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April 27, 2008


I know this is a very well meaning post but you framed it in such a way that it hits a pet peeve of mine.

"Before you have children, you see these stories and feel a twinge of discomfort but then it’s gone".

See, you only know that that's how *you* reacted before you had children. And while having children might have woken your partially dormant empathy response, there are plenty of childless folks who are bothered by this every bit as much as you are, I promise.

Never having been a fairly recent new parent(unless someone stole my genes while I was drugged or some kind of conspiracy like that); I don't see why the discomfort would leave. People choose to have children. They live on this insane planet, see what it is...... and reproduce. This is the act of an insane person. So, the insane produce more people for insanity. The discomfort was there, and never should leave, because those who reproduce know it is an insane world and reproduce anyway. Why wouldn't jack and jill be enraged, saddened and embarrassed knowing reproducing will create another person who will go insane? The reality there is the same as the person starving to death.

Being childless and never reproducing; I fell less discomfort.

The UN food program was Rice's little Jesus(Italy) and see what has happened over the last year?

Dear Publius. Jua a quick note.

But I think part of the problem with rising food prices are stupid gov't policies. Such as the ethanal subsidy miess. Please note the link to the article I inserted here.

Sincerely, Sean

Children are the best thing that can happen to a person. The decision to have children is unrelated to food shortages anyway. There is plenty of food, enough to feed everyone. And if we did choose to eliminate poverty and hunger people would switch from r-strategy to K-strategy and then we would find ourselves in the opposite dilemma of how to manage a rapidly decreasing population.

Kids are great, huh? Very cute. Just like Tribbles. There's only one problem.

Is there enough to feed everyone? Not if everyone eats like Westerners. And the Chinese are starting to. They've earned it, really. So, either some Westerners have to learn to eat like the Chinese, or some non-Chinese non-Westerners have to starve. I believe it is called "creative destruction".

Ethanol subsidies? Well we have used up too much of the sun's energy that was stored over a period of millions of years, so now we have to start switching to the sun's energy that we get today. Perhaps someone (other than myself) should drive less. It might keep a starving child alive for a while longer.

Congratulations on the new addition to your family, publius.

Hillary’s talk of ‘green collar jobs’ is nonsense. The most efficient way to power our world is the internal combustion engine. Maybe someday there will be batteries capable of storing enough nuclear-generated electricity to run farms and distribute the food, but I kind of doubt it.

Even with the use of efficient internal combustion engines, our system of food distribution is strained with a world population of 6.6 billion. Some of the problem is ethanol, but the bigger long-term problem is a rapidly expanding world population. Uganda has a birth rate of 6.8 children per woman.

We are near peak oil. As we switch from the internal combustion engine to what will likely be a less efficient way of doing things, the carrying capacity of the earth will decrease. There is reason to believe that there will be fewer people alive at the beginning of the 22nd Century that there were at the beginning of the 21st.

There are ethics problems with ethanol. There are also ethics problems with feeding dependent people without insisting on population controls. We’ll put an end to ethanol within the decade. But we will not insist on population controls because the decision-makers are too weak to handle charges of racism.

Which could very well cause human suffering on a scale that dwarfs, gasp, Hitler.

An interesting article making a case that we’ve hit peak oil:

"Kids are great, huh? Very cute."

They are. Children are in fact sort of the whole point of existence. Neither you nor I are the culmination and crowning achievement of evolution. I don't understand this attitude that the world is too evil to bring a child into it. Seems to me like such a person is an evolutionary dead end to me.

"Is there enough to feed everyone?"

Yes there is, but no, of course not everyone can eat the western diet. I'm just saying that the choice does exist to feed everyone and start cutting back our population gradually. It doesn't look like we are going to take that path though. Either way the problem is self correcting.

Anyone who is worried about the existence, on earth, of enough food to feed us could start by becoming a vegetarian. Tasty, nutritious, and it allows you to drastically cut your grain footprint while still having kids.

Just saying. ;)

Hilzoy has the right idea. Some of you need to adopt a third world diet, so that the populations of the no-longer third world countries can adopt the diet you abandon, and so that selfish Westerners (such as myself) can increase their carnivorous ways, and, if my technical plans prove to be both correct and feasible, drive cars that run on veal.

Publius, I'm not sure you noticed, but there's a post prominently linked in the upper left of this blog that's already entitled "How To Help."

Giving another post the identical title might cause confusion.

Certainly it did in me, when I saw new comments listed for that post. I thought. But maybe that's the only possible confusion, so no harm done.

As Slarti said, Publius: Congratulations.

