Wednesday, August 10, 2016

People who don't have children benefit our environment

The global population is growing rapidly, while the resources we depend on to live are dwindling. If you consider the footprint each person makes on the world – in terms of food and water consumed, electricity and gas used, and waste produced – the challenge of improving living standards while protecting natural resources and the environment is striking. The question of human population size is fundamentally one of sustainability, and in that so is the choice to have children.

Rather than being taboo, being childfree is something that should be celebrated and valued. The childfree do more for our environment than any campaign. Finite resources mean we must consider our consumption now, what living standards are acceptable, and how to maintain the ecosystems on which we depend and how many of us there are.

Of course, having a family will always be a central part of life for many. The people who wish to have children but cannot need our empathy and support. But society should also acknowledge that those who choose not to have children are making a valuable contribution to a sustainable future.

Our numbers have doubled in the last 50 years, transforming Earth into a ticking time bomb. Climate change is one devastating symptom of this surge. Population growth increases the number of wealthy carbon emitters and poorer climate change victims, while hampering mitigation and adaptation efforts.

Beyond environmental concerns, political instability, civil conflict and mass migration are an inevitable consequence. Young populations, high birth rates and rising life expectancy mean that, for instance, Africa’s population alone is expected to rise from one to four billion this century. While a global response is needed, industrialised countries like Britain, which consume more than their fair share of resources, must lead by example.

With the steady erosion of the childfree taboo, it is time to reopen the debate surrounding population growth and sustainability, educate young people about mindful consumption, and advocate improvements to family planning, sex education and women’s rights.

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