The Pitter Patter of Little Feet: Are We Leaving Huge Carbon Footprints?

by Jon Townsend

In my college days I heard this statement more than once – “Oh, I couldn’t even think of having a child. The world is so messed up I wouldn’t want to bring a child into it.”

Fifteen years later, the environmental movement which was just gaining real steam in my early 20’s has now given us a new reason not to have children. Each person has a “carbon footprint”. This carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide that is a byproduct of the fossil fuels it takes to support a human life. These carbon dioxide emissions contribute to the greenhouse effect and global warming. Global warming is (supposedly) threatening life on earth as we know it (or is it?).

Is it not reasonable to reduce the cause of all of this carbon dioxide pollution? Therefore some environmentalists are suggesting strict public policies on having babies – like the controversial one child policy in China. Now the majority of environmentalists holding this position aren’t advocating forced sterilizations and abortions like the Chinese government has done, but they are advocating additional taxes for having more than one or two children.

Is global warming real or not? This is a hotly debated issue and there are reputitable scientists on both sides of the issue. This is not really the question that is most important to answer. The more important issue here is God’s Word as it relates to children and having babies.

Genesis 1:26 -28

Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (NKJV)

Be fruitful and multiply” was actually the first command God gave human beings and it was a blessing! True this blessing came before Adam and Eve disobeyed God and fell into sin, but our sin does not negate the blessing God has given us in procreation.

How do we square God’s blessing and command to be fruitful and multiply with the opinion of some scientists that more human beings will destroy life as we know it?

When all mankind fell in Adam’s fall into sin, the blessing of children never ceased to be a blessing. If we look at the Biblical heroes of the faith in the Old Testament there is always great joy expressed in having children (and in many cases a lot of children!). Jesus Christ told his disciples to let the children come unto him – later admonishing them that child like faith is saving faith. It is a faith that trusts in the living Word. It is a faith that clings to the Savior and His cross. It is a faith that is given in baptism. A faith given to most of us as tiny babies – blessed with life eternal in the second birth given in baptism.

God’s Word affirms again and again that having children is a true blessing. And although we are born sinful, we are redeemed by Christ the crucified. Christ atoned for every person that ever lived and will ever live. The opinion, that limiting human reproduction will solve an environmental issue, is not in harmony with God’s Word or 2000 years of Christian thought and tradition based on that Word.

Due to sin, human beings do harm to one another and to the environment. But consider the following: You are a clerk at a convenience store. You are all alone on a hot summer day and crowds and crowds of people are coming into the store for slushies. You are furiously ringing up customers at the counter. You are so busy that you don’t have time to clean the counters and mop the floor. The trash bins are overflowing and in your exasperation you scream out, “I wish there weren’t all of these customers! They do nothing but make a mess!”

The store is making lots of money because the business is so good. A mess is certainly happening, but maybe the store is understaffed? Maybe the boss made an error by having only you cover the store on such a hot day.

In the midst of messy counters and sticky floors it sure seems like the cause is the people, but it isn’t. An extra person on duty probably would have made the perceived problem no problem at all. It wasn’t a factor of the amount of people; it was a matter of one more person in a vocation that was serving rather than being served.

The Christian Church has faced movements that have seen reproduction as something evil before. The Manicheans in the 4th century are a great example (St. Augustine was a part of this movement in his youth and later strongly renounced it). They saw all flesh as being evil and only the spirit as being good. They therefore saw procreation as a bad thing. The Church using God’s Word responded with Christ’s birth, the Incarnation. Christ took on human flesh. He is true man. He is true God. He remains forever true God and true Man and He has redeemed human flesh. Original sin and our own personal sins cannot overcome what Jesus has accomplished in His incarnation, death and resurrection.

When faced with the opinion that limiting the amount of humans will help save the world, just keep this mind: If the all knowing, all powerful Father created people knowing that we would sin and ruin everything and He created us anyway, how can we who are not all knowing ever think that cutting down on the amount of the pinnacle of God’s creation, humans, will solve any problem? Christ became one of us! He took mankind into God! He sends his Holy Spirit to work through us to speak His Word and to strengthen us to serve our neighbor in love.

Maybe the better solution to any environmental problems we may face is another person, freed by God’s grace, to serve his or her neighbor.

 

Jon Townsend, originally hailing from Detroit, now calls Plymouth, MI his hometown -where he lives with his wife and two young boys. He works in logistics for an engine manufacturer in Detroit and is given Word and Sacrament weekly at St. Peter’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Plymouth. 

Created: May 20th, 2008