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Family Size and the Ecological Footprint - Page 6

post #101 of 170
i've been following this thread, and ii'd like to make a few points:

first, the score for the quiz is your personal score. it can't be divided for the other members of your household. if all members live exactly the same, and you got a ten, then multiply ten by the number of people, and that's the household's footprint. it's an imperfect quiz, to be sure, but what you get is what you get.

second, diapers have a huge impact on the environment, whether you use cloth or 'sposies. someone said earlier that water is the first resource that will be used up, and you can't get around water usage if you cd. in many parts of the world, clean water can't be had. we all know this. so i guess this means that if you're trying to be as eco-friendly as possible, you'll do ec, right? but how many people do it? my point is that there are always ways to improve your footprint. whether you choose to continue doing what's easiest for you or constantly push yourself to do the harder things is up to you, but ESPECIALLY in the u.s. no one can really get on a high horse and say "i'm more eco-conscious than you" because the way our society is set up, we ALL can be doing better.

third, population is an undeniable factor in environment quality. sure, you can have just two kids, and they could go on and both have eight, but you could also have ten, raise them ecologically, and they could all go on to lead super-consumer lifestyles. so it's obvious that you don't have a huge family and teach them to be super-consumers. i don't see how the converse isn't also true, that to be most eco-friendly, you have a very small family and teach them to treat the earth fairly. i know this is a hard pill to swallow, as all of us here really love children and know we can provide a loving, nurturing environment for them, but the math is inescapable. what's most appealing to me here is that if every couple had just one child, by 2100, we'd be back to a pre-turn-of-the-twentieth-century population--and that inspires so much hope in me! like maybe we're not too far gone after all, that we can still amend what we've done. but even if everyone has only two kids, the pop. is still going to grow by two billion people!! and if growth rates continue as they are, the pop. will nearly quadruple!!!! if you think natural habitats are being eaten up by developments now, just wait until there are 22 billion people on the earth! but what's going to change?? i know very few people who only want one child, and plenty of people who have more than two. and these are people i love and care about, so i'm not wishing they'd made different choices, but the earth can't sustain this kind of growth. period.

i plan to live until i'm at least 120, so i may just get to see what happens.
post #102 of 170
I'm sick of people buying good farmland or woods and turning it into house lots.
It makes me sick everytime!!!!

About the cars..... We only have one and one of the way right now, so we don't have a vey big car - a Ford Focus, but the back seat does fit two car seats in it. I agree that SUV's usually don't fit very many people. I, personally, don't know anyone with who has a SUV and a big family.
post #103 of 170
If ecological factors were the only consideration, I think perhaps one should have no children to make up for the already large population.

The point some of us have been trying to make is that there are other factors involved in making the choice to have children. some of those factors do effect the enviroment both physically and spiritually.

One's ecological footprint can be lessened in many ways and each family (or person, if you will) has the responsibility to choose how they will effect that footprint.

Being sickened by how wasteful others are may make you feel like a better person, but it doesn't really change you or them. It would be better if we would each look at how we can lessen our own impact on the enviroment, and stop pointing fingers at others!!
post #104 of 170

about cloth diapers and water

i am loving this discussion.
don't see that i have much to add, people are oh so much more eloquent than i.

the only thing is, how much water does it take to make disposable diapers? if i remember correctly in an analysis i read when deciding to cd, the manufacture of disposables uses A LOT of water.

anyone have any links about this?
post #105 of 170
Originally posted by irishprincess71

Now I know that I am not being the best ecologically conscious person by making this decision and you may judge me if you want. However, in Southern CA where drought and water conservation are MAJOR deals that did add to my decision about whether or not to use cloth (the water in flushing the toilet and washing the diapers). And the chemicals used to treat the diaper services are not good for the environment either so that was a consideration also.
The water used by the disposable diaper company to make the disposable diapers you will use is FAR in excess of the water you or a cloth diaper service will use to wash your cloth diapers.

