Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dying to Be Green

I came across this article a few weeks ago and haven’t had time to comment on it until now.

Titled “Save the Planet: Have Fewer Kids”, the article begins with this statement: “For people who are looking for ways to reduce their ‘carbon footprint,’ here’s one radical idea that could have long-term impact, some scientists say: Have fewer kids.”

“Radical” is one way to put it. Morbid might be another term. Apparently, statisticians at Oregon State University determined that the greenhouse gas impact – or “carbon legacy” – of an extra child is “almost 20 times more important than some of the other environment-friendly practices,” including driving Priuses, recycling, or buying mercury-filled light bulbs.

One member of the study team, Paul Murtaugh, is quoted as saying, “. . . we tend to focus on the carbon emissions of an individual over his or her lifetime. . . . But an added challenge facing us is continuing population growth and the increasing global consumption of resources.”

The article states that in the United States, “each child ultimately adds about 9,441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average parent – about 5.7 times the lifetime emissions for which, on average, a person is responsible.”

Translation: If you really want to do your part to stop climate change, plan on really small family reunions in the coming years.

Of course, these statisticians aren’t pushing for some kind of child-limit law, but “they simply want to make people aware of the environmental consequences of their reproductive choices.”

Hmm. Makes you wonder if these same statisticians will now push for abstinence-only sex education in public schools. Somehow I doubt it. Having sex should have no relation (pun intended) on procreating.

This article reminded me of another green/population growth article that appeared in the Times Online back in March. From the other side of the pond:

Jonathon Porritt, one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society.

Porritt’s call will come at this week’s annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron.

The trust will release research suggesting UK population must be cut to 30m if the
country wants to feed itself sustainably.
Take a guess at what Britain’s total population was in 2008. Go ahead. If you said slightly more than double (61,270,000) the 30 million Porritt wants to annihilate then you get a smiley face sticker. Porritt’s proposed reduction would bring the population back to Victorian-era numbers.

But should all countries send half of their populations to the death camps?

Many experts believe that, since Europeans and Americans have such a lopsided impact on the environment, the world would benefit more from reducing their populations than by making cuts in developing countries.
How…noble of us?

You might be asking the question, “How do they propose cutting entire population’s in half?” Answer: Britain's Tory leader, David Cameron, suggested that the UK needs a “coherent strategy” on population growth.

Oh, I know: How about we limit the number of babies a couple can have! It’s working for China, right? The good of the planet is at stake.

The irony is that most of Europe has already subconsciously enacted a birth-limit policy. By 2002, all of the member states of the European Union had a birth rate below the sustainability level (2.1 children born per woman). Spain’s birth rate in 2000 was 1.07 per woman, and rests precipitously today at 1.31; Italy’s birthrate is also at 1.31; Portugal’s is 1.48; Poland’s is a disastrous 1.28. Demographers believe that it is virtually impossible for a nation to recover once its birth rate dips to 1.3. In the United States, the latest numbers put our birth rate hovering somewhere around the sustainability level.

There’s more to this story than just declining birthrates. In 2000, 15% of Europe’s population was 65 or older. By 2060, there will only be two workers for every person 65 years or older. A Business Week article from October of 2007 noted that European Union residents 65 years or older outnumbered those 14 and under. Yikes.

(By the way, the European Muslim birth rate is three times higher than Europe’s non-Muslim population. The Muslim population in Europe will double by 2015, while the rest will shrink by 3.5%. Do you think Allah cares about carbon legacies?)

So what do you get when you cross a self-sterilizing culture with a rapidly-aging population? The Oregon State statisticians would probably say a positive, earth-friendly carbon legacy. So would Jonathon Porritt and other British greenmongers. My answer would be the end of democracy and Liberalism in Western Civilization.

Here’s the larger point, though. God’s command in Genesis 1 to “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it,” doesn’t exactly line up with the worldview/climate-change-combating measures of the Jonathon Porritts of the world. Nor do the Scriptures that praise children as a blessing from the Lord. It's one thing to be a steward of God's earth. But that stewardship needs to be anthropocentric. Calling for a nation's population to be slashed in half to save us from global warming is the furthest thing from a Biblical mandate on how to care for God's world.

Obviously, Europe’s declining birth rate can’t all be chalked up to a desire to live greenly. The anesthesia of socialism that has lulled Europe from its personal responsibility is largely to blame for the lack of kids that aren’t there now.

But it would be a mistake not to believe that a sizeable portion of the European population is making family decisions with an earth-first mindset – demographics and the survival of their culture be damned.

A 2007 story from the UK DailyMail tells how three individuals in Britain have had abortions and have been sterilized – all because they thought they were saving the planet. A certain Mark Hudson proclaimed, “That’s why I had a vasectomy. It would be morally wrong for me to add to climate change and the destruction of Earth.” His fiancé, Sarah Irving, quipped, “When I see a mother with a large family, I don’t resent her, but I do hope she’s thought through the implications.”

This kind of green fanaticism is setting the standard for what it means to live a truly environmentally-friendly, climate-change-combatting life.

Sure, you can drive a Prius, use public transportation or buy locally-grown food. But if you really want to save the world, don’t procreate. That’s as green as green can be.

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