To think that most people don't take the impact on population and the environment into account when deciding how many children to have?

(64 Posts)
12ylnon Tue 05-Feb-13 17:48:46

A couple of things have made me think of this recently, and i wanted to gauge people's opinions on it.

I was watching Food and Drink yesterday evening and there was a very interesting piece about food shortage and the population of the world reaching 9 billion by 2050. He was saying it like it was big news, but we've known this for years and have turned a blind eye. I find it scary.
I've also been reading a blog that's written by a woman who has 'turned their fertility over to god' and chosen to not use ANY form of contraception with her husband. She's on child number 3 and in her mid 20s.

Now, I'm pregnant with my second child. I've had the view that i would only ever have two children since i was about 15, as much as i would like lots (and trust me, i would like lots!). Luckily i met someone who felt the same way as me.

I hold the view that i should only have enough children to replace me and my partner on this earth and feel this very strongly about this. Thats not to say i would ever try to impose my views on others, as i very much have an 'each to their own' attitude towards these things, but i really can't help but think sometimes that people just don't factor in the strain population has on the planet when it comes to thinking about their own families. When you hear people talking about having a third, fourth or fifth, the questions always are 'can we afford another, can we afford to get a bigger car/house, will we have the time to care for another?' but never 'what impact will this have on the planet as a whole'.

Do you think this is something we should be thinking about? Would it make a difference to the decisions that you'll make? I would love to hear what people think about it.
And for the love of god, let's keep it civil smile

I've shoved the links to the blog and the 'Food and Drink' program at the bottom.
(article starts at about 11.50 mins)

Trills Tue 05-Feb-13 17:50:42

YANBU - I think that is pretty low down most people's lists when they decide whether to have another child.

But I don't necessarily think that it should be any higher.

Euphemia Tue 05-Feb-13 17:51:51

Why do you need someone to replace you? You're not a tree. smile

hiddenhome Tue 05-Feb-13 17:52:09

I would never even consider it.

Trills Tue 05-Feb-13 17:52:09

It could be argued that you should have lots of children, train them to be very environmentally aware, and send them out to teach the world how to effectively deal with the expanding population.

WorraLiberty Tue 05-Feb-13 17:56:09

I'm not sure it's worth thinking about really unless people choose to have none at all.

The reason I say that is because the 2 children you've chosen to have, could well end up spawning 5 or 6 kids each.

We don't know how far the ripples travel.

ReluctantMother Tue 05-Feb-13 17:57:45

Yanbu but people need to think about the environment more anyway.

HollyBerryBush Tue 05-Feb-13 18:01:08

The problem with population isn't the amount of children (reducing in the uk, per head) but the increased longevity (60+ now out numbering -16's).

1 in 4 baby girls this year will live to be 100+ (dunno about the boys, didn't see that statistic).

Therefore I deduce the problem is very different.

not very resolvable is it? Unless we shut the NHS.

Euphemia Tue 05-Feb-13 18:02:07

Or shut our legs. wink

12ylnon Tue 05-Feb-13 18:02:14

euphemia correct, i'm not a tree. Didn't word that well. I ment that IF we choose to have children (which obvs. we have) we should have a maximum of 2, so that when we die, we won't have added significantly to the population.
worra but you can't limit the number of children that your children have- you can only be responsible for your own family size.

BinarySolo Tue 05-Feb-13 18:03:37

I wouldn't consider it myself. What about people who have no children/can't conceive/same sex couples? What about if a child does in infancy? Do you then get to have another one? For every large family there's single child or childless people.

Personally I think that if you are capable of supporting your family emotionally and financially etc then that's the main thing.

Kayano Tue 05-Feb-13 18:03:40

I'm having two and did consider this reason.

Not many do though

BinarySolo Tue 05-Feb-13 18:05:16

*dies in infancy

Trills Tue 05-Feb-13 18:06:50

For every large family there's single child or childless people.

If the population of the earth is increasing then this can't actually be true. Although some part of the increased population is also due to increased life expectancy.

SingingSands Tue 05-Feb-13 18:08:04

Actually, this is something I was thinking about myself recently as I was reminded of something I had read years ago. If you consider the vast amount of resources we use ourselves, and the vast amount of resources used on raising just one child, the environmental impact is devastating. Just because we cannot (or choose not to) see it, doesn't mean it is not happening.

