Life Imitates The Third XI

From the Weekly Standard:

Last week, the New York Times ran a piece on the dire demographic problems facing Germany. The short version: Germans aren’t having enough kids, and as a result the economy is in trouble and there are all sorts of logistical problems—vacant buildings that need to be razed; houses that will never be sold, sewer systems which may not function properly because they’re too empty.


Twenty-three percent of German men—that’s not a typo, 23 percent—said that “zero” was the ideal family size. There probably aren’t public policy solutions to a cultural worldview like that.

Link to the rest at The Weekly Standard.

Note that in The Third enough people didn't want children that there was a robust child credit trading system for those who wanted more than two kids. If such a policy were enacted in Germany, I can't help but wonder how robust such a system would be would be.

Life Imitates The Third X

From the International Business Times:

Cities are expected to expand the combined size of Texas, California and Montana in the next 20 years, adding environmental and cultural strains from population growth and shifts away from rural living, experts said Tuesday at a conference in London called "Planet Under Pressure."

By 2030, humanity's total urban footprint will expand by an additional 1.5 million square kilometers (579,000 square miles), according to the conference.


The American model of urban sprawl won't work, raising the question of how to design cities that can sustainably cope with population increases, said Karen Seto, a professor of urban environment at Yale University.

"The North American suburb has gone global, and car-dependent urban developments are more and more the norm," Seto said in a statement. "The way cities have grown since World War II is neither socially [nor] environmentally sustainable."


Reversing the trend toward ever-larger homes will be a big part of designing efficient cities, the researchers at the conference said.

In some countries, urban planners are starting from scratch; the United Arab Emirates and China are both building "zero carbon cities" that aim to run completely on renewable energy.

The UAE's Masdar City began construction in 2008, and aims to house between 45,000 and 50,000 people. Cars will be banned in Masdar City and plans call for power to come from renewable sources such as solar, wind, geothermal and hydrogen energy.

Read the rest at the International Business Times.

Usually I'd pull a quote from The Third here but those who have read the book will get the fact that most of the story takes place in one of the efficient/zero carbon cities described in the article. But you'll have to read the book in order to decide if living in such a city is right for you.


Life Imitates The Third IX

From the news wires:

In the Indian state of Kerala, the Kerala Women’s Code Bill proposes imposing birth-control measures to decrease population growth. Enforcement of this bill would include fines or three months in jail for parents who have more than two children. Any additional child would not be eligible for government services such as health and education services. In addition, free and medically safe abortions and contraceptives would be provided at government facilities.

The World of The Third:

In 2065 it's illegal to have more than two children. Parents who have a third child without a proper credit face fines and jail time as well has higher taxes. Free birth control is available at all government facilities and is mandatory after the birth of a second child.

Read the first chapter.

Life Imitates The Third VIII

From Forbes, California Wages War On Single-Family Homes:

In recent years, homeowners have been made to feel a bit like villains rather than the victims of hard times, Wall Street shenanigans and inept regulators.  Instead of being praised for braving the elements, suburban homeowners have been made to feel responsible for everything from the Great Recession to obesity to global warming.

In California, the assault on the house has gained official sanction. Once the heartland of the American dream, the Golden State has begun implementing new planning laws designed to combat global warming. These draconian measures could lead to a ban on the construction of private residences, particularly on the suburban fringe. The new legislation’s goal is to cram future generations of Californians into multi-family apartment buildings, turning them from car-driving suburbanites into strap-hanging urbanistas.


Ultimately the density agenda reflects less a credible strategy to reduce GHG [greenhouse gases] than a push among planners to “force” Californians, as one explained to me, out of their homes and into apartments. In pursuit of their “cramming” agenda planners have  also    have enlisted powerful allies – or perhaps better understood as ” useful idiots” —  developers and speculators who see profit in  the eradication of the single family  by forcibly boosting the value of urban core  properties.

