Babies: Adorable. Growing Population: Not So Much.


Tick, tock. Tick, tock.

That's the sound of my biological clock. And while it's halfway to doomsday, the desire to reproduce and set a little mini-me free on the town still hasn't struck. I'm not sure if it ever will. Despite my predilection to change direction more often than a Roomba on patrol, it is one of my few plans that have never wavered.

This makes me an atypical millennial, or person born after 1980. On March 9, the Pew Research Center released data showing that 74 percent of millennials aged 18 to 29 want to have children. Another 19 percent are still considering it. And only 7 percent of us never want to change a diaper.

So, both among the American population and my friends, I am the anomaly.

Don't get me wrong - I love babies. But the U.N. expects 7 billion people to walk this earth before the year is over - and predicts around 9 billion by the year 2050. Where friends see adorable little munchkins playing with stuffed animals, I see polar bears going extinct, coral reefs dying off and diversity of habitats and creatures dwindling as more people pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Brian O'Neill, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, told National Geographic that a population of 7.4 billion in 2050 - instead of the estimated 9 billion - would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 15 percent compared to what they would be.

Michigan State University professor Ewen Todd said climate change is likely to cause increasingly erratic weather and could add stress to animals, encourage mold in crops and cause chronic health problems down the road.

"It's going to affect global trade," Todd said. "It's going to affect local food production."

So where friends see adorable little munchkins noshing on carrot sticks, I see more mouths to feed in a world that's not feeding those we have. One-third of deaths among children is due to malnutrition, according to the World Health Organization.

"Population and food and energy are all interrelated and we need to do something about it," said David Pimentel, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University.

According to science journalist Robert Kunzig, the difference between having a population of 8 billion in 2050 and a population of 10.5 billion is about one child per woman.

"Just have two," my friends say, "to replace you and your husband." They forget that even if people only reproduced at that rate, the population would continue to grow for the next quarter of a century, because people don't die immediately after they give birth - thankfully. And more women than ever are entering their childbearing years.

According to the U.S. Census, the U.S. population is expected to grow to 392 million by 2050, and those people will live longer. In a country where each individual uses copious amounts of energy for cars, electronics, and energy, this means more carbon dioxide released to an already warming world.

"The increased use of fossil energy and release of carbon dioxide and methane are certainly impacting the climate," Pimentel said. "Even if we don't believe it, the birds and the bees do."

More people, more gas, more problems.

This is not to say that no one should have children. I just think, on a personal level, it would be selfish to bring another person into the world. The reasons for having children - helping someone grow, forming a bond, influencing future generations - are opportunities that already exist in children around the world who need a helping hand.

I don't hold anything against those individuals bitten by the parenting bug. But if my biological clock suddenly rings the alarm and I need to nurture something, I hope that I'll adopt one of those children out there already in need.

- blog by Lauren Biron, graduate student reporter, Medill School of Journalism



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