Fast forward 10 years to the hypothetical future. New U.S. law proclaims a limit on childbearing: one baby per couple. So what’s your reaction?
- No biggie. I had my brood already. This doesn’t affect me.
- Fine. Those third-world people have too many babies as it is. Hold on. You mean ME?
- Where do they get off telling me what I can do with my body? If I want TEN kids that’s nobody’s business but mine and my uterus’s.
- Thank GOODNESS, and about time, too!
Umbra over at Grist started the gristmill of insightful commentary about the environmental wisdom of limiting procreation to one child per couple. There’s a lot to be said for the idea. After all, what’s hurting the environment most is rampant consumerism. We just buy way too much stuff. Stuff we buy has a huge impact on the environment from the manufacture, transport, and eventual disposal of it all. The thought then is that in high consuming countries there should be a limit to the population. Fewer people = less stuff = easier on the planet.
Yes, but it’s more complicated that that.
There’s also reproductive rights. Society has been telling women for a long time what they can and cannot do with their bodies. What’s the good of creating just one more law? What has a similar policy done in China, where the gender balance is now way out of whack, affecting future generations to come?
My dad would say such a law would unnecessarily cut down on the number of “smart” people (from first-world countries), therefore limiting global future potential. I cringe at such blatant judgment, but I wonder how many of us share the notion. I also wonder if there’s not a grain of truth in it without its judgy exterior. After all, we don’t really know the eventual outcome of such limits. Already we’re heading to about a 1.6 children per mom ratio, down from the previous high of 2.4. People in developed countries are already having fewer babies overall, though I don’t see much evidence of this among people I know. Not even myself: I have 4 kids and I feel sort of awkwardly guilty over it. I adore my kids but as an environmental writer don’t I have some social responsibility?
What responsibility do we have to one another when it comes to the very personal decision of choosing to have a child?
When it comes down to it, I think I’d pick “C.” (That was always the safe answer in multiple choice tests.) I’m really uncomfortable with the idea of my government legislating my body or the bodies of my daughters. But at the same time, we’re headed for change and how else will we get there?
So what’s the answer? Or should this even be a question?