For Aron: Forgoing Children Part One

>> Friday, April 17, 2009

Aron said and asked: For full disclosure, I support the childfree movement. Also, i'm only speaking from my experiences in my high school, this might not be a national trend. What do you think?

I think that's a far more complex question than it looks like, for one thing. Bear in mind, also, this is all my opinion and not a condemnation or advocation of any personal choice. There's kind of two aspects of it:

  • What's going on in the world
  • What one wants to do individually
For what's going on in the world, overpopulation is a real issue, over all. In one way or the other, we will have to learn to curb our tendencies, left over, I believe, from a world where infant mortality was outrageous. When my grandfather was a child, infant mortality was nearly 50%. Big families were a necessity. When medicine made such strides (as well as our understanding of hygiene), infant mortality dropped drastically, but the notion of big families had not.

But the issue is more complex than just too many people. Too many people, too few resources has more than one solution and, given the size, it needs all of them. If you have more resources than people, you have three options: reduce the number of people, increase the number of resources, or learn how to use the resources you have more effectively. But even that's an oversimplification because it's more than just the total number of people vs. the total amount of resources, it's being able to get the resources to the people who need them, having the right resources of each population. And that's where the childfree movement lags.

Right now, per this growth rate chart, the rate of growth among the first world nations tops out about 1% and most of those countries have a lower growth rate. However, even among nations that are not as successful (but are more technologically adept), growth rates are topping out at 1% or less, including the two most populous nations in the world: China and India. Note that population growth includes immigration as well as children being born.

A key element in all this is education. As you noted, the tendency is for the most educated and career-oriented populations to limit the size of their family (or forgo it altogether). It's likely a key reason why so many technologically adept (or advancing) countries are seeing a decline in the growth rate from the past. The less educated, rural or technologically backward portions of the world will continue to have high birth rates either because there is no accessible method of birth control or because they are not educated to understand the repercussions of unrestrained procreation. [Do note that everyone who has a big family doesn't match that description - the issues are considerably more complex that this broad generalization and there are a thousand explanations and complex factors for individual examples. I'm speaking in terms of populations not individuals here.] For many, religious views are also a factor as they preclude birth control and/or encourage large families. But the educated groups, those that understand the repercussions don't need to consciously limit their family sizes; they will naturally do so, expanding the family only as much as it doesn't affect their own plans and understanding the risks skyrocketing populations.

But that's not where the problem lies.

Further restraining the group that isn't doing the unrestricted procreating makes a negligible dent in the population rate if it makes any at all, because they weren't contributing much already. However, now the uneducated and/or technologically backward parts of the world are getting more populous and the part that understand the problem, the part that can help find solutions, is getting smaller not larger. What I'm saying is that a movement like this is unlikely to be of big benefit, if followed to the letter, and could actually do harm to the next generation.

However, the idea that parenting needs to be responsible and sustainable is a good thing and, if it does nothing more than encourage children to think before become parents, it has served a valuable purpose. If those that think about this take the trouble to take this healthy message to the parts of the populace most in need of it, it serves and even greater purpose as do bringing methods and education about birth control to parts of the world that need it.

But there's more that can be done. Many of the parts of the world that have high growth rates are also not highly populous, but they suffer anyway because of a dearth of resources. With the potential water issues and changes as a result of global climate change, this could become more pronounced. As useful as learning to recycle and grow food in an enclosed environment, like a space colony, are those same lessons can be used for the more backwards parts of the world to help them make use of the environment they have (which, believe it or not, has more potential use for resources than any man-made station) more effectively, providing the resources they need for their populations.

We can also teach not only them but ourselves how to use our resources more effectively. For example, Americans are easily the most wasteful in the world per capita when it comes to energy. Using LESS energy per person would be more effective in curbing our needs than limiting the number of people slightly. And set a good example. Nor are we less wasteful when it comes to food (we probably throw away enough food daily to feed several other nations - but getting that excess to those that are starving is problematic - better to teach them to make their own).

It's a complex issue and, in my opinion, Aron, has a complex answer, not a black and white one.

Tomorrow I'll put up what I think about an individual choice to have children.


  • Lola

    I'm trying to open your other blog, Rocket Scientist and I'm getting the blogger message "This blog is open to invited readers only"

  • Stephanie B

    OK, that shouldn't have happened. A setting was disrupted during the update. It should be good now. Let me know if you still can't get through.

  • flit

    oh, this is COOL.... definitely great colours...and I love the badge too

  • A.

    The replacement birth rate or fertility rate is considered to be 2.1 per woman, but in Europe and Japan it has fallen below, in some cases well below, this level. While the birth rate declines, the population is living longer and more pensioners will have to be supported by the taxpayer. It is a real problem. In Japan they expect by 2050 that the population could have fallen by 20% while the proportion over 65 is likely to be 30%.

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