Whether it's a dream, a fear or a current reality, we've all contemplated having children. As someone who imagines her children to be trilingual and lullabied by classic children's literature, I too have considered this kid question since I was one.
Previous generations haven't had their decision to produce children wholly questioned (or else none of us would be here), but Generation Y may be different. As we Millennials lament over the overwhelming problems dumped onto our generation, here's yet another: we all need to think twice about having children.
Yes, even your small sanctuary from all that is wrong in this world, producing beautiful, bright-eyed offspring to restore your faith in humanity might actually make things worse.
Of course, none of us want to think this. We all want to have children and concern ourselves with our families. Let us have our slice of the pie. We won't bother anyone; just let us have the family we've imagined.
I'm sorry, Millennials, but things are different for us. Unlike previous generations, the damage inflicted by selfish neglect is beginning to have an effect on all of us. Our population is rising as our resources dwindle. We're ravaging the earth in preference of an economic benefit rather than an environmental one. A recent example of this is the State Department's claim that the Keystone XL Pipeline, which could create a few thousand jobs, would be "unlikely to alter global greenhouse gas emissions" despite burning Canadian tar sands in order to extract this oil. No matter your stance on the issue, it comes down to choosing based on financial or environmental cost, because one is inevitable at the expense of the other.
How does this happen? Simple: we're not thinking about the future or about society in general. As long as things are okay for the individual, why be concerned with water shortages in Africa or typhoons in SouthEast Asia?
Meanwhile in the United States, I have all the electricity and fresh water I'll ever need, as will my precious children. I'll feed my child with the knowledge that worldwide, one in every eight people experiences chronic hunger. I'll watch my children drink from water fountains, hoping they won't be poisoned as children in West Virginia have been. My unselfish familial acts could double as selfish societal ones.
In human history, childbearing has not been viewed as a selfish act; rather, it's been seen as the opposite. Ideally, parents provide for their children, educate them on how to function in society, and most importantly, love their children unconditionally. Nothing about this falls under the definition of selfish.
These parents did not have to consider the environmental impact their children have through merely existing. By having children, we don't mean to cause harm to our environment -- yet implicitly, we are.
As Baez repeats, our global population is increasing at an unsustainable rate, even increasing throughout the time it takes to read the article. United Nations reports estimate our generation retiring in a world pushing 9.6 billion in 2050.
Our generation faces unique problems that require unique solutions. One of those solutions may be, yes, that we go against instinctual and religious precedent and choose not to reproduce. It must be a collective effort, and we must recognize that ignoring the implications our decisions have on the world population could potentially be selfish. The best way to prevent exponential growth is actually by improving educational and economic opportunities for the women of the world, particularly in developing countries.
In the end, that will create a better world for our children. Well, maybe not your children. Someone's children. You know what I mean.
Despite everything I've said, it's hard for me to part with the idea of having children. I can't say for certain what I will do, but I can say this: it will be a thoroughly considered decision, one involving a child or two and an education on how they can positively affect change in their world.
Whether you have children or not, differ from the past with the following action: think about it. Don't chalk up the decision to have a family as unquestioned personal fulfillment or something "you just do." Heavily consider the effect your decision has on society. We're more interconnected and informed than ever before, and ignorance is no longer an excuse to condemn our future. If you truly care about children, the best thing you can do may be to have none at all.