From The Third, Chapter 2

[Ransom] stopped in what had once been a bedroom. The walls were painted pink with big brown polka dots. The color combination was not to his liking. Still, he stood in the middle of the room and wondered who had lived in the house over the last hundred years. He wondered whether the home had seemed small and cramped or large and spacious to its occupants. He felt a twinge of jealously. This home was easily twice as large as his apartment. It probably boasted eighteen hundred square feet. Granted, he had recycled homes twice this size, but still, he’d love to be able to give his boys their own rooms and paint the walls their favorite colors.
Ransom headed to the backyard. . . . Ransom stood up and looked around the yard. It was about a quarter acre in size. He found his mind drifting back to his two boys and wondered how they’d enjoy having this much space to run around. The play area next to their apartment building was crowded with kids, and there was always a fight for the swings or other playground equipment. But if they lived in this house, his two boys would have their own place to play. He stood for a minute and imagined them running around the yard, chasing each other and playing on the swings. The thought of his boys made him smile.

From Chapter 11

[Ransom speaking]

“Sometimes I feel this whole city is on the brink of chaos. We live cramped together, stacked on top of one another like rats in a lab. We spend most of our weekends standing in line to buy half-rotten food. People treat each other like animals in a survival-of-the-fittest contest. Sometimes I wish we lived in one of those homes I recycle—one with more living space and a yard.” He turned so he was looking at Teya. “Wouldn’t it be nice to have an extra bedroom, a fruit tree or two, and maybe a little garden? There’s a huge cherry tree at the house I’m taking down now. I don’t think I’ve had a cherry since James was born. I want a giant orchard with enough peaches, cherries, and apples to feed our family and share with others. Doesn’t that sound good to you?”


Hat Tip: HitCoffee

Life Imitates The Third VII

I see why Al Gore doesn't allow his speeches to be recorded?  At a speech Monday in NYC, the former VP was caught on tape talking about reducing population as a way to reduce pollution. (Update: The YouTube clip has since been removed by the environmental journalist, Brain Merchant, who posted it.) Said Gore:

One of the things we could do about it is to change the technologies, to put out less of this pollution, to stabilize the population, and one of the principle ways of doing that is to empower and educate girls and women,” Gore said. “You have to have ubiquitous availability of fertility management so women can choose how many children have, the spacing of the children.

“You have to lift child survival rates so that parents feel comfortable having small families and most important — you have to educate girls and empower women,” he said. “And that’s the most powerful leveraging factor, and when that happens, then the population begins to stabilize and societies begin to make better choices and more balanced choices.

From The Third, Chapter 19

Mona shook her head and looked over the plaza. “The only way your kids are going to have any future is if we get this world back to a livable condition. The only way we’re going to do that is with fewer people. People are the problem, not the solution. You know that. I give Teya my credit, and I’m not only jeopardizing your kids’ future, I’m risking the future of every other child in the world too.”
“What if this child’s special? What if he or she is destined to make this world a better place? What if this baby will grow up and invent something or be the kind of leader needed to clean up the planet once and for all?”
“The world tried that for thousands of years, Ransom. It didn’t work. At one point, we had over eight billion people on this planet. What did we have to show for it? Overcrowded cities. Poverty. Starvation. Greed. Wars over finite resources. One more person takes us one step back, not forward. Every living person moves us that much closer to the brink of destruction.”

Life Imitates The Third VI

The World Bank will suggest a global levy on jet and shipping fuel in recommendations to G20 governments later this year on raising climate finance, a senior official said on Sunday.
The Sydney Morning Herald, The Dangers of Bone-Headed Beliefs, Richard Glover, June 6, 2011

Looked at through this lens, our generation has it easy. Already wealthy and armed with new technology, we need to front up to the challenge of building a low-carbon economy.

The tool we'll use is a carbon tax that seeks to subtly redirect some of our choices. Cut your power bill by more than the compensation offered and you get to keep the change.

From The Third, Chapter 2

Dempsey honked the truck’s horn, and Ransom watched as a lady reading the news board jumped in the air. He could remember car-filled streets, but the memories were few and hazy. The clearest was of him sitting in the backseat of his family’s minivan, looking out the window as his mom pulled into a parking lot filled with cars. Perhaps he remembered it so well because the summer sun had reflected off their windshields and reminded him of a sky filled with stars.

