Families with children don't necessarily place the burden on the environment that critics say they do, especially in urban areas like the one I live in. Urbanization is being hailed by many as the wave of the future. Big cities are no longer the polluted centers of waste and disease they once were when they were villainized in the early days of the Industrial Revolution. Due to population density, public transportation, and municipal green energy initiatives, many American cities have smaller carbon footprints than some rural areas.
The same logic applies to families compared to single adults living alone. Think about it: my family of four children doesn't have six separate tubes of toothpaste going at once. My family is a little city in the big city. Children really are cheaper by the dozen. Economies of scale kick in. It's just a matter of throwing a little more pasta into a larger pot. The more children I have, the more I recycle. After all, we need only one changing table at a time, and my younger son doesn't know or care that he's wearing his older brother's clothes.
One of the best ways to reduce the cost of parenting is to reach out to family and friends. Your co-workers with older children will be thrilled to get those used cribs and baby clothes out of their house or garage.
Driving my wife and kids in one vehicle uses up no more gas than a single person tooling around in the same car. We vacation together, eat together, shop together, and so on. Families can learn to conserve their limited resources. We embrace stewardship of the Earth, and as a result try and buy only used cars, as well as used appliances.
My children and I are learning how to care for planet Earth by reading Curious George together as our family's favorite fictional monkey learns to "reduce, reuse and recycle.” I hope to send them out into the world with a healthy regard for the environment as well as other human beings. It seems to me that many well-meaning eco-warriors care about the environment only, not the people in it, and that doesn't seem very balanced to me.
Education rather than annihilation is the answer. If we teach children about healing our planet and conserving resources, they will do that when they're grown up, too. Jewish tradition teaches that children and the environment are not mutually exclusive. "Be fruitful and multiply" also promotes respect for nature and embraces conservation, animal welfare, species preservation, sanitation, and pollution reduction. The Talmud covers prohibitions against atmospheric, water, and even noise pollution, and Deuteronomy even tackles issues of waste disposal.
Thus, children and the environment are not mutually exclusive. Having children and caring about the environment don't cancel each other out. In fact, they go hand in hand.
Simcha Weinstein is the best-selling author of "Up, Up, and Oy Vey: How Jewish History, Culture, and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero" and "Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century." He has appeared on CNN and NPR and has been profiled in leading publications, including the New York Times, Miami Herald, and London Guardian. He was recently voted “New York’s Hippest Rabbi” by PBS affiliate Channel 13. His latest book, "The Case for Children: Why Parenthood Makes Your World Better," has just been released.
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