Fewer Babies for a Better Planet?

We knew this kind of thinking was out there, but now it’s in our own NWA backyard.  You may not be able to read the entire article by Art Hobson in the Times (have to be a registered user), but here is a LINK.  I’m posting it below until I can get clarity on copyright issues:


FAYETTEVILLE — The planet is getting into serious trouble. Evidence of this is all around.
For example, the Sept. 24 issue of the leading scientific journal “Nature” featured an article titled “A safe operating space for humanity,” by 29 internationally known authors. The article identifies 10 planetary boundaries that, if transgressed, could cause unacceptable environmental change. The boundaries include three that humans have already transgressed: greenhouse gas limits, species extinctions, and interference with the nitrogen cycle. The others, where current trends are pushing us toward dangerous conditions, are interference with the phosphorus cycle, stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, freshwater consumption, excessive land cover converted to cropland, atmospheric aerosols, and pollution by long-lived chemicals.

It’s remarkable that human population growth drives every one of these trends. For the past two centuries, that growth has proceeded catastrophically. Although it took 7 million years for human numbers to reach 1 billion in 1825, we reached 2 billion just one century later, 6 billion in 1999, and are headed toward 9 billion by 2050. Although this is far beyond the planet’s estimated 2 to 4 billion carrying capacity, we continue to reproduce like rabbits.
As concrete examples, groundwater in northern India, northern China, and the American high plains is seriously and unsustainably declining due to overuse, with ominous implications for food supplies.

A recent paper titled “Reproduction and the carbon legacies of individuals,” published in the peer-reviewed journal “Global Environmental Change,” provides a unique perspective on human reproductive choices. It estimates the extra emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2, the main cause of global warming) that an average individual indirectly causes by choosing to have children. In the United States, an average individual, during his or her lifetime, causes the emission of about 1,600 tons of CO2. But reproductive decisions result in added indirect emissions of over 9,000 tons of CO2 per child. The reason for this large number, nearly six times larger than one individual’s lifetime emissions, is that each child will, on average, have children, and their children will have children, and so forth. “Weighting” each future generation appropriately to take into account that each first generation child came from two parents, each second generation child came from four grandparents, and so forth, we get the long-term multiplier effect of nearly six.

Because different nations have different per-capita lifetime CO2 emissions and different per-capita numbers of children, each nation has a different per-child carbon legacy. For example, one Chinese individual’s lifetime emissions are 300 tons of CO2, while indirect emissions due to reproductive decisions are 1,400 tons per child.

So decisions about how many children to have are surprisingly important for the environment. For example, whereas each American can reduce his or her lifetime CO2 emissions by 150 tons by deciding to drive a car getting 30 miles per gallon instead of one getting20 mpg, he or she can reduce indirect emissions by 9,000 tons by deciding to have two children instead of three. Your biggest environmental decision is the number of children you will have.
In this day and age, the moral decision is surely to stop at two. This guideline wasn’t as clear in the past so we shouldn’t be critical of past generations, but today it’s unmistakable.

Still thinking about CO2 emissions, each American-born child represents eventual emissions of 9,000 tons, whereas each Chinese child represents only 1,400 tons. Each American child is a kind of environmental disaster for the world, because Americans consume so much. In this sense, the United States is the world’s most overpopulated nation.

This argues strongly against continued high levels of immigration into the United States. The U.S. population growth rate is nearly 1 percent per year, an outlandish rate more akin to developing nations than to other rich nations. But two-thirds of the U.S. growth is due to immigrants and their first-generation children. This addition to the U.S. population is a disaster for the world because of each American’s heavy environmental impact. It’s also a disaster for America, where rampant population growth drives a host of social problems. And it’s a disaster for other nations such as Mexico, because most immigrants are good working people looking for a better life – just the people that developing nations need. Finally, the present massive illegal immigration harms the immigrants themselves, who are often cut off from family members, discriminated against and exploited by employers.

The fair and humane way to stop most illegal immigration is workplace enforcement. There’s surely some system of worker identification that preserves civil liberties while stopping the employment of illegal immigrants. Yet the Arkansas Legislature recently defeated a bill to penalize building contractors who knowingly hire illegal immigrants. It’s instructive to note that employers opposed the bill, while labor supported it. Illegal immigrants mean bigger profits for employers but fewer jobs and lower pay for working people.

It’s encouraging that total legal and illegal immigration dropped from 1.8 million in 2006 to 1.5 million in 2007. This is still far too many immigrants, but it’s an improvement that’s been brought about by stepped up enforcement of immigration laws.

The world, and especially the United States, needs to follow their brains instead of their feelings in matters regarding human population. The world is bursting at the seams, and the United States is the worst offender. A good place for the world to begin is by adopting “stop at two” as a moral code for the modern age. A good place for the United States to begin is by reducing legal and illegal immigration. Immigrants are wonderful people, but their numbers are too large.

Art Hobson is a local resident and retired physics professor who is the author of “Physics: Concepts and Connections,” a college-level textbook for nonscientists. His column appears every other Saturday.
Opinion, Pages 4 on 10/24/2009


Jan, my blessed bride, would not let me submit my first written response.  She is a wonderful help-mate in my life and ministry!!!  Here is my initial response that is to be published sometime later this week (limit is 500 words for the paper):

In response to Art Hobson’s “A good place to start” article, I’d like to suggest a better place to start for Hobson in saving the planet – stop wasting dead-tree paper with such foolish things.  By his logic, we should just go ahead and turn the planet over to Muslims because they have a birthrate of 6 whereas our Western birthrate is already around 2 (as Hobson proposes as our goal).  Nothing against Muslims here, they just have an apparent stronger love for family and, consequently, an apparent hate for this planet.

It doesn’t surprise me that someone who shows such disdain for God would hate the things He loves.  Hobson loves the planet more than family, right?  Is it much more complex than that?  The equation is simple: Love kids = hate the environment.  Oh, wait… I can love a certain number of kids.  So, I’ll just ask Willow Creek to keep the child we’re going to have in 2 weeks (Lord willing).  As well, I need to “place” our 2 year old, because we will soon have 4 kids (though I’m certain her “emissions” are still much more than the older kids combined!!!) – all for the sake of the planet!?

Psalm 127:3-5 (ESV), “3 Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, 
the fruit of the womb a reward. 4 Like arrows in the hand of a warrior 
are the children of one’s youth. 5 Blessed is the man 
who fills his quiver with them!
 He shall not be put to shame
 when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.”

Psalm 14:1 (ESV), “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, 
there is none who does good.”

Does this article by Hobson not strike you as vile, corrupt, abominable?  When will he propose that we just go ahead and abort children to meet his magic environmental number?  Is this language not the natural next step (or at least a few steps away)?  Could Hobson even speak like he does if abortion were not so widely accepted?  We live in a culture that sees kids as something (much) less than a blessing from God Himself.

While I find this offensive and ridiculous, I do believe that this kind of thinking is more prevalent in our society and government than ever before.  We have never spent more money protecting planet while simultaneously protecting a woman’s right to kill an unborn child.  Guarding the future of the planet while destroying its future inhabitants?  Does that seem lucid?  My solution is an earth-hating one:  Have as many kids as you can and want to, and train them in the ways of the Lord.

Luke 9:25 (ESV), “For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”

Even if it’s the whole world itself, if a man loses his soul (apart from Christ), what indeed has he gained?



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