is it hypocrtical for environmentalists to have several children?

Everyone knows that overpopulation is of great concern for most environmentalists. More people on the planet consume more resources, require more habitat to be taken away from endangered species etc.

Is it therefore hypocritical for someone who considers him or herself an environmentalist to have, say, 4 children?

Can this be a seperate, personal issue?

What about the argument that these children might be the ones to save the planet from destruction by their discoveries?

Or could one argue that the real problem is an unequal distribution of resources?

I do not believe this is the case.
The easy answer is simply this: if someone preaches the evils of human overpopulation, and then has children, one is perhaps being hypocritical.

Otherwise, no. Simply being environmentalist does not mean one is concerned with human overpopulation, and does not make one a hypocrite for having kids.



One should.

If one would like a lot of kids, one should adopt some, from a third world country.

It’s okay to have several children so long as you kill 2 children of the anti-environmentalists for each one of your own.

Why should an environmentalist be also a humanist?

You also need to remember not to use plastic bags when you dispose of the bodies. The corpses must be placed in biodegradable containers (preferably hemp based) free of heavy metals before being inserted into a shallow grave located well above the water table.

One should also remember that if all the smart people only have one or two kids, and the not-so-smart have four or six, pretty soon we will be overrun with idiots. Not to say that environmentalists are necessarily smart.

Well, I’d say the definitive answer is “it depends”.

All people don’t pollute equally. (See this site for the cites.) The average American has an ecological footprint of over ten times that of an Indian – that is, this average American consumes enough resources for over ten average Indians. Therefore, if you’re really hot on having kids (and many folks are), it’s very concievable to make an ecological compromise – use fewer resources and live in a more environmentally sound way to make your ‘footprint’ smaller.

Is having no kids better? Why, of course. If they’re not born, they can’t use any resources. Yet, adopting kids from third world countries isn’t necessarily any better! You’re just bringing the kid up to use just as many resources as your own kid would have, and that’s not good for the environment either.

So, I suppose having kids is defendable. If you’re up in arms about overpopulation and want to force folks to not have kids, then I’d suppose you’re a hypocrite; however, I’d say the vast, overwhelming majority of environmentalists do not fall into this category. Most are aware of the problems that overpopulation causes, but to know something is better and not always practice it doesn’t make you a hypocrite – it just makes you imperfect (and human).

Why do I think this question is about Al Gore? :slight_smile:

Just about every American does something that can be considered anti-environmental. Drive a car, eat meat, have kids for whom you drive cars and buy meat… but rather than go the route of saying ‘there’s no way you can be an environmentalist in the USA, so screw it all- I’m not even going to bother to try’ most people pick their battles and attempt to at least lessen their impact on the planet. I’ve chosen not to have kids, and environmental concerns had a lot to do with that decision. But I do own a car, and I do eat meat occasionally.

I think a lot of environmentalists with kids figure that they will raise kids that will care for the planet, so that makes it OK. I’m just assuming, though.

Until Death Valley is as dense as New York City, you won’t be able to convince the typical American that overpopulation is a problem.

Ummm, not necessarily.

Firstly, there are environmentalists who do not feel that humans are overpopulating the planet, per se. Overpolluting, yes, but not overpopulating.

Secondly, I agree that anyone who has concerns about human pollution, contamination, waste, and general impact should give serious thought to how many children he or she is bringing into the world.

However, thirdly, as fluiddruid says (and as I attempted to say), there is no hypocrisy unless one fails to practice what one preaches. “Save the whales” is not automatically inconsistent with having kids.

Fourthly, I agree about the adoption. Just pretty much in general.



Not really. While overpopulation is a legitimate concern in many areas, the world does not appear to be in danger because of overpopulation.

(One can make the case that we should consider artificial restraints on population, but then we must make that case. Simply asserting that overpopulation is a problem, while ignoring the information that indicates that it may be much less of a problem than ZPG claims, does not actually address the issue.)

Working to bring First World standards of living to the entire world (with the natural decrease in birth rates that accompanies such a standard of living) would seem to be the best way to address such issues. Given that most First World nations are currently reproducing at a rate that is edging toward non-replacement levels, any particular human couple living in a First World society can probably provide several extra children without compromising their integrity. (Of course, if everyone resumed having large families, the situation would be different. In the current state, such a couple would not necessarily be behaving irresponsibly.)

yeah, what Tom said. :wink:

I don’t think that autz is claiming that overpopulation is necessarily a concern for environmentalists, but that it should be. If you are an environmentalist, then you understand that each and every additional person you give birth to (even the first!) will generate x amount of pollution, which is bad. Therefore, to live consistent with your beliefs, it follows that you have a responsibility to minimize the number of little pollution-generating machines you create. Even if you give birth to the best little tree-hugger in the world, which you can’t guarantee, they will generate some marginal amount of pollution.

