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Maybe One: A Case for Smaller Families Hardcover – 1 Oct 1998

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 25 reviews
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
The most important book in contemporary America 15 Dec. 1998
By - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Maybe One by Bill McKibben
The importance of this book to the near future of the United States is hard to exaggerate. It is a must for every young American, and everyone who cares about the quality of human life and of the environment.
McKibben's premise is this: if large numbers of people choose to limit their families to one child, the maximum population of the United States will be lower by a critical amount.
Most environmental thinkers recognize the central role of population growth in environment issues, including in this country. The United States is the third most populous country in the world, and the fastest growing industrialized nation. Bill McKibben has the courage to tell the truth: the only way to limit population growth is to choose small families. Deciding how many children to have, like it or not, is more than a private decision. It is very much a decision that will effect the quality of life of all Americans over the next 100 years.
McKibben gently demolishes long-held beliefs in the poor adjustment of only children. He also argues against legislated population control, though one might make the case that such measures may become necessary if voluntary family limits fail.
McKibben's relaxed, peppy style makes this book accessible to everyone, and his topic is the most important one for contemporary America.
34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
Earth issues and broader thoughts on the only child 20 Jun. 2001
By Elizabeth - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Bill McKibben has written a book that is not only much needed but a wake up call to those who care about the entire earth environment and what effect multi-child families have.
As the mother of one child, a son who is now raised and responsible and happy I am always looking for books that dispel the myths about only children being selfish, spoiled, maladjusted loners (the authors words). The author doesn't just talk theory. And he walks his talk, in sharing the personal choice and experience of having a vasectomy.
His work is thorough in showing how misplaced and out of context religious admonishments to go forth and multiply are. How we no longer need large families to work the farms much less the nine month school year. That we as a society need to rethink what children should be to society at large and get over the whole lug headed logic that as women we are not complete unless we reproduce and do so more than once. Or that real men are only the ones who create an heir, and usually a male one at that.
I also appreciated immensely his challenging people to stop seeing a child as a hobby and start looking at the child as an individual with rights and that an only child that is reared with a mindset of personal responsibility is the best future citizen. And the fact is as his work shows, is this. Todays family with more than one child is the very family who succumbs to guilt buying. Over consuming and children with poor health i.e.obesity and altruistic thought that is not embraced but if taught is done so out of guilt feelings.
the book is split into four sections. Part One: Family Part Two: Species Part Three: Nation Part Four: Self. And am so grateful the author has noted the works of Granville Stanley Hall who was born in 1844 and would go on to John Hopkins and do some earthshaking research as well as create the first research university in psychology.
26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Go forth and multiply??? 4 Jun. 2001
By Puncturevine - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a fine book that gives a measured, objective (as much as possible) analysis on the decision of whether to add another human being to the surface of the earth. I'm constantly amazed how often population is neglected entirely (or casually brushed off) when discussing policies from urban sprawl to species loss to global warming. Of course population isn't the only factor (wealth and lifestyle are obviously key as well), but who can seriously question that our environmental impact on the earth would be more manageable if we had fewer people? Think about your average day....waking up and showering, eating breakfast, driving to work, etc. Go out and surf the Internet and start calculating your individual environmental impact (there are a host of useful sites out there). The coal burned to light your house, your office and all of the places you visit during the day. The metals, woods and plastics harvested, processed, stored and shipped to build your home, the appliances within it, your automobile, your consumer electronics, books, dishes and your clothes. The water, herbicides and fuel used to produce the food you consume. And don't forget waste. Start adding up your sewer impact, the amount of garbage you generate week after week, month after month. And don't forget the garbage you contribute to at work, the park and the restaurant. And so on.... The final toll is staggering. Simply in terms of home electricity use, for example, the average American household will easily burn more than 300 pounds of coal and generate more than 600 pounds of atmospheric CO2 per month. Then start multiplying these numbers by 280 million (Americans), and (although using different and lower multipliers) 6 billion+ human beings.
The inescapable truth glaring through this sort of calculation is that unless you manage a SuperFund site, you are not likely to make a more environmentally important decision in your life than whether to add another human being to the earth (and if so, how many). Perhaps McKibben's book will help reduce the ridiculous spectacles I see where a bountiful family of multiple children scamper from a monstrous SUV (with Earth Day bumper sticker) at a recycle site, offering some newspapers and crushed cans and then hulking home (after gassing up, of course), beaming and self-congratulatory at what they are doing for the earth compared to their wasteful brethren in, say, India. You can reuse and recycle to your little heart's content and not come close to having a fraction of the environmental impact of not having had one of those children-particularly American children.
