My partner and I are getting ready to procreate; we will start working on babies on our wedding night. We will have spent the last year and a day working on our physical health, our financial stability, and discussing plans, parenting philosophies, contingencies, etc. We are both fully cognizant of the fact that having children is not a logical choice. They are black holes of need and expensive. Kids are an emotional and hormonal choice, not a rational one.
We think we will probably have more than two kids, though this is not set in stone. I personally think 3-5 sounds good. I have mentioned this to some of my older friends, specifically friends in their 40s and 50s, who have reacted very negatively. They think having more than one or two children is irresponsible. It will ruin the earth. There are not enough resources to go around. They have reacted with shock and judgment to the thought that we might choose to have 3-5 children.
I recently found two interesting bits of information about world population. One was an Ode Magazine article I picked up in a waiting room (sorry I don't know more details) about how "resources" are not really resources until human ingenuity comes up with a way to use them productively. This means that the earth is not going to run out of resources, but that if we humans want to continue to grow and thrive here, we will think of new uses for what is available to us. With the right kind of ingenuity (like the kind born out of necessity, I would assume), we could conceivably live with tens of billions of people on the planet and do so sustainably. Just because we don't have the ability to do that now does not mean that we can't figure it out.
The other interesting bit of info was a preview for Demographic Winter, a documentary about how our fertility rates are dropping and white people and the developed world are dooming ourselves to non-existence. It looked over-dramatic and racist to me, but it did prompt me to go look up World Fertility Rates. Luckily, Google has great info, based on World Bank data.
The World Fertility Rate overall in average births per woman has dropped from 5.32 in 1962 to 2.51 in 2007 (the data shown ranges from 1960-2007 only). The US fertility rate has dropped from 3.65 in 1960 to 2.1 in 2007. From 1973-1988 the US rate even dropped below 2.0, rising a bit in the 90s. I took a quick tour of the fertility rates of other countries, and though I was not exhaustive, I did not see a single country that did not have a falling fertility rate over the last 50 years. Some countries are still very high, the highest averaging between 6 and 7 births per woman, but there are much fewer of them, and in 1960 there were several countries that were even above the 8 kid mark.
I find myself unconcerned with world population, especially after looking at this data. I also know that data shows the higher the education level of women, the fewer children they are likely to have, and I know that when stressed for survival, humans tend to procreate like rabbits. The key here seems to me to be educating women worldwide and continuing to work for more global stability and prosperity, reducing the number of people who live in horrific conditions. I think Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration have already pledged to pursue these goals and are actively developing international policy based on them.
After having done all this homework, I do not find that I have cause to be worried that our 3-5 kids will unbalance the earth or even contribute negatively to human survival. I am very sorry that my older friends judge our (impending) choice as irresponsible, but I also wonder if they have looked at any of this recent data. If it comes down to it, I suppose I could collect child vouchers from my many friends who have chosen to never procreate, demonstrating that the net population change of our procreation is still less than replacement, but I think I'll just email links to the data around instead.