You must be the change you want to create in the world.


Except that, realistically, nearly all motile life causes pollution of one sort or another, so we should really work to eliminate all members of the Animal Kingdom. (Of course, the plants need a certain amount of the polluting CO2 that animals produce, so destroying all animals will probably bring about the death of all plants, but we will, at least, have eliminated the pollution.)

Given that people are going to continue to inhabit the Earth, it makes sense to reduce our harmful effects as much as possible. However, in a world of 6 billion people, the birth of a few more is inconsequential. If the majority of couples in the developed nations were to have continued to produce children far above replacement rates, then each child would be a contribution to degrading the planet. In the current situation, “extra” children by any couple barely offsets the number of couples who only have two children, one child, or no children. (Remember that two children per couple is not a replacement rate, as disease, accident, infertility, and choice will remove some percentage of each pair of children from the reproducing population.)

And because of this fact, it’s also consistent to support ZPG (zero population growth) and still have kids. NPG (negative population growth) is a little harder, since the premise there is geared toward population reduction (duh). I would certainly look askance at someone with kids who claimed to espouse ZPG ideals. However, “one child per person” is a philosophy entirely consistent with ZPG.

I submit that the answer, then is not in adopting third-world kids. Just the opposite: You can have nine kids, but you must send eight of them to a third-world country, where they will use less resources. (Whether you keep the best and brightest or the runt of the litter for yourself may indicate your level of sincerity and commitment to the cause). I think we can agree that being raised in Bangladesh would be a character-building expereience. Concerned parents can, of course, write letters and mail cookies. The kids can come back for college (the parents now able to afford it, having saved 18 years worth of laundry soap, etc.), and go on to live happy and productive lives.

Some years ago Money magazine profiled a family here in Michigan who had something like 9 kids. They delved into their finances like they do, talked about their strategies, etc.

This was followed, next month, with a few people sending in snarky letters about the irresponsibility of these people filling the planet with that many more people. But having read the article in some detail, it was apparent to me that this family used far fewer resources per person than families with fewer kids. They bought a lot of things in bulk. They reused EVERYTHING, from clothes to plastic bags. They bought few convenience foods and didn’t eat out much (both of these have tons of overpackaging). They never, ever, did a half-load of laundry, and they didn’t have one car per teenager like some families I know. You sure wouldn’t find a drink box in their househould.

Since this is a per-person reduction in resource use, we’d only gain (on earth) if three or four other families chose to not have families and let others like this family have their kids for them and raise them in a single household. That’s not feasible, obviously. BUT I bring this up because I think large families can bring both opportunities and inspiration for conservation. Environmentalist parents can probably do a darn good job being planet-friendly with any number of kids, but I’d say that having more kids does not cause the same marginal increase in resource use that the first kid did. I’ll bet it goes down with each one that comes out of the womb.

Cranky brings up a good point. Recently, in talking with a friend of mine who has 7 siblings, she mentioned that they pretty much lived off their farm, and went into town once a month for toilet paper. They raised and slaughtered their own meat, sewed clothing, and were toilet trained by one year old.
Therefore, there should be designated farmer-parents who have 12 kids each, and everyone else should be sterilized. :smiley:

I don’t understand what you’re trying to say. I surely did not say that I thought that third world living was ideal, nor did I say that kids should be the focus of environmental action (after all, adults probably pollute more). Your sarcasm seems poorly placed.

All I meant to say was that
1.) Overpopulation is a problem, environmentally speaking, relative not just to the number of people but how they use resources.

2.) It would cause a much greater impact not to try to decrease population worldwide but to try to use less resources and cause less damage to the environment.

3.) Adopting children from abroad (and, as was mentioned later, bringing all nations to a ‘First World’ standard of living) is not going to improve the environment. Looking from a purely environmental point of view (and not a humanitarian one), it is better environmentally for people to be in poverty as in India than to be wealthy as in the US.

I simply believe that overpopulation is a relative non-issue compared to things that truly hit home – changing American and European resource and energy use. Thus, in response to the OP, I don’t think environmentalists who have children are hypocrites.

Would you mind explaining what you meant by your post?