Sunday, July 12, 2009

I've handed in the draft chapter I wrote for State of the World 2010. Now I'm trying to find time to take a close look at the comments my colleagues have made in the text.

The best way to summarize my message, I think, is that I'm not a believer in "promoting" a small child norm. (I'm not much of a promoter of anything, truth be told, except sustainability itself, the beauty of traditional Irish music, and the importance of population growth in human life generally.) Rather than promoting small families, I believe that what institutions can do in influencing culture (the book will be about cultural transformation) is promote the conditions through which small families will arise solely and spontaneously out of the realized desires of couples themselves, and especially those of women.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reproductive rights and small-family norms

My writing assignment for Worldwatch's upcoming State of the World 2010: Should environmentalists and sustainable cultures promote small families? Your view?

On the one hand, the countries of the world united in a 1994 UN conference around the conviction that the timing of reproduction is up to individuals and couples, not the state or a religion or anyone else.

On the other, promotion of a small-family norm takes away no one's reproductive rights -- it just asks people to think about the impacts of their reproductive decisions on the environment and on the rest of humanity.

But is there line across which such promotion become something stronger, such as coercion? Where would that line be? Is it likely that people will change the common view that reproductive decisions are intensely personal and not suitable even for discussion, let alone promotion or persuasion? Might the onset of serious environmental calamity--which is quite possibly on the way--change this view?

What do you think?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Introducing: A Number Of Us

I intend this phrase to be a fresh synonym for population, a word that seems to have few synonyms and is therefore a bit overused when discussing . . . population. After "human numbers," what is there? I've been thinking of "peopling" as a more basic English term, a bit more distant than "population" from the Latin populi. But I'm not sure how to use this word yet to mean population without being confusing.

I'm launching this new blog in part to point readers to my book, More: Population, Nature, and What Women Want (Island Press--recent reviews at and at But the larger purpose (which I wrote the book to help) is to encourage conversations about human population--where it has been, how it has affected our development and history, where it is headed, and what if anything might be done to change its direction in positive ways.

Comments on the topic are welcome.