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Monday, August 10, 2009

Competitive Child Bearing

Kate Galbraith put up a post in the NYT Green Inc. blog about the carbon footprint of child bearing. According to a study done at Oregon State University:

"…a hypothetical American woman who switches to a more fuel-efficient car, drives less, recycles, installs more efficient light bulbs, and replaces her refrigerator and windows with energy-saving models. If she had two children, the researchers found, her carbon legacy would eventually rise to nearly 40 times what she had saved by those actions."

In other words, if you think you can compensate for having a child by changing your lifestyle, think again. If you want children, just accept the fact that you are not doing the planet any favors and get on with it.

There are almost 300 comments on that article. I find it interesting that a paid journalist for the New York Times can spend so little time on an article (275 words long) that then generates ten thousand words in the comment field. I'm sure these journalists are kept busy doing something, but these articles surely can't account for an entire workday.

From where I'm sitting a Times journalist has a pretty good deal. They are not paid to come up with novel ideas or thoughts. They are forbidden to even express or defend opinions. They are surrounded by thousands of unpaid bloggers and commenters who generate orders of magnitude more material. This article for example served as a node for commenters who go off commenting on what other commenters say, and I will bet that a lot of commenters don't even read the original article. It also spun off a number of blog posts like this one, where opinions are expressed and defended, and with a little luck, a novel idea might even be suggested. I wonder what the future holds for newspapers? Are they going to devolve into comment and blog generation nodes surrounded by ads?

And speaking of comments, if you read the ones under this Green Inc. post you will be appalled and possibly depressed. Like flies to cow pies, the vile and the ignorant seem to be attracted to articles on women's reproductive rights. You can blame this in large part on religion. The anti-choice banner bearers are motivated by self-righteousness, and there is nothing more dangerous than knowing without any doubt that you are right, when you aren't.

Family size in America waxes and wanes, making me suspect that family size by definition, is largely a kind of fad. I strongly suspect that my mom had six kids and my mother in-law had five, because at a subconscious level, they perceived that there was higher status in larger families.

Fads evolve via subconscious cues. Status seeking is all about doing what the cool kids do. Competitive birthing is a term coined to describe one such fad. Higher status women are having more children. This will in turn motivate many women to have one more child in a kind of escalating arms race. This will also cause lower status women to emulate them, just as it causes them to name their children after them, all subconsciously motivated.

How many three children families will be spawned by this photo found on the front page of the Seattle Times a few weeks ago?

1 comment:

  1. Here's another alternative Russ. What if we succeed in zeroing out humanity's carbon footprint? It's a long shot, but then having children would be carbon consequence free.

    And with reproductive rights for women, families would strive for quality rather than quantity. Hehey, mighty optimistic I know.

    It could happen.


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