Dear Mother: February-March 2009

Letters from our readers on population, tips for starting a fire, genetic engineering and more.

| February/March 2009

  • Bread
    Readers absolutely loved the easy and amazing artisan bread recipe in the December 2008/February 2009 issue.
    MARK LUINENBURG
  • Crowd
    “We must formulate a world population policy, and do it soon. The elephant is stirring.” — Howard Pellett; Anacortes, Washington
    DMITRY NIKOLAEV/FOTOLIA
  • Corn crop
    Reader Sally Caruth pointed out that the Seed Savers Exchange is a great place to find heirloom seeds — and we agree!
    ROB CARDILLO
  • Woodstove
    Kevin Bedard was impressed with John Gulland’s fire-starting advice, tips he hadn’t heard from even from the manufacturer.
    NATE SKOW
  • GM Fish
    David Vuicich was alarmed at reading after reading about genetically engineered foods (“Engineering a False Hope,” October/November 2008), and suggested Claire Hope Cummings Uncertain Peril for further reading.
    DAVE CHANNON
  • Sitting Bull
    Inspired by a 1980 Mother Earth News article, “Solar Etching,” Jonathan began a beautiful and successful career making portraits using the sun and a magnifying glass.
    JONATHAN MAXWELL BEARTUSK

  • Bread
  • Crowd
  • Corn crop
  • Woodstove
  • GM Fish
  • Sitting Bull

Do the Right Thing

I’m so glad that you’re brave enough to take a stand for population control; not many organizations have that kind of courage and vision nowadays. No matter how carefully we live, people take up space and use resources. In Dear Mother, Kathleen Plumb complained that population control “caters to the selfish.” Back in the early ’70s, when it became clear that runaway population would lead to famines and environmental destruction, my husband and I decided to have but one child. For us, this was not selfish, but a sacrifice; and we’re still convinced that we did the right thing.

Mary Pratt
New Haven, Vermont

A Broken Planet

Kathleen Plumb’s comment that population “should not be a target in protecting our planet” was disheartening, to say the least. She offers no reasoning for her stance, just a little weak rhetoric about how reducing the population is “selfish” and about how the world was put here for mankind. 

To Ms. Plumb and those who would espouse her beliefs, I must ask: How do you think the Creator feels about how we treat the great gift which is this world? I bet it is something like a parent who has given a child a remarkable gift, only to discover the child has carelessly broken it.

Cliff Seruntine
Antigonish, Nova Scotia

Time to Evolve

When I read Ms. Plumb’s uneasiness regarding a solution to our problems with human demographics, I must admit I jumped in my seat! Especially when I read her statement that “Our resources were put here for mankind.” I thought for a second I was reading something out of a 16th-century book.



This may offend some more religious readers, but it’s time humans evolved (another dreaded word for some) from a narrow religious belief to a more modern open-mindedness, in which each human is important and each human is mindful of the other living creatures that share the Earth!

Pearl Duval
Montreal, Quebec

We Won’t Conserve

You make some interesting points in Three Mountains We Must Climb. However, you exhibit a naive viewpoint as well as a lack of general knowledge concerning history and social/political science, as well as basic human behavior.

E.Vasta
1/25/2009 1:51:24 PM

If Mother claims to care about the environment, then it must also encourage a reduction in population. There is no environmental policy without a population policy. We’ve already exceeded global carrying capacity. We are now in “overshoot”. (Visualize a car sailing smoothly, but quite temporarily, through the air after having been driven off of a cliff.) Global population is nearing 7 billion. Different theorists using different methods seem to end up agreeing that global carrying capacity is probably about 2 billion. (This assumes some level of social justice and a moderate, low by US standards, standard of living. More is possible if you accept a cattle car / Matrix-esque "life".) In any case, we will get to that much-lower-than-7-billion number the hard way (wars, famine, disease, and their accompanying losses of environmental quality, freedom, and social justice) OR the less hard way (immediately and drastically reducing our population voluntarily). Yes, all of us, yes, everywhere. There is no scenario anywhere in which population growth is a "good thing" long term. Yes a drop in population would cause problems, but none of those problems are as big as the problems, suffering, and environmental collapse that is certain to occur if we don’t. I disagree with any argument that there is some “right to reproduce”. If there is any "right to reproduce" it's in the concept that one has the freedom to nurture a child or children and form some sort of family. Biological reproduction is not necessary to do that and there are many in need of this sort of nurturing. This is a global issue with local and nation-state consequences. For example, immigration is a consequence of overpopulation, not a cause of it. Likewise, global climate change is not impressed by national boundaries. No technological / "alternative energy" options have the capacity or can be ramped up fast enough to avoid major g






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