Prince Harry Is Right: No One Should Have More Than Two Kids
If there’s one thing people hate, it’s to be told how many children they should have -– even if it’s by someone as affably popular as Prince Harry.
In a conversation with respected primatologist Jane Goodall published in the September issue of British Vogue, guest-edited by the Duchess of Sussex, the Duke of Sussex riffed on serious topics like racism and his worries about the planet’s future.
“I’ve always thought: this place is borrowed,” he told Goodall, after declaring that he and his wife plan to have no more than two children. “And, surely, being as intelligent as we all are, or as evolved as we all are supposed to be, we should be able to leave something better behind for the next generation.”
Unsurprisingly, there was a swift and, in some quarters, derisive response from critics on social media.
Piers Morgan, a loud critic of the Duchess of Sussex, piped up on Twitter to effectively call Harry a hypocrite.
Meanwhile, on breakfast television, Good Morning Britain promptly invited the UK’s largest family, the 23-strong Radford clan, to offer less than favourable, expert comment on Prince Harry’s announcement.
But Harry is on to something. The planet is facing a suite of ecological disasters. Climate change. Rising oceans. Deforestation. Mass extinctions. One particularly depressing report predicts that human civilisation will come to a grinding halt by 2050.
Sustainability should be a factor in all of our decisions, from the car we drive to what we eat to the holidays we take.
I don’t know about you, but I’m terrified about the world we’re leaving our kids. What will their lives, and their children’s lives, be like in a world where 50-degree heatwaves, water shortages and climate refugees are commonplace?
I can’t even watch Finding Nemo with my kids, sickened by the possibility that the Great Barrier Reef will become a thing of the past in their lifetimes.
It’s not like Australians don’t care about climate change. A recent survey showed that the issue is our top-ranked threat, ahead of terrorism, cyberattacks and North Korea’s nuclear program.
Australia, one of the highest per capita emitters of carbon dioxide in the world, has agreed to reduce emissions by 26 to 28 per cent on 2005 levels by 2030. It’s a target that we’re on track to miss. Like the Sussexes, we should all be asking what we can do to reduce our carbon footprint.
It turns out that one of the most important things we can do to benefit the planet is to have fewer children.
A 2017 report found that having one less child in a developed country saved an average of 58.6 tonnes of CO2-equivalent emissions per year.
Other high-impact actions including living car-free (2.4 tCO2e saved per year), avoiding air travel (1.6 tCO2e saved per roundtrip transatlantic flight) and eating a plant-based diet (0.8 tCO2e saved per year). “These actions have much greater potential to reduce emissions than commonly promoted strategies like comprehensive recycling (four times less effective than a plant-based diet) or changing household light bulbs (eight times less),” wrote the study’s authors.
That’s right –- we should swap our SUVs, scotch fillets and trips to Bali for pushbikes, chickpeas and staycations. Whichever way you look at it, the writing is on the wall: big families should be a thing of the past. Forget Peter Costello’s advice –- don’t have one more for your country, have one less for the planet.
This is the point where I awkwardly disclose that I am, in fact, pregnant with my third child.
I’d always planned to have two children, a decision partly informed by environmental concerns. But, for a variety of reasons that I won’t go into here, my husband and I decided to have a third (and final) baby.
Having cared for two babies so far, I’m not surprised that children come with a whopping carbon footprint. I know exactly how many thousands of nappies one infant human soils in her first two years on the planet.
As any parent who has packed the car, Tetris-like, for a family holiday knows, babies can come with a lot of crap. Your house fills with an endless tide of stuff… bottles, blankets, prams, cots, rockers, plastic toys (so many toys). It’s enough to make a minimalist weep.
The more I read about the environmental impact of adding more humans to the planet’s population, the more I realise that I probably should have stuck to my ideals. But like anyone with one too many kids, there are things I can do to reduce my family’s carbon footprint, like using cloth nappies and reusable wipes, dressing my kids in secondhand clothes and developing a late-onset love of camping holidays.
In Australia, a rich country given to overconsumption, we should apply an environmental lens to all of our lifestyle decisions -– even if the answers are uncomfortable. When it comes to having a family in the 21st century, less is more.