RADICAL SIMPLICITY: SMALL FOOTPRINTS ON A FINITE EARTH BY JIM MERKEL

This is a book for those functioning more from the left side of the brain. It has more mathematical calculations than I would like. But, it is an honest, true writing, of a person with a strong passion for the subject. You can feel it at every step. And I am sure it appeals strongly to people so wired to need all the equations. Here are a few samples:

How many years would it take for the population to be reduced to 1 billion, if every family had just one child? Only 100 years.

How many countries in the world have an average of 1.5 children per family or less? 30. Most of these countries are european. Most of them are wealthy countries. Romania is European, not wealthy, but has a place among the 30, with an average of 1.3 children per family.

Although not among the 30 countries, US fares well, in the “two children or less” category, along with France and other few small nations. This is a little weird, because US doesn’t do well at all when it comes to family planning and contraception. It has the highest level of teen pregnancy in the developed world. Of every 1000 girls between 15 and 20, 59.2 get pregnant, compare to, be ready, 4.2 in Netherlands. My experience (of only 4 years in the US) showed that Americans are not afraid of big families, on the contrary, most desire a big number of children (for me big meaning 3-4). That’s what I’ve seen, at least,compared to Romania where one child is always in the plans, the second is almost always a “maybe”, and the third is simply “no way, Jose! We cannot afford it.”

The book helps you calculate your footprint, if you are so inclined. Footprint factor (ff) = energy footprint factor (eff) + land footprint factor (lff). This proved to be too much for me already. But I have to say I enjoyed parts of the books. It sparked spirited conversations with my husband about India and Kerala – a region in India given in the book as an example of sustainable society based on a low income. It is one of the few matriarchal communities in India and the author considers this one of the important factors of its well-being, because it is the cause of small families and a normal ration of boys-girls (100 to 104), compared to the rest of India where the ratio is 93 girls to 100 boys.

The author has an interesting history himself, a former weapon seller turned pacifist and simplicity advocate.

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