John McAndrew

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We Must Grapple with the Problem of Human Population

In Uncategorized on September 18, 2015 at 6:03 PM

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On a planet with 7.3 Billion people we have produced 100 Million more babies. So far. This year. (58 Million net, 100 Million gross.)

Perhaps some comparisons will help us understand this number. It is the equivalent of a new Philippines (102 Million. Don’t quibble: we’ll make it).

Or 1.25 Germanies.

Mehr Flammkuchen!

More than TWO Spains!

You can't have enough Spain! Rioja!

FOUR times the population of Australia!

Think of all the cuddly koalas . . . we no longer have room for.

Actually, I lied. Wikipedia says Australia has only 23.9 Million people. Multiplied by 4, that’s only about 96 Million – meaning we still have room for another . . .

Oh, look – a tree! How old-fashioned!

More cedars would be nice.

Lebanon! In addition to four more Australias.

But this may be difficult for some Americans to grasp. So let’s illustrate this with examples closer to home.

100 Million people is the equivalent of slightly more than 2.5 Californias.

That's a lot of drought-burdened hippies and celebrities!

It’s almost as big (just wait a week or so) as four Lone Star States.

Who doesn't need more oil wells? We don't! Yee-haww!

In 1974, when the Zero Population Growth people came to speak at my high school, we were just about to break 4 Billion. It was in the last 40 years that we have lost roughly 50% of our wildlife. In some cases, those losses have led to extinctions.

This is basic math. We can’t keep reproducing like this, especially at our current rate of consumption, and expect there to be no dire consequences with unpredictable follow-on consequences.

Every way in which we are damaging the planet is made worse by the number of us doing the damage.

Every solution to climate change is made less effective by the fact that we are adding millions of people to an already-stressed planet every single month.

There is no solution to climate change that does not require us to intentionally and dramatically reduce our population.

This kind of statement often elicits hysterical responses. “You’re talking in favor of genocide! Mass murder! Racial cleansing! Untold suffering! Soylent Green!” No, that’s what YOU’RE talking about if we let the laissez-faire approach to human population continue. What I’m talking about is rather mundane: have one baby, and no more. I’m certainly not against family. I am against suffering. The inevitable long-term effects of having policies that reward large families is hard to imagine. We’re already in the midst of a mass extinction resulting from our population plus our consumption. If we were reducing population by the amount that we are raising it every year, that would be progress.

Every solution to climate change would be made more effective by the reduction of our population. 

“Yeah? Well who’s going to decide? YOU?”

No: you, and you and you. Because this is simple math and elementary reasoning. It’s really hardly worth discussing. But I’m happy to suggest some possible policies, just as a conversation-starter: universal sex ed; free birth control; free vasectomies and tubal ligations; for the first child, free pre- and post-natal care and free job training and/or education – with an emphasis on educating girls; no freebies for subsequent children. You want a second child, you have to be able to afford it. Stop giving people like the Duggars tax breaks for being baby mills. It’s like subsidizing fossil fuel companies: why are we incentivizing those things that are not only not necessary, but which have a bad effect on our environment?

If you wish to argue any of those proposals based on the current economic system, don’t bother: I am assuming that a deliberate, persistent reduction in population would cause various kinds of disaster for our current capitalistic system. It’s time for a system that depends on cancerous population growth, that leaves the great majority of people behind, that has yet to result in happiness or contentment along with prosperity of a few, and that rewards those who waste massive resources and human capital, to be removed from life support.

Who has done population control well? China had mixed success with its one child policy, and the policy is often cited as the kind of draconian setting aside of personal liberty that must be avoided at all costs. And sure, I’d just as soon not legislate this, but depend on people to do the sane and responsible thing, look at the rapidly worsening state of the planet and say to themselves, “One is enough. I can help parent my friends’ kids, or adopt an orphan.” Iran had great success with their family planning program, dropping from an average of 7 births per woman to two. We can build on Iran’s program, and learn cautionary tales from China’s.

Some say that our population will stabilize as quality of life improves, topping out at a mere 9 or 11 Billion. They say this as if we have no worries, no need to be more deliberate and informed about our decisions. Let things take their natural course. This is delusional.

At some point – when the populations of other species have recovered and stabilized, and CO2 levels are dropping back to a normal range, we could return to having two babies. But because of the grotesque excesses of my generation, about which we were given adequate warning, we now have to dial back our population dramatically. We have to. Or, we will drive ourselves to extinction, ironically, by denuding the planet with too many people.

Well, I’ll Be Damned: I’m a Believer

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2011 at 10:35 PM

In the Schleswig Munster, in north Schleswig-Holstein, almost all the way to Denmark, is a triptych of the life of Mary. I was struck by its simplicity and universality. It spoke to me of a Christianity I could believe in, which will surprise those who know me. I took pictures so I could share.

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Moving Your Money

In Uncategorized on October 11, 2011 at 12:33 AM

[This is the first post I am cross-posting to a new blog in which I am participating. My friend Jack Jamison (no relation to Jenna, at least that I know of) and I, along with others, will be posting all manner of ideas, ruminations, and discussions on the affairs of the hour/week/era. So please come by and see what’s up.]