"I was five, maybe six, when the carbon taxes went into effect," Ransom said. "I remember my dad coming home from work and telling my mom that they couldn’t afford to drive anymore. Sometime after that, I think the car was sold or given to a recycling center."

Life Imitates The Third V

Once again, life imitates my soon-to-be released novel, The Third. From today’s The Telegraph (U.K.):

The European Commission on Monday unveiled a "single European transport area" aimed at enforcing "a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers" by 2050.

The plan also envisages an end to cheap holiday flights from Britain to southern Europe with a target that over 50 per cent of all journeys above 186 miles should be by rail.

Top of the EU's list to cut climate change emissions is a target of "zero" for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU's future cities.

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto "alternative" means of transport.

"That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres," he said. "Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour."

From The Third, Chapter 2:

“You aren’t that young, are you?” Dempsey asked as he took a left on 12th Street, heading west. “I thought you were old enough to remember when just about everyone owned a car.”

Dempsey honked the truck’s horn, and Ransom watched as a lady reading the news board jumped in the air. He could remem­ber car-filled streets, but the memories were few and hazy. The clearest was of him sitting in the backseat of his family’s minivan, looking out the window as his mom pulled into a parking lot filled with cars. Perhaps he remembered it so well because the summer sun had reflected off their windshields and reminded him of a sky filled with stars.

“I was five, maybe six, when the carbon taxes went into effect,” Ransom said. “I remember my dad coming home from work and telling my mom that they couldn’t afford to drive any­more. Sometime after that, I think the car was sold or given to a recycling center.”

The only difference? In my book cars are banned around 2040.

Scary, ain’t it.

Life Imitates The Third IV

Back in 2008 when I first sent copies of The Third around to some writer friends to review, several of them greeted the concept of forced population control for the sake of the planet with skepticism.

So I’d like to thank Ted Turner, father of five children, for not only doubling down on the plot of The Third but backing up my idea of reselling population credits.

Climate change and population control can make for a politically explosive mix, as media mogul Ted Turner demonstrated Sunday when he urged world leaders to institute a global one-child policy to save the Earth’s environment. …

Mr. Turner – a long-time advocate of population control – said the environmental stress on the Earth requires radical solutions, suggesting countries should follow China’s lead in instituting a one-child policy to reduce global population over time. He added that fertility rights could be sold so that poor people could profit from their decision not to reproduce.

Still think it's just about clean air and water?

Read the entire article here.

Life Imitates The Third III

Looks like I should have moved up the timeline in The Third 20 or 30 years.

From  The Third

Chapter 6

“The cooler’s not working,” Ransom said as he fished around in his wallet for the right change and his ration card.

“It needs coolant,” the clerk answered as he rang up the soda and the bottle deposit and punched Ransom’s ration card with perfunctory motions. “Ordered some a month ago. Has to come all the way from Reno. No telling when it will arrive.”

Chapter 12

Harden stood in the entrance of the bakery to watch the boys, but the crowd moved forward. He had to apologize for running late and shut the door again. Then he hurried back to the counter and retrieved a loaf of bread from the shelf. He set it in front of Ransom, but put his hand over it before Ransom could touch it.

“Sorry, but I can only give you one loaf,” he said. “My flour ration was cut last week, so I’m only able to make half of what we usually make.”

Article from The Telegraph (UK) Monday, November 29, 2010

Cancun climate change summit: scientists call for rationing in developed world

Global warming is now such a serious threat to mankind that climate change experts are calling for Second World War-style rationing in rich countries to bring down carbon emissions.

[Professor Kevin Anderson, Director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research], said politicians should consider a rationing system similar to the one introduced during the last “time of crisis” in the 1930s and 40s.

This could mean a limit on electricity so people are forced to turn the heating down, turn off the lights and replace old electrical goods like huge fridges with more efficient models. Food that has travelled from abroad may be limited and goods that require a lot of energy to manufacture.

“The Second World War and the concept of rationing is something we need to seriously consider if we are to address the scale of the problem we face,” he said.