September 6th, 2012

David Niose, _Nonbeliever Nation_, not a review

I'm reading along, mostly happy with the book (which I was _very_ happy to see added to the library in Mayberry <-- not its real name), when I hit 2-3 pages (116-118) about "Overpopulation Denial" as something characteristic of Religious Folk and which the Secular Perspective could add value in opposition to.

This makes me cranky. I'm a Fred Pearce fan on the subject, many of the high points picked up in this Salon interview:

Rhetoric, especially environmentally oriented rhetoric, about overpopulation has a tendency to slide into Brown People Shouldn't Breed/Don't Let Brown People Move to Our Country, which All Decent People Should Recoil at in Horror when encountering, but frequently just nod their heads like this is some Wisdom From On High, to use a religious metaphor. But hey, maybe the New Atheists are smarter than that, right?

Well, maybe not.

"China got it right when they passed a decree,
Limiting only one child to each family."

That's apparently from April 2012.

Really? Because it's okay to limit reproductive freedom as long as it's in the direction you prefer? Come on. (top google result on secular american overpopulation)

Let's go back to 1950s level of population! Written by a guy who was probably a very young person at the time, thus putting this firmly in the Conservative category, however he may identify. Looks to be written maybe in 2004 or 2005.

The main reason I like Pearce's stance, frankly, is that it aligns with one of my primary beliefs and values: individual women, with access to resources and the right to make their own decisions, will make individual decisions that are best for themselves and their family. Summed over the population of all women, the result will be the BEST decision possible: most sensitive to local conditions, best as a transitional policy, etc. Policies which attempt to thwart this process (whether by denying access to a wide variety of inexpensive forms of reproduction control OR by denying women the right to reproduce when and how they see fit, and, honestly, even by trying to reward them for reproducing more than they are inclined to do) are doomed to failure.


But you look really stupid when you sign up for either side of this proposition. By including "Overpopulation Denial" in his book about Secular Americans, Niose did not do Enough to distance himself from the lunatics who think the One Child Policy is a good idea.

ETA: Wow, finding atheists who are opposed to reproductive freedom in its full form is really disturbingly easy.

"“Forced population control” likely refers to denying couples the freedom to breed as much as they like. Presently, China is the only place where restrictions on the right to breed exist, and there are so many exceptions to their one-child policy that their TFR, 1.5 in 2011, has never achieved 1.0.

On the other hand, “forced population control” exists everywhere that couples are denied their basic human right to not breed. Denying couples their right to not produce another dependent, especially when they can’t care for the ones they have, is far worse than denying them the freedom to create more offspring."

Oh, boy. The underlying reality is that these, um, people aren't actually taken seriously by even as many people as, say, Santorum, so there's almost no point in attacking their position. _But they make secular americans/atheists/agnostics look bad_. And that is a problem.

apodments and micro-housing in Seattle news again

This isn't exactly up-to-date stuff.

From June, a summary of the zoning code that allows this form of "congregate housing", a bit of history of how it got started in Seattle and current/future projects.

Embedded in this more recent opinion piece is a link to some channel 13 coverage:

The comments on both of these are interesting -- chrismealy is a coworker of mine from my days at a little internet bookstore. I agree with him that quoting Hayek doesn't make you look good; acting like liberalizing zoning laws is somehow incompatible with being in favor of public transit seems a little extreme. OTOH, it would be nice to hear the political value system that supports both simultaneously, and it is rarely articulated well (that doesn't make it bad -- just poorly articulated).

ETA: Menino in Boston is interested -- as well he should be.

It's in a book; it must be true

I checked the publisher on Niose's book. *sigh* Palgrave Macmillan. Why am I not surprised.

p 208-9

"Since the Civil War a century and a half ago, America has never been as divided as it is in these early years of the twenty-first century. There has always been some conflict in America -- racial, class, and otherwise -- but nothing as widespread and visible as today's persistent and passionate class of worldviews. With a nonstop news cycle and a blogosphere that produces boundless information, opinion, and ranting, the warring parties within American politics and society are in a seemingly permanent state of contention.

Even during the social upheaval of the 1960s and 1970s, that strife was at least focused on a few specific issues: Vietnam, civil rights, feminism, Watergate. Among the older generation and conservative elements there was stubborn resistance to change, but the sense of disunity was insignificant compared to the deep, fundamental differences that divide much of America today."

Ordinarily, I would expect someone who could write that and get it through an editorial process to be young and charismatic. But as near as I can tell, this guy's at least my age, and I Am Not Young. The median age in this country is about 37. I'm older than that. This guy's older than me. So this is not the foolishness of Youth. This is the foolishness of a Total Lack of Historical Perspective.

The cold hard truth is the Religious Right is just spouting all the crap that a much bigger fraction of the country took for granted within my lifetime, and basically, very, very few of the people spouting it are prepared to kill over it (thank whatever you may). By contrast, the issues of the 1960s and 1970s included a far larger number of people _who did_ kill over those issues, and committed all kinds of crimes short of murder in the service of their goals -- whether those goals were the preservation of a the status quo, an attempt to return to some idyllic, ahistoric past or an effort to implement a utopian ideal. We are for the most part just yapping at each other. Pretending this makes us "more divided" than in the past is ridiculous, and, like most of the rest of this book, makes one wonder about the political naivete of the man who produced this nonsense.

When Word != Word

Feargus O'Sullivan describes moving from "inner London to a quiet, nondescript South Eastern suburb", which suburb in the article links to the wikipedia article on Forest Hill. Forest Hill in Great London would appear to bear the same relationship to the center of London as, say, Maple Leaf bears to the center of Seattle. Maple Leaf is not widely regarded within Seattle as a "suburb"; it is regarded as a "city neighborhood". I recognize all of these terms are highly variable in their use.

I have two problems with what O'Sullivan has to say in the article. There's the photo with the caption: "Artificial stone cladding, popular in the 1980s, is often considered a grave architectural crime, but I think it looks pretty amazing on this house."

Then there's his use of the term "suburb" -- unadorned by any mitigating qualifier -- to describe Forest Hill.

O'Sullivan seems to have a sense that the use of "suburb" vs. "city" might be problematic, particularly for a US-centric audience.

"I should point out here that London’s outer districts are quite different from the average American suburb. For a start, they’re often pretty old – areas built no later than the 1930s still abut fields along some stretches of the city’s limits. They also tend to have medium rather than low population density, with decent transport links and broad, walkable sidewalks that mean car ownership is desirable but not essential. What they share with the U.S. however is their sprawl"

This isn't sprawl in anything like the US sense. I wonder if he's even looked at a map of a city in the United States. Further, Forest Hill isn't a suburb under any definition of the term I can find -- it's nowhere near the edge of Greater London (and he doesn't claim it is, either). "it’s often said that it was the dullness of suburbs a few miles beyond mine that helped spawn Britain’s Punk movement." (Altho it _used_ to be a suburb a long time ago, at least a long time by Our Standards, and could thus be grandfathered in with words like "inner ring" or "older" or whatever.) If O'Sullivan were not writing for a US centric audience, I suppose I would just shrug, and chalk it up to linguistic variance.

In any event, what he did, why he did it, and why he's advocating that it's a great idea in general are all things I am in complete agreement with him about.