It does actually make for uncomfortable thoughts. There was no reason for myself and DH to have children. We had one unexpected pregnancy and went through with it. Then we planned another and went through with it. But who is to say that my own two children won't have 10 kids each? I am not responsible for their future adult choices.

Fairypants Tue 05-Feb-13 18:08:49

It actually comes pretty high up my list but, as I am the only one of 3 siblings (and 5 cousin's) that will be having any and DH is an only child, I figure I could (theoretically) be responsible for replacing a lot more than just the two of us.
Given that the current rate of consumption is unsustainable, I think lifestyle (and education) are more important.

Bluemonkeyspots Tue 05-Feb-13 18:09:25

I'm on dc4 blush

But my 2 siblings are not having babies so i suppose I could have another two to replace them and their partners and not feel guilty wink

Jojobump1986 Tue 05-Feb-13 18:10:13

There will always be people who never have children though. Our family seems to be quite good at accidentally balancing things out - my Dad's aunt never married/had children so my parents had 3. My aunt & her DH didn't meet until they were past the usual baby-making age so that means we can have 4 to keep the status quo, right?! grin

We may end up only having 2 & the population boom may feature as a passing thought in that decision but it'll be based more on our financial situation & what we choose to do with the money we do have. I think if we were to have 4 children we'd ideally need a bigger house. For me personally that creates a moral dilemma - we have a warm, safe place to live while others don't. If we didn't get a bigger place we could afford to give more to help those whose need is greater. I guess what I'm saying is that I'd be more likely to let the problems of the current population influence me than the potential problems that look likely to arise at some point in the future!

DoctorAnge Tue 05-Feb-13 18:11:12

I agree with you

FlorriesDragons Tue 05-Feb-13 18:15:54

I have two so I think that's ok but it honestly isn't something I would have thought about when making that decision.

CailinDana Tue 05-Feb-13 18:15:58

YANBU. It's not something that is a factor in my decision to have children, mainly because I don't believe for one minute that there will eventually be 9 billion people on the planet. If someone had made a prediction in 1900 as to what the population would be in 1950 they would have been totally wrong as they would not have factored in the many millions killed by WWI, WWII, the flu epidemic, Stalin, and other conflicts around the world as well as the many millions saved by improvements in medical care that wasn't available in 1900. We can make a vague guess as to what the population might be in 2050 based on how the world is now but the fact is the world will be different, so the guess is not going to be in any way accurate. Restricting your life based on a guess doesn't make sense to me.

kerala Tue 05-Feb-13 18:18:32

Agree op one of the reasons we stopped at 2. I would have felt guilty and somehow greedy having more hard to explain.

BikingViking Tue 05-Feb-13 18:19:32

Depends on more than just number of children though, surely? I mean lifestyle must influence the factor a bit?

Would be interesting to measure and see the difference in environmental impact of, say, a one-child family that use a lot of resources (massive heated house, petrol guzzling car used to get everywhere, lots of food waste, constantly purchasing material goods etc etc) vs that of (to take the other extreme) a family with 7 kids, self-sufficient, growing own food, vegetarian, re-using and recycling more than consuming new goods, biking everywhere, generating own electricity using renewable sources etc.

CloudsAndTrees Tue 05-Feb-13 18:19:49

I doubt whether anyone takes the impact of population on the environment into consideration when having children, except you OP!

I think they should though. I think having more than two children is quite selfish unless you are a millionaire and contribute significantly to the tax pot after your costs are met, and you contribute to society. I'll include the environment in my thinking next time as well.

Vagndidit Tue 05-Feb-13 18:21:46

Well, as a society we've become quite good at the "I need"s and "I want"s without thinking of the impact on others, so I'm sure that environmental concern is pretty far down the list when considering family size.

However I so not think yabu in your thinking. But if someone wants to have their 6 NHS funded births kids, they won't give it a second thought. wink

GaryBuseysTeeth Tue 05-Feb-13 18:23:42

We considered it.
I didn't want any children because of all the reasons you mentioned in your OP, I was very forward with my views when I met DH (and he made a hmm face at me).
We're stopping at 2, and as much as I want 3,4,5+ I feel better about stopping at 2 & trying to reduce the impact we/they have on everything <not actually that woo, honestly>

nefertarii Tue 05-Feb-13 18:29:25

Yanbu. Although it was a concern of ours.