I have three kids (the youngest is your age). They are all really lovely people, despite their father’s emotional instability. They are responsible, conscientious people who contribute their fair share to the health and happiness of the world around them, and the world would be a poorer place without them.
The eldest hopes to establish a chamber opera company; the younger daughter is a nurse, specialized in AIDS and infectious diseases, and counsels terminal patients and their families; and the youngest is a timber-framer.
Hard-working people making a difference. The eldest is a vegan, and they all live conscientiously. They are pretty sane people despite paternal influence.
None of them seems likely at this point to have children.

So kind of a mixed message, but I wanted to add my encouragement and offer a counterpoint to the denouncing and rejecting.

The most efficient way to power our world is the internal combustion engine.

Bill, do you realize that your writing makes engineers weep? I don't think you should be making declarative statements using phrases like "efficient", "power", and "internal combustion engine" without knowing a great deal more than you appear to know. For the record, ICEs are significantly less efficient than, say, gas turbines or jet engines Hint: the efficiency limit of a heat engine is related to the maximum temperature difference it can sustain. ICEs run at several hundred degrees while jet engines run at several thousand degrees. That's the difference between 35% and 85% efficient.

Now, perhaps you were trying to allude to a larger point about the broader system level efficiencies of ICEs that utilize convenient liquid fuels versus electric motors utilizing batteries that use power generated by a gas turbine. That's a more complex analysis, but given that a giant centralized gas turbine engine is going to start off much more efficient than a vast array of poorly maintained crappy ICEs can ever be, and given that physically transporting oil ten thousand miles across the globe has a nontrivial energy cost, I don't think your argument is self evident. Which means you'd have to actually, you know, make the argument and provide some evidence. Preferable evidence indicating that you had some clue about what "efficiency" means.


Try tying a LM2500 to a combine, and let’s talk. Then take away the gas card, and we’ll have another talk. I’ll keep my 35% while it lasts.

I’d also like to say congratulations Publius. Kids are what it’s all about. My youngest just turned one week old and she melts my heart. I have never, in my life, met anyone who regretted becoming a parent. My kids also seem to be doing well despite their paternal influence.

We all started tomatoes from seed three weeks ago. Tomorrow is the big day when we plant them outside. But potatoes are where it’s at. That’s in May.

Good one Turb.
Good one Bill. And: Congratulations yerself. Sounds wonderful.

There are people like that, but they’re already hurting badly.

How many plants did you set? & what variety (or varieties)?

As much as I yearn to echo Turbulence's response to Brick Oven Bill, Bill does have a certain point. The internal combustion engine (I digress for a moment to point out that there is no THE internal-combustion engine; there's a whole family of them. But still, we're talking about reciprocating engines, here) is, despite its inefficiencies, better suited to certain applications like automobiles and farm machinery than are any alternatives. So while it makes me cringe to use the word "efficient" in reference to the ICE, I concede Bill has a certain point.

ICEs are the least efficient way to obtain vehicular power from fossil fuels, except for all the other alternatives.

I certainly support the idea of donating to charities that are feeding the increasing number of hungry people around the world, but this hits one of my pet peeves.

We are continually being encouraged to do our little individual bit (give money to charity, recycle, raise funds for someone's medical bills, volunteer, etc.) when we all know that (1) These needs exist because our government has failed to act responsibly either toward its own citizens or those of other nations, and (2) Our individual efforts cannot possibly address the underlying systemic causes of these ills.

While we should give what we can now to these efforts, we should also put our hearts and souls into electing a Congress that will put people's needs first.

Tata Air Car.

The genetic excuses for the insanity are based on people's brain size. People who use allot, see and hear allot, get bigger brains and the ones who don't use have smaller brains. The problem is we all dream, so that's why the brains got enlarged.

We need to clone based on small brained humans to go sane. Females can be eliminated from the human race as having nothing to offer.

Anyone who is worried about the existence, on earth, of enough food to feed us could start by becoming a vegetarian. Tasty, nutritious, and it allows you to drastically cut your grain footprint while still having kids.

Did anyone other than me read this as hilzoy advocating infantetarianism?

Also, congrats, publius!

Hi publius,

I hope you dig deeper into this issue. I find it fascinating one, and, while I don't go in for the Augustine non-sense about needing to privilege children, I know your heart in the right place.

When I was in Santiago de Cuba last Summer, the only ship I saw was filed with corn. Locals told me that the Cubans were bringing the crop in like crazy, fearing that, with bush and Lula's, deal the prices will only hike higher.

I fear that the neocons are deliberately using corn as a weapon against Iran and Chavez.

The Cuban commies, of course, had no choice but to buy, thus doing their part to drive up the prices and consequently lure impoverished farmers into ripping up other crops in order to plant corn

what a mess.

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