There was a story in the newspapers last week reporting that there was an editorial in the British Medical Journal suggesting that that GPs should encourage the view that larger families were unenvironmentally friendly.
In the editorial, John Guillebaud, professor of family planning at University College, London and Pip Hayes, a GP based in Exeter write:
"Should we now explain to UK couples who plan a family that stopping at two children, or at least having one less than first intended, is the simplest and biggest contribution anyone can make to leaving a habitable planet for our grandchildren? We must not put pressure on people, but by providing information on the population and the environment, and appropriate contraception for everyone ... doctors should help to bring family size into the arena of environmental ethics, analogous to avoiding patio heaters and high-carbon cars."
They go on to claim that every new birth in the UK produces 160 times more greenhouse gas emissions than one in Ethiopia. Government figures for 2007 show that average fertility rates in England and Wales were 1.91 (i.e. 191 children born for every 100 women). The authors argue that bringing the fertility rate down to 1.7 would lead to a halving of the population within six generations.
So, in other words, producing more than two children leads to a net increase in the population and that increase is having a disastrous impact upon the environment. The authors of the article are very careful to stress that they are in no way advocating a legal restriction to the number of children that people can have, but when you think of the gas-guzzling 4x4s that all yummy mummies seem to use to ferry their ecological catastrophes to and from the nursery, perhaps they should be. Drive past any school or creche first thing in the morning, and it's clear that we're surely only moments away from meltdown.
That article was brought to mind when I was sitting on a bench in the town centre the other day, watching the world go by from behind my sunglasses. My attention was initially drawn to a man standing on the corner because of the colourful England one day cricket shirt that he was wearing. As I looked at him, I couldn't help but notice that he was covered in tattoos and was surrounded by a gaggle of people. A closer look as he started to move off, and I realised that the gaggle around him was in fact his wife and his seven children, ranging from a toddler in a pushchair through to a gawky, skinny teenage girl. I looked around again, and noticed I had been joined on my bench by two young girls with prams, the canopies of which were supporting the Happy Meals that they were busy feeding to their children.
How to put this?
I don't know if C. and I will ever have kids, but I do know that if we do, we are highly unlikely to have more than one or two. We will certainly not be having anything approaching seven. People like us don't tend to. If there's a massive increase in the population going on, it's not coming from us.... it's coming from the kind of pale, pasty, heavily tattooed chavs that are currently strutting around our towns with their shirts tucked into their 3/4 length polyester trousers and with their pasty, wiry bodies on display.
There are some easy gags to be made in this horrible generalisation, most around the fact that the good, honest, decent people that remain in this country are slowly but surely being bred out of the gene pool. The future of this country, like it or not, lies with the offspring of this underclass, who are careful to spread their genetic stock across multiple mothers for maximum evolutionary impact.....
Loathsome generalisations, of course. The kids born of these parents may well end up as the scientists, doctors, lawyers, novelists, artists and philosophers of the future. Just as easily, children from apparently "better" homes and backgrounds can come off the rails and become the drug dealers, criminals, fraudsters and *shudders* politicians of the future. Your future isn't fully written when you are born, and is not necessarily determined by where you come from or who your parent are, whatever people might have you believe.
....but, for all that I believe that a child from this background can achieve every bit as much as a child from a "better" home, it's got to be harder, hasn't it? The odds are surely just that little bit more stacked against them.
The population is getting bigger and our future is apparently getting bleaker with every child born. Obviously I will carry on recycling my bottles, refusing plastic bags in shops and basking in my own worthiness, even more so if I don't end up having any kids of my own.... perhaps even more so. After all, I'll be doing it not for me, but for your children and for the children of those waxy skinned members of the Lumpenproletariat. That's just how selfless I am.
What a world we're leaving our children. What a lot of children we're leaving our world.
Tomorrow: the Worthiness Quotient. How does your WQ stack up?