And the chemicals used to make your disposable diapers (bleaching chemicals to bleach the paper, sodium polyacrylate for the gel in the disposable, etc). are far more caustic and damaging to the environment than the tiny bit of bleach and detergent used by a diaper service, or detergent alone if you wash your own cloth diapers. 15% of a disposable diaper is made up of petroleum products.

Also, consider the transportation costs and fossil fuels used to transport the raw materials for the disposables to a manufacturing plant, then the fuels used to process the diapers, then the additional fuel to transport the finished disposables to your supermarket. With cloth, this is a one-time thing: your cloth diapers are made once, then washed repeatedly. With disposables, they have to be made over and over and over because they're made once, used once.

It sounds like your impression of cloth vs. disposables is based on the study done in the early 1990s, funded by--surprise--the disposable diaper industry. It's since been debunked thoroughly.

We used disposables exclusively with ds1. We now use cloth almost exclusively (2-3 disposables each week, and we use Tushies, a non-bleach non-gel disposable). We have a diaper service, though I washed them myself until a month ago. It's as easy as disposables, cheaper, and much better environmentally.
post #106 of 170
Originally posted by irishprincess71
Okay, I would dearly like to know WHAT all you large families do drive. We are planning on our next vehicle being an SUV simply because I have no idea and have not seen a current car that will hold more than 2 car seats at a time and since DH and I intend to have 4 children in the next 6 years 2 of them will be in car seats and 2 in booster seats according to CA law.
As dorky as it is, have you guys looked into the new models of minivans? They are much better at being fuel efficient than in the past (esp. manufacturers such as Honda and Toyota). Still, if you are used to extremely efficient small cars (like me), be prepared to go into shock at the mileage.

We looked at all sorts of cars for our brood, we will have 3 in car seats for at least the next 2 years and after that 2 in a car seat and one in a booster. Most SUVs wouldn't cut it. You could fit a goodly number of people in them, but carseats take up more room. Also, we didn't like the safety ratings of many SUVs--believe it or not they pose more of a danger to the occupants than the other vehicles on the highway! (That was a shock to me!)

Once we finish paying off the ICU bills for one of our boys, we'll be getting a Honda Odessy. I am mourning the fact that we're getting a minvan, but it's really the only option that we could find that was a good fit, allowed us to position car seats safely and with easy access in an emergency (no crawling over other seats to get to the middle child), and it got a hell of a lot better mileage than most SUVs, and doesn't have the flip-over problem. The cost is roughly the same, maybe a little less expensive (but we're not getting the big options package).

I am just hunting for a 'Minivans are tangible evidence of EVIL' bumpersticker (saw one the other day) to stick on it, so I feel better.
post #107 of 170
Originally posted by barbara
Being sickened by how wasteful others are may make you feel like a better person, but it doesn't really change you or them. It would be better if we would each look at how we can lessen our own impact on the enviroment, and stop pointing fingers at others!!
Considering that I'm the one who first used the word "sick" in regards to how I felt when confronted by profligate lives, I feel I must respond to this.

I don't "feel like a better person" because I become physically ill and enraged whenever I am confronted by blatant disregard for, frankly, our fellow humans and environment. I feel nauseated.

Did you ever see the movie Billy Jack? (A somewhat cheesy, very idealistic, low-budget film from the early seventies. One Tin Soldier was its theme song.) When Billy Jack goes berserk after seeing racially-motivated nasty behaviour directed at a little girl at a friend's school and beats up several stupid people, no one in the audience is expected to think that he is only doing so because he has not confronted his own latent racism.

