Is population control a good reason not to have babies?

The world’s population has reached seven billion and is still growing. In her new book, The Baby Matrix, Laura Carroll insists that if our culture keeps encouraging people to have babies we will destroy the planet. People who care will not have children, or if they must, they will have only one biological child. If that’s not enough, they will adopt additional children. The overriding theme of this book is that our “pronatalist” society’s belief that having children is the right and natural thing to do is wrong, wrong, wrong.

For baby boomers like me, Paul R. Ehrlich’s The Population Bomb, published in 1968, was required high school reading. In it, he predicted that if we didn’t do something about our ever-increasing population, the world would become so overpopulated it would self-destruct. This book became the bible for the Zero Population Growth movement. It started about the same time as birth control and abortion became legal for most people in the U.S., so people really did start having fewer kids. The average family produced two children instead of three, six or a dozen.

Still, Carroll says we need to cut back even more. When I talk to people who are childless by choice, many mention overpopulation as one of the reasons not to have kids. It’s rarely their main reason, but it’s one of them.

All of this makes me uncomfortable. Weren’t our bodies designed to make babies?

I was happy to find some articles that report the population has started decreasing, that maybe we’re not headed for disaster. This one from Slate, “About That Overpopulation Problem,” explains that some countries, such as Germany, have already lowered the birthrate so much that the overall population is going down.

With couples waiting until they’re older to have kids, with birth control being available to most people, and more and more choosing not to have children at all, it would seem likely that our population would stop growing. If not, I suppose the natural methods of population control that work with non-humans–predators, natural disasters, lack of food–would eventually balance out the numbers.

What do you think? Do you believe we should limit births to keep the population down? Has anyone in your life suggested this as a good reason not to have kids?

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3 thoughts on “Is population control a good reason not to have babies?

  1. I have mixed feelings about this. My own parents were part of that movement and adopted child #3 for that reason. In contrast, some religious communities strongly encourage couples to have as many babies as they can (and they do) so that their community grows larger. I guess this is a personal choice and people should have the freedom to make that choice for themselves. However, we also have folks like “OctoMom” and that other family (can't remember the name) with 19 children. These people seem out of control and put their children at risk by increasing their families beyond their own means. Maybe it all balances out by those of us who can't have kids. Don't know. There are my mixed feelings!

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  2. I am married and we are not planning on making any babies of our own. Being that we are in our early 30's, we are often met with the disbelief that we couldn't possibly be able to make that choice at this age. People say, “but what if you change your minds?” or “You're too young to say that!” Seriously? People treat us like we're crazy. Soon we'll have to break it to our families but it might be easier to lie and say we're sterile than try to get them to understand our decision.

    We don't want to because:
    1. We're pushing it age-wise and my eggs aren't getting any younger.
    2. Despite the fact that Germany's population is going down, the EARTH's population has already surpassed 7 Billion! Overpopulation plus drastic changes in weather patterns (droughts, pollution, the loss of plant diversity equaling massive disease and loss of food crops) equals the Earth imploding. There isn't enough space for that many people. Humans really do act like a virus on Earth. It is just the state of the world, the truth via facts.
    I couldn't bear to create a beautiful angel baby only to watch them suffer at the hands of nuclear fallout, plague-like diseases, and/or starvation. So I have committed my life to pursuits that positively affect the greater world around me. If I had kids, I wouldn't have the time to create awareness on a more massive scale. Instead, I am a teacher and I work with other peoples' kids and I love them like my own.
    3. I am deeply committed to my career.
    4. My husband doesn't want kids either.
    5. My husband and I met in our late 20's. We feel like we haven't had enough time together and just want to spend time together without all the distractions. Kids wouldn't bring us closer, we'd just be more tired.
    6. The final and most justifiable reason is that we have been trying to get by on shoestrings our entire adult lives. After we made it through grad school, we barely had enough money to make it each month and even lived in our van for a short period. I have a masters degree and just can't find full time work, in my field or any other field! We moved just to get closer to more opportunities. We are on the path to a brighter future, but this is for the long haul. We both have college debt to pay off and we would like to buy a house someday. Plus, my husband is starting a business and we struggle to get that running. It would be absolutely irresponsible for us to bring a new life into this situation.

    This issue isn't something I take lightly. I am afraid I'll regret it but I find solace in the fact that there are always beautiful angel babies that need adopting. Then I know that at the very least, I can offer someone in need a loving home, when we're ready. Thank you for this opportunity to dialogue on this tricky issue.

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  3. Anonymous, Thank you for this wonderful comment. I admire you for what are you doing and hope we can all join in helping earth not only survive but thrive. I also admire your very clear view of your life plan.

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