Childfree living offers perks galore — more time, money, friendship, romance, adventure, career success, relaxation, peace of mind, even happiness. And don’t forget my personal favorite: sleep. This blog will explore it all.
But often overlooked is the environmental impact — or, rather, lack of impact — that comes from skipping parenting. If you care about contributing to a cleaner environment, by far the single most effective thing you can do is not have children. Even if you don’t care about the environment, you’re doing it a favor anyway if you’re not having kids, so you might as well own it — and trot it out as a defense the next time someone hassles you about not procreating.
It should be bleeding obvious that not having kids is huge in terms of personal green action. You’re not bringing another person into the world who in all likelihood would live a life just as consumptive as yours and then go on to have kids of their own, who would then have still more kids, and so on.
But in case it’s not bleeding obvious to everyone, there’s research to back me up. In 2009, statisticians at Oregon State University attempted to quantify the long-term climate impact of Americans’ reproductive decisions. They found that each child adds an estimated 9,441 metric tons of CO2 to a parent’s carbon legacy, which is a hell of a lot — about 5.7 times, or 570 percent, his or her direct lifetime emissions. Looked at from another angle, “the carbon legacy and greenhouse gas impact of an extra child is almost 20 times more important than some of the other environmentally sensitive practices people might employ their entire lives — things like driving a high mileage car, recycling, or using energy-efficient appliances and light bulbs.”
Quibble with their specific numbers or methodology if you like, but the underlying message is clear: Not having kids dwarfs anything else you could do on a personal level. The Prius, the CFLs and LEDs, the home insulation, the organic and local food — that’s all great stuff (and we should all be embracing it), but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the power punch of not reproducing.
For more, read my original GINK Manifesto (published at Grist, where I work as an editor). This is the piece that introduced the acronym GINK: green inclinations, no kids. Here’s how it starts off:
In 1969, graduating college senior Stephanie Mills made national headlines with a commencement address exclaiming that, in the face of impending ecological devastation, she was choosing to forgo parenthood. “I am terribly saddened by the fact that the most humane thing for me to do is to have no children at all,” she told her classmates.
I come here before you today to make the same proclamation — with a twist. I am thoroughly *delighted* by the fact that the most humane thing for me to do is to have no children at all.
Making the green choice too often feels like a sacrifice or a hassle or an expense. In this case, it feels like a luxurious indulgence that just so happens to cost a lot less for me and weigh a lot less on the carbon-bloated atmosphere.
Keep reading …
At this new GINK blog, I’ll be exploring these themes and many more, green and otherwise. Please chime in with your own opinions, observations, and suggested topics. Comments will be moderated to weed out the trolls, but any comments that are smart and on topic will be published.
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