Family Size and the Ecological Footprint - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 12:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I decided to start this thread in light of a discussion that resulted from another one on family size, and whether to "add one more".

First off, check out this link as far as your OWN ecological footprint-- it's fascinating:

http://www.earthday.net/footprint/index.asp

That's for one person only, so figure in your spouse, children, etc. It was a real eye opener for me, and I consider myself a staunch environmentalist.

How do you feel about family size and how it impacts the environment? Is environmental impact a factor in your family planning decisions?
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#2 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 01:06 AM
 
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wow, that is a cool link! i'm going to send that to the rest of my family. it's really a stab in the gut to hear "if everyone lived like you" we would need x number of planets.

environmental concerns are a huge factor for me in determining family size. ideally, for me, i would adopt, b/c i know that there are plenty of kids that need homes. but i really want to experience pregnancy and birth, so i'll have at least one biological child. i'll probably have two, and i feel ok about that. i think two kids for two adults is ecologically fair, but i'm an american, and i can justify whatever i do. just kidding. what i mean is, i'm an american and i'll be raising american kids, who will use more than their fair share of resources, just as i and dh do.

i am always striving to be more environmentally friendly, though, so if i can instill that in my babes, maybe that will be easier to justify.
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#3 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 01:45 AM
 
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Food for thought:
In a world where most parents chose to limit their family size in order to accomodate the economy. Families who had many children would populate more rapidly. Eco-friendly families would then be "weeded out" of the population whereas large families would dominate, and the whole point would be mute. Basically by process of natural selection, those who consciously limited the size of their family would die out.
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#4 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 01:58 AM
 
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that is only assuming that every child from a large family in turn decides that large families are best and has more than the average number of kids. deciding how big one's family is isn't genetically encoded, so a couple could have eight kids, then those kids could grow up in a society where most people have decided to limit the number of kids and those eight kids could have an average number of kids themselves.

this essentially happened during the last century, which started out with as-large-as-possible families as the norm, but as birth control became more accessible/acceptable, family sizes shrunk when children from large familes grew up and had smaller families. now it's an exception rather than the rule to have really big families. and hopefully (ecologically speaking) that trend will continue.
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#5 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 02:49 AM
 
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Eco-friendly families would then be "weeded out" of the population whereas large families would dominate
Well I think that education by those families could help "convert" other families to being more eco friendly.

This quiz was neat! I got 15 vs. 24 as the average for my area. However they didn't take into account that we use cloth diapers, recycle, and have water-saving devices on our showers. Or that we keep our theromostat up in summer, down in winter to conserve energy. Most of our neighbors have pools, SUV's and, and use disposable everything.

I did one for my SIL's house in India, and she just built a house that's really cool. Has her own solar generator to save money, and roofs that colllect rainwater and purify it to use during the drought seasons. They also have their own well, and line dry all the time. She scored a lot better than I did!

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#6 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 03:18 AM
 
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I havent done the footprint test for a while. I scored a 6. Average for my area is 8.8.

Anyways, back to the discussion at hand. In large families, there's a lot of buying in bulk, handing down clothing, carpooling, getting the most use out of things possible. A lot of big fam's are pretty frugal with resources out of necessity. We always ate lower on the food chain bc it was cheaper.

Hm, i just redid the footprint test with the data that would have been valid when i was still living with my parents...i'm from a family of 11, and it gave a footprint of 3.7

So my footprint was actually smaller when i was in a big family?

ps, we're only planning on having one child...being the oldest of 9 kids really sucked and i never want to have a big family.
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#7 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 11:00 AM
 
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Families who had many children would populate more rapidly. Eco-friendly families would then be "weeded out" of the population whereas large families would dominate, and the whole point would be mute. Basically by process of natural selection, those who consciously limited the size of their family would die out.
In the above quote there is an assumption that children of large families will also have large families. It also assumes that there is no hope for environmetal education. I'm pretty envionmentally conscious and many people in my life have been influenced by my example or through conversations with me to become more environmentally conscious themselves. I come from a family of 4 (not huge, not small) but I believe in small families for environmental reasons. If our dd ends up "buying into" our philosophies (env, vegetarian, etc) I believe that our child (or 2 children in the future) could also influence people through example and education. Then again, she could turn into an Alex P. Keaton..

