"Advice for Greenies in a Complicated World"
My husband Justin and I are in our early 30s, and my biological clock is ticking! We'd always planned to have children, but some of our greenest friends are joining the Childless by Choice movement. What do you think? Should we at least consider whether adding more people to the planet is a good idea?
Wow, the ultimate question. The big Greenie kahuna. And it's such a tough one for me to weigh in on--and not just because this is such a deeply personal decision.
The trouble is, we haven't even really begun to look closely at whether having children or not is actually, in fact, the greener choice. If you really think about it, for example, there are quite a lot of ways in which having children can actually discourage the rampant use of resources--one really obvious example being that you are probably going to want to avoid air travel for the first 10 years.
I can only urge you to think through some of the pros and cons yourself. And just to get you started, here are a few of the more obvious pros--i.e. ways that having kids in fact will help you be a better Greenie:
• You'll have a lot less sex--tons less, let's just be honest--so you won't accidentally have more children than you might otherwise.
• When you teach kids about recycling, they become instant recycling nazis--in a good way.
• The Tea Party is going to keep having children. Think about it.
• Changing diapers for 3 years (especially in the 2nd and 3rd years) will make you completely comfortable with the idea of compost toilets.
• When the climate-change apocalypse arrives, you'll be able to eat for 2 months off the floor of your car on cereal, fruit-roll bits, and cookie and cracker crumbs.
• The most effective environmental organizations are run by people who have parents.
• We need as big a market as possible for all the new toys that are BPA-free, PVC-free, come in vegan-friendly packaging, and are made out of recyclable materials.
And the cons? Well, children, of course, can also be highly problematic, planet-wise. Their juice boxes aren't recyclable. They never turn off the lights. Their grandparents often embark on orgies of consumption, which can last 30 or 40 years. And it's just embarrassing to own a hybrid SUV that gets 22 mpg. Or it should be.
And the most significant con? Well, children have a way, we know, of getting you to care about them more than anything else. A lot more. Maybe it's the genetic imperative. Or it could be their smiles. Or maybe how they look when they're asleep. And yet, the mileage your car gets? How much electricity you use? How long that shower is? The point is that the biggest threat that children pose to the planet is that they can make our strongest Greenie convictions fly right out the window.
On the other hand, you're probably not going to live as long yourselves--what with the years (decades!) of lost sleep and the worrying that never ends. Which is itself a huge argument in favor of having those kids, especially since old age... Well, the incredible resource-intensiveness of old age can be a subject for another whole column.
Of course, if you do decide to have children, then the next question you're going to want to ask is.... Are boys or girls greener?--which clearly will become more important as we develop more technologies to influence which one you have.
And it's just as complicated a question. Boys, for example, can eat 9 meals and take 7 showers a day as teenagers. And they don't eat vegetables--which can make it awfully challenging when the CSA box arrives with lettuce, mustard greens, collard greens, 2 kinds of chard, and 5 kinds of kale. And girls.... Well, girls, OMG. Girls, too, will require another whole column.
Good luck with your decision!
Green Me Up, JJ is an occasional advice column. You can e-mail JJ with your burning questions about how to act and think environmentally smart in our complicated 21st-century world.
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