COSMOS Magazine reports that the world’s wealthiest nations are experiencing something of a baby boom, standing in stark contrast to the general decline of birthrate in recent decades. In many respects this can be seen as a good thing, at least from an economic perspective; the “greying” of the population has produced a situation where the number of elderly people unable to work and in need of care and support has grown without a proportional increase in the numbers of young productive people able to keep the economy ticking over. [image by geraintwm]
But that classical economic viewpoint fails to consider other important factors, like the environmental impact of an increase in the number of children in developed nations. In a nutshell, large families are not environmentally sustainable in a country like Britain, where family planning researchers have begun to suggest that the best way for a young couple to “go green” is to restrict the number of children they have. Population is a global matter, certainly, but it’s estimated that a British baby will produce 160 times the greenhouse gas emissions of a baby born in Ethiopia. Or, to put it another way, each child born in the United States multiplies its parents’ carbon legacy by more than five times.
Statistics are all very well, but as any discussion of environmental responsibility shows, we struggle with making sacrifices for a nebulous and intangible greater global good – and personal experience suggests strongly that there are a sizeable number of people who get very offended by suggestions that they should restrict the number of children they choose to have. So, the two big questions are: should developed nations be instigating some sort of population control policy (while simultaneously assisting less developed nations with the education and medical support required to foster similar attitudes), and – if so – how should they incentivize such a controversial and personal decision?