Children will better, not hinder, our world

By  Nicole Lau, Catholic Register Special
  • March 9, 2009
{mosimage}This just in folks, children are bad for the environment — because humans are bad for the environment. But of course! I guess that makes some sense if the environment is the universal ultimate good of the world. And is that so? Do we value the world more than we value human life?

Even if the environment is the ultimate good, how does this argument work? Jonathan Pitt, the UK government’s Sustainable Development Commission chair, states that “Couples who have more than two children are being ‘irresponsible’ by creating an unbearable burden on the environment.” He, of course, leads by example, and has only two children. The assumption is that every couple with reproductive capacity will have only two children and thus this reaches, apparently, the level of replacement for the world population.

Well, this clears up why in Western countries, birth rates are on the decline and governments of economically advanced countries are paying families to have more children, doesn’t it? But it does not account for the vast numbers of infertile couples, nor the couples who have no children at all by choice. Or the women who don’t have children for whatever reason. So, aside from assuming every couple does have two children (while clearly dismissing real data proving otherwise), let’s look at what’s wrong with this theory itself.

Foundationally, this mentality leads into a gradual escalation. Abortion, often in practice used as emergency birth control, can be seen as a means to be “eco-friendly.” Which doesn’t seem to make much sense, does it? Because of an arbitrary line drawn at two children only, should families have abortions and limit the size of their families, whether they want to or not? What have we come to now if not a more polite form of China’s horrific one-child policy?

Why should human potential be limited to our current standard of resources? Who can say technology is not going to significantly improve resource allocation and the functionality of our resources to a level where there will be provisions for all? How odd that the respect for human creativity and innovation is such that people are no longer expecting or anticipating technological breakthroughs that could make a world of difference. Didn’t mankind set out to conquer space, just because it exists? What world would it be if we reached the maximum level we seek to achieve at the present moment? The problem with this is it does not allow for the possibility that these new human beings that are being born into the world will contribute invaluably to the world’s productivity. And it would be a sad world that rejects the potentiality of human life. Just look at the people in positions of power, working to make change in the world. The most obvious example may be U.S. President Barack Obama. He grew up with a single mother abandoned by her husband.

However, the unpredictability of human life potential is exactly this: It does not matter where we come from, what does matter is what we do, wherever we are. It’s so ironic that this theory insists humans produce the waste that pollutes the world, therefore doing more harm than potential good. Perhaps a more effective solution would be better stewardship of the Earth and its resources, and of course, human innovation. This is not to downplay the human ecological footprint on the world, but rather the approach that the footprint must be diminished and destroyed. Perhaps a better, more creative way would be to better manage that footprint. A better solution would be to stop living lives of wasteful luxury at the expense of others.

It is wholly destructive to devalue human life because the idea of conserving the environment is posed as contradictory. I hope Jonathan Pitt can look past personal judgments of families with more than two children and consider their motivations stemming from their love of children and life, and an openness to the idea that humanity is a creative resource for bettering the world, not an inhibition.

(Lau is general manager of Aid to Women in Toronto .)

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