According to the (rather superficial, as several have already pointed out) test at the start of this thread, apart from moving out of the United States, there is little I could do to further lessen my impact on the environment and still be alive and healthy. I ran that test several times. The score I noted on my first post in this thread (1.3 planets) was because I live in the United States. I also ran the test with my consumption habits (note that I did not say 'lifestyle') from other periods in my life...when I lived in Spain, Scotland, and Canada. Despite being a seventeen year old thrill seeker and eating meat heavily when I lived in Scotland, I used less planet (under one planet) than I apparently do now. I also used less planet when I lived in Spain in a larger apartment and travelled by airplane more frequently. I do actually live a very low-impact life. I choose to be here in NYC to continue that low-impact life in this country. I have access to most incredible public transportation system in the world and the largest one in the US. The test scores are affected by the home country, and, therefore, by the AVERAGE consumption habits of the people we choose to associate with, IE: our fellow consumers. The American Dream is a poison. Life can be pleasant in other countries. It IS different. And the typical Spaniard does not have a front and back yard. You know what, though? They've got beautiful plazas and their cities stop at the edges. Truly stop. You're walking along a street and, suddenly, you come to the end. You are standing on pavement with a fifteen storey <<edificio>> behind you and in front of you are rows of artichoke plants on a <<granja>>. In order to have this, very few have yards. But, I don't regard Barcelona as a concrete jungle. (I suspect that that phrase was made up by real estate agents selling subdivision homes to the masses.)

This quotation above seems to say that no one is entitled to ever point out another's failings because, in the writer's eyes, no one is perfect. Well, I wasn't pointing out anyone's individual failings, I was pointing out larger consequences of consumption choices using one particular thing as an example. And I'm not perfect, but, as far as consumption goes, I'm good enough. I do live a sustainable life.

This quotation is also anti-democratic. Democracy requires communication and hashing thing out. That means that there might be disagreement and things might be said that others don't want to hear. That's life in a vital community. Community is not some post-modern romantic ideal of everyone being really supportive and really non-confrontational all the time and each person is supposed to just grow on their own and no one is supposed to be upset at another person. Up until relatively recently, poisoning a well was a hanging offence in many places in this country. Extrapolate that and it means that one's neighbors have a right to have an opinion on one's consumer choices. And, now, the choices made have a geographical impact much larger than 150 years ago. So, our 'ecological neighborhood' is much larger than just our street.
post #108 of 170
Like I said - I know I am not doing the best for the environment by using disposables. And I will confess that most of my reasonings are based on the here and now (meaning that the price of water in our area makes things closer to equal in terms of cost for our family). I obviously didn't take into account shipping and manufacturing costs on the other side.

However, diaper services don't just use water, detergent and bleach they use MUCH harser chemicals which is why most of them, at least in our area, can claim to use less water per diaper then the average person would. Also, given the outrageous statistics quoted earlier from a website about the average use of 8,000 diapers in a 2 year span and the size for land fill I would be hesitant to completely trust those people to tell me how destructive disposables are. Not that I believe for a minute that they are entirely harmless. I will look into Tushies though. Thank you for that info.

Regarding SUVs. DH has done some research on SUVs and found the Suzuki will hold 7 people. It is pretty much the only SUV out there that will and still gets good gas milelage for and SUV (and it is comparable to minivan milelage). It is scary that the SUVs are only safer for the occupants if they are hit by a smaller vehicle. I will admit that DH is bound and determined not to by a minivan which is why he is spending alot of time researching vehicles.
post #109 of 170
sohj, I am truely sorry that you become physically ill and enraged, by so many of us here at mothering. I think that you have a lot of good points to make, yet I fear that so much of what you have to say will not be heard because of your stated nausea at our children.

'Minivans are tangible evidence of EVIL' bumpersticker
Tigerchild, I love it!! BTW, Our minvan gets the same or better milege than most of the small cars out there and way better than SUV's!! It seems that SUV's are the 'soccer mom' vehicle of the new century, so your hubby might want to consider that before buying.

post #110 of 170
Does anyone know how long it takes for a disposible diaper to decompose? I know that if you use those damn diaper geini things they practically never decompose!
post #111 of 170
oops double post
post #112 of 170
Originally posted by irishprincess71
However, diaper services don't just use water, detergent and bleach they use MUCH harser chemicals which is why most of them, at least in our area, can claim to use less water per diaper then the average person would.
I have not kept up with the back and forth.

