I Am the Population Problem


This fall, world population will reach 7 billion people at a time of accelerated environmental disruption. This article part of a series commissioned by RH Reality Check and with Laurie Mazur as guest editor, to examine the causes and consequences of population and environmental change from various perspectives and the policies and actions needed to both avoid and mitigate the inevitable impacts of these changes.

Here, Lisa Hymas explains how for population and personal reasons she has decided not to have kids. All of the articles in this series can be found here.

Both local and broad scale environmental problems often are linked to population growth, which in turn tends to get blamed on other people: folks in Africa and Asia who have “more kids than they can feed,” immigrants in our own country with their “excessively large families,” even single mothers in the “inner city.”

But actually the population problem is all about me: white, middle-class, American me.

Steer that blame right over here.

Population isn’t just about counting heads, although by this October we will be counting 7 billion of them worldwide. The impact of humanity on the environment is not determined solely by how many of us are around, but by how much stuff we use and how much room we take up. And as a financially comfortable American, I use a lot of stuff and take up a lot of room. My carbon footprint is more than 200 times bigger than that of an average Ethiopian, more than 12 times bigger than an average Indian’s, and twice as big as an average Brit’s.

Well-meaning people have told me that I’m “just the sort of person who should have kids.” Au contraire. I’m just the sort of person who should not have kids.

When a poor woman in Uganda has another child—too often because she lacks access to family-planning services, economic opportunity, or self-determination—she might dampen her family’s prospects for climbing out of poverty or add to her community’s challenges in providing everyone with clean water and safe food, but she certainly isn’t placing a big burden on the global environment.

When someone like me has a child—watch out, world! Gear, gadgets, gewgaws, bigger house, bigger car, oil from the Mideast, coal from Colombia, Coltan from the Congo, rare earths from China, pesticide-laden cotton from Egypt, genetically modified soy from Brazil. And then when that child has children, wash, rinse, and repeat it all (in hot water, of course). Without even trying, we Americans slurp up resources from every corner of the globe and then spit 99 percent of them back out again as pollution.

Conscientious people try to limit that consumption, of course. I’m one of them. I get around largely by bus and on foot, eat low on the food chain, buy used rather than new, keep the heat low, rein in my gadget lust. But even putting aside my remaining carbon sins (see: airplane flights), the fact is that just by virtue of living in America, enjoying some small portion of its massive material infrastructure, my carbon footprint is at unsustainable levels.

Far and away the biggest contribution I can make to a cleaner environment is to not bring any mini-mes into the world. A 2009 study by statisticians at Oregon State University found that in America the climate impact of having one fewer child is almost 20 times greater than the impact of adopting a series of eco-friendly practices for your entire lifetime, such as driving a hybrid, recycling, using efficient appliances and installing compact fluorescent lights.

And so, for environmental as well as personal reasons, I’ve decided not to have children. I call myself a GINK: green inclinations, no kids.

Most people won’t make the same decision, of course, and I don’t fault them for that. Everyone has different circumstances and will balance their values in different ways. I believe in choice, and that means supporting choices different from my own.

But it needs to become easier for people to make the same decision I have, if they are so inclined.

The reproductive-rights movement focuses on the legal, logistical, and financial hurdles standing between women and control of their fertility. It’s essential work, needed more than ever in today’s hostile political climate.

But the cultural hurdles too often get ignored.

Here in the United States, the Pill has been available for more than 50 years. It’s now almost universally accepted that women will use birth control to delay, space out, or limit childbearing. But there’s not so much acceptance for using birth control to completely skip childbearing. At some point, you’re expected to grow up, pair up, put the Pill off to the side, and produce a couple of kids. Deviate from this scenario and you’ll get weird looks and face awkward conversations with family members, friends, coworkers, and complete strangers.

One 30-something woman I know who works for a reproductive-health NGO says that her colleagues pester her about her decision not to have children, telling her she needs to get started on that family or she’ll regret it. And these are people whose careers are dedicated to making birth control and reproductive health care available to all women! Pro-natal bias runs deep.

Many women who have not already had children find it difficult if not impossible to find a doctor who will perform a tubal ligation. Doctors warn that sterilization is an irreversible, life-altering decision. But having a child is an irreversible, life-altering decision and you don’t find doctors warning women away from that. The broadly held prejudice, in the medical profession and much of the rest of society, is that becoming a parent is the correct and inevitable choice.

Over recent years and decades, it’s become more acceptable for mixed-race couples to have children, and single women, and gay couples, and women over the age of 40, and that’s all good. Acceptance has been slower to come for the decision not to have children. There’s now a fledgling childfree movement, but some who are part of it say they still feel like they’re violating a taboo.

Real reproductive freedom has to include social acceptance of the decision not to reproduce. When we achieve that, it will mean less pressure on women and men who don’t feel called to become parents. It will mean less of a stigma on people who may have wanted to become parents but didn’t get the chance. It will mean a wider array of options for people who haven’t yet decided. It will mean fewer children born to ambivalent or unhappy parents, getting us closer to the goal of “every child a wanted child.”

And, it will mean fewer Americans making a mess of the planet, and a little more breathing room for those of us who are already here or on the way.

I recognize that I am the population problem. I’m trying to be part of the solution.

Let’s make it easier for others to join me.

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  • gina-crosleycorcoran

    I completely agree that Americans are hogs, and have become quite an embarrassment to the global health. However, this position quite literally throws the baby out with the bathwater. We need to find ways to live more responsibly – not stop living all together. This is like saying we have to stop eating plants because there are too few of them. That’s not sustainability. I understand the need to justify a child-free lifestyle. Society makes it hard for women and men to make that choice. However, not having kids isn’t the definition of sustainability. We can’t even pay our current social security bill because there aren’t enough tax-paying Americans to sustain it. If everyone stopped having children, there would be nobody paying into the tax system to support our infastructure when the rest of us are too old to work. Who’s paying for the EMT to come get you when you fall down and break a hip? If there’s no younger generation, then nobody. Who’s paying for the village to maintain the roads you drive on? In Russia, they’re so growth-negative that they’ve started paying people to breed because otherwise they cannot support the people already living.

    Americans need to change the way we live, not the fact that we exist at all. I think we can find better reasons to justify a child-free lifestyle than this. I have three kids that often make me long for the other side, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

  • gina-crosleycorcoran

    I completely agree that Americans are hogs, and have become quite an embarrassment to the global health. However, this position quite literally throws the baby out with the bathwater. We need to find ways to live more responsibly – not stop living all together. This is like saying we have to stop eating plants because there are too few of them. That’s not sustainability. I understand the need to justify a child-free lifestyle. Society makes it hard for women and men to make that choice. However, not having kids isn’t the definition of sustainability. We can’t even pay our current social security bill because there aren’t enough tax-paying Americans to sustain it. If everyone stopped having children, there would be nobody paying into the tax system to support our infrastructure when the rest of us are too old to work. Who’s paying for the EMT to come get you when you fall down and break a hip? If there’s no younger generation, then nobody. Who’s paying for the village to maintain the roads you drive on? In Russia, they’re so growth-negative that they’ve started paying people to breed because otherwise they cannot support the people already living.

    Americans need to change the way we live, not the fact that we exist at all. I think we can find better reasons to justify a child-free lifestyle than this. I have three kids that often make me long for the other side, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

  • pint

    You’ve neatly erected a strawman regarding the premise of Hymas’ article. Nowhere in this article has the author proposed that “everyone stopping having children,” nor is she propsing that Americans cease to exist at all. You do realize that it is possible to criticize an existing system without calling for its dismantlement, correct? What she is advocating for is expansion of our awareness of the environmental costs of the typical American household when we choose to have children and greater social acceptance for those like her (and like me) who have chosen not to have children:

    “And so, for environmental as well as personal reasons, I’ve decided not to have children. I call myself a GINK: green inclinations, no kidsMost people won’t make the same decision, of course, and I don’t fault them for that. Everyone has different circumstances and will balance their values in different ways. I believe in choice, and that means supporting choices different from my own…Real reproductive freedom has to include social acceptance of the decision not to reproduce…Let’s make it easier for others to join me.”

    The point of the article is that for Hymas, environmental considerations were a factor in her decision to be childfree. She is not, as you are insinuating, advocating that everyone should be childfree because of environmental considerations. Rather, she is pointing out the potential effects on the environment when those of us in the American middle/upper class have even just one child, statistics which people may be interested into taking into account when making their own decisions whether or not to have children. If some decide to have a child or children anyway, they will at least be aware of the size of their carbon footprint and possibly make adjustments to minimize it. If some decide not to have a child or more than one based in part on these statistics, it is their choice and no one has the right to judge (see bolded portion of Hymas’ quote above).

    Having children is still the cultural norm that is engaged in by the vast majority of the American population. There is statistically little to no chance that a significant enough portion of the population will become child-free as to have any major detrimental effect on the portion of “tax-paying Americans.” As there is still quite a considerable amount of social pressure and stigma heaped on those of us who have chosen not to have children for various reasons, Hymas believes that true reproductive freedom is about more than maintaining safe and easy access to birth control and health care – it’s about allowing people to choose not to have kids at all without having to justify ourselves. It should be an equally valid and accepted choice, period.