Then again, the idea of a huge family of earth-loving children is a pretty cool thought.
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#8 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 01:28 PM
 
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I'm feeling pretty good abvout myself, especially considering that they do not take into acount the many other things that we do for the enviroment, as USAmma said.
Quote:
Then again, the idea of a huge family of earth-loving children is a pretty cool thought.
spinach, that is how we feel about it. I grew up in a family of 7 children. Our family was very eco friendly, and did so much more for the enviroment than nearly anyone around us (most of which were people who had small families.) We all love the earth, and animals etc., and truely feel responsablety to protect, and care for it. I certianly don't think that a big family = bad for the enviroment. It seems to be the most people in this society don't even think of the enviroment, it's just not important enough, and someone else can worry about it.
I guess what I'm trying to say is that to me the number of children isn't nearly so important as how you act, and what you do, and what your children do.
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#9 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 02:00 PM
 
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The overpopulation crisis, and the impact of humans on the environment is a very complex issue. Large family size is only ONE of many, many factors. And frankly, I'm not convinced it's any more important than the others.

If everybody were having ten kids then yes, I'd say a large-scale education campaign against big families might be in order. But I bet every mama here of four or more kids can attest that people everywhere stop and comment in awe at them - that's because it just isn't seen much anymore.

And consider that in areas where women typically have tons of kids, it's usually b/c they have no access to education and contraception.

It's easy to see how a family with two kids in a 3000 sq ft home with 2 cars, disposable diapers, a huge lawn, and no recycling could easily leave a larger footprint than a family with four kids, in a 1500 sq ft apartment downtown, no car, who cloth diaper and buy everything second hand.

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#10 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 03:28 PM
 
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I got a 7 - not bad, since the average for my area is 24!! (OUCH!)

My parents have a 19 - and I was kind about their car mileage and public transportation. There are 5 people living in their house now, and they produce nearly 20x more trash than we do in a week (we have 4 in our apartment).

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#11 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 06:05 PM
 
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I got an 8 vs 24 for my area.

We live on 5 acres of land. My new goal is to get my footprint down to that 5 acres.

I don't agree that large families continue to have large families. My paternal GPs had 14 kids. None of those kids had more than 4. And only a few of my generation has more than two. However, out of all of those people, my family is the only one that doesn't buy disposable everything.

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#12 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 09:03 PM
 
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Everyone keeps talking about how they and their children live. IMO, what matters is not how you and your children live when you are all in the same household.

What matters more to the environment is probably the fact that each addition to the family will have their own household when they become adults. That means more resources will be used to build their housing, and that more open space will be used to house them. For me, that's it right there. The more people, the less open space we have.

Plus the fact that they will use irreplaceable resources no matter how carefully they live.

Edited to add: We scored a 10 vs. 24. We take a lot of public transportation, but could do better on the way we eat. Something to work on.
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#13 of 170 Old 08-10-2003, 11:45 PM
 
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I'm trying to figure out why I got a 22. ???

Is it because there are only 2 in my house? Would I get a lower score if I had 4 more children? Apparently it would be a lot lower if my husband hadn't moved out.

Anyway - very eye opening!
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#14 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 01:04 AM
 
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I haven't taken the test yet - I will later and edit to add.

But I must say that I do feel really strongly about the family size factor. Being in So. Ca. and seeing the impact of housing on the surrounding open space I am very much in agreement that more kids in the end means more housing when they grow up (although in S. Ca housing is so expensive most kids never leave home ).

That being said - I plan on having two biological children but then adopting at least 2 more. I would adopt 8 more if DH would let me get away with it. But sadly he has limited me to only 2. There are just way too many children out there without families for me to feel even remotely comfortable without adopting at least a few of them.

edit to add:

We scored 13 out of 24. Unfortunately among other things they don't take specific areas into account. Where we live public transportation is basically useless. In a 13 mile long city it can take approx. 1 hour to get from one end to the other. Not advisable with a toddler. And my dr. and farmer's markets are in other cities.
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#15 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 02:31 AM
 
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The housing issue wouldn't be such a factor if everybody didn't insist on having their own house with garage, white picket fence, and ten acres of land around them.

