Going Green Means Having Fewer Kids
By Emily Badger, Miller-McCune.com. Posted October 19, 2009.
There are already just too many people on the planet. What are we supposed to do about it?I am proud to announce that I bucked the trend of my generation and refused to have children. So opposed to it was I that I "went to the Vet" in 1982 (though likely I was always shooting blanks, due to mumps as a teen).
Andrew Revkin, an environmental reporter for The New York Times and author of the paper's Dot Earth blog, warns that the math is pretty depressing.
There are about 6.8 billion people on the planet today, a number projected to get to 9 billion by 2050. Americans, the world's greatest per-capita emitters of greenhouse gas emissions, produce about 20 tons of the stuff per person, per year. If we were to cut that in half, as emissions rose with the quality of life in much of the Third World, and everyone on the planet met around 10 tons per person, per year, simple multiplication says we'd collectively emit 90 billion tons of carbon dioxide annually come 2050.
That's three times the already problematic current number.
When we start to think about that number, 9 billion, a lot of "cheery suppositions" about what the world can do to curb climate change evaporate, Revkin said (via carbon footprint-minimizing Skype from his desk in New York). He spoke to an event in Washington discussing population trends and climate change, and the media that seldom correlate the two.
The interrelated topics aren't likely to get much talk when global leaders meet in Copenhagen in December for the next round of wrangling over a successor to the Kyoto Protocol. But at least the media could start highlighting the sensitive relationship, as was suggested at the talk hosted by the Woodrow Wilson Center.
A couple of mental roadblocks emerge, central among them the sentiment that, well, there are just too many people on the planet, so what are we supposed to do about it? Any answer trips up against the politically touchy topic of family planning (a distinctly different concept, reproductive-health advocates stress, from "population control").
"The single most concrete, substantive thing a young American could do is not turning off the lights or driving a Prius," Revkin said. "It's having fewer kids."