Monday, August 31, 2009

The Environmental Impact of One American Child

A new study out of Oregon State University suggests that limiting the number of children you have is a way more effective action you can take to reduce carbon emmissions than other more conventional actions such as recycling and cutting energy consumption.

In the article, published in Global Environmental Change 19 (2009) researchers Paul A. Murtaugh and Michael G. Schlax had this to say, in summary:

Under current conditions in the United States, for example, each child adds about 9441 metric tons of carbon dioxide to the carbon legacy of an average female, which is 5.7 times her lifetime emissions.

Clearly, an individual’s reproductive choices can have a dramatic effect on the total carbon emissions ultimately attributable to his or her genetic lineage.
Murtaugh and Schlax make a strong case for smaller families, particularly in countries like the United States where one American child born in 2005 will likely produce close to 20 times more carbon emissions per capita than a child born in India.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Appeal to Tone Down the Rhetoric

In a recent post on titled Assholes Without Kids Challenge Assholes With Kids, Sadie remarked on the vitriolic language used by some writers engaged in the Kids or No Kids discourse and urged some measure of restraint. She writes:
Yes, the cult of motherhood is annoying, and no one should, in this day and age, be considered less of a woman for (sic—not?) having children. But biting back in the same key is hardly the way to exact revenge or encourage respect for different choices. Are people going to be defensive when you call pregnancy and childbirth parasitic, disgusting, germ-ridden? Um, yes. I don't have children, but I can see how goes beyond irreverence into insulting something fundamental. I can't comprehend the bond, physical and emotional, that a mother feels for her children - which is why I wouldn't presume to demean it, any more than I'd insult someone who'd chosen not to have children for any reason.
Though I might quibble about her use of “fundamental” in reference to parenthood, I understand Sadie’s concern. I’ve noticed how quickly discourse on the issues faced by stay-at-home moms and working moms degenerated into the Mommy Wars and I wonder if the same thing is happening with parents and non parents.

Do I care how many kids the Duggars have? Not really. I’m hoping the growing number of childless people will balance them out. I would be upset if the children were being neglected or abused in some way. They don’t appear to be—exploited perhaps but not harmed. I’m still trying to figure out how I feel about the Jon and Kate debacle. However I was pleased to learn Nadya Suleman’s recent reality TV deal stipulated fair payment and a trust fund for the kids. I suspect the previous exploitation of Nadya’s infants, and the subsequent outrage from both parents and non parents and California child labor law enforcers, ensured that this TV deal was fairer to the children.

I believe we all have a right to express outrage when we see unfairness, abuse, or exploitation but we can do so by pointing to specific cases and not by disparaging or belittling parents, or nonparents, in general. As the Mommy Wars have shown, not much productive comes out of the vitriolic lobbying back and forth, which is why I question the use of “Assholes” in the title of Sadie’s post.

Flickr photo by BrittneyBush (cc)

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Working Wives, Unemployed Husbands

In the current recession, two things are happening which we need to address politically and individually. One, women are increasingly becoming the breadwinners in their families and two, when the breadwinner loses their job the whole family is at risk of losing their health insurance.

A fascinating and timely article titled Women Breadwinners, Men Unemployed written by Heather Boushey, the Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress examines these current realities and their impact on our lives. Boushey notes:

The reason that more married couples now boast women as the primary breadwinners is because men have experienced greater job losses than women over the course of this recession, losing three-out-of-every-four jobs lost. This puts a real strain on family budgets since women typically earn only 78 cents for every dollar men earn.

What’s equally worrisome is that most families receive health insurance through the employers of their husbands. So when husbands lose their jobs, families are left struggling to find ways to pay for health insurance at the same time they are living on just a third of their prior income.
Worrisome, indeed. Even though my husband and I are married and have been for over twenty years we have a “single + one” health insurance plan through his work that, if he were to lose his job, would be very expensive to replace, even though we are only insuring two relatively healthy people with no life threatening pre-existing conditions.

My income as a writer would not come close to covering this cost. Which is why I’m tempted to contact my representatives in government during their summer break and encourage them to move fast to make sure we pass some kind of health care reform bill.

Families of all incomes and sizes need to be protected, recession-proofed, so that even more people do not become uninsured.

Flickr Photo by keltickelton (cc)