    So when you say “I think we can find better reasons to justify a child-free lifestyle than this,” what exactly would be “better reasons to justify a child-free lifestyle”? What I suspect you are in fact saying is that you’re ok with people choosing to be child-free – but only if you agree with their reasons. In which case, I understand why you take exception to Hymas’s article, as she’s advocating for widening acceptance of the choice to be child-free, no matter what the motivation, and you apparently think it’s only ok in certain circumstances.

    I have three kids that often make me long for the other side, but at the end of the day, I wouldn’t trade them for anything.

    Good for you. Again, I fail to see how anything Hymas said in this article is implying that you should trade them for anything.

     

  • crowepps

    “I understand the need to justify a child-free lifestyle. Society makes it hard for women and men to make that choice…”

    But WHY does society make it hard?  It seems to me like society has two positions:  “What’s wrong with you that you don’t have kids?” and  “What’s wrong with you to be such a lousy parent?”  Why doesn’t society just stop doing everything it can to FORCE children on people who don’t particularly want them?

    We could pay our Social Security bill just fine if people making obscenely huge salaries didn’t stop contributing at $106,800

    About 15% of total wages in the U.S, escape the social security tax in 2010.  Gradually removing the cap and making all wages taxable could raise substantial sums of revenue and close as  much as 70% of the projected revenue shortfall.

    http://faculty.winthrop.edu/stonebrakerr/book/socsec.htm

    We already have tons and tons of people doing a lousy job of raising kids they didn’t particularly want because they were pressured into having them.  Kids deserve better than to have parents who “long for the other side”.

  • gina-crosleycorcoran

    We cannot argue that our choices are the sustainable option if we’re insisting that it’s only a personal choice, and not something we, as a society, should be leaning toward. Example – we cannot say “Well, I know that my Hummer is bad for the environment, but I’m only saying that I should drive one, not that you should. I mean, obviously if everyone drove Hummers, it’s not good for the planet.” The author was not offering a completely personal explanation for her choice to remain child-free (and I’m not saying she needs a “good” reason, or any reason at all, if indeed it’s a PERSONAL reason.) She’s saying that not having children is THE only way to curb our consumption and save this planet. By that logic, she’s suggesting that other people’s children are the problem, and her way is the solution. Stopping procreation should be considered a personal lifestyle choice, not the “solution” to anything. There is no need to justify the choice to have or not have children, and as a card-carrying feminist who is also a breeding woman, the breeder-hate existing in the feminist community is really short-sighted, and grossing me out. If you don’t want children, awesome, don’t have them. You don’t need a reason why. But sustaining life is not the problem, over-consumption is. Let’s focus our efforts on living like other countries do, NOT on trying to convince American women that having children is irresponsible for the planet.

  • juliesunday

    from the UN Declaration of Human Rights:

    Article 16.

    • (1) Men and women of full age, without any limitation due to race, nationality or religion, have the right to marry and to found a family. They are entitled to equal rights as to marriage, during marriage and at its dissolution.

    If you don’t want to have kids, great.  But stay far, far away from me. And I’m sorry, how could a person possibly complain of ‘bias’ and ‘discrimination’ for not having kids? Considering that women are still professionally knocked down for taking time off to have kids, Americans have no subsidized daycare, health insurance costs a zillion dollars, I have no idea what ‘difficulty’ a person who chooses *not* to have kids could face beyond disappointed parents and the occasional, ‘Oh, you don’t want to have kids and have some longwinded environmental explanation? Cool story, bro.’

  • steven-earl-salmony

    If only the global predicament, the ominously looming and enlarging threat to everything that really matters was a laughing matter, that would be the best thing. If only the human family was not primary inducers and drivers of this colossal predicament, and therefore principally responsible for it; if only the many too many leaders who understand precisely what it is that we are discussing now here did not willfully deny science and consciously choose silence over speech. That too, would be the best thing.
     
    Thanks to all for speaking out, and for your willingness to consider the ideas that are presented here. More than ever before and most of all, I fear that the silence instilled in many too many by the greedmongers who rule the world in our time is leading to the destruction of everything each one of us is striving somehow, in any way at all, to protect and preserve.

  • pumpkinpjays

    I love this article.  I’m dumbfounded by Gina’s and Julie’s responses, but rather than respond, I point to everything The Pint has to say because she basically nailed it.

     

    Anybody who doesn’t see how women without kids are discriminated against are clearly not living in any American society that I’m aware of.  When one is well-educated and decides, for a variety of reasons, NOT to procreate, the questions are insidious yet very persistent.  Your mental health, your sexual orientation, and even your personal character comes into question.

     

    The inane questions people ask are perfectly acceptable in our society.  “Don’t you want to get married?  Don’t you want to have babies?”  (a) Could we be any more retro, and (b) could we evolve?  Please???  Another one of my favorites:  “Won’t your parents be disappointed if you don’t give them grandkids?”  This one makes me wonder if people are neurologically impaired, and maybe I need to remind them what century we’re living in.  For the record:  my siblings and I all have college degrees.  My parents are quite pleased with the way we turned out.

     

    The statements are also quite revealing as to the other person’s mindset.  “You just haven’t met the right person yet.”  You’ve gotta be kidding me.  “Oh, but you’d make such an excellent mother!”  Well, of course I would.  What does that have to do with anything?

     

    I always wonder if people realize how ridiculous and insulting they sound.  The only answer is “no”–if they did, they wouldn’t say such asinine things in the first place.

  • prochoiceferret

    from the UN Declaration of Human Rights:

    […]

    If you don’t want to have kids, great.  But stay far, far away from me.

     

    Don’t worry. We’re not about to make Hummers or McMansions illegal, either.

  • crowepps

    Let’s compromise by recognizing that women who want one or two children may not want more, and allowing women who DON’T want to get pregnant to prevent unwanted pregnancies.  Pressuring or even forcing American women to have children when don’t want them may or may not be irresponsible for the planet but it is DEFINITELY irresponsible towards the children.

  • crowepps

    If you don’t want to have kids, great.  But stay far, far away from me.

    Preceding statement of bias and discrimination followed immediately by:

    And I’m sorry, how could a person possibly complain of ‘bias’ and ‘discrimination’ for not having kids?

    It just doesn’t get clearer than that! 

  • freetobe

    and counting and this planet is only suppose to be able to sustain 2 billion humans I would say the heck with what people think or say about the personal choices a person makes whether or not to have kids. People maybe need to get a backbone and say “NO” leave me alone. I did it I am a divorced mother of one living in a family conservative semi rural area. People would try to find me a man( Husband). Iwould say no thanks it was easy really. That is half the problem with todays society of women, we are too wimpy we do not know how to stand up to the masses and do what WE want not what everyone else wants. It is time more than time for women to take a stand for their lives because their children will benefit from a strong mother as well as a strong father.

    I know people will say” but that is selfish” TOUGH they are not walking in your shoes.

    I might also add I am still friends with all my conservative nieghbors they know I will always stand my ground and they have accepted that what else could they do?

  • shewho

    because it seems to have, at root, that women SHOULD be judged on our reproduction, we just want a rule change.

    Maybe I’m not under discussion here, because I chose to have children without being either financially comfortable nor in a heterosexual relationship. Maybe therefore I’m kinda ‘cool.’ But I can tell you that any supposed extra support for being a mother must have been shipped to the wrong address. The women of my community, with whom I’d weathered many feminist storms, had NO intention of supporting reproduction. Their loss, entirely.  And what does that have to do with my carbon footprint?

     

    If we’re responsible for our ‘carbon footprints as members of the American society’ then I don’t suppose it makes any difference whether I reproduce or not, or whether I fuel my 68 Chevy Impala with imported Kobe steaks.  Group punishment, and group guilt, is like that. I’m not interested in taking on either.

    But, stepping away from that, the assumption that ‘financially comfortable’ Americans therefore HAVE to pave the nursery with ipads is, of course, absurd. We have choices as consumers, just as we have choices as prospective parents. Generalizations such as these only contribute to the background noise between women that makes it so easy to keep us disempowered… working moms vs. SAHM, breeders vs. childfree, upperclass vs. working & poor women, etc, etc, etc. 

    Naw. Pull the other one. ;)

  • gina-crosleycorcoran

    I completely agree that nobody should be forced to become parents, so I don’t really see how that’s a “compromise”. I never suggested anything different.

  • gina-crosleycorcoran

    Please don’t group me in with Julia’s response. I would NEVER say “stay away from me” or make any other such derrogatory statement toward a woman making a reproductive choice different from my own.

    Your entire response has more to do with the social pressures I already noted above, and nothing to support the idea that women should be pressured, through some promise of saving the planet, NOT to reproduce. Telling women that it’s irresponsible to reproduce is, in my mind, the same as telling them it’s irresponsible NOT to. Both of those statements are anti-choice. We cannot be “pro-choice” if that only means supporting the choice NOT to become a parent.

