MAYBE ONE by Bill McKibben

MAYBE ONE

An Environmental and Personal Argument for Single-Child Families
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KIRKUS REVIEW

An impassioned call for Americans to limit their offspring in the name of the planet. McKibben (Hope, Human and Wild, 1995, etc.) is known for sweeping arguments on remedying various of the Earth’s ills—watching less television, say, or spending more time away from cities and in the woods. In this book, the main points of which could be accommodated in a magazine article (thus sparing the need to cut more trees), McKibben sensibly suggests that voluntarily confining family size to one child will reduce that family’s demands on the environment. He spends time demolishing the well-worn belief that single children are necessarily antisocial and spoiled, pointing out that the turn-of-the-century psychological report on which that belief is based was incorrect on several counts. He then examines, less convincingly, the one-child policy of China, with which many Chinese have taken issue precisely because those single children are turning out to be, well, antisocial and spoiled. Not so, says McKibben; —It’s easier for children to share if they don—t spend their entire lives in constant battles for parental attention—; and inasmuch as only one of a number of siblings is likely to receive the bulk of a mother’s love, it makes sense just to have the one in the first place. McKibben—who has one child—does not confine his argument to the planetary good that would accrue from making fewer babies: He touches on how greater family cohesion would lead to fewer divorces, less anomie among the elderly, and even greater cultural maturity, including the ability to say, collectively, —That’s enough.— The problem, of course, as with all works of social-engineering policy, is that McKibben has only speculation at his side. His reasonable, predictable, and loosely developed argument will thus appeal to those willing to be converted—but probably won—t do much to change the birth rate. (First serial to Atlantic Monthly; author tour)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-684-85281-0
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998




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