With over seven billion people crowded onto the planet and increasing numbers of them hungry, what can compassionate people do to help? The most important action we can take, beyond being careful not to waste food, is to go vegan, because growing plant foods for direct human consumption is the most efficient use of farmland, water, fuel and other resources. But what if we could make even more food available? Beyond even the efficiency that veganism provides, what if we could make 100% of our food available to the hungry? That is, be able to offer the same amount of food we eat every day to the starving? (In some cases, this might not mean that food would get sent anywhere, but it would free up the resource potential to grow and ship an equal amount of food.) And what if we could compound the additional food with 100% of our water consumption, 100% of the fuel we use for cooking, heating and transportation, 100% of our cars, household appliances, clothing, and everything we use as an average American? Did you ever stop to think that remaining childless does exactly that? Let me explain.
If a typical American couple has two children, each parent has effectively added one more person to the planet. That child, later adult, grows to consume about the same as the parent would, which in the U.S. is much more than most of the world’s people can ever hope to enjoy. Although the child eventually replaces the parent, there are an average of 50 years during which both are alive and consuming double what just one of them would. Grandchildren of course add even more. Now let’s go back and assume that this couple did not have children. 100% of the resources necessary for two offspring are now not being used, and can ease the stress on the planet and make a better life for people already here.
As practical peacemakers we can, in everyday conversations and blog posts, encourage more people to remain childless, or at least to limit family size. We can strengthen societal approval of the childless and point out the many benefits. We can help deconstruct the belief that childless adults are either deprived or selfish. (For more on this, including research showing that childless marriages are happier, see the chapter on overpopulation in my book The Practical Peacemaker.) In this time of unprecedented droughts and floods that reduce harvests, of food riots, precarious economies leading to increased unemployment, and water scarcity affecting 1.2 billion people (according to the UN), what we do NOT need is unquestioned encouragement of childbearing, especially in the affluent West where each person consumes so much.
I am grateful that by not having any children or grandchildren I continue, every day for decades, to make a profound contribution to the well-being of the planet and our worldwide human family. I invite others to do likewise.