Saturday, May 15, 2010

If you're minimalist, what are you doing having kids anyway?

This is popular on environmental sites -
"The biggest thing you can do to help the environment is have no kids!" These are invariably from those people who (coincidentally?) don't want kids. Haven't heard many people saying, "I desperately wanted children, but didn't, for the earth's sake." Moment of silence. (Refer back to note from self about doing what you want and then justifying it. I see this a lot. I do this a lot.)
And there seem to be a lot more unencumbered minimalists talking out there, too. Life with your backpack on your back is much more doable if your baby isn't in your frontpack too. (There are some wonderful exceptions to this, of course. Leo and Becoming Minimalist are inspirational!)

- take up more space
- use more furniture
- eat more food
- make more mess
- drain your productivity :-)
- draw on your minimalist white walls :-)))
compared with no kids. No argument. Especially in the developed world.

- water (kids prefer deep splashy bubble baths to low-flow showers)
- power (kids kick off blankets instead of hibernating into them on cold nights)
- laundry (kids are just grubby, and they like it that way)

Hmmm, and it's too late to send them back. And yet...

There are many things you can do to reduce the footprint of these human beings you have so recklessly added to the earth's burden.

- Some of mine are here.
- Another one is co-sleeping - sharing your body heat and space with your babies means less heating and fewer rooms to heat.
- We also have the same size cars and house that we did pre-kids. (Same cars, different house.) OK, we already had cars and house that were bigger than a couple needed. But we have reduced our own space in the house to allow for the kids instead of adding on. And I'm very proud to have resisted the pressure to upgrade to a people mover car, because my smallish sedan still does the job.

So your choice to reproduce does not necessarily mean a plunge into the abyss of overconsumption. (And believe it or not, some childfree people don't even adopt needy children! Some use their economic freedom to fly to other countries, purchase imported luxury items, insist on purebred pets...)

If caring and thoughtful world citizens must choose not to have children, then all children are going to be raised by SUV driving, fast food guzzling, clear felling foresters and baby seal clubbing driftnet fishers who don't turn off the water when they brush their teeth! How will that make us better off?

If you have no children, they won't squander our future. But they will certainly never save it.


  1. Just want to say I don't have kids not because of any minimalist choice, but because I don't think I could have been responsible enough to raise a productive member of society!

  2. Oh yeah - forgot to add one of my most important points. Nobody should have kids if they don't want them. Nobody. It's hard enough when you do want them. :-)

  3. yes they are hard work, and so rewarding at times! There was arguments in Little Treasures (i think, may have been Littlies) about having too many children is bad because of overpopulation of the Earth. My way of balancing this is: each adult is allowed one child. So if you are married you can have 2 children no problem. But some of us want more. However, there are people who don't want children (possibly like Jen above) (or only want one per couple). So i think make a deal to have their allotted child. If everyone was able to do this, the population of the Earth would plateau instead of increasingly grow. I would add that to make the deal the other person/couple would have to be older than a certain age (at least 40) because a lot of people change their mind in their 30s and decide they want children after all.

  4. Really interesting idea! I also think each person's ecological footprint needs to be taken into consideration. Maybe there could be a child trading scheme (like the carbon trading scheme but not corrupt) where you can get permission to have another child if you install solar panels. Or something like that. :-)