Despite these figures, there’s data to suggest we can be optimistic about the future—and parents are part of the reason why. In my role at the University of Texas at Austin, I survey national attitudes related to energy and the environment. Over the past few years, I started to notice that people with children tend to be more concerned about the environment than the general population and more interested in changing their behavior to be smarter consumers. For example, parents are consistently more likely to acknowledge that climate change is occurring. They also express more interest in purchasing energy efficient cars and installing solar panels. It sounds intuitive that parents feel they have a bigger stake in the future and want the best for their families, but now we have data demonstrating it’s true.
So when affluent couples in developed nations opt not to have kids “for the good of the planet,” they may have good intentions, but their decision does not get at the core problems underlying the global challenges of overpopulation. In fact, the data suggests they may be less invested in Earth’s state over the long-term.
Families are already getting smaller all around the world. If we figure out how to live more efficiently with less waste, while supporting women and families, we will achieve a healthier and more sustainable future. So even as the planet gets hotter and ever-more-crowded, it’s still okay to have kids.