  • lisa-hymas

    Thanks in particular to The Pint — I couldn’t have said it better myself. And to pumpkinpjays for explaining some of the ways that childless/childfree people experience discrimination. That doesn’t mean mothers don’t experience discrimination too — of course they do, and often it’s more pernicious. Let’s not be in competition here — we women need to stick up for each other and fight discrimination against women in all its forms.

    Gina — I don’t mean to suggest that everyone should stop having kids — that will never happen, and I wouldn’t want it to. I merely argue for greater acceptance of those who decide not to have kids, or end up without kids by circumstance. Also, I never have and never would say that “not having children is THE only way to curb our consumption and save this planet.” That’s obviously not the case — there are tons of things totally unrelated to reproduction that we can and should be doing to make our world more healthy and sustainable, and I salute all the parents who are doing them.

    – Lisa Hymas
    @lisahymas
    http://www.grist.org/people/Lisa+Hymas

  • gina-crosleycorcoran

    All. Of. This.

    Before I had kids, I was like so many feminists who shouted all about my rights not to maintain a pregnancy, and I thought that was the end of it. Preggos get 12 weeks of UNpaid maternity leave, and that big tax break. They’re so lucky!

    Then I became a mother and realized the painful and destructive discrimination that child-bearing women face on a daily basis in this country. There are women every day in America being forced to undergo unwanted cesarean sections, or otherwise tortured and humiliated during gestation and childbearing. Despite the fact that this is not legal, this violation goes unreported and unprosecuted because we’ve done a fabulous job of convicing women that, once they decide to stay pregnant, their bodies are not thier own anymore. If there’s a baby in there, you’ve just handed in your autonomy. And don’t get me started on the ways that our social structure constantly undermines our ability to raise healthy children.

    If you want reasons not to have kids, it’s that women and children in this country are treated like junk. THAT’s a great reason – not that you need one to begin with. But I will not buy that it’s more “green inclined” to stay child-free. That’s a shame tactic I’d expect from the anti-choice crowd.

  • gina-crosleycorcoran

    Lisa, if you say that you’re not suggesting that people should stop having kids, then I’m having a hard time unpacking your “green” argument. You’re suggesting pretty clearly here that the only socially and environmentally choice is to NOT procreate, and if you want to be “green inclined” then that means having no kids. It’s not hard to see this as an insult to the people who have made the concious choice to parent. Do you really think that Breeders automatically care less about the environment?

    If you want to talk about discrimination, that’s one thing. If you want to talk about social pressure, that’s another. But I feel like you’re using greenwashing to justify your choice, and ultimately pitting breeders against non-breeders. We don’t need to muddy this issue with finger-pointing. I can guarantee there are single people in this world with a bigger carbon footprint than my family of 5.

    Again, we need to address the real issue, which is the world’s love affair with involving ourselves in the reproductive choices of others. THAT is the problem here. Blame the people who put down your choice, not the people who are quietly making a different one than yours. “SheWho” said it right when “she” said that this is just another war women are waging against each other. Now it’s more “green” to do as I say.

    The infighting is tired. Let’s fight the real enemy – the people who need to mind their business.

    • maiac

      I have no desire to get generally involved in this convoluted argument being had, but Gina, you might want to notice that YOU are the only person in any of these comments using the disparging “Breeders” terminology for those who have children. In fact, EVERYONE else here has been very clear that they are supportive of the right to parent, and to be socially supported in doing so.

       

      Continuing to trot out this I-once-had-a-conversation-with-someone-who-identified-as-feminist-and-called-me-a-breeder crap is pretty much the very definition of a straw man argument. NO ONE in THIS conversation is making that argument.

  • moses

    Great article. Pity so many commenters read way too far into it, took it entirely too personally and completely missed the point. Keep on keepin on, GINKs

  • saltyc

    You obviously didn’t want children in the first place, now you’re patting yourself on the back because your decision is so Green. Kinda like a skinny person telling a fat person how much less of a carbon footprint the skinny person makes because she/he eats less. Well, if being green is so important, and if you look at the environmental impact food production has, and you ignore the real disadvantages in the US of being overweight and the advantages of being skinny, and you discount the fact that skinny people generally have a greater natural propensity and inclination for being skinny that’s a rational position.

  • saltyc

    I was not a mother for 38 years and I have to say I never experienced discrimination against me for not having children. After having a child? Discrimination, in spades. There have been many studies pointing to the substantial material disadvantage being a mother poses, the single biggest predictor of poverty in the US is single motherhood, the single biggest predictor of poverty in old age is any kind of motherhood. I challenge Ms Hyman to find discrimination against not having children to compare with the discrimination working mothers face, for instance in academia it has been well-documented: http://chronicle.com/article/The-Academic-Motherhood/64073/ and in the US there is not a lot of support for mothers, compared to the real contributions they make to society. And mothers do contribute.

    This whole “population problem” has many nefarious issues and Ms Hyman should read up on the history of population control by the US and other wealthy nations on poor people, on native populations, on stripping aid to the poor. The child-free movement is chock full of people who claim that not only should the child-free not be responsible for supporting what they call “breeders” for instance with WIC, public school, paid parental leave, childcare subsidies, etc but that it’s downright anti-feminist to “breed.” Would what MS Hyman says should be a movement to make not having children easier also make being a parent easier? Even though what we do is so bad for the environment??

    Sure you can say “I’m not personally opposed to people having kids” but when the whole rest of your article is pointing out how bad it is to do so for the environment, it’s giving with one hand and taking with the other. Like saying “nothing against overweight people but you know you consume way more than your share.” And there is a huge subtext there if you follow all your points to their logical conclusions.

  • prochoiceferret

    You obviously didn’t want children in the first place, now you’re patting yourself on the back because your decision is so Green. Kinda like a skinny person telling a fat person how much less of a carbon footprint the skinny person makes because she/he eats less.

     

    Yes, kinda like how lifestyles that consume unsustainable amounts of resources should be as free from examination as body sizes that happen to be larger than others without necessarily impacting health or even caloric intake.

     

    Well, if being green is so important, and if you look at the environmental impact food production has, and you ignore the real disadvantages in the US of being overweight and the advantages of being skinny, and you discount the fact that skinny people generally have a greater natural propensity and inclination for being skinny that’s a rational position.

     

    I suppose if her argument were about skinny versus fat people, she might have thought about all that.

  • equalist

    Actually, I’ve seen women in an office environment turn vicious against a fellow female employee when after her wedding, she mentioned in conversation that she and her husband weren’t planning to have children of their own.  At first it was pity until she explained that while they had no known fertility problems, children, biological or adopted, simply weren’t included in the vision they had for their future together.  At that point things got ugly.  I woudn’t call it outright discrimination, but I would definitely say the amount of gossip and the daily barage from the women who took it as their personal mission to convince her that she would “eventually change her mind” and that it would “probably be too late if she didn’t do it now” constituted a hostile work environment, and I was glad for her when she found another job with a different company.

  • equalist

    I went through the issue of the doctor not wanting to perform a tubal ligation after my THIRD pregnancy!  By that point, I’d gotten pregnant while using condoms, the pill, and an IUD, and I was DONE.  I still had to convince my OBGYN that I was really, really, truely for sure done with having kids, and wouldn’t regret my decision later down the road.  Even when I told him that I’d decided that I’d look into adoption if I wanted more kids later he was hesitant and tried to convince me that I might not feel the same way in five or ten years, and that I might decide that adoption wouldn’t be enough.  Whatever.  After I signed the consent forms to have it done at my youngest daughter’s birth, I handed him the paperwork and told him flat out.  “And if this doesn’t work, you can just yank the whole damn works out!”  Sure I get that “AwwcutebabyIwantone!” twinge every now and then (who doesn’t?), but I know I don’t want to put my body through another pregnancy, and we’re struggling to provide for the children we have.  The relief of not feeling the urge to take a pregnancy test if I’m five minutes late for my period is sooo worth it.  Add in my fiance’s three kids from his first marriage, and there’s more than enough of our genetic material passed down for us.

  • prochoiceferret

    I was not a mother for 38 years and I have to say I never experienced discrimination against me for not having children.

     

    Whew! Guess it’s just a figment of Lisa et al.’s collective imagination, then.

     

    I challenge Ms Hyman to find discrimination against not having children to compare with the discrimination working mothers face

     

    It could almost be like a competition. Possibly even an Olympic event, where one oppression competes against another…

     

    This whole “population problem” has many nefarious issues and Ms Hyman should read up on the history of population control by the US and other wealthy nations on poor people, on native populations, on stripping aid to the poor.

     

    Clearly she does, when practically the entire article is devoted to “white, middle-class, American” her, instead of “folks in Africa and Asia who have ‘more kids than they can feed,’ immigrants in our own country with their ‘excessively large families,’ even single mothers in the ‘inner city.'” It’s just another skinny White person making it allllll about her, amirite?

     

    The child-free movement is chock full of people who claim that not only should the child-free not be responsible for supporting what they call “breeders” for instance with WIC, public school, paid parental leave, childcare subsidies, etc but that it’s downright anti-feminist to “breed.”

