Friday, January 30, 2009

Question of the Day: Being Green with Kids?

Seen on a Greenwood Avenue car the other day
In our world today, is it possible to be 'green' but still have children? At the moment, it's hip to have an ecofriendly outlook (prius? cloth grocery bags? organic garden? check.) but many would argue that producing a future American consumer is hardly environmentally friendly. As a possible future 'breeder', should I even be saving my plastic bags? My generation is facing population issues that weren't on the table 25 years ago.
On a related note, this is an exceptionally interesting article on couples that are waiting to have children due to the economic downturn. Be sure to read to the very end as I thought the bit about Jennifer Gniadecki's outlook on life was quite interesting. And of course, you can catch up on the latest drama in the world of excessive numbers of children being born at one time: See Octuplets article.


  1. As a "breeder" (although not a fan of that term) I see having children as hope for the future rather than a death sentence for Earth as we know it.

    With that said...I thought the Susan Chandler article was somewhat pointless. It's called being responsible...not having kids if you can't support them. This is not a new phenomenon (as was pointed out about the Great Depression). I know we have people who use the system...I did work in education and wellfare is many people's friend. But, a lot of this is about planning. So many people say they can't afford health care, but they live in expensive houses, drive fancy cars, have flat screen TVs, eat out often...the list goes on and on. Of course health care can't be afforded when the money is being wasted on living above your means. I know there are extraordinary circumstances and it happens...but honestly, the majority of America is living in a dream world where things fall in our laps. Yes, we live in a land where our dreams can come true, i.e. "The American Dream," but they always seem to leave out the part about hard work and dedication. It's our cavalier attitude about what we deserve to have rather than the reality of what we can afford to have that has gotten us in trouble (and by afford I do not only mean money, but environmentally, emotionally, physically, etc.) And I found Jennifer's comment about repopulating the world with smart people to be incredibly tacky. Brilliant minds don't always come from money or smart parents.

    As far as the large numbers of children being born at once. This is a hard one for me. I don't believe in abortion so I also don't believe in reduction which is often what parents of IVF or similar procedures are offered. Why should a dr. or parent get to play God and decide which fetus lives or dies. I think that's irresponsible...if you have the treatment then you should have the guts to take everything that you get from it. Children are a blessing not expendable trinkets. However, Brian and I were always adamant that if we couldn't have our own children adoption was our only other option. I don't want to or need to have 8 bajillion children! :) And there are so many kids who need a loving home. Some would why didn't you adopt one in the first place? Honestly it's because I am selfish and want to reproduce if I am able (and maybe that's wrong of me...but it's a decision I can live with.) I would still like to adopt a 3rd child someday though.

  2. Good points, thanks for taking the time to comment, Amanda!

    I agree that the issue of multiple births is a very tricky one and I can understand why you wouldn't think it fair for parents or doctors to play god in determining how many children they should abort. On the flip side, aren't you also kind of 'playing god' just by using scientific reproduction methods and IVF? Eight children have never occurred naturally in one birth to a human woman. Ever. It is incredibly rare for a woman to give birth to anything more than twins, using natural methods. Does that mean I don't think you shouldn’t use reproductive medical techniques to conceive? No, absolutely not. I'm a big fan of IVF; I just think that by using the science you have to be responsible about what you're doing and be ready to face up to the consequences that you may have to pare that number down for the health of your remaining unborn babies and for society, as a whole.
    Here is where the society part comes in, despite sounding incredibly heartless: This woman already has six kids (for a grand total of 14) and there is no indication that there is a father in the picture. Unless she has amazing parents, a huge trust fund, or a strong church community, there is no way that this woman is going to be supporting 14 kids by herself. Who picks up the tab? Taxpayers. You and me. I think this goes back to what you were saying about personal economic responsibility and should also be included under the category of social responsibility as well.

  3. Good points. I actually feel that the dr. is more responsible in the octuplet case specifically. He should not have implanted that many. I guess my feelings are once they are little embryos they have life...therefore they cannot or should not be terminated. Yes, we are assisting in the creating of life during IVF, but it is up to God how many eggs take. When we eliminate lives that is playing God. So, that's how I see a difference.

    I see this woman as the rarity...someone who is addicted to having children or to the procedure itself. Just like plastic surgery patients dr.s have a social and moral obligation to not treat patients who have these issues and should refer them to psychiatric assistance. I think this dr. let this woman down.

    So, do I feel like my tax money should go to a woman like this? That's a tough call...because the children are not at fault. They didn't ask to be born and don't they deserve the best shot at life they can have? Maybe we need to look into regulating the amount of eggs that can be implanted thus lessening the "litter" as it were. :) That would stop us from having to "reduce" the size after life has already been created. (Or maybe such a thing already exists and this dr. wasn't following the law?) Honestly my having a child effects society was the last thing on my mind while trying to get pregnant. So, I can see why it's not at the forefront of discussion. Very intriguing topic though.

