Posted by: Kevin | March 21, 2007

Be Fruitful and Multiply? Um, Mission Accomplished

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What do you say we start working on being good stewards of the land now?

Several months ago, my wife read me some entries from a mothering blog she lurks at.  These particular entries were about the Quiverfull movement.  I mention this because as I was finishing Collapse, by Jared Diamond, I couldn’t help but think back to those women, the lifestyle they were advocating and the main thesis of Diamond’s book.

The thesis of the book is that our current impact on our environment is greater than the environments ability to sustain.  Such practices have doomed societies in the past.  This problem will get worse before it gets better as the third world strives to achieve the first world lifestyle.  Lastly, it is unclear whether our growing environmental awareness will be enough to reduce and offset the growing impact we’re having on the planet.

The Quiverfull movement, for those unfamiliar, advocates that married couples should have as many babies as possible.  To put it in their terms, married couples should have as many children as God deems fit.  Thus, virtually all contraception is contrary to God’s will.  There are additional beliefs about the proper hierarchy in the home and the subordinate role of women that I won’t explore here.

I haven’t found many attempts to justify the Quiver movement in scientific terms.  Typically, adherents will point out the declining population in some European countries as a good reason to have more children.  This ignores the fact that the only nation in a population decline “crisis” is Russia.  That decline is driven by the dramatic drop in living standards and health care since the fall of the Soviet Union. It also ignores the fact that Europe could easily solve its “problem” by changing Immigration standards.

One justification that I found particularly funny is the statement that, “all the people on Earth could fit in city limits of Jacksonville, Fl, if they stood shoulder to shoulder.  So we don’t have an overpopulation problem.”  While technically true, what happens when they all have to take a dump? 

I’m not singling out the Quiverfulls because they are the source of so much environmental degradation.  After all, despite their best efforts, they still remain a tiny minority.  I’ve singled them out because they are a good symbol of much of what is wrong in our thinking on the environment. 

Many of our current ideas of resource exploitation and procreation are the kind of ideas that can only take root in a wealthy society.  One shielded from the environmental consequences of those ideas.  I don’t have to support a family on less than an acre of farm land.  I don’t live and fish downstream from a poorly regulated oil well and I don’t have the acid runoff from an abandoned mine leaching into my drinking water.  It is my good fortune to live in a nation which can export its environmental problems elsewhere.

As a US citizen, my oil comes from Venezuela, Mexico, Canada, Russia and the Middle East.  Many of my consumer products come from China’s dirty manufacturing sector and the resulting trash often goes back to China.  My seafood comes from all over the world, usually at the expense of the local fishermen.  The list goes on and on.

The point that Diamond attempted to drive home with Collapse, was that just because I can’t see the damage doesn’t mean it’s not there.  This month’s article of the National Geographic makes a similar point in the cover story “Saving the Seas Bounty”.  They also bring up the phenomenon of “creeping normalcy”.  Where we simply adjust to living in a damaged environment.  So much so that when we see an undamaged environment, like the marine reserves of New Zealand or Bonaire, we are amazed.

It would be easy to stop there.  There is a problem and it’s all because of evil politicians and evil corporations, except that would be dishonest.  In the end, I too am to blame.  My attitudes and purchasing habits have driven the degradation of our environment.  So in that spirit, I will close with this link, from the Australian government.  It lists the things that everyone can do in their home to reduce their environmental impact.  It’s a start. 

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Responses

  1. Good stuff. I don’t wholly buy the HOMAHGAWD WE’RE SCORCHING THE EARTH panic, but I’m still all for conservation just on principle. There have been stories like http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/03/15/tech/main2573153.shtml of people who have enough money ($500 000) to make their houses entirely solar-powered, nullifying any and all fuel-based environmental consequences–so perhaps if we just turned a sufficiently large tract of public land (say, Kansas) into solar cell…

  2. That’s pretty much where I stand as well. Panic and overblown rhetoric on what we need to do doesn’t really help but it would be nice if we could all agree that there is at least a problem and that doing a little bit now is a heck of a lot easier than having to do a lot later. As for turning Kansas into a gaint solar cell, as long as we wait until after their U of K wins the NCAA tournament (so I can win my office pool), I’m all ears.

  3. Following Diamond’s wisdom may be ignoring the real evidence and going down the wrong path.

    Diamond did not “dig” very deep to find a society that would match his already formed conclusions. When I first started reading about Greenland, six years ago, I swiftly learned most of the themes that Diamond wrote about in his book Collapse.