     

    Good thing Ms. Hymas isn’t one of those straw-child-free-ers, ah?

     

    Would what MS Hyman says should be a movement to make not having children easier also make being a parent easier? Even though what we do is so bad for the environment??

     

    Maybe it could also feed the hungry children in Africa, too!

     

    Sure you can say “I’m not personally opposed to people having kids” but when the whole rest of your article is pointing out how bad it is to do so for the environment, it’s giving with one hand and taking with the other.

     

    Because of course she can’t speak out about the environmental costs of bearing and raising a child without opposing people’s right to do so! Duh!

     

    Like saying “nothing against overweight people but you know you consume way more than your share.” And there is a huge subtext there if you follow all your points to their logical conclusions.

     

    It’s like those people who speak out against Israeli military action against the Palestinians. Follow that to its logical conclusion, and you get the Holocaust.

  • cactus-wren

    Oh, gad.  The “Oh-but-what-if-EVERYBODY” argument:  “How can you say it’s a good thing for you  to do X?  Don’t you realize that if everyone on the planet without a single exception did X, it would have allegedly undesirable result Y — therefore X is undesirable in and of itself?”

  • barkway

    Interesting argument though I also find it a bit too gracious and weak logic on other points. You ignore the huge carbon footprint created by servicing those masses of desperately poor around the globe (food, medicine, health & social services, rescue during times of unrest, etc). Your plane trip to Grandma’s doesn’t even compare. As far as the lack of access to family planning, there are many who also believe the over-population in many parts of the world comes from a lack of impulse control. Abstinence DOES work (trust me, I have personal experience & have been married 23 years). Lastly, you overlook the impact of education/knowledge. The white middle classes have the benefit of knowledge about the impact of their carbon footprint, and the means to know how or to learn how to reduce it. I might also add “options” to that last point. For many around the globe, there are no choices of lower carbon footprint-creating mechanisms, goods, services for a variety of reasons from government control to availability to cost.

  • barkway

    My mother had her tubes untied & 2 successful pregnancies thereafter so contrary to the author’s claims, it is not irreversible.

  • saltyc

    dup

  • saltyc

    Whew! Guess it’s just a figment of Lisa et al.’s collective imagination, then.

    Never said that nobody ever told her she should have children, or you, obviously. Just never happened to me so it’s not as universal as discrimination against mothers is.

     could almost be like a competition. Possibly even an Olympic event, where one oppression competes against another…

    You really believe that people who don’t have children are oppressed?? You’ll need some evidence to back that up. that’s not just relatives saying “when are you having children?” If you truly equate that with oppression, you’re way too comfortable.

     

    Straw child-free-ers? Really? I’ve had plenty of discussions with women who claim, on feminist grounds, that the child-free should not support people with children in the form of subsidized childcare, accomodations at the workplace, WIC, etc.

     

    I’d like those over here to pledge their support for the child-free having their taxes go to subsidize child care, parental leave, etc. What is your position on workplace support for those with children, how do you feel about a co-worker going home early to take care of a child while you have to stay and work? I guess all those child-free-ers who have told me to my face that they should not have to pay for my decision to have a child was figment of my imagination, huh???  You throw around the strawman term way too often.

     

    If Ms. Hyman is truly opposed to the historical crimes commited by “population control” then she should do more to divorce herself from it for instance by not using its terms such as “population problem.”

    It’s like those people who speak out against Israeli military action against the Palestinians. Follow that to its logical conclusion, and you get the Holocaust.

    No you don’t, that’s too ludricous to even contemplate.Oh yeah, Godwin’s rule.

  • saltyc

    Abstinence works, like just saying no to drugs work. Not that having sex is like taking drugs, just that it’s great to abstain but expecting people to not have sex at all is ridiculous, and stigmatizing sexual activity is counter-productive.

    People will have only as many children as they want if provided the means to control their fertility, and when people do have those means then reproduction will be closer to replacement levels.

    You ignore the huge carbon footprint created by servicing those masses of desperately poor around the globe (food, medicine, health & social services, rescue during times of unrest, etc). Your plane trip to Grandma’s doesn’t even compare.

    You’ll have to provide data to back up the assertion that servicing those  “masses” (wow that’s offensive) has anywhere near the carbon impact of annual air travel by Americans.

  • saltyc

    Yes, kinda like how lifestyles that consume unsustainable amounts of resources should be as free from examination as body sizes that happen to be larger than others without necessarily impacting health or even caloric intake.

    Wait. What is the lifestyle that consumes unsustainable amounts of resources? You mean, being a mother? OK so come out and say it: being a mother is a lifestyle choice that consumes unsustainable amounts of resources. That’s out-and-out discrimination against motherhood. And a larger body doesn’t consume more calories than a smaller one? I’d like to see some scientific evidence to back up that assertion, and is that the reason not to examine body size? That it actually doesn’t affect the environment? Would a person who eats more food be justly “examined”?? in a front- page article on a web site by an author who proclaims how her eating less benefits the environment and how we should make it easier to eat less? I’d really like to know your answer to that. I’m not saying mothers have it as badly in society as overweight people, but that they are both oppressed, and that it’s not easy to give up motherhood when it’s one of your life goals, and that if you didn’t want children you shouldn’t frown upon those of us who do. PS mothers contributions are under-rated, demonized and uncompensated for the most part. So it’s a really bad idea for RH reality to go there. By there I don’t mean poiting out that each child consumes x. By there I mean stating “I’m just the sort of person who should not have kids” and by the sort of person she means someone who lives in the US, meaning also myself, and many of the readers, that they are the sort of people who should not have kids and denying that implication is disingenuous. I also find disingenuous the assertion made in the article that mixed-race and gay parents are more accepted than people with no children.

    Well, if being green is so important, and if you look at the environmental impact food production has, and you ignore the real disadvantages in the US of being overweight and the advantages of being skinny, and you discount the fact that skinny people generally have a greater natural propensity and inclination for being skinny that’s a rational position.

     

    I suppose if her argument were about skinny versus fat people, she might have thought about all that.

    OK I made what’s called an analogy. what I was really saying is that being a mother has real disadvantages in the US and that the child free are that way because they don’t want children, only secondarily because they are “green.” So she should have thought about all that.

  • ava

    If more people who didn’t want kids did not have them, then quality of life for the children of those who did would be better.

  • prochoiceferret

    Never said that nobody ever told her she should have children, or you, obviously. Just never happened to me so it’s not as universal as discrimination against mothers is.

     

    So one counterexample = not universal. I wonder if there are any Quiverfull moms out there who have never experienced maternal discrimination….

     

    You really believe that people who don’t have children are oppressed?? You’ll need some evidence to back that up. that’s not just relatives saying “when are you having children?” If you truly equate that with oppression, you’re way too comfortable.

     

    In some sects of the Jewish faith, having offspring is a religious obligation. While contraception is allowed, it is explicitly prohibited for the purpose of not having children. The pressure is a little stronger than nagging relatives. Is the oppression as bad as that experienced by people who do have children? Doubtful, but then, it’s not like this is the Oppression Olympics or something.

     

    Straw child-free-ers? Really? I’ve had plenty of discussions with women who claim, on feminist grounds, that the child-free should not support people with children in the form of subsidized childcare, accomodations at the workplace, WIC, etc.

     

    And people have had plenty of discussions with women who claim, on feminist grounds, that men suck and women should be in charge of the world.

     

    I guess all those child-free-ers who have told me to my face that they should not have to pay for my decision to have a child was figment of my imagination, huh???  You throw around the strawman term way too often.

     

    The point of straw-persons isn’t that they don’t exist. It’s that they make convenient rhetorical targets when you can’t make a real argument against the author/article at issue.

     

    If Ms. Hyman is truly opposed to the historical crimes commited by “population control” then she should do more to divorce herself from it for instance by not using its terms such as “population problem.”

     

    She’s already done quite a bit of divorcing by addressing population concerns as they relate directly to First-World denizens such as herself, rather than “other” people. What, do you want all articles on contraception/sterilization here to explicitly denounce historical cases of involuntary reproductive control or something?

     

    No you don’t, that’s too ludricous to even contemplate.Oh yeah, Godwin’s rule.

     

    Tell that to people who have publicly criticized Israeli state actions. They’re plenty tired of being called anti-Semites by commenters who read selectively, miss the point, and seemingly want nothing more than an excuse to wax offended.

  • katwa

    Abstinence DOES work (trust me, I have personal experience & have been married 23 years).

    That might be great for you, but most people do not think of 23 years of abstinence when they imagine what they want in marriage.

  • saltyc

    (my blockquotes has been diabled for some reason)

    “So one counterexample = not universal.”
    I was defending my use of an example from my own life, of experiencing way more discrimination after becoming a mother than before, which I thought was relevant to the discussion, since the author also used examples from her own life. Are you generally against people using examples from their own lives or only when you disagree with them?

    “I wonder if there are any Quiverfull moms out there who have never experienced maternal discrimination….”

