If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know that I’m a fairly outspoken childfree person. I like kids. I just prefer to come home to a cat. (See all my previous childfree posts here.) I joined the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement as a precocious teenager and have never looked back. However, childfree posts don’t end up on this primarily green blog much for two reasons:
- The relationship between population and sustainability seems fairly obvious. Sure, there are other factors at play, including how we use resources, but not having children means that my considerable impact as a citizen of the developed world ends with me and is not multiplied over x number of generations. As it turns out, contraception is five times cheaper than low carbon technology. Nothing too complex for my brain to chew on.
- It makes the green parents who read this blog defensive. I get this. If I were a parent, doing my damnedest to raise low impact kids, I would totally throw something at the smug childfree person who boasts about how she will always win the low impact contest. It’s not encouraging, it’s not achievable for parents to raise zero impact children, and I keep coming back to the idea that making people defensive is a terrible strategy for promoting your cause. (Read the comments on this post for a real life example.) With that in mind, I’m asking for your patience with this post. I will attempt to avoid smugness.
I found out about the childfree movement maybe a year ago. I was initially excited that there were other people like me who saw that their lives would be better without having children. Since then, however, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that being childfree is not in itself a good reason for me to like or respect you as a human being. I’ve come up against stridently anti-child childfree people. Childfree people who treat parents offensively. Snobby childfree people. And (possibly worst of all) whiny childfree people, as highlighted in a recent article on Grist about whether coming out as a childfree person is like coming out as being gay. (It’s not. Suck it up.)
While we may not be a particularly likable bunch, I’d like to appeal to green parents to support us anyway. I get that our reasons for caring about the planet may come from very different sources. I care deeply about biodiversity. I don’t want a world without orangutans, amur leopards, manatees, and all the wonderfully weird animals, plants, and habitats that are on this planet. You probably care more about your children’s security in the future — clean water, clean air, enough food, some natural beauty for them to enjoy. That’s fine. But please recognize that supporting people who make childfree decisions is one way to support a common goal of greater sustainability. And — five little words to sweeten up the deal for you: More. Resources. For. Your. Kids.
My goals as a childfree person are very moderate. I’d like to see increased worldwide access to cheap, effective contraception (particularly IUDs and voluntary sterilization — if there were cheap spay and neuter days for humans, I’d be the first in line). And I’d like to see more social support for the decision not to have kids. Are you a green parent? Here are a few ways you can support the childfree:
- Advocate for continued/better access to contraception. If you haven’t noticed, Planned Parenthood isn’t doing so well these days. The Democratic Party has its issues, I’ll give you that, but it at least seems to place women’s reproductive rights over religious beliefs most of the time.
- Respect the childfree decisions of the people you encounter. Don’t try to talk them out of their decision or put social pressure on them to change their minds. Please don’t assume we’re pedophiles, psychologically damaged, sexually aberrant, or likely to grow out of it.
- Don’t exclude us. I recently attended a green Twitter party and had absolutely nothing to say in a conversation that ended up being all about eco-friendly Easter baskets and other child-centered issues. Yes, green parenting brings up a lot of concerns that will not interest people without kids, but choosing more general interest topics for a discussion that isn’t specifically designated for green moms would reach out to a bigger sector of the green movement. Inclusiveness is good.
- Consider sustainability in choosing how many children to have if you are planning your family or thinking about having more children. Oh…I know I’m going to get crap for this one. I don’t support coercive child policies like China’s. I’m not going to attempt to limit your reproductive rights. I see that one more child will not destroy the planet. But if you are concerned about the environment and your own impact on biodiversity, I’m asking that you weigh that concern in your decision.
Now it’s your turn. Green parents, what could the childfree do to earn your support? And if you’re already childfree, what are your thoughts on the relationship between green and childfree?