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Dear MOTHER: April/May 2014

Reader letters about gardening in the suburbs, raising heritage breed chickens, childfree living, fracking, wheat and health, and more.

| April/May 2014

  • We’re impressed and inspired by the many ways MOTHER EARTH NEWS readers find to grow lots of food in even the smallest of spaces. Reader Bonnie Ingram wrote to tell us of converting her third-acre urban lot in Idaho into a prolific, food-producing landscape.
    Photo by David Liebman
  • Free mulch for your spuds? Shredded leaves or grass clippings will get the job done.
    Photo by Fotolia/cherries

Pickin’ Heritage Chicken

Seeing the cross section of breeds featured in your story about heritage chickens (Backyard Heritage Chicken Breeds, February/March 2014) was terrific! I was amazed to realize that, at one time or another, I’ve owned practically every fowl profiled in the article. Raising poultry can become addictive, and it’s an addiction that is practical and so satisfying and fun.

I’d like to add, though, that some of the breeds highlighted, while being great-looking novelty breeds, are just that — a novelty. Campines, Dorkings, Hamburgs, Minorcas and Polish aren’t traditionally raised for high egg production, and — if feed prices are a concern — these breeds may not be practical for homesteaders looking to cost-effectively maximize their supply of farm-fresh eggs.

Carolyn Schuster
Port Orchard, Washington

3/18/2014 9:27:27 AM

I should not have been, but I was surprised at the vehemence of the negative reaction to Lisa Hymas’ article on choosing not to have children. If I remember correctly, the tone of the article was gentle and she actually made a point of saying she was not telling anyone else what to do; she was only talking about what she and her husband decided to do. It’s too bad our culture has become so polarized we can’t even express opinions in a modest way without incurring the wrath of our fellow citizens. I am writing to encourage Mother Earth News to be brave and continue publishing opinion pieces, and to encourage those who choose not to procreate to not be bullied into hiding their choice as if it were some great shame. I would also like to offer some obvious, not so gentle truths. One only need look at a graph of global human population growth over the past hundred years to know the pace we’re on now is not sustainable. Our planet is finite in resources and space: you can only feed and fit so many people on it. If you’d like to see what this will look like everywhere eventually, you can see it right now in much of Asia. I have, and the crowding, pollution, and squalor are indistinguishable from our darkest dystopian fiction. True, we’re fitting many more people on Earth now than Malthus thought possible, but only because we’ve industrialized agriculture. Chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and inhumane methods for raising livestock have, like a global ponzy scheme, provided huge short-term gains that will ultimately disappear when we run out of the fossil fuels that keep big agriculture running. It’s happening already: Every time oil prices spike, so do food prices. Remember the bread riots that started the political upheaval we’ve seen in the Arab world over the past couple years? And that’s assuming the land and water don’t give out first. The Colorado River already often doesn’t make it to the ocean because we drain it dry to irrigate crops and provide water to humans and livestock. Eventually there won’t be enough river for human needs either. What is not depleted is rendered unusable: petrochemical-based agriculture is poisoning our land and freshwater and killing our oceans. Ultimately, the “debate” about the potential for unchecked human population growth does not matter. The fact is that population will continue to grow unabated for the near term because most people are, for several reasons, so committed to making more people. Because of this growth, we will eventually reach the tipping point and some combination of famine, lack of water, epidemic, and war over scarce resources will crash global human population, moderating our numbers when we would not. Observing nature shows us whenever a species’ population grows beyond the capacity of a closed environment to sustain it, that population crashes. It happens when fermentation in a vessel produces too much acid or alcohol, and consumes too many starches and sugars, for the microbes to survive. It happens when too many deer and not enough predators occupy a forest. Until we can leave the Earth permanently, our planet is a closed environment for us. Personally, I would rather see us use our brains to avoid calamity by moderating our procreation voluntarily. If you want to have children, adopt them, or only make one. At least don’t have more than two. If we could lower our population this way, we might avoid the incalculable pain and suffering of the alternative.

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