    I doubt it, find me one please….

    “The point of straw-persons isn’t that they don’t exist. It’s that they make convenient rhetorical targets when you can’t make a real argument against the author/article at issue.”

    So, you never answered my question, do YOU believe YOUR money should go supporting women’s decisions to have children to and do YOU support workplace accomodations for parents? If you agree with the author, that we (American women) are the kinds of people who shouldn’t have children, then the position of refusing to support that wrong thing is stronger.

    “Tell that to people who have publicly criticized Israeli state actions. They’re plenty tired of being called anti-Semites by commenters who read selectively, miss the point, and seemingly want nothing more than an excuse to wax offended.

    Way off-topic, dear. I mean you can’t be referning to me because I read the whole thing, did not miss the point and wanted more than to wax offended, as you should know by my previous activity here which has been overwhelmingly in support of the Site’s articles. I am an active fighter for abortion rights, have been awarded for my work on behalf of women who struggle to not have children. I don’t deserve your derision, thanks.

  • prochoiceferret

    Wait. What is the lifestyle that consumes unsustainable amounts of resources? You mean, being a mother? OK so come out and say it: being a mother is a lifestyle choice that consumes unsustainable amounts of resources.

     

    Pfugh! Ptooie!

     

    If you’re going to put things in my mouth, they had better be raisins!

     

    Oh, and by the way, motherhood doesn’t necessarily consume unsustainable amounts of resources. Billions of people have managed it just fine. Whether or not the experience would be to your liking, however, is an open question.

     

    And a larger body doesn’t consume more calories than a smaller one? I’d like to see some scientific evidence to back up that assertion

     

    Obesity can result from too few calories burned just as much as too many consumed. And a smaller body can consume more calories than a larger one, if that smaller body happens to be, say, a track athelete.

     

    and is that the reason not to examine body size? That it actually doesn’t affect the environment?

     

    No, the reason not examine body size is that human beings are not all the same, and attempting to normalize body size tends to have bad results (e.g. esteem issues, eating disorders, suicides). It may or may not affect the environment, but in terms of what we can do to reduce our resource footprint, eliminating human diversity isn’t exactly what I’d call low-hanging fruit.

     

    Would a person who eats more food be justly “examined”?? in a front- page article on a web site by an author who proclaims how her eating less benefits the environment and how we should make it easier to eat less? I’d really like to know your answer to that.

     

    Maybe not necessarily eating less, because people do need to eat what their bodies need, but they could certainly get more of their calories from plants rather than meat….

     

    I’m not saying mothers have it as badly in society as overweight people, but that they are both oppressed, and that it’s not easy to give up motherhood when it’s one of your life goals, and that if you didn’t want children you shouldn’t frown upon those of us who do.

     

    No one is telling you that you’re a bad person for choosing to be a mother. What we are telling you is that raising a child, particularly in the First World, exacts an environmental toll on a world that has already been tolled up the wazoo. And that people should consider this, and have the freedom to choose not to have children (for that and/or other reasons).

     

    PS mothers contributions are under-rated, demonized and uncompensated for the most part. So it’s a really bad idea for RH reality to go there. By there I don’t mean poiting out that each child consumes x. By there I mean stating “I’m just the sort of person who should not have kids” and by the sort of person she means someone who lives in the US, meaning also myself, and many of the readers, that they are the sort of people who should not have kids 

     

    In other words, you’re offended that someone had the temerity to point out that a person who lives in the U.S. consumes more resources than a person who lives in a poor country, and thereby a U.S.-dweller choosing to have or not to have children has a much larger environmental impact than a poor-country-dweller.

     

    What’s next? “You can pry my air-conditioned Escalade from my cold, dead hands!”?

     

    and denying that implication is disingenuous.

     

    Lisa denied that she was telling everyone to stop having kids. You know what would be ingenious? Being able to grasp a somewhat nuanced argument without lurching into reductio ad absurdum.

     

    I also find disingenuous the assertion made in the article that mixed-race and gay parents are more accepted than people with no children.

     

    That assertion likely reflects Lisa’s own experiences, but it’s easy enough to see that mixed-race/gay couples who raise kids are fitting themselves into a long-standing social script that everyone’s familiar with, whereas child-free couples are practically writing a new one.

     

    OK I made what’s called an analogy. what I was really saying is that being a mother has real disadvantages in the US and that the child free are that way because they don’t want children, only secondarily because they are “green.” So she should have thought about all that.

     

    “And so, for environmental as well as personal reasons, I’ve decided not to have children.”

     

    SaltyC, there are a lot of articles out there that discuss population issues in a manner that is racist, othering, and denigrating of women and motherhood. In my view, this is not one of those articles. In your view, it seems, people should not talk about population and sustainability issues at all.

  • crowepps

    I guess all those child-free-ers who have told me to my face that they should not have to pay for my decision to have a child was figment of my imagination, huh???

    My understanding of the way this should actually be conceptualized is that “all those child-free-ers” are repaying society for the costs of their OWN childhood and education and the social support that was, or COULD HAVE BEEN, provided them.

    I had children because I like children.  I now have two grandchildren.   I recognize that society gets a benefit from mothers and that mothers absolutely deserve support and recognition, and I recognize that society gets a benefit from having a new generation and the members of that new generation deserve support so they can grow up to be well educated and productive members of society.  Because I do like children so much, I want children to have great support, upbringing and education, which is time consuming and expensive, and so I only had two children.

    HOWEVER, I can also understand how that prejudice you find so appalling arises.  Even I, who really really like kids, sometimes look at someone in the store with their 6 or 8 or 10 children that are carbon copies of themselves, and think, “my children/grandchildren/the world in general is being cheated because you think YOU’RE so special you deserve to reproduce yourself in excess”.  Some people seem to feel that they have a RIGHT to all the children they can possibly produce, because they LIKE being pregnant, or they LIKE feeling like SuperMommy, or their religion insists sex has to be ‘sanctified’ with children and they apparently LIKE lots and lots of sex, or they’re trying to create their own TRIBE to take over the world, and so their RIGHT translates into everybody ELSE having to chip in because they can’t personally come up with the necessary funds to feed, shelter, clothe and supervise the children they produce.

    Now I realize this is a prejudice and unfair, to the parents whose circumstances I don’t really know and to the children who had no choice in the matter, and I am really careful to keep my thoughts in my head and not glare at them or sneer or make comments or discriminate because people do indeed have freedom and a right to do what they want.  At the same time, however, it would be nice if a few of those fertility worshippers would recognize that people who were responsible and had only replacement levels of children might have actually wanted to have more, but could not because the tax they were paying to support Mr. Mormon’s five wives and 26 children or Ms. Earth Mother’s ‘back to the land commune’ 8 little farm workers meant the responsible people didn’t have sufficient left from what they earned for them to feel confident they could support more than the two they actually did have.  A large part of their money was being siphoned off to support someone else, someone who felt entitled to have whatever they wanted AND to have somebody else pay the freight, and now that person is announcing that their “freedom” and their “rights” means they not only get to do whatever they want AND demand to be financially supported while doing so, but also to NOT BE CRITICIZED.

    And frankly, people just kind of choke on all that me, me, ME FIRST!  Especially when it comes with a big helping of “and I don’t see why I should have to THANK anybody either, because I have a RIGHT to be happy” and no recognition that their happiness comes at the expense of others.

    That’s the way society traditionally works.  People collectively set up and pay for a safety net, and then they keep the safety net from being completely overloaded by using SOCIAL DISAPPROVAL or STIGMA.  People absolutely need to be more aware of how social disapproval can unfairly punish those who end up in dire circumstances through no fault of their own, but social disapproval is an absolutely vital part of the system.  People get approval and perks for making what society collectively considers good decisions, and people get disapproval and penalties for making what society collectively considers poor decisions.

  • prochoiceferret

    Are you generally against people using examples from their own lives or only when you disagree with them?

     

    Examples from their own lives are great! Unless these are used to invalidate examples from other people’s lives.

     

    So, you never answered my question, do YOU believe YOUR money should go supporting women’s decisions to have children to and do YOU support workplace accomodations for parents? If you agree with the author, that we (American women) are the kinds of people who shouldn’t have children, then the position of refusing to support that wrong thing is stronger.

     

    Oh, so you’re interested in my opinion on this matter? How very flattering! :-)

     

    I do support WIC, child-care funding and workplace accommodations for parents. That position is not based on environmental considerations, but on making it possible for those who do choose to be parents to be able to be the best parents they can be—and thus raise strong, healthy, intelligent (and economically productive) children.

     

    The environmental impact of raising a child informs the decision whether or not to have one. But once a person has decided to have one, it is in society’s interest to ensure that the child is raised well.

     

    Way off-topic, dear. I mean you can’t be referning to me because I read the whole thing, did not miss the point and wanted more than to wax offended, as you should know by my previous activity here which has been overwhelmingly in support of the Site’s articles. I am an active fighter for abortion rights, have been awarded for my work on behalf of women who struggle to not have children. I don’t deserve your derision, thanks.