I live in SoCal too and we used Dy-Dee Diaper Service for a couple of months.
Today, as a rule diaper services use biodegradable detergents not harmful phosphates. The waste water produced from washing diapers is benign, while the waste water from the manufacture of the pulp, paper, and plastics used in disposable diapers contains dioxins, solvents, sludge, and heavy metals. Chlorine bleach, whose manufacture is harmful to the atmosphere, is used in whitening diaper service diapers, but the environmental impact is far greater in the paper-bleaching process used in making disposable diapers.4
How do you know that they use "MUCH harsher chemicals"? I find that hard to believe since the people I know in my area (including us) who have used both Disposable (gel-filled - which is a strong, super-absorbant chemical) had babies with horrible rashes.... and once we switched to Dy-dee the rashes disappeared. Until recently, I used cloth at night. I washed it with our regular biodegradable detergent. Detergent does NOT have to be harsh to work. I don't even need bleach.

We used to use Tushies. We now use another brand (can't remember the name). Unbleached disposable diapers. Disposable diapers - gell -filled - take 500 years to dispose. There are lots of links on this topic. Just do a search.

Yes, we Americans spend/waste too much. We are not even conscious of it. It's very depressing. Some of it is out of true need, but most of it is out of selfishness. Case in point... my DH drives a luxury SUV. He treated himself too it. Yes he needs a car to go to work (well, that's debatable too... all his co-workers COULD carpool/bus to work) but he doesn't need a gas guzzler. I would love to drive a Hybrid (gas/electric) but he says no. He thinks I should stick w/ my Volvo SW because I'm safer... on the road, I'm surrounded by SUVs, Hummers, Chevrolet Suburbans, trucks, etc... It's insane.... he's right. :

I told my DH that my dream is to have a 3-car garage (for myself). It would have
1. Minivan for the times I want to carpool with my mommy friends 2. Electric car for local errands
3. Volvo SW for long treks alone with the kiddies

Children & Ecological footprint....
I don't think more children = more spending/waste. It does in America though. Not in the rest of the world. That's the big difference. Should Americans have less children? No, we should just be more aware of the impact we have and aim to lessen it.

I buy USED, plastic toys. I avoid buying new toys... that's one way....

When I went to Ecuador, I was stunned to see a family of 5 (3 daughters, 2 adults... plus grandma) and how little they spent on "stuff" (whereas I'm buying something everytime I go out!!!) and how little their garbage bag was. It was literally one shopping bag for the whole household. They were working-middleclass, not rich or poor, it's just that there isn't a Consumer Mindset over there like there is here. I'm home and I'm aware of it, yet is it very difficult to remain conscious of it and fight it off.
post #113 of 170
Oh sohj, it appears your pm box is full, but I wanted to tell you:

I'm sorry it appears I did misunderstand you. I guess I did lump your post with others. I am sorry.

I do appreciate the perspective you have given as someone who has lived outside of the US. I agree that those of us who have lived in Suburbia, USA for all (or most of) our lives do need a wake-up call as to how the rest of the world lives. The American dream is so imbedded into our mindset, that even when we are trying to break from it and live more simply, we don't see how very wasteful we are.

My apologies to all for becoming defensive in what should be an enlightening and educational thread.

post #114 of 170
barbara: I'm sorry about my message box. I forget how small a capacity it has . I've cleaned it out.

Apology accepted. I gathered that that had to have been what happened. There's a LOT of info. and discussion on this thread and it is hard to keep it all straight. (I spend so long writing a post and rereading what people have written that I'm "unlogged" by the time I try and "Submit Reply" .)

Anyhow....back to our regularly scheduled programming.....
post #115 of 170
a little different take on having less children....

it has some other repercussions.... see the projected scenario for Japan.


"The depopulation crisis has already forced Japan to slash pensions and raise the retirement age from 60 to 65 to keep pension funds afloat. By 2040, says the OECD, the rise in the ratio of dependent old to working young may be reducing Japan's growth in living standards by three-quarters of a percent per year, cutting Japan's GNP by 23 percent by midcentury.

Immigration, once unthinkable to the insular Japanese, is being touted by some as a solution to the looming shortage of workers – and taxpayers. Yet Japan would have to accept some 600,000 foreigners a year to maintain its present work force, and it is unclear where such large numbers of immigrants would come from and how well they would fit into a society that is fearful, suspicious and even hostile to foreigners.

