Pets vs Children – The Choice is Whatever Works for You

Jan 25th, 2022 | By | Category: Family Planning

By Suzanne York, Transition Earth.

[Photo by Andrew S on Unsplash]

[Photo by Andrew S on Unsplash]

Recent comments by Pope Francis about the choice to have pets instead of children underscores what an upside down world this truly is today.

Earlier this month, the Pope criticized couples who choose to have dogs, cats and other animals instead of children as being selfish.  Having a pet was “a denial of fatherhood and motherhood and diminishes us, takes away our humanity”, he said. The consequence was that “civilization grows old without humanity because we lose the richness of fatherhood and motherhood, and it is the country that suffers”.

It’s rather astonishing, given all of the problems we have on a planet of nearly 8 billion people.  Some of this, maybe much of this, is being driven by concerns of population decreases from North America to Europe to China.  In many countries, as health care improves, poverty decreases, educational and job opportunities improve, and access to reproductive health expands, population growth will slow down and decline.  Added to this are delayed ages for marriage and child bearing.  This has happened even in highly Catholic countries, such as Italy and Brazil.

In addition to the normal concerns of bringing a child into this world are the growing fears of young people due to climate disruption.  Almost every day there is an article on how climate change is driving youth to state they do not plan to bring a child into such an uncertain time.

For this Pope to make comments about pets v. kids is all the more surprising because he seems to clearly understand the threat from climate change and a degraded environment.  His Laudato Si’ encyclical of 2015, which focused on the need to address climate change, consumerism, and environmental destruction and to care for “our common home”, earned him much kudos and admiration, deservedly so.  His recent remarks then almost appear to be tone deaf.

It would be very nice to hear Pope Francis instead begin a conversation about supporting reproductive rights and health for all.  Of course, the Catholic Church has a long way to go and there is only so much even a pope can do.  Change is hard, especially in long-standing religious institutions.

Journalist and opinion writer Frank Bruni put it best when he wrote the following in reaction to Pope Francis’ comments:

That’s actually more insulting to parents than to non-parents, inadvertently trivializing their commitment to a child by suggesting that it could be exchanged for commitment to a cat. And it tells me that the pope doesn’t get around much. When asking childless people about their lives, I’ve never heard , “I decided on a Labradoodle instead.”


[Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash]

[Photo by Ben Wicks on Unsplash]

Elsewhere, in the hard to comprehend remarks department, we have Elon Musk warning about the threat of population collapse.   ‘If there aren’t enough people for Earth, then there definitely won’t be enough for Mars.’ Really?

Sounds more like someone trying to drum up business for his plan to colonize the red planet.  Why stay on degraded Earth when you can simply leave it all behind?  Simple, that is, if Mars or anywhere else in the Milky Way can sustain human life as we know it.

It would be best to ignore a comment like this, but Musk is someone who draws attention.  His statements are what is truly selfish, not choosing to forgo having kids and opting for pets.

Whether we want children or pets or nothing at all, the coming years will be a challenge for everyone.  We can better meet these challenges by supporting the following:

  • Reproductive health & rights for all
  • Connecting the issues of population, health and environment
  • Investing in girls education
  • Moving towards a steady state economy or some system not predicated on constant economic growth and population growth
  • Considering the rights of future generations to a thriving planet

It all comes down to respecting peoples’ choices and what is best for them and their loved ones. But we also need to understand that we share this planet – so far our only habitable one, despite the desires of Musk and other billionaires – and we have to live in balance with all species.  Our survival depends upon it. The world is pushing past numerous planetary boundaries and has even passed some.  Climate impacts are making our lives even more uncertain. We have to focus all our efforts on keeping this a livable Earth for people and Nature today and leave tomorrow open for potential outposts on Mars.

Suzanne York is Director of Transition Earth.

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