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"No moon, no pale reflection."

We awoke to a dusting of new snow.

Yesterday, I managed to write what might be the first 1,255 words on the prologue of The Wolf Who Cried Girl. I won't really know if I'm on the right track until I read it again today, but I do have some faint hope of finishing the prologue this afternoon. Unless I have to throw these words out and start anew; I am having a great deal of difficulty finding the tone of this novel, finding its voice.

But yeah, a much better day, as far as writing is concerned.

Also, well...there is some really cool news regarding the Audible.com adaptation of The Red Tree, but I haven't yet asked permission to share it, so that will have to wait. But...it's cool.


Also, yesterday I started reading "A reevaluation of the manus structure in Triceratops (Ceratopsia; Ceratopsidae)," and finished Alan Weisman's brilliant The World Without Man (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007). It's not an easy book to read, even when you already have a pretty good idea how much human beings have loused up this planet. And yet, despite the catalog of extinctions and poisons (including dioxins which will still be here when the sun finally novas, billions of years after humans have finally become extinct), it is a book laced through and through with hope. Because it calmly and with good science assures us that life on Earth will continue long after Homo sapiens is gone, even if Homo sapiens will have forever altered the course of evolution. As marine biologist Eric Sala put it (quoted by Weisman), "If the planet can recover from the Permian, it can recover from the human." And that is a comforting thought, indeed. I strongly urge you to find and read this book, and again I thank David Szydloski for kindly sending me a copy.

There is a passage I would like to quote, if only because it tackles a problem that virtually no one is even willing to discuss, even as we see ecosystems collapse and the climate change accelerate, that of voluntary human population control:

"Yet the biggest elephant of all is a figurative one in the planet-sized room that is ever harder to ignore, although we keep trying. Worldwide, every four days human population rises by 1 million...

The intelligent solution would require the courage and the wisdom to put our knowledge to the test. It would be poignant and distressing in ways, but not fatal. It would henceforth limit every human female on Earth capable of bearing children to one.

The numbers resulting from such a draconian measure, fairly applied, are tricky to predict with precision: Fewer births, for example, would lower infant mortality, because resources would be devoted to protecting each precious member of the latest generation. Using the United Nation's medium scenario for life expectancy though 2050 as a benchmark, Dr. Sergei Scherbov, who is the research group leader at the Vienna Institute of Demography of the Austrian Academy of Sciences and an analyst for the World Population Program, calculated what would happen to human population if, from now on, all fertile women have only one child (in 2004, the rate was 2.6 births per female; in the medium scenario that would lower to about two children by 2050).

If this somehow began tomorrow, our current 6.5 billion human population would drop by 1 billion by the middle of the century. (If we continue as projected, it will reach 9 billion.) At that point, keeping to one-child-per-mother, life on Earth for all species would change dramatically. Because of natural attrition, today's bloated human population bubble would not be reinflated at anything near the former pace. By 2075, we would have reduced our presence by almost half, down to 3.43 billion, and our impact by much more., because so much of what we do is magnified by chain reactions set off through the ecosystem.

By 2100, less than a century from now, we would be at 1.6 billion: back to levels last seen in the 19th century, just before quantum advances in energy, medicine, and food production doubled our numbers and then doubled us again. At the time, those discoveries seemed like miracles. Today, like too much of any good thing, we indulge in more only at our peril.

At such far-more-manageable numbers, however, we would have the benefit of all our progress plus the wisdom to keep our presence under control. That wisdom would come partly from losses and extinctions too late to reverse, but also from the growing joy of watching the world daily become more wonderful. The evidence wouldn't hide in statistics. It would be outside every human's window, where refreshed air would fill each season with more birdsong."

Of course, I do not believe this is remotely possible. Weisman is essentially correct, in theory, but I think he vastly underestimates humanity's hardwired need to reproduce, and reproduce, and reproduce, even if reproduction, ironically, means its own present misery and premature extinction (and that of so many other species). He ignores selfishness and short-sightedness. He ignores greed. He ignores all those countless differences in religion and ideology that keep humanity divided and always at one another's throats. Ultimately, it is a solution humans are neither smart enough nor humane enough to choose. But it is a grand thought, that human beings would willingly step back from the precipice and start putting things back together again.


