My Eco-Conscious Neighbors Can’t Stop Procreating
Portlandia isn’t broadcast on TV in the UK – why should it be? But I watch snippets of the show where and when I can. And it’s not because I’m a Portlander; I haven’t set foot in the city since 1999. Not that I need to: I have my own little Portland right here in North London.
The folks around these parts have never met a recycling bin they didn’t like, from the little blue ones provided by diaper services to the tall brown ones for gardening refuse and the counter-top types for compost. They cycle to work universally, buy their produce at the farmer’s market (or, in a pinch, Whole Foods), wear organic cotton and shun beef. They protest when they hear a chain restaurant is sniffing around for an empty storefront (it’s kept them away so far). And they read The Guardian, the bleeding-heart daily newspaper that advocates eradicating refrigerators and riding public transport to the seaside destinations as far away as Greece.
So I’m not certain what to make of the latest trend among my neighbors – the trend towards having a third child.
I confess: there are no official demographic numbers to support my hypothesis. All I know is what I see: pregnant women. A lot of them. All pushing double strollers with or without a third kid following behind on a scooter. I hear the joyous news from at least one local mother a month. If there is a fertility crisis in the city, I can’t see it for all the massive muumuu-clad bumps in my line of vision.
I can understand the appeal of number three. These parents love their little ones, obviously. They have flexible hours, as writers, musicians, academics and local politicians (and SAHMs, obviously) tend to. The economy sucks. I’ve stuck at two, but there have been days I’ve considered flushing my birth-control pills down the toilet.
But can parents of three truly justify calling themselves environmentally responsible? I don’t have to do the math – as I said, I see the diaper bins outside the door in the morning. Even if you’re recycling non-disposables for the third time running, you’re still increasing your footprint, carbon or otherwise. You’re inevitably buying more fast fashion, even if it is only underwear and the odd pair of swim trunks, then washing loads at a rate of two a day. You’re likely extending your house and more than likely buying a bigger car – albeit a Ford C-Max.
On the bright side, if you can call it that, larger families are less likely to go anywhere – even on a train, which may actually turn out to be the easiest way to travel with a brood. Perhaps families of five waste fewer fruits and vegetables; and the bread’s not going moldy with all those grilled-cheese sandwiches being churned out.
And yet, and yet. Regardless of how dearly they love their children, notwithstanding the possibility that the third kid could grow up to be the Einstein or the Obama of the mid-2000s, or discover the clean fuel that’ll finally end our dependence of foreign oil: is it worth all the rigamarole of leading an environmental life if you’re just going to mitigate it with a third?