Carbon tax on kids?

The issue of population control is always a thorny one as many view it as an infringement on their civil liberties, an affront to their religion or simply not a viable option, full stop.

When I was born in the late 60’s, the world’s population was around the 3.6 billion mark. In July of 2007, it was estimated to be around 6.6 billion. It’s quite a jump. I clearly remember the population of Australia being 14 million. It’s now 20.4 million. The city I was born in had 220,000 inhabitants when I left 25 years ago – it now has 330,000.

In nature, when populations of any creature reach too high within a given area, bad things happen – e.g. disease. The population is culled, with the strongest surviving. The culling acts as an evolutionary exercise in that respect too; nature doesn’t waste energy. Internal struggles within the herd, flock or whatever polish off a few more. If there’s not enough resources to go around, starvation sets in.

Human beings continue to flout nature’s balance and cull (for the most part) by successfully inhabiting places other animals can’t, overrunning areas and pushing out many plant and animal species, coming up with cures for disease; etc. etc. etc. We’re living for longer in many countries and using more resources in doing so.

In some countries though, population growth is slowing, even going into a negative trend – this usually occurs in developed nations where women have more equitable access to higher education and the business world. These women tend to put off having children until later in life, having fewer babies – or having none at all.

Even so, our population has doubled in only 40 years, with most of the growth occurring in developing countries. In 2000, there were 10 times as many people on Earth than there were 300 years ago. We’re expected to hit 9 billion by 2042

If we’re facing big environmental problems now, imagine a business as usual approach for the next 30 years. Something’s gotta give.

Trees for kids?

Associate Professor Barry Walters wrote in a recent issue of Medical Journal of Australia that every couple with more than two children should be taxed to pay for enough trees to offset the carbon emissions generated over each child’s lifetime. He also suggested that our government Government get rid of the $4k “baby bonus” and contemplate population controls like those in China and India.

I’m all for planting trees – any excuse to plant trees is good :). But what if people can’t afford to plant those trees and have kids anyway? Do we send those children to the salt mines or summarily execute them? Do we send their parents to education camps or castrate/sterilize them so they don’t do it again? Ugh. Tough one.

Should people get the baby bonus? In my opinion, no. If you can’t afford to have children unassisted without that bonus, then I feel people shouldn’t be having them. But it’s more complex than that. Let’s say we get rid of the bonus. People who perhaps shouldn’t have children will still have them and those children will be further disadvantaged from the getgo; which has knock-on effects for broader society.

But rich folks who don’t really deserve kids still have kids too. I’d like a buck for every rich brat I’ve come across who couldn’t give a toss about the environment or his fellow man. They learned it from their parents.

As for following China and India’s lead, the one child policy has caused all sorts of problems; particularly the killing of female babies and backyard abortions of same. Additionally, there is an imbalance in the population now whereby too many males are competing for too few females, causing all sorts of tension.

The other problem is our economies aren’t geared for population control – they demand infinite growth, which is an impossible scenario.

So much has to change.

Personally, I think most people shouldn’t have kids. Many in developed countries really have no idea *why* they are having them – it’s all been romanticized; but in the developing world, they have very good reason to – but for them it’s a game of life and death roulette. With so many children in need in the world, instead of having 2 kids, couldn’t we just have one and help support a child in another land? Perhaps have none at all and help support 2 children? We’re child sponsors and it’s incredibly rewarding watching these kids grow up.

I made sure I couldn’t breed for many reasons; and that’s likely to be my greatest contribution to humanity :). But I accept mine is probably an unrealistic view. Wanting to have children is natural. But we can’t shout from both sides of the fence, claiming “it’s natural” while living pretty much in opposition of nature.

There are no easy answers here, while we continue to populate beyond what the local environment can support, bad things will happen; whether by the hand of man or through nature balancing the books. Some have suggested that by everyone achieving the standard of living we have in developed countries, that will solve the problem as fertility rates will drop. But look at the terrible cost the planet has paid for such a standard of “living”.

Do you think we can we have 10 billion on this planet and achieve sustainability?
Should we leave it to nature to balance as it sees fit?
Should we introduce “one child” type policies
Should we choose who can have children and who can’t?
Is a baby tax rather than bonus a good control mechanism?

Population is the elephant in the room that many would like to ignore. What are your thoughts on some of these tricky issues?