( 20 comments — Have your say! )
Jan. 8th, 2010 04:20 pm (UTC)
In theory, it is an excellent, even necessary idea.
But I have seen people I know -- my friends and my family, people I love and consider to be intelligent -- have children that they themselves can barely afford to maintain, sometimes to the point of severely affecting and even destroying their financial stability. If people are too selfish--yes, I do think that is the right word--to even consider their own needs when it comes to having more than one child, I doubt they can see far enough to consider the needs to humanity and the planet as a whole.

I don't have any kids. Sometimes I regret it. But I see what my friends go through and my mind boggles that some of them are considering further pregnancies, when they can barely afford the one they already have. How much of it is a biological urge and how much of it is an emotional delusion, based on conditioning and all the "evidence" that being an only child is somehow emotionally stunting or "bad" for a kid? And what about all the kids who don't have families, who won't be adpoted? What responsibility do we have to them?

It's a dangerous topic in so many ways, and one that makes people go off the deep end, at both ends. There are probably no real answers that will satisfy both logic and emotion. Shit, we can't even convince most people to get their pets fixed. I doubt most would be willing to "fix" themselves.
Jan. 8th, 2010 04:55 pm (UTC)
Having children can be selfish.
I decided years ago not to have children. A. I don't have the right mentality, B. I cannot possibly afford to raise a child in any manner, C. I have hereditary health problems, there's no reason to plague a child with those particular issues.
All of my friends have called me crazy, tell me not to make those decisions until I'm older, etc. They all have 2+ children, are barely getting by, and often depend on Govt. help in order to feed their families. Family members have told me that I'm selfish in not having children for them to coddle and spoil, and I've always wondered if they were being selfish in that request. At least now I know that there is some data out there that supports my ideals, in that my having a child just for the sake of having a child is one of the most selfish ideas of all.
Jan. 8th, 2010 05:07 pm (UTC)
Having children can be selfish...
I remember my parents having a "discussion" about how selfish all their friends were (this was in the 70's, right about the time they got divorced) because none of them had children. Oh, the irony.

I loved "The world without Us" or whatever it was. I read it in the fall, while at the same time watching "Life after People" on I think Discovery. The book was way better. The show was all about CG of buildings collapsing, which has a certain merit, but a lot less risk.
Jan. 8th, 2010 05:43 pm (UTC)
Mandatory tubal ligation and vasectomy for the parents after the first child. It won't happen any other way.

Of course, if your kid dies and you want to go for another one, tough shit. Unless there's black-market adoption.

Very Children of Men in reverse. It'd be a good Margaret Atwood-type novel, if it hasn't been attempted already.

Better public education would be a nice start. Ha.

Edited at 2010-01-08 05:44 pm (UTC)
Jan. 8th, 2010 05:58 pm (UTC)
Mandatory tubal ligation and vasectomy for the parents after the first child. It won't happen any other way.

Correct. But that's a fantasy. We've seen what happens when you try to tell people what to do with their bodies.

I for one am OK with the premature extinction of our kind. Sooner the better, honestly.

But I'm a misanthrope.
Jan. 8th, 2010 06:32 pm (UTC)
Don't remind me. Today, going in for either surgery requires multiple bouts of counseling, no matter how many times you say "I know I want this, I've considered the options, and I'm willing to pay extra to get it done now." And then you have the doctors who deliberately stall and delay, just so the patient gets frustrated and goes away. I had that situation last year, where the doctor scheduled a vasectomy appointment that turned into 45 minutes of numbed viewing of a "Why getting a vasectomy doesn't make you any less of a man" video from the late Eighties, 45 minutes waiting for the doctor to get around to me, thirty minutes of explaining "We need you to take time off work for another day next month because we can't get you in today" (which directly contradicted what the bum told me on the phone before I came in), and another two hours on the phone with the doctor's insurance reps, trying to get a straight answer of how much of the $1200 (!) cost would actually be covered by my insurance. By the end, I was about ready to do the surgery myself with a Dremel tool and a couple of Helping Hands soldering clips.

Worse, I'm married, so I'm not fueling stereotypes of vasectomy patients who simply cannot stop getting women pregnant, like the dolt in Idiocracy. For health reasons, my wife simply cannot have children, and the both of us have enough hereditary diseases in our family that any kid we had would look like something out of a Judge Dredd comic. (I always had images of my son's valedictory speech: "You cannot kill what doesssss not live..." Yet, in all of this, the freakout with the doctors at hand is "Are you SURE you aren't going to want kids?" In one case, the real question seemed to be "Well, if your wife is defective, why don't you get a new one?" I plowed through, but I wonder how many men, already stuck with moronic and Victorian hangups about sex and machismo, back out and run away because they can't take the conflicting messages.
Jan. 8th, 2010 06:37 pm (UTC)
Christ. All that over a reversible procedure?