A year ago I decided that it was no use complaining about the behaviors and policies of the big banks if I was letting them use my money to do what I railed against. So I closed my Wells Fargo account and moved my business to a local credit union. If we don’t like how Chase, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America treat people and conduct business, WHY would we give them our money? This is a rare issue that conservatives and liberals can agree on, albeit for different reasons: conservatives railed against the bail outs, liberals against the bail outs AND foreclosures. About the only ones less popular with both groups are insurance companies and Congress.

There is a group on Facebook called Bank Transfer Day. It was launched around October 6, so it is less than a week old and already has 18,000 “attendees” – those who have already transferred their accounts, and those who pledge to do so before November 5 (Guy Fawkes Day, and a day made more memorable to Americans by the book and movie, V for Vendetta). Time Magazine and The Village Voice have already done stories on this effort.

This is not the first effort to remind Americans that we have the power to cast votes for or against particular businesses as well as politicians. There have been boycotts for years, whether sponsored by Greenpeace or Focus on the Family. A year or two ago, Huffington Post sponsored an effort called the Move Your Money Project. But this effort is riding the wave of the suddenly-emerged populist movement, Occupy Wall Street, which even a Fox News poll shows to be supported by 67% of respondents. While Bank Transfer Day is not an official outgrowth of #OWS, there are clear affinities between the groups; a Venn Diagram would show a significant, and maybe an almost total, overlap.

It takes little effort to make the change. Keep your old bank account open for a month or so while you make the transition to a credit union or local bank, just to make sure everything is working smoothly. Then cut ’em loose.

That’s free market capitalism at work. Bank of America just gave two severance packages worth $11 million to two execs who were let go. These were not performance bonuses. This, after stating that their need to cut expenses will lead to the elimination of 30,000 jobs, and announcing a $5/month fee on debit card use.

At some point, you realize you have to leave an abusive relationship.

To find a credit union near you, go here. For a local bank, go here, then go here for other resources: make sure the local bank is FDIC-insured, and check their financial stability.

If we stop abdicating our responsibility as citizens, we may find that our country begins to look something like what we want it to look like. This is just the first small step. Think of it as practice for bigger things.


In Uncategorized on July 15, 2011 at 5:59 AM

Dear friends and readers,

I have a new blog post almost ready to go, but before that goes on the wall I’d just like to say how deeply moved and surprised I have been by your response to my last post, Ghosts, on suicide. I am pleased that it proved to be cathartic, or to provide some context, for some who are grieving the same deaths I am grieving. That was its intent.

I am also grateful to those who offered me your support, as willing recipients for any desperate phone calls I need to make – and as more gracious guests for my next birthday party. You guys are great: like a big brother who offers to beat up the people who hurt you. You don’t (usually) want people to actually get beat up, but it’s great to know that someone is fired up on your behalf.

Most of all, I have been pierced (tenderized was my first choice, but I’m not sure everyone has used a meat tenderizer) by the stories you have told me about your  experiences with depression and  suicide attempts – your own or those of friends. Some of you have dealt with so much pain in your lives. Knowing what you have coped with, what you have done for others in some of the most traumatic events human life has to offer . . .

Thank you, so much, for telling me these stories, for sharing these confidences. I am amazed by you. The things you have done – your perseverance, the help you have given, the attention you have paid to the hard lessons you have been given to learn – are genuinely heroic. I had no idea. Thank you.

On Conservative Values: Fiscal Conservatism

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2011 at 12:59 PM

Let’s begin with fiscal conservatism, then. It begins with integrity. You do excellent work. Not good work: excellent work. You know that your reputation, livelihood and security depend on the work you do. You take pride in the quality of your work: what you do and how you do it. You mind the details. You build good relationships, preferably with others who do excellent work. Where that is not possible – because you know the world is not Utopia and is made of all kinds of people with different priorities and abilities – you make sure those relationships do not imperil your work or reputation.

Your goal in doing good work is not early retirement. Why would you live to stop doing something that you love doing, are good at doing and that meets a need? Good work is a very good answer to the question of the meaning of life. It is part of what is meant by a good life. If your work is so onerous that you can’t wait to stop, why are you doing it? Good work is its own reward. You preserve capital: your energies are finite, too. Read the rest of this entry »

Captain America: Godless Liberal, or Birther?

In Uncategorized on May 23, 2011 at 5:51 PM

On Frum Forum, a conservative site run by David Frum, a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, there is an homage to Jack Kirby, creator of Captain America. The author calls Captain America the greatest American superhero (this was written even before Superman renounced his American citizenship). Kirby fought in Patton’s army in WW2. He declared himself a New Dealer and liberal, but the author points out that some of Kirby’s motivations were clearly conservative in origin.

This reminds us that, when we say that someone is X, it is shorthand, a generalization. Such descriptors, in almost every case, obscure the complexity of people and their views. We use these labels on ourselves as readily as we do on others. We should ask what the labels mean, and see how divergent are the answers. Then we can see how comfortable we are in applying them to ourselves.

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