Children: Bad for this Planet?

Joseph Hine FAITH Magazine November-December 2007

On the 6th May last the Sunday Times published an article which suggested that having large families was an ‘eco-crime.’ It quoted John Guillebaud, emeritus professor of family planning at University College London as saying: The effect on the planet of having one child less is an order of magnitude greater than all these other things we might do, such as switching off lights. An extra child is the equivalent of a lot of flights across the planet. The greatest thing anyone in Britain could do to help the future of the planet would be to have one less child.’

Children are not bad for the environment - it’s our selfishness that is bad for this planet. The root cause of climate change is our individualistic and materialistic lifestyle in the rich countries. We live alone in big houses, drive alone in big cars, and sit alone surrounded by our electronic gadgets.

For years we’ve been advised to look at children in terms of their financial viability. The logical extension of applying economic value to human life is euthanasia - killing non­productive members of society. In this new twist, we’re asked to look at children in terms of their carbon emissions. What’s next?

The argument that the best we can do for the planet’s future is have fewer children is based on a flawed assumption: that we cannot change our lifestyle and consume less. More importantly, we need to recognise that each new life brings more to this world than economic burdens and carbon emissions. In the words of Indian poet Tagore, each child brings a ‘renewed message that God has not lost faith in mankind.’

Each of my three sons has his unique personality. There are times when they humble me with their simple generosity. There are also times when they nearly drive me to distraction. They have changed me and taught me much.

Raising children requires self-sacrifice, commitment, work and - most of all - love and caring. It takes the willingness to spend my time on others, rather than my own pursuits. These are the same values needed to stop the threat of climate change.

I have a suggestion for anyone serious about saving the planet: Let’s teach our children to want fewer things. And let’s teach them by example.

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Faith Magazine