Population Matters

Smaller families

Smaller families

Many people today seek to live in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way. Yet consumption choices only reduce a person’s impact to a limited extent and only for their lifetime. Your choice about how many children you have is much more important. The environmental impact of that choice will continue for that child’s life and the lives of his/her descendants.

The role of family size

Many people today are making a laudable effort to live more sustainably. They travel less, or in ways that cause lower emissions. They use energy efficient methods to heat and power their homes. They recycle what they can and seek to minimise their food miles and food waste.

Family

These positive steps are all to be welcomed. But they can only reduce a person’s environmental impact to a limited extent, and only for their own lifetime. Your choice about how many children you have is much more important. Each additional child will have more impact on the environment and consume more resources than anything else you do over your whole lifetime. And the impact will continue for that child’s life and the lives of his/her descendants.

So, please consider how many children you have when you think about the sort of world you want them to live in. It is the biggest environmental decision you will ever make.

Rights and responsibilities

What are our rights and responsibilities?

We strongly support human rights in general, and sexual and reproductive rights in particular. Women all over the world should be educated and empowered to take control of their own fertility as a basic human right.

The cost of a child in 2014 was £150,000
The cost of a child in 2014 was £150,000

At the same time there is a moral duty, for those able to choose, to balance the exercise of their individual rights with their social and environmental responsibilities as citizens.

In developing countries the first priority is to provide universal access to family planning, as set out in Millennium Development Goal 5b. Without this, both men and women lack the autonomy to decide when or whether they will have children, and women are unable to exercise their other reproductive rights. More than 200 million women have an unmet need for family planning, and that figure is increasing. Meanwhile, the gap between contraceptive requirements and donor support has not yet been closed. We believe there is a moral duty on donor organizations to meet that need and close that gap.

In developed countries, contraception is readily available and people have the power to choose. Here the priority is to choose responsibly. People who have two children and have a third will increase the global population and its impact on the planet. This decreases everyone else’s share of finite and dwindling resources to survive on. We ask everyone to consider the moral implications of the number of children they have.

Next: Women’s rights and health