    Now, after six years of research I have just read the TRUE history left by the Norse in Greenland, entitled the “Maalan Aarum” (Walam Olum) meaning “Engraved years.” [Google to Frozen Trail to Merica and click on decipherment.]

    The Norse felt the hunger caused by over grazing their pasture lands. Many of them left to “the other side” (of Davis Strait–America).

    Those who stayed lived mostly on food from the sea. When the Little Ice age closed the options of those remaining, they too walked on the ice to “the other side.”

    The Norse in Greenland faced two great ecological challenges. In both cases they decided, as a group. and left while they still had options. As a society they were successful, as Algonquin speaking tribes in North America and not as Norse in Greenland.

    Where in the world of the 1300s, dominated by Popes, Kings, Khans, and other dictators, were there groups of people who could decide their own reaction to changing ecological conditions? Probably only in Iceland and Greenland, where the democratic “Althing” was the governing body.

    The Vikings (Old Norse) succeeded against over whelming odds. They occupied 1/3 of North America when their cousins the English and the French landed on their shores. Diamond wrote in his previous book how germs, guns, and steel could destroy civilizations. He was perceptive in that book, but in Collapse he apparently rushed to print without doing his homework.

    One of the rare civilizations in the 1300s with democratic government overcame two major ecological disasters by taking the best option available—moving. That survival of a democratic group under great stress is the story Diamond should have written about. That story offers a glimmer of hope for democratic societies.

    Myron

  4. Dude, the Old Norse became Algonquin speaking Native Americans. Are you fucking kidding me. Seriously, In terms of flawed historical theories, you have just won the crown for the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen written or spoken. Congratulations.

  5. Kevin

    You can look at the first seven verses of the Lenape (Indian) Walam Olum which can be deciphered word for word by using Reider T. Sherwin’s 15,000 comparisons of Algonquin and Old Norse. (Lenape is one of more than 31 Algonquin dialects.)[Google to Frozen Trail to Merica. Click on decipherments]

    Until you can return to this site with written proofs that 8,000 of Sherwin’s comparisons are not correct because [various reasons], I would appreciate you removing your filthy language and insulting remarks from this serious Blog.

  6. Myron, my brief search has turned up a couple of articles by the “true believers” (both of which seem to quote you) and some skepticism from some actual Algonquin speakers. Other that that I find nothing but blog posts which link back to the original 2 articles. I’m sorry to say that it will take more than that to change my mind. If there is substantial evidence, then other experts will be investigating. I will leave the debunking (or not) to the experts. As for rude and insulting, I will reinstate the prior champion of the “dumbest thing I’ve ever seen written or spoken (in terms of flawed historical theories)” pending a more complete review. Seems to me that even if you’re theory proves correct, that in no way invalidates the premise of “Collapse”, which was the whole point of this post in the first place.

  7. Kevin

    A short biblography of four and a half pages is given in the back of my book Frozen Trail to Merica: Talerman.

    In that list you will find statements on both sides of the hypothesis. You will find statements written before 1400 AD that 4000 people (from Greenland) walked into [Hudson strait] and never came back.

    You will also find a statement written by Bishop Oddson of Iceland in about 1360 AD that the people of Greenland gave up their faith and turned to America.

    You will also find reference to eight volumes of The Viking and the Red Man by Reider T Sherwin.
    In those volumes Sherwin wrote over 15,000 coparisons between the Algonquin Language and Old Norse. After over eight years of study Sherwin wrote “The Algonquin Indian Language is Old Norse.”

    Sherwin worked 18 years on his project. To prove half of his comparisons not valid some one would have to work about four years.

    I, myself, have been able to use Sherwin’s comparisons to decipher thirteen verse of the Lenape Walam Olum. [I have not been able to get back to thedeciphering process yet.]

    The decipherment indicates to me that Sherwin knew what he was doing and that the seven verses in the Walam Olum that describe crossing over the ice are very valid.

    Northeast America has many “Indian” names. Most of them are Old Norse. Five USA states, Massachusetts, Conneticut, Michigan, Illinois, Mississipi, are Old Norse names. Three Canadian provinces are also Old Norse.

    I doubt that it possible to change your mind, but the reason is not a lack of evidence.

    Also my opinion of your “rude and insulting” behavoir still stands. I believe I still see adequate evidence of that fact.

    Myron


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