I have been sitting on this one for a while, trying to decide whether to touch it with my 10 foot pole. A few weeks ago, the Oregonian profiled a few families that have, for environmental reasons, decided to have only one child. My first thought was: why not zero? But my second thought was: why so pessimistic about children?
Most people who worry about the environmental impact of large families think of children solely as resource depleters. More children means more people which means more energy demand, more bodies to fill with water and calories, more people to pollute and ravage the landscape. But children are also resources in and of themselves: they are the ones who will have to come up with the solutions to the resource issues and I have faith that they can and will do it. Within each child comes the potential for being a vital part of the world's human capital resource that will solve global warming, find new renewable energy technologies, will invent more efficient ways to produces goods and services that use fewer resources, and so on. They are the ones that will create the new resources with which humanity will thrive. In fact, during the recent explosion in human population, living standards have risen considerably.
I must admit that I find the view of children as resource drains quite depressing. People don't just use resources, people also create new resources, so the question comes down to whether the new children you bring in the world end up consuming more than they create. I like to see children as potential - as the hope of humanity, not a drag on society and the source of humanity's downfall.
Besides, it is not at all clear to me that the most efficient way to bring people into the world is a bunch of one-child households. It is probably a lot more efficient to have 11 zero child households and one 12 child household - cheaper by the dozen indeed.
And as a moral aside, it seems funny how we celebrate life once it is here, but fret about new lives being created. We cheer for each new medical breakthrough, but are concerned about new babies? I can't quite articulate it, but that just seems odd.