The New York Times eco-blog headline “Having Children Brings High Carbon Impact” seems almost tailor made to create a flame out between those who believe reproduction is divinely mandated and those advocating radical population control. As the study notes in language that might be judged less scientific than sermonizing,
“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. A person’s reproductive choices must be considered along with his day-to-day activities when assessing his ultimate impact on the global environment.”
Literary theorists will surely marvel at the switch from gendered language to gender “neutral” language, and the attendant ambiguity: is it the man’s job to refrain from increasing his carbon legacy or the woman’s? Either way, the press release from Oregon State University tried to play down the sense of moral reproach to those who who fail to count their children in terms of carbon emissions.
“The researchers make it clear they are not advocating government controls or intervention on population issues, but say they simply want to make people aware of the environmental consequences of their reproductive choices.”
But turning to the comments section under the Times blog, one finds the logic of balancing reproductive choices against the environment pushed to its grisliest conclusion. As the poster A3k noted an hour after the article went up:
“Of the serial killers I’m aware, John Wayne Gacy was the greenest. His victims were young, so he snuffed out many years of carbon consumption. He could have only been greener by targeting females.”
Let’s hope that thinking about the carbon cost of children stops with virtual craziness.