Yes, a small family is not necessarily a more ecologically-living one than a large family. It does indeed depend on the choices made as far as one's posessions and transportation and eating habits, to say the least.
However, more people is more people. Several years ago, I photocopied an article in Scientific American Magazine about some archeological work done investigating the soil strata in one area of the Mediterranean. (I think it was in Greece. I'll try to locate the citation and post it here someday...all my "archive" folders are currently in storage.) The conclusion of the geologist-archaeologists was that, judging by the thickness of the organic-based soil layers (as in not just chemically weathered rock layers, and I don't mean "chemical" as in someone pouring lye ove the rocks, I mean "chemical" as in acid/alkaline reactions from groundwater and atmosphere), people settling in an area impoverished the soil. This was a location that had human inhabitants several different times with periods of "lying fallow" and free of human settlement in between. The layers that also contained 'artifacts' (as in things made by humans and then left in or on the ground) were thin and depleted. The organic soil layers that accumulated during periods of no people, or only hunters or gatherers going through, were much, much thicker.
The article postulated (I think, maybe it is my own memory of the writing that makes me extrapolate this idea) that here was proof that even organic farming ultimately depletes the soil and people had to move on to be able to plant and grow food. Human life was ultimately a less-than-zero-sum game.
AND, for those who think that hunter/gatherers are 'in harmony' with nature, just remember, it was most likely human hunters who made the wooly mammoth and mastadons extinct. There is a lot of evidence of this in North America. And the hunters who caused the extinction in N. America were the ancestors of the aboriginal nations who so many romantics revere as ideal natural people. We are all human and truly there are more similarities than differences among us, in our faults as well as our good points.
I am reminded at this point of a chapter in the first book (The Trees) of Conrad Richter's trilogy The Awakening Land. For those of you who aren't familiar with this book, it is by the same person who wrote The Light in the Forest and is about settlers in the early 1800s. I believe the name of the chapter was "The Great Hunt" or "The Big Hunt". Someone had lost animals to or was mauled by a wolf (I think) and most of the men of the area (along with cheers from most of the women) got together, made a HUGE circle around the forest for miles and walked toward the center, killing a-b-s-o-l-u-t-e-l-y e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g within the circle. Several weeks later, Sayward Luckett, the protagonist of these books, is pregnant and near starving, there is snow on the ground and she goes out into the woods, hallucinating and looking for something to shoot to eat for her family (her husband is away for some reason, don't remember). She is blessed to see, and hit, a big turkey.
My brain skipped over to another neuron and I am now wondering if these guys were ancestors to all the people I know who buy ATVs and SUVs and rip up the land, roaring around in search of a good time and get angry when we 'tree-hugging luddites' try to keep them off our property. But that is totally off topic.
AND, I also wonder about all this call to be so very careful of "not judging" other people's lifestyles when they include things that have a large impact on the human race. Perhaps you have never lived near a garbage dump. Perhaps you have always lived blissfully far from an industrial area. You are lucky. I do 'judge' people who 'choose' to use disposable diapers. I have seen piles of garbage sixty feet high where the amount of diapers (all with human waste on them) has been six percent.
Imagine a typical relatively small solid waste disposal facility (ie: a dump): 400' long x 400' wide 60' high (this is REALLY small, ok?).
That is 9,600,000 cubic feet of trash. 6% of that is 576,000 cubic feet. So, that means half a million cubic feet of convenience and lifestyle choice. 'Scuse me while I bark and guffaw and just plain old laugh at that. How in blazes am I to accept that 'lifestyle' choice without being a little bit judgmental?
Another way of looking at it is the estimate that a child will use 8000 diapers (got that from a link in another thread on this board http://www.checnet.org/healthehouse/...sp?Main_ID=554
) between birth and toilet training being completed. Estimate (generously) that a cubic foot of space (visualise a box one foot high, one foot deep, and one foot long) can accomodate about ten used disposable diapers. That is 800 cubic feet of diapers for each child. So, that figure above of 576,000 cubic feet of diapers in a landfill is only accomodating 720 children.
I also fear that I have been known to rant nothing but obscenities at seeing the bumper sticker "It's a child, not a choice" on the back of an SUV. (Not to imply all SUV drivers are anti-choice, nor that all anti-choice people are polluters. Ok?
It is just that I've seen this particular combination several times and, no, it wasn't the same vehicle passing me repeatedly!) How DARE they not only get mixed up with MY womb and MY body, but they also want to lessen MY quality of life and destroy OUR atmosphere!! At least, that's one of the more printable things I said at the time.
And I just don't buy it that you 'have' to have an SUV because you've got too many in your family for anything else. I'm sorry. I do indeed judge there. You could live somewhere that everyone could walk to what is necessary and you could rent/buy a diesel van or small schoolbus for those longer trips. If it had a diesel engine, you could run it off biodiesel or vegetable oil. I'm sick of people buying good farmland or woods and turning it into house lots. It's screwed up the migration and hunting paths of mammals, it is changing our watertables and it means that more people have to have the infernal combustion engine. It also results in more paved roads and more retention of heat in the atmosphere.
Entropy, its the law!
edited for a silly grammer mistake!