     

    Yes, SaltyC, this seems highly out of character for you.

     

    I’ve read enough problematic articles on population issues to recognize that Ms. Hymas is aware of them, and has consciously opted for a different approach. I don’t disagree that horrific crimes have been committed in the name of population control, and that mothers have it pretty bad in the U.S. compared to other developed countries. But those points are peripheral to the main one, which is that “I”—we—are the population problem, and we could certainly afford to make more room for those who choose to do something about it by not having kids.

  • rebellious-grrl

    A while back I went to a sustainability seminar. The speaker asked the audience, “What is the most sustainable thing you can do?” People answered with, “Using a reusable bag, taking the bus, …etc.” The speaker answered, “Do not reproduce.” Simple as that. Yes that is a simplistic answer to a complicated problem. For many of us who are child-free not having children is sustainability and helping the earth. I won’t have a child just because society wants me to. I have NO and never had a desire to reproduce. 

    I try as hard as I can to live a sustainable life. According to the Nature Conservancy (where I took the carbon footprint survey) mine is 15 and the average U.S. persons is 27. I live within 5 miles to work. I eat lower on the food chain, (although not a vegetarian), I hate flying on planes (so not much air travel), I recycle – upcycle-and reuse, I buy 99% of my stuff second hand or dumpster dive, and not having children fits into this equation for me and my husband. I’ve been told I’m selfish because I won’t have a child. For me I love the environment and the earth, not having children is not selfish. I see this a selfless act of love for the earth. 

  • rebellious-grrl

    We can’t even pay our current social security bill because there aren’t enough tax-paying Americans to sustain it. If everyone stopped having children, there would be nobody paying into the tax system to support our infastructure when the rest of us are too old to work.

    This is an argument that anti-choicers like Rick Santorum use. (http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/blog/2011/04/01/rick-santorum-misses-point-abortion-social-security)

    Social Security is NOT broke.

    “Social Security currently has a $2.6 trillion surplus which has been building up since the 1983 amendments and is intended to help absorb the retirement of the baby boomers………….

    They never mention how much our government has borrowed from Social Security. In fact, the government has borrowed more from the Social Security surplus than it has from any other source in the world, including China. As a result, Social Security now “owns” nearly 18 percent of the federal debt, making it the largest single holder of US debt. The government owes almost twice as much to Social Security as it does to China and Hong Kong.”

    http://institute.ourfuture.org/blog-entry/2011041406/pay-back-money-borrowed-social-security

    So guilting women into having children to keep Social Security solvent isn’t going to work.

    • elixabeth

      And you know why it works? Because there is some truth to it. Countries are an economic system. They require inputs (more people) to function. The main thing about politicians is they provide a biased version of conventional wisdom. For instance, Rick Santorum’s solution to declining inputs (young people) is to bash women’s reproductive decisions in developed countries, which are already revising their broods downward. A Democrat might point out that we are a nation of immigrants and recommend that we bring more people in from overseas as there are countries that are having a baby boom and are net exporters of people. So what is the best outcome? It is all based on prospective. Also you can have tremendous polution and declining population rates. Think about China, low population growth big pollution growth. Many Americans at least value the environment, which is something that developed countries have to offer. The biggest expected increase in polution per capita is from all the developing countries that want to emulate our way of living. It might already be out of our hands.

       

      The problems with social security are: 1) It is much more generous than when it started. Average person in 1935 did not live to 65 to collect anything. Now people can expect to live to be 78/80 years old and the average person is stastically assured to collect social security. 2) There is a declining birth rate so there are less workers being produced than retirees. 3) We are entering into the baby boom generation’s golden years when a lot of people are going to retire all at once. The current retirees are from the WWII period when no one had any kids. 4) We have not invested much in education over the last few decades. Our workers are not as productive as they could have been. This means we as a nation do not have as much income equality as people are not working to their full capacity. 5) Health care costs are outpacing general inflation. This is particularly true of health care costs near the end of life.

       

      So moving the age up a few years to reduce strain on the system makes sense. Getting rid of social security entirely does not. We are a rich country that can afford to care for our retirees but might want to tweak some of the formulas to make the system sustainable. Current retirees are living longer and many of them are healthy into their 60s and 70s they can afford to be patriotic and help sustain the system by working one or two years longer. You do not want a situation where the future feels at war with the past over resources. Solve the problem before it gets to that point if you do not want to see sparks and hatred (which is already present at the fringes). Also anyone else glad that we did not privitize social security? Look at what has been going no with the stock market lately, do you think that retirees deserved to take all those losses from the housing bubble? Ponzi scheme indeed.

    • elixabeth

      Also I totally agree with you about congress abusing the social security fund. They used unrealistic growth expectations and then took money from the fund specifically set aside for retirees. Pretty bad in my opinion. They have a good case there. Might have a lot of difficulty getting the money back but I would support them if they wanted to make a political issue out of it.

  • saltyc

    In other words, you’re offended that someone had the temerity to point out that a person who lives in the U.S. consumes more resources than a person who lives in a poor country, and thereby a U.S.-dweller choosing to have or not to have children has a much larger environmental impact than a poor-country-dweller

    Those are other words that are not a paraphrase of my words so they are garbage. I wasn’t offended by the previous article pointing out population and consumption. So, wrong-O.
     I think I stated that pretty plainly what was wrong with tjis article, if you need to twist it around in order to disagree, go right ahead, straw-spinner.

    No one is telling you that you’re a bad person for choosing to be a mother. What we are telling you is that raising a child, particularly in the First World, exacts an environmental toll on a world that has already been tolled up the wazoo. And that people should consider this, and have the freedom to choose not to have children (for that and/or other reasons).

    I really didn’t need you to tell me that, I am quite aware of the toll being alive in America takes on the rest of the world, and I am very proud to be a mother, though it’s often derided in Leftist circles.

    In your view, it seems, people should not talk about population and sustainability issues at all.

    WOW not my view at all. In fact that’s exactly the opposite of my view. Do you need to argue so badly you resort to distortion??

    “You can pry my air-conditioned Escalade from my cold, dead hands!”?

    Blatant mischaracterization.

     I don’t eat meat, I bicycle, never throw a shred of paper out that I don’t recycle, I never throw a scrap of food out, what I don’t eat I freeze and give to a friend who has a yard and a compost bin. I live in a tiny one-room apartment and spend $600 a YEAR on utilities TOTAL, which is LESS than what I contribute to environmental activist groups and Planned Parenthood. so you’re WAY off about me. This article is anti-motherhood, that’s why I objected. Saying what kind of people should not be mothers is crossing the line, and I’m proud to have pointed that out. And no that’s not reducto ad absurdum, it’s taken from her article “I’m the kind of person who shouldn’t have kids.” That’s stating that there are kinds of people who shouldn’t have kids. It doesn’t take a global warming denier to see that.

  • rebellious-grrl

    There is discrimination for women who don’t want to have children (or don’t have children) I agree that childcare in this country sucks, and raising children is very expensive but women are “expected” to have children or at least want to have children (or pretend to want to have children.) I have been treated like some genetic freak oddity because I am adamant about not having children. Just like this person saying, “But stay, far, far, away from me.”

  • prochoiceferret

    I am offended by her implication that I am the sort of person who should not have kids. I think I stated that pretty plainly,

     

    If you’re White, you may want to watch out for articles on White privilege and institutional racism. Because boy, are those ever going to offend you!

     

    WOW not my view at all. In fact that’s exactly the opposite of my view. Do you need to argue so badly you resort to distortion??

     

    Sorry, I was presuming that your arguments against an article that directly implicates our own child-rearing choices in ongoing global environmental degradation actually reflected your views rather than being a distortion thereof.

     

    Blatant mischaracterization.

    I don’t eat meat, I bicycle, never throw a shred of paper out that I don’t recycle, I never throw a scrap of food out, what I don’t eat I freeze and give to a friend who has a yard and a compost bin. I live in a tiny one-room apartment and spend $600 a YEAR on utilities TOTAL, which is LESS than what I contribute to environmental activist groups and Planned Parenthood. so you’re WAY off about me.

     

    The point wasn’t that you own an air-conditioned Escalade. The point was that you seem to be following the same script as indignant SUV owners [who don’t have a need for something that large] do whenever someone suggests that they might consider switching to a smaller vehicle. “How dare you suggest that I do something that lowers my environmental impact? The nerve!”

     

    Good on you for doing what you’ve done to reduce your resource footprint. That doesn’t mean that the environmental impact of (not) having kids is out-of-bounds for discussion.

     

    This article is anti-motherhood, that’s why I objected. Saying what kind of people should not be mothers is crossing the line, and I’m proud to have pointed that out. And no that’s not reducto ad absurdum, it’s taken from her article “I’m the kind of person who shouldn’t have kids.” That’s stating that there are kinds of people who shouldn’t have kids. It doesn’t take a global warming denier to see that.