Personally I think more people should consider it. Especially in such a populations dense country as purs.

But you know, each to their own.

thebody Tue 05-Feb-13 18:30:59

Never have it a thought to be honest with my 4. Too busy drinking wine and enjoying the shagging.

But you are probably right.

loofet Tue 05-Feb-13 18:33:22

Nothing to do with the amount of children people have because the average has dropped in the Western world at least.

Its because we all live longer due to better healthcare, education and advances in science. Also because of things like IVF meaning the infertile now have a chance. The families with 3+ kids are becoming a rare breed, most stop at 1 or 2 and in fact a lot are choosing not to have them at all or leaving it too late.

Also like worra said you might only have two but what's to stop them having 5 or 6 each. I have three, admittedly number 3 wasn't planned and it may be where we stop but if I wanted six I'd have six even though I am a self proclaimed eco warrior grin Because I know that even though I have six them two couples over the road have none so call it me taking their place? Makes sense in my head anyway.

That's one of the reasons we only have 2, and I consider myself selfish for having children at all.

Myliferocks Tue 05-Feb-13 18:36:44

OH and myself have 5 children together.
OH's sister and partner have no children and definitely aren't having any.
My DB has no children and definitely isn't having any.
If all 3 couples had had 2 children each then that would be 6 children. We only have 5 although we won't be having the extra one to take our family allocation of 6.
To me it's all swings and roundabouts and each time I became pregnant the least of my worries was the impact it would have on the planet.

scarletforya Tue 05-Feb-13 18:39:13


I wouldn't consider it at all because I don't care! Yes. As long as i'm all right Jack. That's human nature.

And I don't think we can meaningfully really affect population artificially. People are not going to accept attempted organised restrictions on population. Human nature won't support any such plan. Was tried in China.

We can't and shouldn't try to twart our own biology and psychology. We're evolutionarily programmed to further our own particular genes. Any ideology that fails to recognise that our imperative to breed supercedes altruistic concerns will fail. Failure is built in to that.

instantfamily Tue 05-Feb-13 18:39:59

I went over your limit, OP, but I did think about it. wink

By the same token should we, when we fall ill, just not seek medical help to potentially relieve the world of one extra consumer of resources?

Juanca Tue 05-Feb-13 18:43:30


There are loads of population models, a good number show that the population will start to decline around 2050. So why limit the number of children you have just in case it doesn't?

KobayashiMaru Tue 05-Feb-13 18:43:47

It's a bit self indulgent and wanky to pose such notions in a country like the UK. You're not dealing with food shortages, with overpopulation, with the problems that come with it. You (a relatively rich person, globally) can have as many children as you like and you don't need to worry about them dying from dysentary.

It's a bit unseemly to appropriate the real pressing issues of the developing world and postulate them as esoteric philosophical problems as if they really affect you.

jellybeans Tue 05-Feb-13 18:46:06

No I didn't really consider it because we are very frugal and probably better environmentally than people who have two cars, holidays abroad etc etc. We just ended up with 5DC which is right for us. Our close relatives have chosen to have none so we are having 'their share' if you like! However I am stopping at 5 for a long list of reasons.

jellybeans Tue 05-Feb-13 18:49:01

' The families with 3+ kids are becoming a rare breed, most stop at 1 or 2 '

Not in my area. It's not at all unusual to have 3 or 4 in my area. I would say average is 2-3 here. 5 is getting unusual but still there are a good few of us. 6+ is very unusual. (I live in a fairly affluent area but there are pockets of poverty).

complexnumber Tue 05-Feb-13 18:54:02

Would anyone say that China has had the right model in trying to control its population?

It is a hugely complex issue on many different levels. Certainly not just a matter of keeping your legs together.

perplexedpirate Tue 05-Feb-13 18:54:36

I like using this when people ask why I have 'only' one. I like their shockhmm faces.
We did consider it, actually, but our minds were already made up anyway. It just made the decision easier.

WafflesandWhippedCream Tue 05-Feb-13 18:56:12

This is something that DH thinks is important too, and is one of the many reasons why we are stopping at two children. I wouldn't say it was the main reason though!