The Economic Planning Agency of the Japanese government recently published a plan for addressing the low birth rate. In it, it proposed a hodgepodge of measures from reducing the work week and providing a diversity of child-care services, to promoting home schooling and improving the environment in the home. "

this has been a topic lately in various news organizations... you can do a google search for more data.
post #116 of 170
Hmmm..... That is very interesting, trabot, thank you!
post #117 of 170
i don't see a decreasing population in japan as a problem to solve. i don't think anyone needs to be concerned about teaching the japanese about the "value of a child"--most probably value their children just as much as most of us do. it's ridiculous to suggest that because they typically have only one child that they don't value children. that's insulting. and since population growth and economic growth are so linked, i think the economy has to be reworked as the population declines, rather than passively accepting these "modern" economies and the current population growth rate.

and the comparison to the ancient greeks is telling--the greeks were enlightened, right? so are the japanese.
post #118 of 170
I've been following this discussion with great interest over the last few weeks- a few thoughts.

What is so wrong with wanting to cut living standards if our collective living standards are too high to sustain on our planet without risk of environmental collapse? I take the point about what is happening in Japan with the declining birth rate and the need to increase the age of retirement to be able to support elderly people, but, if people are living to an average age of somewhere in their 80's, why have a retirement age set at 60? When the official retirement age was set 30 or 40 years ago, people didn't live as long as they do now. Why do we see it as a right to be able to leave a job at age 60 or 65, only to expect that you will be cared for the rest of your natural or unnatural life? Alternatively, why do we as a society force people to retire at a certain age when they are perfectly happy to continue in their job? There was a situation here in Australia where a magistrate (judge) got caught out lying about her age so she wouldn't be forced off the bench at 65. Nothing wrong with her ability to do her job, just that the state deemed her too old to continue. I'm not suggesting that we force the elderly and sick into continued work, just suggesting that maybe we need to re-evaluate how we define working-age.

As a animal species (and yes, humans are animals just like a dog, or a chimp, or a mollusc, or a lemming) we have to face up to the fact that our lifestyle and consumption choices are putting us a risk of a serious population crash. We won't get away from basic rules of animal ecology, because we are animals. So we need to make choices, as animals do in the wild, about the reproduction of our species, and think about which generation in the future is going to bear the brunt of that population crash. The thing that really bothers me is that 'developed' countries, already using way more than their 'fair' share of resources, are going to take the rest of the human species down with them. And that, to me, seems unfair.
post #119 of 170
Sticking up for the Japanese now. I have been to Japan. It's a great country. And I can tell you absolutely that the Japanese LOVE children- anybody's children. I had a high school boy come up to me and want to hold the baby, wanted his photo taken with the baby, his friends wanted to hold the baby...you get the picture. Show me a pack of high school boys in Aus or the US who would be hovering around wanting to take turns holding the baby! Love of kids is ingrained in Japanese culture. And my kids loved Japan.
post #120 of 170
Originally posted by aussiemum
The thing that really bothers me is that 'developed' countries, already using way more than their 'fair' share of resources, are going to take the rest of the human species down with them. And that, to me, seems unfair.
To me, that sums up the entire problem. It's depressing.

Americans want to consume, consume, consume without any thought... even my "dream" of having a 3 car garage ( ) with 3 different cars for 3 different purposes is insane.

I do not doubt that the Japanese people love children. The issue seems to lie here:

Japanese women are remaining single – having been convinced in some numbers that marriage perpetuates patriarchy and the single life is more rewarding than marriage and motherhood. The Japanese birth rate is plummeting as a result. Those women who do get married do so later, have children later, and stop at one or two.
Young women and couples are enjoying their single status. That's all it is. It does not mean they don't "love" children (I disagree with POV of the article). It's just another form of self-centeredness. Americans are self-centered too - in consumeristic way.

Another reason why they choose to have only 1-2 children is EXPENSE. Isn't Japan an expensive place to live? Small, teeny, tiny, expensive apartments?
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