Tuesday, February 10, 2009

To breed or not to breed

Population control. It's a taboo subject that has recently received more media attention.

The argument: that the single most environmental act that we can do to help our environment is to limit the amount of people that are brought into our world. In other words, think twice before having children. In and of itself the news isn't shocking. After all, my generation was raised with China's population control policies and the falling birth rates in western society. Isn't that enough?

Apparently not. Not only are we starting being told that we need to reduce our resource consumption, we need to think twice about even having one child. When I broke the news to my mother that my partner and I were thinking of only having one child, she quickly told me that one child will grow up selfish and spoiled. She then went on to cite how I didn't know how to share until the ripe old age of 7 when my little brother was born. Apparently my desire for my family's undivided attention, nay, my assertion that I was entitled to said attention is empirical evidence that single children are undesirable. Flawed argumentative strategies aside, the need to breed more than once could be dismissed as a generational attitude.


A close friend recently made the case that only children don't grow up with the same connections that children with siblings do. The argument: once our parents die it is very important that we have siblings so that we still have someone to share our history with. While I cannot refute the logic that my brother understands my parental history/baggage in ways that no one else ever will, I'm confident that the friendship bonds that I've made over the years are just as strong, if not sometimes much stronger, than the bonds of family. And, I have known my fair share of siblings that loath one another thus casting a certain amount of skepticism over the idea of needing someone with whom you share your family history/identity.

Thus I have come to the conclusion that should one opt for parenthood, the most ethical form is adoption; that taking a child who is already here is the clearest course for someone who wants to act according to their environmental conscious and experience the joy of raising children. In fact, I can make the claim from personal experience that there is no difference in the bonds you create with your blood vs adoptive relatives.

Yet here too I have met with my fair share of naysayers. Unbeknownst to me, parenthood is a large, breeding, dna social experiment. The point of having children, I have now discovered from one of my peers, is to see what kind of child you and your parent will create. Nature vs Nurture: which one will play the bigger role in your child's development? While I certainly don't ascribe to this rationale, having been raised with half, adopted, and foster siblings, I do understand the appeal of wanting to look at your child and see yourself in him/her; see your families joined through a child that has your eyes and your partner's nose. The irony is, my adopted brother looked more like me growing up than my half brother did. Go figure!

And then there are those who have decided that having children is not what they want. How do they fit into the social scheme? Are they environmental crusaders or selfish individuals unwilling to make sacrifices? I realize that I'm being slightly trite in the question presented but it seems like the question to have or not to have children in this day and age is more and more complicated. Gone are the days when you just have a baby because that's what you're supposed to do. Having a child is a personal decision that can be fraught with social and environmental implications that our parents may have never considered.

Chief Seattle is quoted as saying that it is our responsibility to consider the next 7 generations before making a decision. In the case of parenthood, one can't help but wonder what will be left for our future generations? Is it ethically right to bring a life into a world that is so full of doom and gloom for the future? Or is not having children mean that we are giving up our hope for the future? I don't know about you, but it's a choice that prompts a certain amount of debate and contemplation.

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