Flobbadobs Tue 05-Feb-13 18:56:27

YANBU, she says sat in a house with 3 children in it...
But population isn't the only answer is it? People need to become more self sufficient and environmentally aware in every day life, not just quit having kids.
It's not something you can regulate properly either, China may officially limit each family to one child in some areas but it leads to many problems such as female infanticide, forced abortions, neglect and abandonment. It's not feasible to enforce restrictions in a free society nor is it morally right to do so when this can happen.

Himalaya Tue 05-Feb-13 19:08:09

The rise in population from 7 to 9 billion is fairly certain - barring some really horrendous catastrophe. It's not based on people having too many children - it's demographic inertia - so a lot of countries in the developing world have large young populations. And everywhere people are living longer. When this generation of kids grow up and have 1 or 2 children themselves (much fewer than their parents generation), and with people living longer the population will continue to rise before it levels off,

Family planning is important because its good for individuals, not particularly for environmental reasons. For the environment we've got to work out how to support 9 billion people with the planets resources.

poppycock6 Tue 05-Feb-13 19:09:03

OP I think you are absolutely right. We all have a moral duty to think about the planet but sadly, few people give it a second thought.

MsAkimbo Tue 05-Feb-13 19:09:34


My DH and I talked about this recently. Has anyone ever seen 'The Queen of Versailles'?

Saski Tue 05-Feb-13 19:12:58

I considered it. Honestly I didn't want 3 kids after having 2 and this dovetailed nicely, but I feel pretty strongly about it just the same.

I don't understand this whole yes I have 5 kids but we are super environmentally conscious. So, are you going to admonish the five of them to collaboratively produce only the footprint of 2 people? How long will this follow them? If it sounds ridiculous - that's how it sounds to me too.

I think that people who blithely have five kids should probably go and spend some time in Mumbai or similar.

Saski Tue 05-Feb-13 19:15:25

*It's a bit self indulgent and wanky to pose such notions in a country like the UK. You're not dealing with food shortages, with overpopulation, with the problems that come with it. You (a relatively rich person, globally) can have as many children as you like and you don't need to worry about them dying from dysentary.

It's a bit unseemly to appropriate the real pressing issues of the developing world and postulate them as esoteric philosophical problems as if they really affect you.*

Self-indulgent to consider the global effects of C02 emissions? I've heard it all now.

Abra1d Tue 05-Feb-13 19:20:52

YANBU. OP. And the people who say, we have five children but we're oh so into recycling and hardly use our car are deluding themselves. Their grown children will need housing, transport, food, clothing.

We have two. If I had been living fifty years ago, when the population of the UK was smaller, I might have three or four.

Bowlersarm Tue 05-Feb-13 19:21:18

YANBU at all, but I don't think people will suddenly become less selfish about the number of children they have in order to save the planet in the future.

Smartiepants79 Tue 05-Feb-13 19:22:34

It is a very reasonable point of view, unfortunately having children is always a very emotion driven descision and therefore reason rarely comes into it! wink
We have just had our second child and I can't see us having anymore. I do worry about the impact of population growth on my children's future but it is from a much more selfish point of view!

chandellina Tue 05-Feb-13 19:22:51

Yabu overpopulation is far from a problem in the UK. People are not replacing themselves and we must rely on immigration to have enough workers to pay our pensions.

In fact, fertility rates are falling all over the world, and the pace of population growth is slowing. There are real issues around food and water supplies but your choice to only have two children in the UK can only have a philosophical rather than a practical outcome.

VenusRising Tue 05-Feb-13 19:23:24

it was absolutely a consideration for us.

we considered it carefully, and have only one, and we very nearly didn't have her.

we don't have a tumble dryer, or a car, and i do yearly assessments on our carbon footprint, to minimise it.

i hardly even use caps on my computer, as you can see, just in case it uses too many pixels!! (though i am rather partial to commas and parentheses, as you can see)

seriously though, we considered it carefully, and do all those eco friendly things.

StuntGirl Tue 05-Feb-13 19:24:07

It's a factor in my thinking. I'm not hugely keen on the idea of kids anyway, and the environmental/population impact definitely factors. But then I try and apply that thinking across my life anyway.

I think the OP who raised the idea of a high energy use one child family vs a low energy use 7 child family is interesting and a factor to consider. The amount of children is only part of the figures, how you and those children impact the world/resources is a bigger part.

