Considering Zero Population Growth With Number Two on the Way
by Martinique Davis
May 14, 2010 | 1188 views | 0 0 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
On the website for the non-profit organization Population Connection, there is a ticker in the upper right hand corner that offers a real glimpse into just how fast the earth’s population is growing. The final number at the end of the world population’s ten-digit number grows by one every single second.

Nearly 80 million people are added to the earth's population each year, the website states. “Reducing the rate of population growth eases the many pressures people place on natural resources, wildlife habitats, and the atmosphere,” it continues.

What comes to mind is the simple rhyme I learned in middle school: The solution to pollution is dilution.

By this logic, mission-spewing vehicles, dirty industrial practices, and other purported evils stabbing Mother Earth in the heart aren’t really the problem. We are the problem. There are simply too many humans vying for energy, water, food, and fresh air for the earth to comfortably – or even adequately – handle.

Last year at Mountainfilm’s Moving Mountains Symposium, where the topic was “What Will Be on Our Tables in 2050?” the issue of too many people and not enough food brought experts in agriculture, soil, and food security from around the world to Telluride to discuss the impending food crisis. At one point, a man from the audience asked one of the speakers: “What ever happened to the Zero Population Growth initiative?”

At the time, Craig and I were just beginning to think about giving Elle a sibling playmate, and the man’s question struck a chord. Could the highest form of environmental “goodness” – an act infinitely more significant than driving a hybrid SUV to your kids’ soccer games or using biodegradable baggies in their organic lunches – actually be to not have any kids at all?

This question returns to me now, as I’m poised to deliver Telluride’s (and the world’s) next inhabitant in the next few weeks.

I can use cloth diapers and commit to buying food for my family from a local CSA. I can teach my kids about the importance of recycling and I can show them about using public transport and, as parents, Craig and I can strive to raise kids that are environmentally conscious citizens of the planet. And that’s the plan. Yet whatever we do, whatever measures we take to reduce our carbon footprints, our soon-to-be family of four will certainly leave a bigger impact on our environment than a family of just two.

The question that then comes to me is this: Is it environmentally irresponsible, or at least personally selfish, to have kids when you know that our planet is strapped for resources as it is?

We (as my eight-months-pregnant belly will attest) opted for kids – two of ’em – over environmental altruism.

Digging deeply into the Zero Population Growth concept, we’re actually off the hook since by definition ZPG means the limiting of population increase to the number of live births needed to replace the existing.

With two kids Craig and I are, ultimately, only replacing ourselves – thus following the ZPG concept. Whew. Perhaps we aren’t environmentally irresponsible after all.

Yet in theory wouldn’t having fewer kids, or none, be better? Especially since there are millions of women living in corners of the planet where contraception is almost impossible to get and family planning is mostly unheard of?

It’s a question that I, as the soon-to-be mother of two, can’t really answer. Yet it seems like a question we all should think about. Rather than wondering, “What ever happened to ZPG?” perhaps we all should be asking, “Is ZPG an answer… and at this point, is it even enough?”
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