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Embracing the beauty of small families

At Population Matters, we know that families come in all shapes and sizes but promote the benefits to our planet of choosing to have fewer children. This International Day of Families, let’s look at the beauty of small families.

The concept of family has undergone a profound transformation in recent decades. Traditionally, large families were celebrated as a symbol of prosperity and continuity, but things are changing as more people embrace the beauty of small families.

International Day of Families

This year is the 30th International Day of Families, first proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in 1993. The day celebrates the role of families in society and provides an opportunity to highlight issues affecting families all over the world.

This year, the focus for the day is families and climate change, specifically to “raise awareness of how climate change impacts families and the role families can play in climate action”. It is also a day to consider the adverse effects felt by those families, and their contriburions through things like energy use and consumption.

Empowering families through education, changing consumption habits, and advocacy is critical for meaningful and effective climate action.”

UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs

This gets to the crux of our small families campaign.

Choosing a small family

Choosing to have a smaller family is one of the most impactful decisions we can make to help our planet. Every single one of us puts pressure on the natural world, consumes the Earth’s finite resources and contributes to climate change.

This impact is particularly pronounced in the Global North. According to the Global Carbon Atlas, the average person in the UK emits almost four times the amount of carbon annually compared to the average Indian, and over 12 times that of the average Nigerian.

We don’t define what a small family means, that is a personal decision. But we do know that if people have two children or less, that helps to reverse population growth – and that is the decision of most people in high-income countries. But people must make their own choice, of course.

We were recently contacted by supporter Laura, who wanted to share her story.

From a young age, I understood the insurmountable pressure that having many children places on resources and the environment. The planet already supports a vast population requiring feeding, clothing, shelter and healthcare, and this becomes increasingly challenging with a continuously explanding population.

I chose to limit my family to two children. With two daughters, we find joy and contentment in our family of four. I believe this decision is not only environmentally responsible but also socially conscious – a choice that eery adult should consider carefully.”

Green reasons

One of the most compelling reasons to opt for a small family is the global challenge of population. Today, the world’s population stands at more than 8.1 billion, over double what it was 50 years ago. With Earth’s resources dwindling at an alarming rate and environmental degradation escalating, the strain on our planet is undeniable.

Choosing a small families can contribute to easing the burden on resources and minimising our ecological footprint. By consciously limiting family size, individuals can play a vital role in fostering a more sustainable future for generations. A 2017 study suggested that the single most effective measure any individual in the developed world may be able to take to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions over the long-term is to have one fewer child.

Global Small Families

There are many reasons that someone might choose to have a smaller family, some of them are positive and speak to a personal autonomy, others less so. Sadly, millions of people still don’t have the freedom to choose.

Join the growing family of people around the world who believe that #ChoiceMatters and who have committed to planning for a small family size and empowering others to have the same freedom of choice. Sign and share our Choice Manifesto today.

Keep it personal

It’s crucial to acknowledge that the decision to embrace a small family is deeply personal and influenced by a myriad of factors. While some individuals may choose small families for pragmatic reasons such as financial stability or environmental consciousness, others may do so out of a desire for a more intimate and fulfilling family life. Regardless of the motivations, we want to remove the stigma from all family size choices, including those who are childfree by choice.

In a world that often equates success and happiness with material wealth and consumption, the ethos of small families challenges conventional notions of prosperity and fulfilment. Small families demonstrate that happiness and wellbeing are not contingent upon the size of the household, but rather on the quality of relationships and our values.


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