VinegarDrinker Tue 05-Feb-13 19:30:53

It is something we thought long and hard about before TTC #1 and will be another long chat prior to any potential #3. Environmental concerns affect how we live our whole life (eg we don't own a car, don't fly, are veggie, eat local etc) so that should include children.

Having said that, I'd like to see women across the world who want to prevent further children have universal access to free, safe contraception as a priority. Globally preventing unwanted pregnancies would have much more impact than a few westerners choosing to stop at 1 or 2.

Abra1d Tue 05-Feb-13 19:34:23

'chandellina Tue 05-Feb-13 19:22:51
Yabu overpopulation is far from a problem in the UK. People are not replacing themselves and we must rely on immigration to have enough workers to pay our pensions. '

Overpopulation is a great problem in the SE of the UK. And our birthrate is now at the highest rate it has been for ages.

The immigration argument doesn't wear because it is Ponzi demographics. We just create more pensioners who need funding. There are other reasons why immigration is a good thing, but this isn't one of them.

HeyHoHereWeGo Tue 05-Feb-13 19:35:55

I could limit myself to 2, I could go running round turning out lights and washing out yoghurt pots.
It doesn't amount to one jot on a global scale.
I am but a little ant.
The world wont groan because of the majority of people who unknowingly have lots of children far drown out the small minority like me who have lots of babies knowing the impact they may have.

VinegarDrinker Tue 05-Feb-13 19:38:43

If everyone thinks like that HeyHo then yes we really are fucked. How hard is it to turn off unused lights and recycle?!

jeee Tue 05-Feb-13 19:39:06

We have 4 DC. I'm well aware that this isn't environmentally sound. Sure, I can say, 'well, I used one lot of washable nappies for the lot of them', or 'but we buy charity shop clothes' (both statements are true), but the bottom line is, four children is pretty selfish when you look at the impact on the planet.

But it's great fun.

chandellina Tue 05-Feb-13 19:43:49

We are still only at around 1.98 children per woman, and that is only thanks to recent immigration helping boost the rate.

Population density is far from extreme in any part of the UK.

Abra1d Tue 05-Feb-13 19:49:06

It is extreme enough in the southeast of England--denser than anywhere else in Europe.

lljkk Tue 05-Feb-13 19:52:43

Do you think this is something we should be thinking about?

No, because there are more productive ways to look at it.

The global population is increasing annual by the same number of unwanted pregnancies; make every pregnancy a planned one, the population explosion disappears.


Most women in the world STILL do not have full reproductive control over their bodies. In China admittedly, they've got very restricted opportunities. But in places where population is booming, women don't have the choice of only having a few children, or it is a very risky strategy because of high infant mortality rates and lack of pensions for old people. Sort those problems out, and again, human population would stabilise.

stickygingerbread Tue 05-Feb-13 19:59:15

yabu the problem of the 21st century will be the pressures aging and declining populations put on welfare states that were created when populations were young and growing. Decline has momentum so worldwide the population is likely to go much lower before evening out. One projection I read, based conservatively on current total lifetime fertility rates (which are actually still dropping - not factored in), has the earth revisiting 2.5B population in about 150 years.

What you or I do will not make a difference to the overall trend.

sub-replacement fertility

Moreover, while some jet about their many properties in private jets, I won't be concerned about my extremely modest carbon footprint.

Xmasbaby11 Tue 05-Feb-13 20:01:12

I do think it is worth considering and I agree that beyond two seems irresponsible to me (that's my gut feeling). I feel quite horrified at people carriers and other enormous gas guzzling vehicles.

. However, I think if anyone was that bothered, they shouldn't have children at all, and clearly this is unrealistic as no one is that selfless! It could be argued that a family of 6 could live economically by sharing and reusing resources, not buying as many goods etc - as BikingViking says.

And could it be argued that people living alone is very wasteful?

MummytoKatie Tue 05-Feb-13 20:20:53

Then again in the Uk we also have an aging population problem so maybe we should all be shoving out as many as possible in order to fund us all in our old age.

Personally I agree with the poster upthread who said that the most important thing would be worldwide access to reliable contraception.

chandellina Tue 05-Feb-13 20:22:20

London is only barely in the top 50 cities for population density. The South East would rank around 26th for population density if it were a country.

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