Puritanical nonsense.
Jan. 8th, 2010 06:45 pm (UTC)
Yep. It's the same story for tubal ligation. The difference is that a tubal runs at least five to seven times more for the surgery, and you're looking at a completely different type of doctor for that. With a vasectomy, it's usually performed by a urologist, and you'd be amazed at the number in Texas, much like dentists, who are also fundamentalists of the worst type. They won't blatantly say "no" for fear of complaints or bad word of mouth, but they'll make it as difficult as possible to dissuade as many as possible.

Of course, that Idiocracy analogy goes even further. My wife is a professional jeweler, and her boss lost the first digit of his middle left finger while goofing off with a saber saw. It's his HAND, on a finger he never uses except when in traffic, and he's terrified that this will somehow affect his ability to be a man. I won't even get into the wedding at which his wife was bridesmaid, where the bride wanted (and got) all of the bridesmaids to get breast implants so they matched her. I'm starting to think that we need to send another golden record into space to accompany Voyagers 1 and 2. This one, though, is nothing but video repeats of "Ow! My Balls!"
Jan. 8th, 2010 06:50 pm (UTC)

Yeah I keep expecting someone at a counter or reception desk somewhere to respond to me with: "Uh, your shit's all retarded and you talk like a fag, huhuhuh."
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
Or yells of "Get yer hands off muh junk!"
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:53 pm (UTC)
*chuckles* despite how frighteningly prophetic it is, I do love that film.
Jan. 8th, 2010 10:06 pm (UTC)
I've been living in Texas for three-quarters of my life. As much as I love the place, I can see exactly where Mike Judge got his inspiration.
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:27 pm (UTC)
The difference is that a tubal runs at least five to seven times more for the surgery, and you're looking at a completely different type of doctor for that.

Agreed. My insurance will not cover tubal ligation (though it DOES cover pregnancy!) and I can't afford to spend $3,000 out of pocket for that procedure, even though I have a doctor willing to perform it for me. It's very frustrating.
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:49 pm (UTC)
I feel for you. I really do. My mother was a Labor & Delivery nurse who also had one after four kids (as she put it, so she didn't have five), so I know a bit more about the procedure than most guys. The insurance thing is nuts for both: everything to make sure that you can have insane numbers of babies is covered by most insurance plans, but if you choose not to have any more? Better have some savings, bucko.
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:54 pm (UTC)
"My insurance will not cover tubal ligation (though it DOES cover pregnancy!)"

Whoa seriously? That is retarded as hell!
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:54 pm (UTC)
I for one am OK with the premature extinction of our kind. Sooner the better, honestly.

I agree with you here. I've actually said more than once "The human race should do the world a favor and allow itself to die out."

Guess I'm a misanthrope too.
Jan. 8th, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
There are good people, and people are capable of great and wonderful things.

Just not many of them.

The 10% or so of us that are decent, that are trying, have to deal with and try to compensate for the 90% who are, let's face it, a plague on this planet.

(obviously my percentage figures are a guess.)
Jan. 8th, 2010 08:41 pm (UTC)
Not related to your post directly but thought you might find this Wired article on silica in coal interesting.
Jan. 8th, 2010 11:19 pm (UTC)
I've been thinking about getting a tubal ligation; I know I don't want children, and neither does my fiancee or my other partner. I suppose that I should look and see if my insurance covers it. Birth control meds make me go crazy and so aren't really an option.

I'm a little worried that I'd have to find another doctor--there is a huge stigma about doing a tubal ligation on women under about 40, because 'you might change your mind'--and I really like the doctor I already have. The way I figure it, if I were to somehow change my mind, I could adopt.
Jan. 9th, 2010 03:27 am (UTC)
I've been meaning to read this for a while, so thank you for bringing it up. Must bump it up on my reading list.

I think it's very interesting how not having children is considered selfish and immature, but from a macroscopic perspective it's actually one of the most literally selfless acts you could perform. Many humans are wonderful, and many things that humans have done are wonderful, but I have been thinking recently that a lot of misanthropy is, rather than being hateful, is simply a rejection of anthropocentrism. hmm.

Also, I look forward to hearing the news about The Red Tree! And good luck with continued work on the new novel.
( 20 comments — Have your say! )