Fuss Over Babies Misses the Mark

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Have you heard? In 2007 a record-breaking number of U.S. babies–nearly 40 percent–were born to single mothers. But the stat that’s not making headlines, writes Julia Whitty for <b>Mother Jones</b>, is the one we ought to heed: <a href=”http://www.motherjones.com/blue-marble/2009/03/tiniest-baby-booms-monster” target=”_blank”>2007 also holds the title for most babies born annually in the United States ever, period</a>. That’s 4,317,119 bundles of joy.</p>
<p>According to a study published in <b>Global Environmental Change</b>, which Whitty cites, <a href=”http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VFV-4V8FFCG-1&_user=10&_coverDate=02%2F28%2F2009&_rdoc=5&_fmt=high&_orig=browse&_srch=doc-info%28%23toc%236020%232009%23999809998%23941241%23FLA%23display%23Volume%29&_cdi=6020&_sort=d&_docanchor=&_ct=17&_acct=C000050221&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=10&md5=e9b28c7698c8a9e2fd8145c31f01ab7c” target=”_blank”>every American baby “costs” six times a parent’s own carbon emissions</a>. “The bottom line is that absolutely nothing else you can do–driving a more fuel efficient car, driving less, installing energy-efficient windows, replacing lightbulbs, replacing refrigerators, recycling–comes even close to simply not having that child,” she writes.</p>
<p>Assuming perpetuation of the standard U.S. lifestyle, true indeed. But Whitty mitigates her argument with a final stat: “In comparison, under current Bangladeshi conditions, each child adds 56 metric tons of CO2 to the carbon legacy of the average female.”</p>
<p>And in a snap, we’re back where we began. Our spiraling global population is part of the climate equation, no doubt. But sitting heavy on the scales is a disparity in consumption so vast that a single U.S. newborn can be charged with 169 times the environmental havoc as a Bangladeshi infant. So much for the innocence of youth.</p>
<p>Plainly speaking, there’s got to be a way to combine consideration for <em>how many</em> people with <em>how much</em> each individual consumes–before nudging the door open to preposterous scenarios where the childfree American can consume with impunity, or carbon-light countries encourage their populations to boom without concern.</p>
<p>As <em>Utne Reader</em>’s publisher Bryan Welch writes in our Jan.-Feb. 2009 issue: “<a href=”https://www.utne.com/environment/over-population-kids-threaten-environment-earth.aspx” target=”_blank”>Conservation alone cannot save us from ourselves</a>. With the right combination of imagination and common sense, though, we can begin to address a hard reality: that although the world can always get better, it’s not going to get any bigger.”</p>
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<b>Sources: <a href=”http://www.motherjones.com/” target=”_blank”>Mother Jones</a>, <a href=”http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/journaldescription.cws_home/30425/description#description” target=”_blank”>Global Environmental Change</a>
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<em>Image by <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/29278394@N00/” target=”_blank”>normanack</a>, licensed under <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en” target=”_blank”>Creative Commons</a>.</em>
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