Not that there is anything wrong with wanting that - it's lovely, I'm sure. But in many places that's just a pipe dream. Small communities arranged in such a way as to maximize density, allow for shared green spaces, encourage walking/biking and public transporatation, etc....these types of communities can go a long way to reducing the impact of more people.

Besides, I believe that in the US and Canada and other developed countries, we are fairly close to achieving zero population growth, so I don't think a few people wanting to have big families is such an issue.

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#16 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 08:59 AM
 
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Interesting quiz. And it's amazing what large footprints all those living in America are leaving.

As a comparison - I live in Scotland. We live relatively well for our area (although our income is very small compared to what we would make if we lived in the States).

I scored 5.9, with an average in my area of 6.8. Makes you think a bit about the average American lifestyle, doesn't it (I'm American myself, by the way)?
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#17 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 11:10 AM
 
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I scored eleven but the average in my area is 24. (yeah, yeah, things will be different when my dh works at home and we don't have to use the car at all) I want to have a large family though so just out of curiosity I entered in the information with the necessary adjusmtends for if I have seven or more kids and I scored lower!!!

So I guess it is not the amount of people around, it is wether they are producers or consumers. A family of eco-friendly people consume much less than your average "Sprinkler city" -.5 acre lawn folks.
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#18 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 12:40 PM
 
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This is very interesting to me.

I took the quiz twice, once choosing INdia (where we use to live) and once choosing the US where we now live.

For India, we scored a 3.5.
For the US, we scored a 25.

The difference between the two is only this: the size of our home and the type of dwelling. We lived in a small apartment in Delhi and have a 2000 sq.ft. home in the US. Our habits are the same as far as buying all our food unprocessed and locally, biking for transportation, eating strict vegetarian, and having less waste than those around us (except not in India, we had eqal waste there).

The other thing that may have brought them up is that we fly in excess of 100 hours each year.

Anyway, I'm sad that we scored so high in the US even though that compared to most people we know, we are so much more environmentally conscious. Maybe it was the flying that threw us over. Regardless, I am sad about it.
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#19 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 12:48 PM
 
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Yeah, It's the flying!

I did it again without the 100 hours of flying. Brought us down to a 5! Wow! I never realized what all that travel meant!
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#20 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 01:14 PM
 
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This is definitely an interesting quiz. I do think that it fails to take a couple of things into account. We scored an 11 and it said the average for our area is a 24. But, they do not take into account the fact that you cannot drive here, you must fly or spend several days on a boat. Without the flying, we went way down. I also agree that it doesn't take into account cloth diapering, recyling, breastfeeding, etc.

But, it really makes you think about family size. Our original plan was to have two children on the theory that they could replace us. But, I like the idea of raising a bunch of earth-friendly kids. Maybe the world needs my kids?
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#21 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 01:25 PM
 
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okay, i want some credit for breastfeeding and not having a period for almost 2 years and then using the Keeper and not tampons! :LOL and we don't use paper towels or napkins or disposable diapers and wipes.
we scored a 16, which is high compared to the rest of you. oh the shame. i thought we were making a smart move by only having one vehicle and taking turns with it, but i guess that doesn't matter. now, if i could figure out a way to get my dog to haul me around..........
this gave me new resolve to fix up our eating habits. it's hard when your dh wants to eat chips and cookies and fast food for every meal.
our house is defintiely too big for us. the next time we buy a home it is going to be a lot smaller.
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#22 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 01:39 PM
 
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Are there any other quizzes like this out there? I want to try a more comprehensive one.

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#23 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 08:51 PM
 
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Are you guys serious when you say the average number is 24 in your area????? As in 24 biologically productive hectares per person? I'm an ex-pat American, and I have to say, even I am shocked. What the h*ll do you have to do in a year to require 24 hectares to sustain yourself? Thank goodness I'm living in the land down under now, where the average footprint is 7.6. I scored a 5.9, which confirms my suspicions that I've been slacking off on the greenie front lately- off to the community garden for me now, I think!

