How many children are ethical?

September 21, 2007

This has been an interesting couple of weeks for considering the ethics of reproduction. Last week, it seemed like there were suddenly people everywhere talking about how it just might be a great idea if Americans (and everyone else in the world, really) were encouraged, or possibly required, to have only one child.

As near as I can tell, a lot of the discussion got started with this article: Global Swarming: Is It Time for Americans to Start Cutting Our Baby Emissions? It is, in its turn, a review of the book The World Without Us, which is mostly about what the world would be like, environmentally speaking, if all the people disappeared. How long it would take the Earth to “recover” to a pre-human level, so on and so forth. But the author doesn’t really want to wait for people to suddenly become extinct; he’d like to see us start doing something that might conceivably save the planet in a way that people could still be around to enjoy it. The article summarizes his call for action like this:

Let’s cut the birth rate to one child per couple, for a few generations at least. The population would dwindle by about 5 billion people over the next century, he says, ensuring the habitability of the Earth for the 1.6 billion who remained. At that point, they could all reap the rewards of a more spacious planet, sharing in “the growing joy of watching the world daily become more wonderful.”

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I’m an adult, I swear!

September 19, 2007

When I was a kid, being a grown-up seemed like the ultimate. You could stay up as late as you wanted, eat chocolate cake for dinner, never have anyone tell you what to do, and have money all the time to buy whatever you wanted.

Of course, now I have so much to do I can’t get to bed as early as I’d like, I have to tell myself not to eat chocolate cake for dinner, and I now know that the checkbook doesn’t magically make money– it’s actually tied to something. Yes, my paycheck is bigger than my allowance, but after bills and gas and food and the like, not much.

Still, there are a few times when I catch myself going “heck, I’m an adult now! What’s stopping me?” Read the rest of this entry »

That Made in China label

September 17, 2007

Don’t you just love vilifying China?

Growing economy? (Check) Massive trade imbalance? (Check) And Commie to boot? (Check!)

Were you really surprised when they started poisoning our puppies? It’s a vast, Chinese, pink-o commie conspiracy against the American way of life people! Wake up and smell the green tea!

Well, ok, no. It’s not. But when it comes to buying things, why are we so anti-China?

You have books such as A Year Without “Made in China” by Sara Bongiorni and massive fear-induced boycotts of all Chinese goods, so maybe we do think it is a commie plot.

Oh! But Jennie! They all work in sweat shops! And only make 57 cents an hour! And their pet food/toys/toothpaste ARE all being recalled for poison/lead paint/whatever… China’s cutting too many corners! Chinese products are bad!

Well, no. They’re not.

Why are we blaming China for something that is fundamentally the fault of industry? American industry?

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Internet Neophobia

September 16, 2007

Neophobia is the fear of new things. For some people, this means that using the internet, which is rapidly becoming a centerpiece of many people’s lives, is a frightening experience. A recent study, carried out by British Telecom showed that some people found using the internet to be just as stressful as first-time bungee jumping. The company is now doing further research in an attempt to determine if these barriers are something that can be overcome, or if there is something more fundamental blocking novices from embracing the internet age.

Participants in the study will be closely monitored by psychologists. They will take physiological readings of the participants as they use the net, in an attempt to determine how their bodies and minds react to the experience. In the process, each participant will be given access to technology and instruction and coaching in what they can do with it. Each has been given a broadband connection, a laptop, and web-cam, and a digital camera. They will record their experiences, which will then be viewable on the project’s website.

The interesting thing to me will be to attempt to gain some level of understanding of people who have a difficult time making use of technology I take for granted. I have never found I faced any particular mental barriers to making use of new technology, but I have certainly known those who did. I hope that being able to read the results of this study will help me to understand where those people are coming from.

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Two Lunar Holy Days

September 13, 2007

We’ve been falling behind on our holiday posts and observances here at Geek Buffet, so here’s a quick note that today is both Rosh Hashanah and the first day of Ramadan.

(The latter was brought to my attention when I went to karate tonight, and my sensei had to take a break between the kids’ class before mine and the adult class in order to break his fast, as well as that of many of the kids. He brought milk for everyone. Yay!

However, that’s about the extent of my personal involvement with these holidays at the moment, so this isn’t much of a post. Sorry. I still thought it was worth mentioning.)

Abe’s resignation boosts manga stock prices

September 13, 2007

This saga is getting addictive. When I was wondering what effect Abe’s resignation yesterday would have on things in general in Japan, I never in a million years would have imagined this story:

Manga shares gain on leader hopes

Clearly, the stock market is a strange place. As the article explains:

Japanese comic book shops have been the surprise beneficiaries of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s shock exit.

Shares in retailers selling the “manga” cartoon strips surged on belief that manga-fan Taro Aso is the leading candidate to replace Mr Abe.

Mr Aso, secretary-general of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is a big promoter of manga cartoons abroad.

While the main Tokyo market fell after Mr Abe’s resignation, manga-linked stocks like publisher Broccoli rose.


Shares in second-hand bookshop Mandarake jumped 13% to 436,000 yen ($3,817; £1,879), while manga publisher Broccoli also gained, up 71% to close at 157 yen.

“We are happy to receive people’s attention this way,” said Kenichi Saito, a Mandarake store manager in Tokyo.

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The Yasukuni Controversy

September 12, 2007

Here’s the main reason I will always feel a little bit sorry for anyone in the prime minister position in Japan: They will have to decide, every year, how to deal with what is probably the most public, and most closely internationally watched, act of national mourning in the world. The choice is to either visit the Yasukuni Shrine, or not.

The controversy in a nutshell:

Yasukuni Shrine (靖国神社 Yasukuni Jinja) is a Shinto shrine located in Tokyo, Japan, dedicated to the spirits of soldiers and others who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan. In October 2004, its Book of Souls listed the names of 2,466,532 men and women, including 27,863 Taiwanese and 21,181 Koreans, whose lives were dedicated to the service of Imperial Japan, particularly to those killed in wartime.

The shrine is a source of considerable controversy. Included in the Book of Souls are 1,068 people convicted of war crimes by a post World War II court. A total of 12 convicted and 2 suspected Class A war criminals (“crime against peace”) are enshrined at Yasukuni. The shrine’s history museum contains an account of Japan’s actions in World War II, which is considered revisionist by many outside of Japan.

Visits to the shrine by cabinet members have been a cause of protest at home and abroad. China, North Korea, South Korea and Taiwan have protested against various visits since 1985. Despite the controversy, the former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi made annual visits from 2001 to 2006.

-from Wikipedia: Yasukuni Shrine

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