Embracing GINKdom

GINK: n., Green Inclinations, No Kids. As coined by Lisa Hymas at Grist in her article Say it loud: I’m childfree and proud.

The most powerful way to reduce your impact on this small and rather fragile planet is not to recycle. Ride a bike. Compost. Add solar panels to the house. Nope. Want to be really green? Don’t have kids.

According to the NY Times, greening other aspects of your life can’t even begin to offset the carbon footprint of having kids: “If [a hypothetical American woman] had two children, the researchers found, her carbon legacy would eventually rise to nearly 40 times what she had saved by those actions.”

Skyrocketing carbon levels, water shortages, melting ice caps are not problems as much as they are symptoms of one major underlying problem: human overpopulation. When you have 6.8 billion humans (that’s 6,800,000,000 and growing) competing for limited space and resources while trying to become 1st world consumers, the results — for humans, other species, and the Earth — aren’t pretty. Fortunately, studies have shown that the cheapest and most effective way to curb carbon lies in population control through increased access to and use of contraceptives.

Even public, well-respected figures like David Attenborough and Jane Goodall have come straight out and said it: population needs to be curbed. True, consumption matters, too. But as David Attenborough puts it, “I’ve never seen a problem that wouldn’t be easier to solve with fewer people. The same problem becomes harder, or ultimately impossible, when more people are involved.”

Increased access to contraceptives and education might make a significant impact in third world countries, but it shouldn’t make first world countries, where birth rates are already low, feel complacent: first world children have carbon footprints 7 times higher than their third world counterparts. But the majority of people who have children in the first world already have them out of choice, not biological accident, so the education & condom tack probably isn’t going to fly.

It’s pretty clear that people aren’t going to not have children solely because of the environment. Even some of my most environmentally conscious friends want two or more children. Species-wide, Earth-wide consciousness is not going to override biological imperative on any significant scale. Sorry. We’re not hard-wired to think in those terms. (Proof in point: we can accurately predict imminent environmental crisis and come up with ways to circumvent it, yet are unlikely to act collectively, effectively, and quickly enough to save ourselves as a species.)

Despite these difficulties, curbing the population needs to be a part of any green effort.  Here’s where I think we should start: an attitude change. Currently, people who choose not to have children are subject to prying, familial pressure, and even outright social disapproval. Contrary to expectation, most people who choose not to have kids are not child-haters; they just have other priorities for their time, energy, and money. And that should be fine, even admirable. I’d like to see more acceptance of child-free-ness, and then social approval coupled with governmental incentives for having one or fewer children. Like tax benefits for people who voluntarily undergo sterilization after zero or one kids. Either that, or require parents to offset the carbon footprints of each of their offspring until age 18. (Take your pick!)

Next, let’s actively educate people who are unsure about kids about the true costs of having children (to your relationship, career, free time, and bank account) and promote satisfying alternatives like fostering, adopting, or joining organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters. I think we’d end up with fewer but happier and better cared for children living in a healthier world. Surely that’s a goal worth working towards.

How many children you choose to have should not be seen as a purely personal choice but as a decision made in the context of a small, crowded planet. Please choose wisely, not only for the sake of humans, but also for the sake of the many species we share our world with and have pushed to the brink of extinction.

Speaking for myself, I have always known I did not want children. I announced it to my skeptical mother when I was 10, joined the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement when I was 14, and told my now-husband that if he wanted children, he’d better find another girl.  I work with kids and truly enjoy their company. However, I don’t want them in my life 24/7, and know I require far too much space and quiet time to be a good parent. Equally important, I am a life-long animal person and vegetarian. Continuing to share my planet with amazingly diverse species is so much more important to me than passing on my genetic information. I look forward to being an evolutionary dead-end. I really do.

What are your thoughts on being green and having kids? Another oxymoron?


9 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Emec on 05/12/2010 at 03:04

    I share the same views on children: I’ve never wanted to reproduce and never will, for many different reasons. As I get older, more and more people are shocked that I purposefully choose a child-free lifestyle. If I try to explain my reasoning (overpopulation, over-competition, lack of food, environmental impact, etc, etc), most people are offended! I’ve learned to simply state, “Its not a lifestyle for me,” instead of listing all of my reasons. I have my opinions about reproduction and the its harmful consequences on our planet, but I don’t judge or make people feel guilty about their decisions to create offspring. In fact, I really enjoy children and work with them part-time.

    Why is there such a double standard that people who are parents or will be parents can judge ME for my decisions, but its not acceptable for me to judge them? Reproduction is like playing God; people need to think first before they do it and have some respect.


    • Posted by ailanna on 05/13/2010 at 10:39

      I think it’s especially hard for a woman to simply say, “I don’t want kids.” (And notice, too, the way people start to suspect that you might be gay, a misanthrope, or dangerous social reject!) Despite our so-called gender revolution, there are still a lot of double standards about what women should be, as though we were somehow incomplete or unsuccessful simply because we chose not to reproduce.

      I also work with kids part time (I’m a writing tutor), and I love the time I spend with my students. They’re creative, unique, and a lot of fun to be around. Yet I am equally sure that having that constant responsibility to another being — to no longer really have time for myself or my many interests, or even free time at all — would make my life unbearable. I would literally be homicidal after a month without proper sleep! I also find it terrifying the way some women get so totally wrapped up in their kids that their own identity and interests get submerged. Yikes!