  4. If nobody had kids, then we would cease to exist, so I suppose I have to accept people having kids. :-)

    The responsibility lies in the quantity. Have 2 or less, the number to replace you and your partner, and then adopt if you want a large family. Ultimately the population will decline, because those who do want kids are only replacing themselves, and some won't want kids.

    As for the octuplets, I would hope the doctor had advised her against IVF before the pregnancy. She already had 6!!

  5. That's an interesting point your raise Amanda, about the doctor failing this woman in terms of an ethical and emotional evaluation. I did a couple minutes of research on the web and it seems like the normal number of eggs used during IVF is about 2-4, nowhere did I see anything as high as eight. Of course, if you think that life begins when eggs meets sperm, it should be noted that the doctors fertilize many of the mother's eggs and typically only implant the healthiest 2-4. I think the rest of the fertilized eggs are thrown away. Regardless, there seems to be something fishy about this whole situation. It sounds like the mother only came to the hospital after she was pregnant; they were not responsible for the initial treatment. It'll be interesting to see if anything more comes of this story.

    I like your thinking. I see it as both practical and fairly environmentally friendly. Both you and Amanda hit upon adoption as a reasonable alternative to having zillions of genetic offspring. Provided that people's lifespans don't increase dramatically, this might be a viable option. And frankly, if our population slightly decreases over time, I'm not convinced that it would be a horrible thing.

  6. Yes, you are correct there is a difference in treatment from IVF and IUI. IVF is outside of the womb fertilization, and IUI is in-utero fertilization. Either way though I think we can all agree that a limited number of eggs/embryos should be used at each attempt. I think that should be federally/state regulated. I know women can get desperate when trying...I went on Clomid myself increasing my possibility of conceiving twins by 1/2! But, if you already have 6...counseling should definitely be involved!!!

    This takes me to another topic. I don't know if you've watched the show Jon & Kate Plus 8, but have you seen all of the recent drama about that "program?"

  7. From what I have read the mother of the octuplets I would seriously question why anyone would aid her in having ANY more children, let alone 8 more children. She already had 6 children apparently living in a 3 bedroom home – with her parents (seems a little tight already if you ask me… but add 8 more to the mix?!? That is just foolish!). She apparently is divorced (as of Jan ’08). The most concerning thing that I have read is that shortly before this woman conceived, her mother (who she supposedly lives with) filed for bankruptcy reporting liabilities of nearly a million dollars. So it doesn’t seem as if her parents will be capable of assisting her with the finances… In this economic climate, how many companies will be stepping up to donate diapers and formula (as they have done to assist parents of large litters of children in the past)? I am going to guess few to none. So taxpayers are going to end up footing the bill – which is just not right when we are all experiencing tough economic conditions/layoffs/declining home values/etc…

    And how do you really care for 14 children who are so close together in age (7, 6, 5, 3 and 2 year old twins, plus 8 new babies)? I don’t believe that it can really be done, particularly given the special needs these octuplets are undoubtedly going to have. Children born at such a low birth weight are far more likely to have serious resulting health issues, developmental delays, are more likely to need special education programs, etc, etc. As someone who has volunteered at a children’s hospital for nearly 13 years, I can tell you that children with health issues/developmental delays need a PRESENT and INVOLVED parent to help them overcome the obstacles that they face. How can you give that to 8 separate babies when you have 6 more children at home to care for?!?

    Having a child is not environmentally friendly - particularly not in this country. And we aren’t just talking long term impacts of an additional consumer here… It is the short term too! Example: we don’t just have the disposable diapers (argh) but also the individual diaper sized plastic smell proof baggies to put them in before we toss them into the garbage bag in our (plastic) diaper genies. It is crazy! That being said, I think that you can reduce the environmental impact that your own ‘breeding’ has by not having a crazy number of children – I agree that it is irresponsible to have more than a child to replace yourself and your partner until we can rehabilitate the environment and get the global population under control – and minimizing the wasteful/unnecessary junk that you acquire for them/teach them that they need as adults. (I say this as someone who does love to get cute baby things for my ‘parent friends’ – just not huge yucky plastic things that will live in a landfill until the end of time after about 6 months of play)…

    And for the record: the woman who wants to repopulate the world with intelligent people [see: her offspring] doesn’t sound all that bright. She sounds ridiculous and arrogant...

    I think that I am done ranting now… :)

  8. Sara, That wasn't a rant at all. I'm with you on a)that mother is crazy and someone (doctor, parents etc.) failed here on a ethical level and b) stuff can be done to mitigate the impact of having biological children, earth-wise. I think we're seeing a movement to do just that (fewer people having lots and lots of kids) and a more environmentally friendly outlook on childraising. I do worry a bit that this green friendly attidude might get thrown out the window though as people have to make choices between beeing green and their pocketbook. Until being earth friendly is economically friendly, I doubt we'll see a significant shift in how people function. Anyway, thank you to everyone who posted. It's always interesting to hear how everyone else feels about certain current issues.