     

    This point might have resonated more if Ms. Hymas hadn’t phrased the offending line in the first person, nor practiced what she preaches, nor written “Most people won’t make the same decision, of course, and I don’t fault them for that. Everyone has different circumstances and will balance their values in different ways. I believe in choice, and that means supporting choices different from my own.”

     

    I don’t know what article you’re arguing against, SaltyC, because it’s pretty clearly not the one up there.

  • saltyc

    I agree with everything you said. This article though was critical of women in the US choosing to be mothers at all.

  • rebellious-grrl

    I work in what I would call a “liberal” institution and I’ve been hounded about not wanting to have children. They’ve said things like, “You’ll change your mind when you get older.” Or some belittling comment that I have two cats and no children. Like I’m some crazy cat lady. On the flip side I work with some highly education women who have chosen not to have children and they are supportive of me.

  • saltyc

    If you’re White, you may want to watch out for articles on White privilege and institutional racism. Because boy, are those ever going to offend you!

    Here’s a suggestion for you, stop making assumptions about me, because I am white by some standards (not by others) and I do read articles on institutional racism and I am aware of white privilege and it does not offend me to know that I have many privileges being a white woman and have pointed out racism in the feminist movement and have lost friends over bringing up racism in their own dealings. Do you love being wrong, cause you keep on doing it.

    Sorry, I was presuming that your arguments against an article that directly implicates our own child-rearing choices in ongoing global environmental degradation actually reflected your views rather than being a distortion thereof.

    Wha????  I’m not against examining our impact globally,

    Good on you for doing what you’ve done to reduce your resource footprint. That doesn’t mean that the environmental impact of (not) having kids is out-of-bounds for discussion.

    No but it does mean that your characterizations of me are wrong. Gosh this feels like a waste of time.

    This point might have resonated more if Ms. Hymas hadn’t phrased the offending line in the first person, nor practiced what she preaches, nor written “Most people won’t make the same decision, of course, and I don’t fault them for that. Everyone has different circumstances and will balance their values in different ways. I believe in choice, and that means supporting choices different from my own.”

    Yes I’m impressed by her ability to couch her phrasing. But saying that you “don’t fault someone for being a mother” is seriously arrogant. If that’s hard for you to understand, here’s an analogy: Someone could say they “don’t fault someone for being gay” would you see such a person as a gay-rights supporter?

     

    attempting to normalize body size tends to have bad results (e.g. esteem issues, eating disorders, suicides). It may or may not affect the environment, but in terms of what we can do to reduce our resource footprint, eliminating human diversity isn’t exactly what I’d call low-hanging fruit.

    Great that you are against examining weight and food consumption for environmental impact because of the negative consequences on esteem, eating disorders and suicide. But blaming mothers is always low-hanging fruit, isn’t it, is there anything mothers are not blamed for?

  • prochoiceferret

    Here’s a suggestion for you, stop making assumptions about me, because I am white by some standards (not by others) and I do read articles on institutional racism and I am aware of white privilege and it does not offend me to know that I have many privileges being a white woman

     

    Great! Maybe you can use some of the same humility and not-taking-it-personal-ility in discussing the environmental costs of raising a child and deciding whether or not to do it.

     

    Wha????  I’m not against examining our impact globally,

     

    Unless it has to do with having or not having a child. Then you’re OMGWTFBBQ against it.

     

    Yes I’m impressed by her ability to couch her phrasing. But saying that you “don’t fault someone for being a mother” is seriously arrogant. If that’s hard for you to understand, here’s an analogy: Someone could say they “don’t fault someone for being gay” would you see such a person as a gay-rights supporter?

     

    Motherhood is, in most cases, a choice. It’s not an inherent characteristic of women, not in the same way that gayness is an inherent characteristic of a segment of our population.

     

    You’d have a closer analogy if this someone said they “don’t fault someone for being Catholic.” Which isn’t even necessarily the view of someone who opposes Catholicism—it could well be said by someone who sees both the positives of the religion, and the problems with how it is practiced.

     

    Great that you are against examining weight and food consumption for environmental impact because of the negative consequences on esteem, eating disorders and suicide. But blaming mothers is always low-hanging fruit, isn’t it, is there anything mothers are not blamed for?

     

    Mother-blaming is bad, yes. Perhaps that’s why Ms. Hymas refrained from engaging in it when she wrote this article.

  • jenn-greenmom

    “… Gear, gadgets, gewgaws, bigger house, bigger car, oil from the Mideast, coal from Colombia, Coltan from the Congo ,rare earths from China , pesticide-laden cotton from Egypt, genetically modified soy from Brazil….”

    Forgive me, but it sounds like you take it as a foregone conclusion that anyone who has kids will go nuts on the Buying Of The Needless Crap. Not that I’m arguing with your initial premise, or trying to come off as Oppressed And Discriminated Against, but, you’re making some assumptions here. 

    Some of us clothe our kids almost completely secondhand, and live in modestly sized houses that we didn’t buy larger versions of when we had kids, and got secondhand cribs we then passed on to another incipient parent. (Before the whole “ye godz we can’t have drop side cribs!” thing happened.) We might use a little more oil and coal, but if the house is the same size and we’re not really driving any more places than we did before, I wouldn’t think there would be much change there.  Yes, the carseat is something we’re kind of stuck with, and they’ve rigged the system so we can’t pass them down to other parents without huge amounts of censure (though some of us do it anyway!). And breastfeeding cuts down on a lot of footprint too.

     

    It seems like dicey math to say that MY footprint is that much huger because I have kids. Wouldn’t it make more sense to call it what it is, which is that I’m bringing in another person with her own footprint?  And teaching her and him to keep them as small as possible?

  • saltyc

    Unless it has to do with having or not having a child. Then you’re OMGWTFBBQ against it.

    I asked you nicely to stop making assumptions or mis-characterizing me, but you just. can’t. help. it.

    Truth is, I have considered the environmental impact of having children, and it has influenced my decision to have only one child. But I have to speak out against the tone this article takes, which I feel I have already described sufficiently to others who aren’t hell-bent on telling me off. It totally is mother-blaming, you’re just blind to it. And if someone as actively engaged in helping women out of unwanted pregnancies as I am feels this way, you can bet that this approach of who should have children at all and give me props for not doing something I never had any desire to do oin the first place (wow give me a medal for not buying fur) will turn off a lot of others, including feminists, including reproduction rights activists.

    My illustration of the veiled disdain couched in “I don’t fault anyone for being x” was obviously lost on you, since you needed to take apart a literal comparison, but to play your game I take issue with your comparison of motherhood to Catholicism. Catholicism is not necessary, is the origin of anti-semitism, was heavily involved in the Nazi movement and slave trade and is generally a pernicious influence, but that’s a whole other story. And truthfully, being a mother is something I always wanted, and a sense of fulfilment and part of my identity, one which I can never change. And I believe that my work as a mother is a good thing, and ultimately has a positive impact on society.

  • saltyc

    another person with her own footprint? 

    Oh no, Greenmom, you are a mother, therefore responsible for everything your offspring do. :/

    Sorry, I know that’s not what the article says but I couldn’t resist. I mean, we mothers are blamed for whatever our children do and this article does nothing to dispell that.

     

  • prochoiceferret

    Truth is, I have considered the environmental impact of having children, and it has influenced my decision to have only one child. But I have to speak out against the tone this article takes, which I feel I have already described sufficiently to others who aren’t hell-bent on telling me off. It totally is mother-blaming, you’re just blind to it.

     

    So let me see if I understand where you’re coming from. The bolded turns of phrase below…

    Well-meaning people have told me that I’m “just the sort of person who should have kids.” Au contraire. I’m just the sort of person who should not have kids.

    […]

    Most people won’t make the same decision, of course, and I don’t fault them for that. Everyone has different circumstances and will balance their values in different ways. I believe in choice, and that means supporting choices different from my own.

    …are the sole elements of the article that you take issue with. That constitute “mother-blaming” to you. That supposedly doom Ms. Hymas’s argument in the face of a lot of others, including feminists, including reproduction rights activists.

     

    I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

     

    And truthfully, being a mother is something I always wanted, and a sense of fulfilment and part of my identity, one which I can never change. And I believe that my work as a mother is a good thing, and ultimately has a positive impact on society.

     

    Good on you, SaltyC. No one here is going to denigrate your accomplishments as a mother, and it’s additionally to your credit that you’ve been thoughtful about the environmental impacts of the choices you’ve made in your life.

  • kag896

    Can I just reiterate how this is a WHITE MIDDLE CLASS AMERICAN problem? Not the problem of the environment on the whole, but rather the problem of feeling discrimminated against for choosing not to have children. I should be so lucky as to live in a community and a world where that is the big problem facing women and their reproductive rights. But women of my class status and those of differing racial and ethnic makeup, particularly any woman living in poverty (which are abundantly numerous), are facing crises on a daily and hourly basis regarding reproduction and parenting that are vastly different than the questions of 1) should I or shouldn’t I have children? and 2) will everyone treat me differently because I chose not to? Most of us are facing issues like 1) unintended pregnancy because of lack of access to birth control or education, 2) inability to get quality prenatal care while pregnant, 3) lack of support everywhere in our lives, including fear of losing our low-paying crappy jobs because of said pregnancies and consequent need for maternity leave.

