A Case for Smaller Families
The father of a single child himself, McKibben maintains that bringing one, and no more than one, child into this world will hurt neither your family nor our nation—indeed, it can be an optimistic step toward the future.
Maybe One is not just an environmental argument but a highly personal and philosophical one. McKibben cites new and extensive research about the developmental strengths of only children; he finds that single kids are not spoiled, weird, selfish, or asocial, but pretty much the same as everyone else.
McKibben recognizes that the transition to a stable population size won't be easy or painfree but ultimately is inevitable. Maybe One provides the basis for provocative, powerful thought and discussion that will influence our thinking for decades to come.
What Others Have Said About Maybe One
"By reminding us that an only child is only and completely a child, not a freak or part of an unfinished family, he makes two children seem like a lucky luxury. A small revelation, it is all McKibben's own case for cutting back requires."
"In his arresting debut, The End of Nature, McKibben eloquently argued that saving the planet required immediate sacrifice from each one of us. Passionately signing up for the most radical measures himself, the author declared in that book that he and his wife 'try very hard not to think about how much we'd like a baby.'
"His new book describes how he has altered his view, although he remains committed to curbing life choices that unduly stress the environment. Now that McKibben and his wife are happily living with a four-year-old daughter, Sophie, he speaks to the reader not as an isolated prophet in the wilderness but as a father affirming the value of family life while still bringing vast environmental issues into the realm of personal decisions.
"Careful not to insist that single-child families are the solution, McKibben vividly portrays the conditions that will worsen if our population continues to grow at its current rate: denuded lands, rising oceans, extinct species, choking pollution. Blending scripture and the words of ancient philosophers with a welter of statistical projections, McKibben explores the hopes and fears that attach themselves to the birth of babies, including the racism that often colors discussion of immigration and family planning.
"What stands out in this eloquent book, however, is McKibben's wonderfully illuminating and entertaining work in tracking down our national prejudice against only children and single-child families. There and throughout this call to arms, the reader feels the added dimension of a father's love."
"A noted environmental writer on dealing with the population crisis one child at a time."
"An impassioned call for Americans to limit their offspring in the name of the planet. McKibben 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 wont do much to change the birth rate."