For many women, having children is the ultimate goal — the last hurrah, the one step we’ve been leading up to for our whole lives. The idea of having kids has been ingrained in us since childhood, with our parents dropping not-so-subtle comments like, “You’ll know how it feels when you have kids of your own” or “I’ll spoil my grandchildren.”
The importance of reproduction also has roots in religion. In Christian faiths, Adam and Eve were put on earth to reproduce and start the human race. Big families, which are sometimes the result of refusing contraception, are especially common in Christian households.
Then, of course, there is the influence of pop culture on reproducing. Movies like “Baby Mama” and “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” perpetuate the idea that having kids of your own will somehow fulfill your entire life.
Maybe having your own children will make your life worthwhile. It could also make your life much more stressful for social or financial reasons. According to a US Department of Agriculture report in August, the average cost of raising a child for 18 years is estimated at $241,080, and that figure does not include the cost of a college education. However, there is an even greater, more damaging reason we should not continue having kids: We are destroying the environment.
Currently, there are 317,493,011 people in the United States and 7,145,565,733 in the world, according to the United States Census Bureau. The rate at which we reproduce is astounding, and the harmful effects it has on the limited environmental resources on earth are even more startling. Overpopulation will continue to plague our world, and we have a moral responsibility to stop acting as contributors to the problem’s source.
Here are the top reasons science says you should not have kids.
Within the past two years, around one in every eight people in the world were estimated to be victims of chronic hunger. That’s 842 million people who go hungry around the world. Most parts of the planet are not suitable for growing crops or producing food and available arable soil is becoming increasingly difficult to find.
Although the number of those suffering from hunger has decreased in the past two decades, we are still reproducing too quickly to satisfy the world’s growing population, which is now marked at 7,145,567,123.
2. Lack of water
Perhaps an issue more troublesome than hunger is the lack of water resources available on earth. About 2.5 percent of all the planet’s water is freshwater, with less than one percent (~0.007 percent) accessible for immediate human use. Living in the United States, specifically in New York City, I’m spoiled by how easy it is to obtain clean, drinkable water.
Unfortunately, the rest of the world, especially developing countries, is not as lucky. There are desalination processes to make saltwater drinkable, but they are neither refined, nor quick enough to supply the entire population, which is now 7,145,569,557.
3. Global warming
Unless you are part of the surprisingly large group of people who think global warming is a myth (it’s not), you know how dangerous this is. Temperatures are rising as more people release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere from burning fossil fuels. Simple and seemingly harmless actions like driving a car, operating a gas stove or turning on an oil lamp burn fossil fuels and further threaten the environment.
These actions are destructive on an individual level, but imagine everyone performing them at once. The result is terrifying. Climate change is a very real thing we have to deal with, and one way to start is by limiting the number of people in the world, now 7,145,575,789.
This one is pretty self-explanatory. More people, more pollution. From tossing cigarette butts on the street, to throwing out (non-recyclable) plastics, to dumping garbage in the ocean, pollution will always be more intense the more people there are contributing to it.
The population is now 7,145,577,076.
Space is also a concern. Take New York City, for example. More than 8.3 million people are crowded into a place that only covers a little over 300 square miles. By ignoring the damage caused by urban sprawl — when an overpopulated urban area seeps into surrounding neighborhoods (e.g. New Jersey, Westchester, Long Island and other suburbs) — the city’s environment takes a beating from the enormous amount of people squeezed into the space.
Heat levels are higher in crowded areas, the amount of pollution is greater, the green spaces are decreasing at a faster rate and more electricity is being consumed. Even if we continue to spread out of urban areas, a time will soon come when there is nowhere left to go.
The population is now 7,145,578,684.
People can be selfish and knowingly act without regard for others. But solving the resource depletion would be impossible, even if people tapped into resources with the rest of the world’s needs in mind, unless we attempt to ameliorate the overpopulation problem as soon as possible. In a very famous and influential piece of writing first published in the journal Science in 1968, Garrett Hardin depicted the dilemma known as the “tragedy of the commons.”
Hardin described the tragedy as the problem that arises from a situation in which humans, acting rationally but in their own self-interest, ultimately deplete shared, limited resources, although the loss would hurt everyone in the long term. The tragedy of the commons is not just a horror story meant to scare us into caution, but a real problem we currently face.
As I near the end of my post, the population has reached 7,145,579,198. It is too late to reset that number, but we can still stop it from climbing even higher. Although China’s one-child policy is a forceful way to combat overpopulation, the country is on the right track, and we should follow its example. Better yet, we should stop having children entirely if we want to keep the planet alive and well.
If this post bummed you out, don’t worry — there is always adoption.
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