A Few of My Least Favorite Things

So, I have spent the summer concentrating on actually living a MOGO life rather than spending so much time reading and writing about it, which is why I haven’t been posting much.

Over the last few weeks, though, a few things have been knocking around in my head of things to write about – things that bother me.  Here are a few:

1.  Corn fields with Genuity signs posted next to them ~ what is that?

2.  Hotels that say that if you hang up your towel they won’t take it and wash it after just one use to conserve water and energy, but take them and wash them anyway

3.  Teacher appreciation events at our new school that are sponsored by Nestle

4.  Hotel glasses that are individually wrapped in plastic.  Really?

5.  The fact that everyone at our new school is addressed as “Mr.” or “Mrs.” or “Ms.” or “Dr.” ~ except the custodian.  He’s “Jose”.

So many problems, so little time!

Don’t Read Twitter at Bedtime

courtesy of flickr user velvetart

Much better to cross-stitch or maybe play some Scrabble, methinks.

I was checking TweetDeck the other night, and here is the exchange to which I was treated:

@thegoodhuman BINGO! RT@DMansini: @thegoodhuman @Matt_SF @EverydayFinance i advocate a tax credit for the CHILDLESS – we use far less resources

@thegoodhuman Absolutely. Should not be reward for having kids RT @Matt_SF @EverydayFinance what if we remove child/dependent tax credit? $3650/kid adds up

@Matt_SF @pcdunham: @Matt_SF @EddieBraverman there should be competency & income requirements to have kids, not fucking incentives

So.

Where to even start?  Maybe that there should also be competency requirements to Tweet?

Too snarky?

Maybe I’ll start here:  Basic math dictates that two people use more resources than one, and fewer resources that three.  However, the world does not work on the principles of arithmetic.  Certainly, some childless people use fewer resources than families with children.  However, I know quite a few families with children who have made huge efforts to decrease their consumption of goods and services, and some even came to the path of simplicity because of their children.  Sometimes this is a choice made to leave a more sustainable and healthy world to our children or perhaps to allow parents to work less, earn less, and spend more time with their children.  Sometimes consumption is reduced out of necessity because children are expensive – and by the by, anyone who thinks $3,650 per child is a REWARD or INCENTIVE is out of touch with the cost of raising a child, to put it mildly.  Either way, parenthood dictates to many families that we use up, make do, or do without.

On the other hand, I know plenty of single people or couples without children who use well more than their fair share, jet-setting around the globe on lavish vacations, driving multiple gas-guzzling luxury cars, rushing out to purchase the latest gadget, standing in front of a closet full of brand new and barely worn clothes, shoes and accessories each day, and basically using their disposable income to ensure that they have everything they could possibly want at their fingertips.  To generalize that childless people use fewer resources than families with children….that may be true on the whole, I don’t know, but it certainly doesn’t jive with my personal experience.

And in the end, the whole conversation just baffles me.  Even though I have two biological children, I am sympathetic to the idea of limiting population size as a huge component of environmental stewardship.  But that’s ultimately not what we’re talking about here.  We are simply talking about the cost, in dollars and cents, of giving tax rebates to parents, and the effect that removing that rebate would have on our current budget crisis.  Whatever your political/environmental/human rights position on procreation, to suggest that the way to cut costs is to take money out of the pockets of lower- and middle-class parents while refusing to ask the wealthy to bear more responsibility…..seriously?  And what should the income requirement for parents be, anyway?  And how would that guarantee good parenting?  Or are we just interested in low-cost parenting?

Baffled.  Just.  Baffled.

Environmentalist. (Biological) Parent. Mutually Exclusive?

Harry's first day home, May 2008 - kids may use a lot of resources, but man are they cute!

I’m catching up on my blog reading, and I came across this post from Beth Terry at My Plastic Free Life, which asks the question:

[W]hat do you think? About population, procreation, adoption, and women’s reproductive decisions? Is adoption a more eco-friendly alternative to procreation? Or does it just create a whole new set of problems?

As I approach the anniversary of my entree into parenthood (a.k.a. my daughter’s birthday), these questions really strike a chord with me.  This is an issue to which I devoted a lot of thought before becoming pregnant, during my pregnancy, and since my children’s births.  I have vivid memories of reading World War III as part of my Humane Education program while 23 weeks pregnant and feeling panic and failure as an activist.

I am aware that no matter how lightly I try to live,my family uses exponentially more resources than, say, a family in sub-Saharan Africa or Southeast Asia simply by virtue of where we are.  I considered the drain on resources my children would represent, and gave serious thought to building our family through adoption.  It is difficult to make a sound argument that adding humans to the planet, especially North American middle class humans, will not have a somewhat negative impact on the planet, though I have seen people try to make just that argument.

However, I also believe that humans (like all animals) possess a fundamental, hard-wired drive to pass on our genetic material and it is hubris to claim otherwise.  I believe that having children should be a woman’s choice on every level, but I also believe that the desire to have biological children is something that does not bend easily under the forces of logic.

(From this point forward, for the sake of brevity, I will stop saying “biological parents” and “biological children” and say “parents” and “children” instead, though I honor the fact that people become parents and build families in all sorts of ways that do not necessarily involve personal procreation.)

I agree with Beth, and with other bloggers she quotes, that it is important to explore the angles and to have awareness around the choices we make.  I am humbled by people who place their commitment to sustainability above their desire to have children.  That was a choice I was, ultimately, unwilling to make.

However, I worry about going to the extreme and saying that an individual with children is fundamentally unfit to be an environmentalist.  I know that there are a number of people who feel this way, and I know that other activist communities (animal rights activists come to mind) look down upon “breeders”.  However, I think that to exclude or discount the contributions of people who choose to procreate is to do a grave disservice to any social justice cause.

First off, many (most?) adults choose to become parents, and this is not likely to change.  If people who are parents are made to feel that they are third-string environmentalists, they may not be as motivated to make positive lifestyle choices.

But more importantly, I believe that for many people, new parenthood is a Come to Jesus moment (or Buddha, or Brahman, or The Great Spirit – insert the deity of your choice if you wish).  While they may have been indulgent and excessive in their younger days, people often become motivated to contribute to planetary peace, justice, and sustainability once they have children.  To make them feel unwelcome, that they are already disqualified just as they are coming to the environmental movement full of motivation and commitment, would be a sad thing.

So yes, having fewer people on Earth would help to stem the tide of resource depletion, and yes, this is a valid, even admirable, reason to refrain from having children.  But some people are simply not willing to make that choice, and that does not in and of itself make them a less important member of the environmental movement.