment, or because modern human “breeding” is “unnatural” somehow, delves into areas that are speciesist when we frame the issue as a them versus us problem, and perpetuates the problematic view that humans are somehow “above” the environment, rather than fostering a healthy, sustainable relationship with it. This human superiority complex – our alleged need for hierarchical relationships to (or “dominion” over) others – is to blame for overconsumption, environmental exploitation, and the commodification of – and consequent disregard for the welfare of – humans and animals. The behaviour and ignorance of individuals conforming to and perpetuating a faulty system is what needs to be challenged, not “breeding” or “breeders.” Throwing blame around is easy, but it’s not a productive or kind thing to do! And it’s certainly not in the interests of improving conditions for other people or animals, nor for improving on the status of reproductive rights… but that’s another post for another day… as is the option for adoption, where it exists (and where it’s grossly restricted due to problems and bigotry of a different nature…).

Will I? When will I?

The questions of will and when are rather more personal, and involve different sorts of considerations, such as more personal, individualised philosophies of life, religion, and personal financial considerations, which I’ll not go into here to avoid a long-winded ramble of potentially no interest to anyone other than myself and my husband… other than to say until I was pretty much in the “will not” camp in regard to having children until I was in a relationship with my husband, who made me rethink a lot of things in my life. And vice versa, actually. I also wasn’t completely sold on the “idea” of marriage and weddings until he came along. (That’s “tru wuv” for you!)

Reducing consumption

On the subject of overconsumption – how does one reduce their consumption to contribute to environmental protection? Recycling? Take the bus? Don’t use plastic bags? Change one’s lightbulbs? These things – and others – together can make a small impact, but the largest impact involves food consumption and the food crisis – and the most destructive and unsustainable food industry is the animal industry: land is cleared for animal grazing and for crops to feed animals, farming animals uses up far, far more water than any plant crop, and animal industries pollute more than all other industries combined.

UN figures suggest that meat production puts more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere than transport.

“The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has estimated that direct emissions from meat production account for about 18% of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions,” he told BBC News.

“So I want to highlight the fact that among options for mitigating climate change, changing diets is something one should consider.”
- BBC News

There’s a reason why those little “what’s your ecological footprint?” quizzes ask you questions about your diet. If you are serious about reducing the impact that human beings have on this planet, the answer doesn’t lie in not having children – it lies in making sure your own impact on the world is minimised, and a large portion of that does include what you shovel into your mouth on a daily basis – which a lot of people don’t like to hear! It’s easier for us folks in rich countries to throw money at a problem – like buying a hybrid car, for example – and tell ourselves that’s enough, and that using low-flow showerheads makes us environmentally aware. The fact of the matter is: if you eat meat, you’re not living a sustainable or environmentally-friendly life. Helping other people – including your kids! – go vegan and stay vegan is probably the best of the best things – and one of the easiest things – you can do to help protect the environment. Having kids or interests other than veganism does not have to hamper your ability to engage in animal rights activism or in improving the environment, human rights, the world, etc, etc… In fact, it can improve upon it!

Save everything! Go vegan! icon smile Overconsumption, overpopulation, having children

(For further info, see my other posts on environment stuff.)

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  • http://www.theveganmentor.com veganmentor

    Brilliant post! And an interesting topic – it’s one I think about a lot, but I agree that it overpopulation isn’t cut and dried. Veganism is definitely a step in the right direction!

  • http://cupcakekitteh.blogspot.ca/ Mandee

    Great post, GFV. I’ve still got children in my undecided basket, but like you I am sure my mind could be change or maybe that need to have a baby will kick in one day.

    I saw this on the ppk http://www.vhemt.org/ and thought it was interesting.

  • http://autistscorner.blogspot.ca/ Lindsay

    I found this post via WordPress’s “Possibly related posts” feature, and it is wonderful!

    You are spot on about the problem being consumption more than absolute numbers, and the role of the “human superiority complex” in discussions of human impact on the (rest of the) biosphere.

  • Shannon

    Wow! Beautiful post. Some very good points brought out. I have recently become vegan and am also gluten free so I was searching when I came across your site. I have for a long time (personally) been against reproduction for myself and it was good to read someone else’s point of view on the topic. (Who almost agrees with me). Consumption is the issue and I wish more people cared. Congrats on your child and what sounds like a very happy life. I am always impressed with people who make well informed decisions and was happy to come across this site!

  • http://owlsie.livejournal.com/ JMK

    i love your blog. Not just for the meal ideas, but for your opinions.

    I am a huge advocate of non-governmental, non-violent, voluntary solutions for stuff like this. I would be interested in knowing what your opinions on voluntaryism are. :)

    JMK