So, we’ve kinda got this big fat animal in the room and nobody has really had the courage to speak up about the fact that it’s there, because hey, we like to think we can ignore elephants and they can just go away.
But it won’t go away. We like to talk about our support of parents- I know I can’t resist cute little kids, and I really do want parents to have the best information and resources we can give them to raise their kids… but not qualifying that with anything is ignoring our elephant again. Global population is nudging seven billion people, with no signs of deceleration. And New Zealand is one of the nations that has quite impressive demands on the world’s resources, not to mention the fact that we’re still committing to trade to develop nations like China, and to lift poor pacific and african nations out of poverty.
So in a nation with such a loaded consumer culture as New Zealand, the choice of whether to have kids or not transcends the personal, even if that is where the largest motivation is going to be. Not only will your decision to breed impact our population, but also our resource use, our energy demands, our fuel imports, our demand for immigration to relieve overcrowded countries especially in Asia, and finally, the state of the climate.
While as a committed feminist with some international scope, I certainly can’t condone any sort of hard family size limits1, I do think that delaying parenthood and committing to a small family are two of the most important decisions someone who’s thinking of breeding or adopting can make.
Delaying parenthood a little will, ideally, help you stay economically and socially secure and ensure you have the resources you need to properly look after any little ones. Education on this matter is important- the idea is not ignored because people like to have children young, but rather because those who don’t have children accidentally often don’t consider the full effect of their decision. This is a matter for encouragement towards an ideal, not condemnation of a mistake.
Limiting family size makes sure that your time, emotional support, and financial resources aren’t spread between more children than you can reasonably handle. It allows us to slow down global population growth, and frees up resources so that everyone can have a slice of the pie. Some terribly, terribly rounded maths suggests that we could all live like your average Canadian if we cut the global population by a factor of six to seven.
There’s actually some profound ecological and economical wisdom in the phrase: “Great! More for me!” When you reduce the amount of people sharing a resource, your quality of life goes up. And we can get rid of the damn elephant. 😉
1We’ve seen how disastrous this sort of policy works out combined with any sort of pervasive social bias in China, where it lead to widespread abandonment and mistreatment of girls due to sexist judgements on their “value” as a child.