The Problem

Urban Sprawl

We can’t have freedom and democracy without a Responsible Parenting model.

Democracy means that people have the final say over the rules they will have to live by, not government. That means that if we care about who has power over us we have to care about the other people in our democracies, especially as they come into the world and develop, and maybe even more than we care about the leaders we elect to office. Democracies start with and depend primarily on the people in them, and people start becoming who they are the day they are born. Parenting models, like Responsible Parenting, are one way to get involved in that process, show that we care, and start to make freedom and democracy work.

Responsible Parenting frees children by giving them more opportunities in life, frees parents by getting them help in planning for and investing in their children, and frees everyone by creating  smaller and more connected communities where each person has a greater voice in their governments, cultures and lives.

What is the Responsible Parenting model?

It’s simple. Parents take the resources they would have invested in having a third or fourth child and instead use part of those resources to help other families plan for and invest in their first or second child, and in ways that give all of the children things in common.

What does the Responsible Parenting model do?

The Responsible Parenting model is designed to begin the process of changing the way we think about having and raising children, from seeing it as something we do apart or isolated from the community around us to instead something that collectively and over time creates the community around us. Truly responsible parenting, in a democracy, means thinking of every child who will be born as someone with whom you will one day have to agree on a best set of rules to live by, and then helping to bring that child into the world with what he or she needs to do that.

Many of the problems caused by irresponsible parenting are obvious.

Parents that have children before they are ready, or have more children than they can adequately care for, leave the children born without the resources those children need and deserve. Others may step in to try to fill the gap, but once children are born it’s usually too late.

Some of the other problems are less obvious. As our numbers explode we are spreading across and destroying the natural world. A quarter of known mammal species, 43 percent of amphibians, 29 percent of reptiles and 14 percent of birds are threatened. We are at a crossroads. Which road will we take?Whole species are disappearing at well over a thousand times the natural rate. A third of the world’s fisheries are exhausted or degraded and forty percent of coral reefs and a third of mangroves have been destroyed or degraded. A mass of garbage at least twice the size of Texas swirls in the Pacific Ocean. Residues from 100 million tons of synthetic chemical compounds produced each year commonly appear in polar bear tissues, whale blubber and the umbilical cords of babies.

file0001311532080Growth rates are much higher in the developing world but each child born there currently consumes, pollutes and harms the environment far less, up to ten times less, than each child born in the developed world. World average family size, and not just the fertility rate in each country, is what matters.

The disconnect

Between 2008 and 2011 studies showed that a substantial number of young people did not understand how having fewer children related to population growth, and did not feel that their having fewer children actually affected the environment.

Moreover, population growth is a collective action problem, and self-exacerbating. This means that people have little incentive to reduce their family size for the public good if others will not do the same, and it gets harder for people to cooperate and coordinate regarding family size the more people there are.

file0002029315062And while most Americans preferred having two or fewer children, the “ideal” number was 2.5, mostly because one third preferred having three or more. That preference for larger families was shared primarily by persons earning less money and under 35 years of age.

The Math

Overall people have reacted to the threat of overpopulation and are having fewer children.

The average number of children born has dropped from 4.9 births per woman in the 1960s to 2.6 births per woman today. But because our population is so large, small changes in the number of children we have make huge differences. If the global fertility rate had remained at its 1995 level of 3.04 children per woman the world population might have reached 256 billion by 2150; however, by 2010 the global fertility rate had declined to 2.52 children per woman.

Real democratic revolutions are intergenerational – they start with every child born, and they take making the next generation a truly democratic people.If the average person alive today has between 1 and 2 children world population should stabilize and fall to a more sustainable 6 billion people, or even fewer, within the life of a child born today, or roughly 2100. If the average person alive today has between 2 and 3 children world population will continue to skyrocket to 11 or even16 billion people, or more, by 2100, or twice our current size. What is left of the natural world will largely be destroyed.

ElephantsSome people value the freedom of nature and biodiversity, want parents to provide as much as possible to each child born, and value small, highly functional democracies where everyone plays a meaningful role. They want to see the Earth’s population stabilize and eventually fall to a sustainable level. Others value the seemingly endless wealth that comes from a constantly growing population more than they value nature, maximizing resources for each child born, and small, highly functional democracies. They want to see our population continue grow.

We are all at a crossroads. Which road will we take?

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Sometimes less is more.