Lynsey Hanley makes some interesting points this week about the contradiction between the encouragement to consume everywhere you look – sometimes I wonder if there is any ‘un-billboarded’ space left – and the United Nations’ current crusade to drive down population because of supposed environmental and resource shortage concerns.
On the one hand we are told not to have children because their carbon footprint is too large, but on the other we are bombarded with advertising and ‘stuff’ for sale everywhere we look. Inevitably, it the voice of big business that drives much of what feeds into our culture through advertising and promotion, and one does wonder exactly who these voices are. She comments in The Guardian:
In Britain Population Matters, the Green party and the naturalist David Attenborough are united in agreeing that the UK population is too big and needs to be “encouraged” to bring about the conditions for its managed decline. Rather than place their focus on the waste and overconsumption endemic to rich nations such as ours, their solution to environmental pressure is to make sure there are fewer of us around in the future to mess things up.
What prevents the world being fed equitably and healthily is the fact that rich-world governments can’t bear the thought of doing two unpopular things. First, they won’t encourage individuals to reduce their own consumption; and second, they won’t facilitate moving that consumption away from petrol, meat, imported fruit and other adoptive “necessities” of the world middle class. Stuffed and Starved, the incisive 2008 book by Raj Patel, shows the symbiosis between obesity in rich nations and undernourishment in poor ones, caused by the hogging of food markets by those best placed to profit from them.
Those who would have us stop having children have obviously got through to the editor of The Guardian, Lisa Hymas, who has announced that she is going to be a ‘GINK’ – which is apparently a trendy new term which stands for ‘green inclinations, no kids’:
My carbon footprint is more than 200 times bigger than an average Ethiopian’s, and more than 12 times bigger than an average Indian’s, and twice as big as an average Brit’s…
Far and away the biggest contribution I can make to a cleaner environment is to not bring any mini-me’s into the world…When someone like me has a child — watch out, world! Gear, gadgets, gewgaws, bigger house, bigger car, oil from the Mideast, coal from Colombia, coltan from the Congo, rare earths from China, pesticide-laden cotton from Egypt, genetically modified soy from Brazil. And then when that child has children, wash, rinse, and repeat (in hot water, of course). Without even trying, we Americans slurp up resources from every corner of the globe and then spit 99 percent of them back out again as pollution.
According to Hymas having no children is a family type that there is still prejudice against, so it needs to promoted and accepted. It is surprising that this would be so, given that infertility rates are now very high due to the late age we have children. One wonders if this is in fact the easier option for her, which she can justify to herself as a moral crusade. There’s no doubt that children require you to give yourself almost limitlessly, and there certainly isn’t as much money to go around.
And I don’t quite understand why her baby needs all this stuff anyway? The investment magazine, China Confidential, this month reports that the baby product industry is one of China’s best:
…highly motivated parents make the baby product and maternity industry one of China’s most defensive. “I want the best for my baby, I can’t let him lose out to competition at the start line!” says Ms Gu in Tongxiang, a third-tier city in Zhejiang, as she holds her 15-month-old boy who is listening to Mozart and Beethoven from his bear-shaped MP3 player strapped to his ears that she bought on Taobao just weeks earlier.
Perhaps we need to stop making people feel that they need to buy so much to keep up with everyone else – the generations before us were fine without it – and go back to basic living? Not only with baby products but with all the five minute wonder and unnecessary products that we buy. I’m sure people got their toasters fixed when they broke 50 years ago – Who would do that now? And maybe Apple should be encouraged to make a longer lasting Ipad 1, rather than encourgaing people to believe that what they now need is Ipad 2 and then Ipad 3 – and we all know the bottom line is profit here. Then maybe we could also go back to having children.