Are There Too Many of Us?

The earth is finite; it would be idolatrous to suggest otherwise.  There is a limit to how much human life the earth can sustain, and we are probably getting close to that limit.  Overcrowding is already causing immense human suffering.

The population is exploding in the poorest areas of the world; the birthrate is shrinking in wealthier nations.  When women have access to opportunity, education, and health care, the population problem takes care of itself.

In countries like the United States and most European nations, the birthrate is already below 2.1 per couple, the “zero-growth rate.”  Those few couples with more than two are three children are statistically insignificant.

So, it makes no sense to call for oppressive laws to limit family size in countries that already have a negative growth rate.  Freedom, not coercion, is what is bringing the size of families down.   Yet, some in the UK–a country that already has a negative population rate–are calling for mandatory enforcement of a two-child rule.

The problem is not the rare families who want to have several children.  The problem is the economic assumption that growth in consumption equals economic health.

The Optimum Population Trust calculates that ‘each new UK birth will be responsible for 160 times more greenhouse gas emissions . . . than a new birth in Ethiopia’. (Telegraph).

The solution is not for wealthier countries to stop having babies.  The solution is for people in wealthy countries change their consumption habits and help people in poor countries gain access to education, opportunity, and healthcare.

Earth Hour Is Upon Us

Tonight at 8:30 PM citizens around the world will turn the lights off for one hour as a symbolic gesture.  This is the Lenten season when many people are voluntarily fasting or giving up something as a sign of repentance and humility.  Unplugging for one hour is what I call a “coal fast.”

Will it change the world?  Symbolic gestures don’t change the world in themselves.  What they do is raise consciousness.  And a change in awareness could make us take other actions.  Here is what people in other countries are doing:

In Switzerland, the city of Geneva plans to switch off the lights on its theaters, churches and monuments. Among these are the Reformation Wall, where floodlights normally illuminate 10-foot (three-meter) statues of John Calvin and other leaders of Protestantism. The city’s motto engraved on either side of the statues is:

“After darkness, light.”

Romania planned to turn off lights at the massive palace built in Bucharest by the late dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.  (more from Yahoo News)

Last night I attended a Care of Creation seminar.  I learned that one in four mammals is endangered, and one in three mammals, and half of the world’s frogs.  Half of the world’s forests, wetlands, and grasslands are endangered or already gone.

Turning off the power for an hour and meditating on what we can do individually and collectively, might be a good way to spend the evening of the fifth Sunday in Lent.

Coming Soon–The Scrolls Online

Israel is working on a project to make all of the Dead Sea Scrolls available online  ( NY Times).   Meanwhile, you can see an impressive representation of the great Isaiah scroll via the Israel Museum in Jerusalem.  The scroll is even scrollable.  (Click here, then click on the “Isaiah Scroll” tab on the right.)  The Temple scroll is more fragmentary at the beginning, but is also impressive.

Who Am I?

Whoops!  I meant to post the following comment on “Theological German,” but accidentally placed it here.  Oh well, I guess I’ll leave it here.  If you are interested, the book is in English.

Dave Black recommends a new book on Bonhoeffer’s Poetry, due out in June from T&T Clark.

For a sample, see “Christen und Heiden” posted earlier here in three installments (1, 2, and 3).

By the way, Dave also says he is not opposed to Greek students using helps, if that’s what they need.  I assume the same would apply to German.

Conscience and Nursing

Lethal injection is considered a humane and sanitary means of dispatching convicted murderers.  Inserting an IV requires skill and training.  Here is what one nurse says,

Past experiences influence my belief that the essential vein will not be accessed on the first try. Despite the diminutive size of the needle, there is still pain with it’s insertion.

Worse than blood draws is the starting of an IV for either medication or for hydration. Now, we’re talking about a much larger IV needle. I have started IV’s for 30 years and never had one myself until six years ago, where it took the nurse four tries before she called another nurse to successfully start my IV. The first nurse was frustrated which only added to her difficulty with each of her next several attempts. I was so tense, that my veins went into hiding, “determined” to not be accessed by anyone!  (More here)

So, if we are going to have lethal injections we need trained professionals, specifically nurses, to do the deed.  But what if most nurses are conscientiously opposed to killing? When the federal prison in Indiana needed an executioner for Timothy McVeigh in 2001, they had to go all the way to Missouri to find a nurse willing to inject the poison cocktail.  David Pinkley was on probation in a plea bargain after stalking and threatening another man and his family.  He was willing to use his medical skills to end the life of America’s most notorious mass murderer (more here).  Presumably, he followed procedure and used an alcohol swab before delivering the potion (see Why an Alcohol Swab).

