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I asked chatgpt why i shouldn’t have kids if i care about the environment

Apr 26, 2023

Soon, I’ll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold?
Or will I have a lot of children who can warm me?
Soon, I’ll be sixty years old
Soon, I’ll be sixty years old, will I think the world is cold?
Or will I have a lot of children who can hold me?
Soon, I’ll be sixty years old

You may or may not know this popular song by Lukas Graham. While I have no insight into what Lukas meant with his lyrics, they make me think of how engrained pro-natalism is in our society. How engrained pro-natalism is in music, pop culture, public policies, and religion. 

Is the only way to experience warmth when I am 60 years old to be surrounded by children who can hold me? I disagree. The warmth I experience will be based on the impact my life had, the people I showed compassion to, the work I did to create a better world, the relationships I forged, the way I lived my life in concert with every living thing we share our home with.  

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It is an issue I wrestle with, on a personal, professional, and institutional level. I, like many people across the world, am asking whether I should have children. I know about the impact it will have on the environment, the impact it will have on overconsumption, and the health of our planet in general. I also know I am privileged and fortunate enough to even be asking that question. I know many others do not get to ask and answer that question for themselves. I want to change that. We are changing that.  

People from all walks of life, across the world, are saying their life is valuable, successful, and filled with love and happiness without children. Others say their life is many of those things because of children. There is no right or wrong answer, so long as that person gets to make an informed decision for themselves.  

In a reader submitted question to Insider, a reader asked:

My partner and I are thinking about starting a family. It’s something we’ve both always imagined for ourselves, and we’re lucky to be at financially stable place in our lives with family nearby.

But. I have a little pit in my stomach thinking about the impact of children on the environment. Is it hypocritical to care deeply about climate change and yet contribute to it in perhaps the biggest way possible? I also worry about raising a child or several amidst an impending climate disaster. 

In a recent survey conducted by NBC News, 23% of young people said climate change is influencing their decision as to whether or not they will have children. These are questions people across the world are asking.  

At Population Media Center, we believe in choice. We do not believe you should or should not have kids. We believe every person should do what is best for them and their families. PMC understands that the population issue is nested within a much larger, much more profound problem: the overexploitation of the Earth by humanity, also known as ecological overshoot. We can see the symptoms of overshoot everywhere we look, from climate change, to species extinctions, to ocean acidification, to any number of poorly performing environmental health indicators. It all relates back to collective overexploitation of Earth by humans. 

The truth is that if humans were ethereal beings, who had no impact on the natural systems they are a part of, then there would be no problem with any number of people on the planet. Our concerns about population size and growth are rooted in our commitment to the long-term wellbeing of humanity, the health and integrity of Earth’s ecosystems, and the rights of other species to live freely and prosperously. We love people and the planet and want the best possible life for everyone. 

You may not consider this next choice I made a well-informed one – but living dangerously, I asked ChatGPT (AI), the following “Why shouldn’t I have kids if I care about the environment?” This is the response I got:

There are several reasons why someone might decide not to have kids if they care about the environment. Here are a few considerations to keep in mind:

  1. Overpopulation: The world’s population is growing at an unprecedented rate, and the strain on resources is increasing. Having fewer children can help reduce the demand for resources and mitigate some of the negative impacts of overpopulation.
  2. Carbon footprint: Every person on the planet has a carbon footprint, and having children can significantly increase that footprint. Raising a child requires resources like food, shelter, and transportation, all of which contribute to greenhouse gas emissions.
  3. Consumption: Children grow up to be consumers, and the more people there are in the world, the more resources we use. By choosing not to have children, you can reduce the overall demand for resources and help preserve the planet for future generations.
  4. Adoption: If you still want to experience parenthood, adoption is a great option. There are millions of children around the world who need loving homes, and adoption is a way to provide a child with a stable and supportive environment without contributing to overpopulation or resource depletion.

Ultimately, the decision to have children is a deeply personal one, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. However, if you care about the environment, it’s worth considering the impact that having children could have and exploring alternative ways to experience parenthood.

Maybe when I am 60 years old, I will be comforted by the warmth of a child. But I don’t wonder if I will be cold because I won’t have a child. If I’m cold, my body temperature, and that of the planet, is likely suffering from the effects of climate change, overpopulation, and overshoot. The truth is, having a child sounds lovely, and perhaps something I will one day pursue, with many discussions with my partner. Or maybe not. I love quokkas, koalas, sea turtles, sea horses, puffer fish, wild horses, wild foxes, and wild boars just as much as I love children, and I want a world where we can all thrive.  

Let us work together, across the world, in every community, to give every person the choice about if or when they have children. Let us tell transformative stories to show people they do have choice; they get to have dialogue and be heard and that there are options for them no matter what decision they chose. When people have the right to choose, the planet is healthier. Sustainability depends on choice. Mother nature loves parents just as much as she loves people who are child free. The feeling is mutual.