Now at this point someone will usually ask "but what if that child not born had grown up to be another Ed Begley, Jr or John Muir???" Of course it's just as likely (that is, unknowable) that the child will be another Rush Limbaugh Julian Simon, arguing that ultimately human ingenuity will always find a way out of our problems (since it always has in the past). The fact is I fear Simon may be right (at least on this point). Humans probably will find a way around most if not all of the limitations on human growth and continued happiness. Unfortunately many of those "limitations" will be much of the rest of the ecosystem. If you live comfortably in a human-centered worldview where humans properly exercise dominion over birds and the fishes, then stay tuned, you're going to love the next few hundred years. If, however, you value other components of the ecosystem other than humans (or acknowledge their right to exist whether we value them or not), Simon won't have much to tell you. You can't get something out of nothing. Each of the 240,000 new humans added to the earth each day aren't eating nothing or building their homes from nothing or fueling their fires and cars and machines from nothing. They will get these things from something, and that something is the rest of our ecosystem. The plain fact of the matter is that as human population expands, other components of our ecosystem contract. Humans are rapidly converting earth biomass to human biomass. If you like that state of affairs, keep on truckin'. Otherwise read McKibben's book and take some meaningful action to work to an alternative...
14 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Not a book for parents truly considering a one child family! 26 April 2012
By Cdeacon - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While this book may contain a wealth of information about climate change, population explosion, and other environmental calamaties that will take hold in the near future - it is important to know what this book is not... and that is a book about the choice to bring another child into this world. As a well-informed parent, I scowered the bookshelves of looking for various literature on the benefits and drawbacks of having an only child. From the title, and indeed, the first chapter of the book, I thought I had found such a work. However, the first chapter is the only chapter that truly addresses "one child families" and that chapter is only tangentially related to the rest of the book. I was deeply dissappointed in this purchase, not because I agree or disagree with what is stated within most of its pages, but rather because Mr. McKibben seems to have found a creative way to find a captive audience to his preachings on an unrelated subject matter. A book with a child on the front cover, titled "Maybe One" and sub-titled "A Case for Smaller Families" should contain some information pertaining to families. This is not the case. If I want to buy a book on environmental warming or climate change or the population problem... then I know where to find that section of the library or book store. Mr. McKibben's veiled attempt to increase his audience size through mischaracterizations is disappointing and insulting.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Informative and easy to read � highly recommended. 1 May 1998
By Edward F. Glaze III - Published on
Format: Hardcover
An environmental writer tends to think about the future more than most of us. His stock in trade is what is happening to the world around us and the probability trends describing what is to come. But that investigative concern is heightened by having a child - it becomes much more personal. Bill McKibben is just that kind of environmental writer and his young daughter inspired the research that led to this book.
Unlike many environmental books this one is a quick and easy read. It touches on the personal, social, economic, and ecological aspects of starting a family that all of us should discuss. The book keeps a positive tone even though the facts presented warn of a future few parents would wish on their child. The book is both educational and a call to action on a personal and societal level.
The theme of the book could be his statement that we may live in a special time. "We may live in the strangest, most thoroughly different moment since humans took up farming 10,000 years ago and time more or less commenced. Since then time has flowed in one direction - toward more, which we have taken to be progress. At first the momentum was gradual, almost imperceptible, checked by wars and dark ages and plagues and taboos; but in recent centuries it has accelerated, the curve of every graph steepening like the Himalayas rising from the Asian steppe. We need to see if we're finally running up against some limits."
McKibben thinks part of the answer to our growing population will be to encourage single-child families. With additional children there's a dilution of family resources. "Money, yes, but more important, the parents" time and emotional and physical energy."
In many ways smaller families will be benefit us all as we move into a future of population pressures, overconsumption, environmental degradation and climate upheaval. This is especially important for Americans because of their much higher ecological impact. "We need in these fifty years, to be working sim! ultaneously on all parts of the equation - on our ways of life, on our technologies, and on our populations. It's a point in time poised uniquely between hope and fear. It is possible that we face unavoidable calamity, but it's also possible that we'll see remarkable change."
As McKibben examined the current environmental predicament, he found that the perpetual expansion in the size of our economies is at least as damaging as the expansion of our poulations. Costs to the government for the elderly's aging, dying, and retirement will become unmanageable in the next century. Though he reluctantly deals with immigration he recognized that "it's clear that no more than a tiny minority - one half of one per cent, maybe - of the world's poor people will ever get to live in the United States, even if we double our immigration levels, even if we decide our borders could contain half a billion people." However, to benefit the environment it is best to stabilize the number of people living in this super-consuming nation. "Wildness doesn't disappear in a day. It erodes so slowly that you don't notice it going. But it does go."
His conclusion is that because there are so many of us, and we have done such a poor job of planning for our numbers, we no longer have the luxury of not planning. "In a crowded world, not planning has as many consequences as planning. No decision any of us makes will have more effect on the world (and on our lives) than whether to bear another child. No decision, then, should be made with more care."
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