What would happen if all nurses refused to volunteer for the work of execution?  Would there be some sort of draft?  Would it be like jury duty?

Should nurses who conscientiously object be protected–or should they be fired if they refuse a summons to execution duty?

Do we want health care professionals with a conscience, or do we want doctors like Joseph Mengele and his subordinates who mindlessly followed his orders?

(More at Amnesty International)

Pro Conscience

Whether one is pro-life or pro-choice, it is hard for me to see how any thinking person would not be pro-conscience.  President Obama is requesting comments on the proposal to rescind provisions protecting health care professionals from discrimination if their conscience will not allow them to participate in procedures such as abortion, sterilization, or research they consider unethical.

Current regulations protect health care workers who choose to follow their conscience in these matters.  The proposal to rescind these regulations would take them away.  Those who favor abolishing the protections argue that services might not be available to patients, particularly in rural areas.

It seems to me that firing conscientious doctors and nurses would take a lot of good people out of the system.  But this is democracy:  Now until April 9 is the time to speak your mind.

Comments may be submitted electronically on the Web site (by entering 0991-AB49 in the search box–or click here) or via e-mail to Attachments may be in Microsoft Word, WordPerfect or Excel, but Microsoft Word is preferred.

By mail, one original and two copies of written comments may be sent to: Office of Public Health and Science, Department of Health and Human Services, Attention: Rescission Proposal Comments, Hubert H. Humphrey Building, 200 Independence Ave. SW, Room 716G, Washington, DC 20201.

Source: CNS

Planet Earth–Unplugged

Here’s a verbal cartoon–I don’t have the time or patience to draw actual cartoons, but sometimes I come up with ideas for one.  So here’s one:

A guy sitting at a computer desk calls his local utility company and says,

Hey, could you throw an extra lump of coal on for me?

Sure, but, uh, why?

I’m going to leave my computer on all night; I just don’t feel like shutting it down.

OK, buddy you’ve got it, one extra lump of coal.

Any volunteers to illustrate?  OK, here’s a better idea.  A friend forwarded this to us:

On March 28, 2009 at 8:30 pm your time, TURN OFF ALL YOUR LIGHTS for 1 HOUR. I plan to include everything but my fridge and freezer, no TV, no computers, no radios, etc. It will be like a wave of turned off lights across the world, for one hour. If you visit this site it will tell of the business, governments and citizens across the world that have and will participate again this year.  It started with 2.2 million people in 2008 in Australia and has grown to over 100 million. I think we should do this every month on the 28th. I joined this group on Facebook. I am  not debating climate change, for or against. Just that worldwide we can stand together for a good cause, our planet and less energy consumption. If the energy companies lose a few dollars in the process, well, that’s a big bonus.

Hot Fun in the Summer Time


If you are looking for a summertime learning experience, Biblical Archaeology Review posts a list of more than thirty archaeology sites that are looking for volunteers.  At some sites, you can volunteer for as little as a week, at others you can spend the whole summer.

If you’d like to see and make history, check out the list of current digs here.

Old Seal from Jerusalem


This seal was discovered the day before Halloween, 2008, in Jerusalem. It is dated to the seventh century BC, in the time of Manasseh or Josiah, kings of Judea. If archaeology interests you, you can learn more at the Israel Antiquities Authority site.

The seal is a reverse image, because it is meant to leave an impression when stamped in clay or wax.  Hebrew is written from right to left, but you can read the mirror image of the letters above from left to right: L-H-G-B, “for Hagab.”  The script uses the archaic alphabet that the Hebrews shared with the Phonecians.

Time for a New Economy?

Communism collapsed in 1988-89 and capitalism collapsed about twenty years later, in 2008.  What both economic systems had in common is that they were big and impersonal.

Meanwhile a quiet alternative has been growing steadily–the local economy.  It means supporting business and buying products from people you actually know.  It means being able to look the farmer who grows your tomatoes in the eye.

A couple years ago I bought a wooden toy made by a local craftsman.  I don’t have to worry about whether it was tainted with led pain–well that was easy, it wasn’t painted.  My grandson received some wooden toys this year made by our nephew; those toys will be in the family a long time.

If I go to the supermarket here in the middle of American, I have no idea where the food came from.  My daughter who lives in New York City belongs to a community farm cooperative.  Once a week she gets to meet the farmers who bring her a basketful of fresh vegetables.

Around the world one of the most effective forms of fighting poverty is through microloans.  It is a way of helping poor women and men start local, sustainable businesses.

We don’t know what will happen to the national economy in the coming months.  We can all pitch in and help our neighbors.  We can support local small businesses.