    For me, this “problem” of childfree by choice and discrimmination faced because of it is reminiscent of feminist discussion in the time before critical black feminism took root. Women outside of the white middle to upper class American groups are not going to identify with this problem at all. Just the same as the discussions about the huge problem of infertility are not easily identified with by women outside that group. We get that white middle to upper class American women have certain issues and problems but those same problems are not representative of our problems. Feminist movement can’t go back to having its main issues and problems defined by white middle class American women, which is, I think, where you are finding resistance by a few other commenters.

    • crowepps

      We get that white middle to upper class American women have certain issues and problems but those same problems are not representative of our problems. Feminist movement can’t go back to having its main issues and problems defined by white middle class American women

      Is the idea that women of color and/or the poor have issues and problems that are more vital and important than the issues and problems of white middle class American women?  Do you really think the ‘feminist movement’ should make a point of excluding and marginalizing those women as though they have nothing to contribute, or promote the idea that it’s ‘selfish’ of them to talk about their own issues because the ‘poor’/minorities deserve to be first in line for equality?  Is the feminist movement going to be helped or harmed by a subtext of class warfare and disdain for those whose ancestors supposedly had it easy in the past?

       

      Frankly, I don’t see much difference between white middle class women being oblivious to/ignoring the real problems of women of color and women of color dismissing the real problems of white middle class women as unimportant compared to their own, because both attitudes are a distraction and an indicator the movement is piecemealing –focusing on eliminating specific individual manifestations of inequality instead of attacking the underlying root of those problems:  ‘society’, and in particular conservative religion, defining what ‘good women’ are very narrowly and rigidly, insisting every woman in the universe ‘should’ mutilate herself to fit into that pattern because there’s only One Good Pattern Of Womanhood, and then shaming/blaming/punishing women who allow the tiniest bit of their lives to violate that definition in any way.  If ALL women could ally with each other to maintain a laser focus on the basic foundation of sexism that causes all the individual manifestations of their problems, maybe we’d get somewhere.

  • robertsloan2

    I took the gist of this article as that it’s wrong to pressure people to have kids whether they want them or not. That the population effect of one more middle class American is so large even with green living that it does make a difference if someone decides not to have kids for that reason. Or uses that reason to justify less socially acceptable reasons such as Not Liking Children, which is unspeakable for any female and makes any male a complete troglodyte sexist.

     

    I decided not to have kids at seventeen, unless I decided to adopt a teenager when I was older. Life threw me a wonderful teenager who’s now a mother of two. Exactly two. She wanted them. She was planning how to take care of them when she was a teen, it was important to her to have kids and be a good mom.

     

    She lives green. She has a good marriage, the kids are healthy and happy and by and large we all had a much smaller footprint than most of the people around. My son in law used an old fashioned non-power mower on the lawn and they don’t do anything to it but clip it. For all I know, they won’t even do that now that they moved out away from the burbs into the 20 acres with horse that she always wanted.

     

    Her decision was a good one and so was mine. 

     

    What I take from this article is affirmation of a special case of something in American culture that I’ve always objected to – the idea that it’s always socially okay to criticize other people’s personal decisions 100% of the time on any grounds whatsoever. People wonder why depression is hitting 25% of the people in the country and this general custom never gets questioned. 

     

    Any negative criticism is assumed to be true. Any compliment is suspicious, it means that person’s out to get you or take advantage of you in some way. It couldn’t possibly just be that they decided decades ago that the custom of constant personal criticism was wrong and decided to invert it. 

     

    Yes, the author deserves points for green living for her decision, big ones. So does my adopted daughter for breastfeeding, using cloth diapers and stopping at two. They’re both having an impact. Those same environmental awareness points are there for the person who chooses to breed at replacement level rather than having a big family, or have a big family by adoption and then live green. 

     

    I don’t want to become vegan but I respect people who do for environmental reasons.

     

    So let’s support people who make those decisions even if they go farther than you’d personally want to. My not having meat as often, considering it more as a treat than a necessity at every meal is an environmental decision too, one that would have impact in the aggregate. Birth control is a much better solution to population in the long run than massive deaths, nature’s going to impose one if the other isn’t used. 

     

    So there’s my thoughts on it. Let’s quit flaming people. Let’s quit “flaming people is socially acceptable” and get to the root of the problem she just spoke out against – it goes beyond reproductive rights into every aspect of life. 

  • mschlee

    *******

     

    Overpopulation = Class Warfare

     

     

    FREE AMERICA

     

    REVOLUTIONARY (DIRECT) DEMOCRACY

     

    *******

  • elixabeth

    You hit the nail on the head. We feel it is OK to criticise other people’s decisions at high volumn. The polarization and self segregation of people in our country means that we will continue on having culture wars for some time. We literally hate each other. Much of congress’s dysfunction is that members need to be at war with each other (their constituants want it) so they no longer socialize with each other at all.They no longer see each other as reasaonble intelligent people who happen to disagree. Newer members see each other as the enemy. We have the democracy we deserve at this point.  Viewing the other as ‘the enemy’ is how we train soldiers for war.

     

    It is good to make provacative arguments, and trolling is an important mechanism to create space for debate on controversial subjects, but careful to keep things civil. If people cannot compromise in politics, than lobbyists will do it for us and they have interest in profiting from our dysfunction.

  • elixabeth

    <blockquote>Is the idea that women of color and/or the poor have issues and problems that are more vital and important than the issues and problems of white middle class American women?  Do you really think the ‘feminist movement’ should make a point of excluding and marginalizing those women as though they have nothing to contribute, or promote the idea that it’s ‘selfish’ of them to talk about their own issues because the ‘poor’/minorities deserve to be first in line for equality?  Is the feminist movement going to be helped or harmed by a subtext of class warfare and disdain for those whose ancestors supposedly had it easy in the past?</blockquote>

     

    No I just think she was commenting at the tone that was taken and the subtext that had a tinge of class warfare. Both positions are equally legitimate and valid but in a big tent alliance it is important to retain civility.

  • reproducejustice

    Beyond what each average American consumes and disposes of (in someone else’s backyard: at home or in less developed countries), they need to account for the vast amount of consumption of theirmilitary-industrial complex. The amount of resources that are required and the waste that results in its global domination trysts and race-to-the-bottom economic policies that violently coerce, de-regulate and outsource are enormous. This carbon footprint is easily larger than the combined footprints of all average Americans and contributes significantly to why overpopulation is an inaccurate place to put the blame for the environmental devastation faced by the planet and humanity. Overpopulation has much less to do with the changing climate and lack of clean water and food than industrialization and militarization do (not to mention structural adjustment programs or the legacy of colonization). The world is under an illusion if it buys into the overpopulation argument put forth by varying population and environmental groups. Humanity depends on the privileged of the world to recognize that the extent of their control over the situation DOES NOT STOP at the personal choices they make in daily life and consumption habits. They have a major role as citizens to address the real root of environmental degradation which is to challenge the status quo and address the laws, regulation, and policies put in place to perpetuate military and industrial excess.

  • tattooedmommy2010

    I myself have three children. We live in a small house, drive one car, dont eat a lot of meat and try to recycle when we have a lot to take to the recycle place. I also like to buy used. I think three children is enough although I know there are some who think I have too many. I think any more that three is too many. My sister in law just had her fourth and has already said she will never use birth control again because the Bible says that women are to multiply arrows for God. I think this is crap. I had my tubes tied last year and although it was bitter sweet I wouldnt change it for anything. I dont see anything wrong with a woman not wanting to have children. Better to make that decision that to have children she doesnt want or cant take care of. There are too many people out there having children they dont want and doesnt make that much money. Last year their house was foreclosed on and they had to move into a rent house. She is all the time telling people on facebook how broke they are and people send her money and stuff all the time. They can barely afford to care for the ones they have and I thought it was really stupid for her to have another baby. Plus shes one of those non-breastfeeding types so shes using resources there to feed her baby. I homeschool my children and I am starting to find that a lot of homeschooling families believe this notion that women should have as many children as God will allow. This I dont understand.

  • steven-earl-salmony

    Perhaps each of us needs to keep doing exactly what we are doing now, as best we can, inasmuch we are given the ‘lights’ to see. That is to say, we keep helping people understand science regarding both the placement of the human species within the natural order of living things and whatsoever could be real about the world we inhabit. After all, we are faced with having to acknowledge the all-too-probable fact that the gigantic size and monstrous impact of the human species in our time is casting a giant shadow over the surface of Earth and can be seen recklessly extirpating global biodiversity, irreversibly degrading the enviroment and relentlessly denuding the Earth of its resources on our watch.

    The lack of intellectual honesty, moral courage and personal integrity by many too many with appropriate expertise could result in humankind inadvertently precipitating the ruination of the Earth as a fit place for human habitation. We have to stop thoughtlessly chattering in public discourse about nothing more or less than what what the owners of the mass media agree is OK to say, and start speaking “truth to power.”