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#24 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 08:59 PM
 
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i think america in general gets a 24. big houses, big vehicles with shitty gas mileage that we drive to go half a block, processed foods, meat at every meal, you get the picture.
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#25 of 170 Old 08-11-2003, 09:09 PM
 
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Hey, I think I've been slagging you guys off too much; that's actually 24 ACRES in the US, which is a big difference to 24 HECTARES- There are about 2.5 acres to each hectare. (But I could make a cheeky comment about the Americans refusing to get with the metric program )

And I re-did the quiz as I would have lived in my uni days in Washington state- still needed 2.5 planets to sustain everybody at that lifestyle, which is astonishing considering my consumption patterns were so much more environmentally friendly back then.

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#26 of 170 Old 08-12-2003, 02:18 AM
 
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Ok, I just redid the test using data from my living-high-of-the-hog days. When it was just me and my dh, two incomes, two commutes, big house, a lot of waste. I got only a 15.9. I can't imagine how much someone would have to consume to get a 24.

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#27 of 170 Old 08-12-2003, 10:09 AM
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Hmmm, I got a 12 which sounds good until I noticed it would take 2.5 planets for everyone else to live by my high standard!!

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#28 of 170 Old 08-12-2003, 02:33 PM
 
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Quote:
The housing issue wouldn't be such a factor if everybody didn't insist on having their own house with garage, white picket fence, and ten acres of land around them.
A good point. I really don't understand why nearly no one questions the "need" for this kind of lifestyle! We live with family right now, trying to save money, etc., so that we can buy land and hopefully homestead so that we will be living off of the land we own (a small number of acres) as opposed to how we live now, and the choices we have for living. I don't feel bad about wanting a large family, especially if we can completely live off of our own land.
This is an interesting dissucion, it's given me lots of things to think about.
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#29 of 170 Old 08-12-2003, 08:18 PM
 
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I realize reading that quote from me that my "10 acres of land" was an exaggeration that led to a good point (made by lunar forest), but I didn't want to come across as criticizing anyone who prefers the "country life". I can definitely see the appeal in that, and if you use your 10 acres to sustain yourself, then that's way cool too.

I guess it's more of a suburb thing that I was trying to refer to. With everybody having their own oversized house with an oversized lawn that requires fertilizers, mowers, and lots of water to maintain, etc. Those type of develpments are really a big drain on resources, IMO.

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#30 of 170 Old 08-13-2003, 04:10 AM
 
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I completely agree that, especially in America, our lifestyle does use and misuse too many resources. However, there are a few key issues brought up here that I take particular unction with...

First and foremost - except those who desire to live in New York City no one aspires to live and raise their children in apartments surrounded by cement. Apartments are a stepping stone to a suburb life. And what is wrong with that?

Right now I live in a detached condo. 1511 sq. ft. My backyard is 600 sq ft. My front yard 2 ft X 20 ft. It fronts the street. In my backyard I have a patio and dirt. In the dirt I have 3 zucchini plants, 3 tomato plants, a tangerine tree, and a nectarine tree. Unfortunately, I can not take my baby out into the yard with me while I garden. He will never be able to be let loose to play in the back or front yard without my constant supervision until he is almost 10. I will have to walk him and his siblings to the park for them to be able to play outside. What is wrong with me wanting a house and yard that enables my children to play outside as preschoolers and elementary schoolers without me having to stand over them. To have grass, a swing, and maybe a mini pool?

The idea seems to be that it is okay to have a ton of children but not okay to want them to have certain lifestyles. If everyone on this planet limited themselves to only 2 children everyone could have a suburb lifestyle without running out of resources. On the other hand if everyone had 10 kids on a self sufficent 10 acre farm we would run out of resources only a few generations.

I also feel very strongly that if you want to raise ecologically responsible children you should try adoption for anything more than 2. Because regardless of how much you recycle, etc. you and your children will still be using non-replenishable resources, including and especially fresh water supplies. What better way to teach your children about respecting the earth than to love someone else and not add to already over-populated planet. There are millions of children out there who need homes and would love to help "save the environment."

Sorry if I offended anyone but I feel very strongly, especially about the second issue. My dream would be to adopt 8 children from China, Russia, Africa, and South America (plus my 2 bio boys) and we would all live in a 4000 sq.ft. house with a yard big enough to grow enough food to help feed us all year.
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