  2. […] my central heating. Although I’m vegetarian (for mostly non-environmental reasons) and unlikely to ever have children, I have never given up anything that would have been a serious hardship.  Heck, I feel a surge […]


  3. […] Posted by ailanna in Lifestyle, childfree, rants, thoughts. Tagged: childfree, gender, gink, rant, vhemt. Leave a Comment Childfree: adj. describing someone who has opted not to have children; often used in conjunction with the term GINK. […]


  4. Posted by Cactusheart on 05/29/2010 at 16:46

    Yes, it is a COMPLETE oxymoron to “think green” and have kids! Whatever good a “tree-hugger” might actually be doing is wiped out many times over by the sheer volume of waste a produced per human being. And don’t be mistaken in thinking a child makes less waste. Obviously you 1)have never had a baby in the house/babysat, or 2)you lost count of diapers 999 changes ago. Whether or not global warming is real,OBVIOUSLY SOMETHING bad’s happening. The majority of sources of fresh potable water IN MY STATE ALONE are polluted beyond all hope (or dried up). You think recycling a couple of cans are going to reverse the damage done? Or that buying products with “green” stickers are going to heal the ever-gaping hole in the ozone? I have a name for people like them: ” ecollusionists”. The rate of environmental damage compared to efforts of conserving is likening a tide to a trickle. You can “green” up your life until it hurts. You’re 1) still producing waste & taking up space. You’re 2) NOT “reversing” ANYTHING. Living “green” only SLOWS the rate down AT BEST. And science has recently disclosed that even if we all were to drop whatever we’re doing right this second, trade our cars for bikes THIS MINUTE, do EVERYTHING humanly possible to “green up”, it would do little good as we’ve already passed the “tipping point”. Unfortunately, it’s those types who that outnumber anyone else. I’ve tried sending popular activists/environmental groups the same message this very article is discussing for YEARS…And the response (if I GET one) is usually the equivalent of jamming their fingers in their ears & going “la-la-la”. Or they even justify their selfishness by indulging in the delusion that it’s “environmentally-responsible” to have one kid on the idea that the kid will one day “replace” the parent, therefore no additional waste is produced. What they refuse to acknowledge is that these are human beings, NOT mayflies or salmon *lol*. You (typically) DON’T die after breeding like those creatures do. SOMEONE had to be there to RAISE the child. So 1 waste factory are now 2. If you think any differently, you too are an “ecollusionist” and are therefore part of the problem. If you’re TRULY passionate about having kids, then you would be able to see PAST your inherent genetic bias and not care HOW you become a parent and open your heart to a child ALREADY here who’s JUST as deserving & entitled to being loved as anything you can drop outta your skirt. If you really feel that strongly about wanting a child that’s “yours”, chances are your reasons are selfish from the start anyway…and who is that helping aside from yourself? So, if you want to have kids(even in light of the fact that orphanages & social svcs are OVERFLOWING with kids ready to be loved and the fact that this planet can hardly sustain additional numbers), just know that you can’t have it both ways. If you’re truly committed towards increasing the chances of sustainability for us all, walk the talk or step aside & STFU. Simple as that.


  5. […] or adopting lifestyles and practices that were more in sync with the limitations of our resources. Reducing our birth rate, eating locally grown whole foods, relying less on animal products, using fewer petroleum-based […]


  6. Posted by nan on 10/25/2010 at 11:31

    Great post, Jennifer! And good for you for making that decision. I was torn on the idea for a while, then caved when my biological clock was running out. What a weird phenomenon, but I do have great kids that have an eco-conscious background, despite their rebellion. They work with animals and disadvantaged children – we do love the underdog – so they are activists in their own ways, making a difference.


  7. Posted by Lisa on 05/03/2012 at 07:33

    You have no idea how relieved I am to have found your blog! I made the decision to not have offspring at the age of 5. My reasons have changed from “Labor sounds horrible, and I don’t like the idea”, to “There are WAY too many of us already”. I just turned 43, and have never regretted my decision.

    I would like to ask you, and your other readers a couple of questions, if I may. I have noticed more babys and pregnancies in the past 3 years. Has anybody else seen this, or am I just more aware of the ones who are choosing to progenerate? My other question is: What is the general attitude of the people you encounter in your day to day travels? My reason for asking, (and the reason I am so happy to see this discussion), is that people I have been encountering, tune out anything that does not support sunshine and rainbows. The moment the conversation moves toward “Hey, we are in deep trouble here”, eyes glaze over and the other party brushes it off and looks for an escape route. I am unsure whether it is a psychological response to fear (avoidance), or if I am failing to convey meaningful dialogue. One or two instances can be dismissed as a deficit of reasoning skills in the other party, but this is the standard, not the exception. Any thoughts on this subject would be most welcome.


    • Hi Lisa,

      I think there’s good evidence to suggest that the birth rate, at least in developed countries, is slowing considerably. (Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean there are fewer babies, since population growth is exponential, not linear.) I can’t say that I’ve seen more babies in the past couple of years, but I’m not out much in my community and few of my friends or acquaintances seem interested in having children.

      Again, I hate to generalize about the attitude of people toward climate change, but I think as a species we are in a deep state of denial. I think we’re also burnt out on doom and gloom, even if it is warranted to some extent. We aren’t as rational as we think we are, so it’s not surprising that in the face of big, scary changes, we’re choosing to bury our heads in the sand.


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