Are Parents Environmental Villains?

“Having children is the most destructive thing you can do to the planet.”

“Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children.”

“The biggest threat to earth? We have too many kids.”

This was our findings from a simple google search about the impact of children on the environment. This sort of sentiment is widespread in the media, and there are good reasons for it. Read on in these articles and you’ll discover that in the UK alone, 8 million disposable nappies are thrown out each year. Apparently a family having one less child could reduce their  CO2-emissions by 58.6 tonnes per year! It sounds convincing doesn’t it?

But it doesn’t necessarily sound like a biblical view of humanity.

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 1:26-28

When God created the world, humanity was supposed to care for and cultivate the planet. As the population grew, the environment and the animal kingdom was to flourish, not the opposite. In God’s creation mandate to humanity it was their job to procreate and, in so doing, to look after the environment. Population growth and the welfare of the environment were to go hand-in-hand.

But sadly, because of the Fall, the world is not like that.

Did you watch the recent BBC documentary series Blue Planet 2? The footage of the vast array of marine life that God has made was awe-inspiring.

Perhaps you also remember the shots of the walruses slipping off sheets of melting ice, or the baby whale dying because it’s mother’s milk was poisoned by pollution, or the sperm whale nearly choking on plastic. It was tragic. Tragic to see the effect that sinful humanity can have on the environment and on the animal kingdom.

But the answer isn’t to just stop having children.

Sometimes people suggest that if humanity was just to become extinct then the planet would flourish. But really what kind of solution is that? It’s a ludicrous suggestion which is of no practical benefit.

No, rather than empty and negative statements like that, what we need, is to be parent’s who seek to care for and cultivate our planet. And in turn to have children who will care for and cultivate our planet. Russell Moore sums it up brilliantly in his article “Should we stop having children to save the Earth?”

The rearing of children is, at the most primal level, the same impulse that should drive humanity to check a reckless, selfish form of “dominion.” Our connection to future generations, cultivated in a love for children, is one that is to spark an other-directed, future-directed domino, one that preserves and protects eco-systems for generations to come. Procreation is pro-creation.”

So are parents environmental villains? Well, the short answer is not necessarily.

There are things that we can do to care for the environment and to teach our children to do likewise.

So let’s get practical.

[[But before we do, we want to just emphasise that nothing in the following list can make us more or less loved, accepted and righteous in God’s sight. The wonderful truth of the gospel is that none of our eco-friendly efforts in life (or lack thereof) justifies us before God, or makes us more pleasing to him. Only Jesus can do that!]]

As we see God’s priority for our planet, and think about his plan to recreate a perfect new heaven and earth at the end of time, we will be committed to loving and stewarding the world that God has given us. If the planet is important to God, it should be important for us. So here are a few practical ideas…

Get an RSPB membership 

Why don’t you become a member of RSPB (or another organisation if you don’t live in the UK) to help protect nature reserves for future generations? Taking your children to see wildlife flourish in it’s natural habitat will give them a love and appreciation for God’s creation, and will help them see that their choices (both positive and negative) have an impact. If you do this and ever come to visit their amazing reserve at Saltholme… drop us a line and we may well be able to see you there!

Use cloth nappies and/or wipes

Consider switching to cloth nappies and/or wipes. While the initial outlay is expensive, they can save you £££s and more importantly reduce waste. It may not be realistic to go the whole hog – it’s better to do something in a manageable and sustainable way.

We attempted using cloth nappies with our eldest when we were brand new parents, with a temperamental washing machine and no tumble dryer! It set us up for disaster and disappointment. Now we’ve just got back into the swing of them again (with baby number two) but we use disposables at night, on holiday and for trips to grandparents. Still, even if we’re only reducing our waste by half, that’s still half.

If you’re new to reusables, then we would recommend Wonderoos for nappies and Cheeky Wipes* for wet wipes.

Organise a stuff swap

How much stuff do you have lying around your house that you don’t need or use anymore? Clothes that haven’t been worn for years, boxes of things hidden in cupboards just in case, books that look pretty but won’t be re-read? Well why don’t you have a de-clutter and invite a load of friends around for some nibbles and an opportunity to swap till you drop?! We did one recently (why don’t you use it as an outreach event too?) and were thrilled at the opportunity to get rid of our junk and pick up some great new things (mainly clothes, books and jigsaw puzzles for our boys). It’s eco-friendly, money-saving and charity-helping. We bagged up all our un-swapped goods at the end of the night and donated them to charity shops. Everybody wins!

Switch to eco-friendly household detergents

We’ve recently stopped using laundry powder and we’ve switched to soap nuts*. They are really very cheap in comparison, they cause no water pollution and are chemical free which is great for babies and adults alike. They aren’t scented so we sometimes put a few drops of essential oils in the drum, to give them a smell. We’ve also switched anti-bacterial spray and stain remover to white vinegar*. This stuff is amazing! It gets stains and smells out of clothes as well as softens them (pour some into the conditioner drawer) and well as working as an alternate for antibacterial spray and limescale remover. We’re sure it does even more, but we haven’t googled it yet! We buy it in bulk* saving money and reducing plastic.

Buy free-range meat

Vegetarianism and Veganism are really taking off at the moment. The United Nations are urging people to adopt a meat-free and dairy-free diet for environmental reasons. If you have a conviction that a vegetarian or vegan diet is right for you and your family for environmental or animal rights reasons then that’s great! We see in Scripture that there is freedom for Christian’s to abstain or eat meat according to their conscience. In our family we love meat and see it as a good gift from God, to be enjoyed with thanksgiving. However we’ve made a switch to free-range meat where possible and try to get two or even three meals out of our whole chicken (inevitably this will become impossible when the boys get bigger, as they’re only three and one years old right now.)

Well that’s all folks. We’d love to hear your thoughts on how you seek to steward the planet that God has given us. We’d love some more ideas of things we can incorporate into our lives. Do leave a comment on Facebook or here on the blog if you’re going to try any of this, or if you’ve got any suggestions of what we could try.

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