The Widdershins

The world’s most taboo subject

Posted on: September 10, 2019

Do you remember this article from a couple of years back? It was big in the media for a few days. Want to fight climate change? Have fewer children.

Having a child contributes some thirty times as much to warming the planet as the next closest action an individual can take: living without a car.


Climate change impact of having a child: each one adds 58.6 tons of CO2 equivalents per year. Using a car adds 2.4 tCO2e per year.



And yet, amidst all the discussion of air travel and bicycling and electric vehicles, there’s a ban on mentioning population control.

Another example I came across recently was in a very encouraging article about greening the Sahel in Africa.

… {Farmers had a] cheap, effective way to regreen the Sahel. They did so by using simple water harvesting techniques and protecting trees that emerged naturally on their farms.

Garrity recalls walking through farms in Niger, fields of grains like millet and sorghum stretching to the sun planted around trees, anywhere from a handful to 80 per acre. “In most cases, the trees are in random locations because they sprouted and the farmer protected them and let them grow,” he says. [Depending on species] [t]he trees can be cut for fuel… They can be pruned for livestock fodder. Their leaves and fruit are nutritious.

One tree, Faidherbia albida, goes dormant during the wet season when most trees grow. When the rains begin, the trees defoliate, dropping leaves that fertilize the soil. Because they have dropped their leaves, the trees do not shade crops during the growing season. Their value had long been recognized by farmers….

[But] “He laments that work is moving too slowly. With the Sahel’s population doubling in 20 years, Reij says regreening needs to be finished within 10 to 15 years.”

He makes it sound as if this doubling is a great force beyond human influence, like a solar storm or a meteor strike. It’s not. It’s merely human reproduction. We’re helpless only because the subject is so untouchable it can’t even be said out loud.

What’s up with that?

I think the answer lies in the two possible trajectories to control births.

One is coercive. China’s one child policy is perhaps the most famous recent example. Since women are the ones giving birth, you have to control women. You punish them if they have too many children. You enforce abortions on mothers. Or, if you’re a Nazi in the 1930s who wants lots of blond babies and no browner ones, you try to enforce a eugenics program on women. You sterilize gypsies or the disabled or Jews while giving “your” women the option to be incubators or nothing.

All those methods involve hideously totalitarian pre-emption of individual choice and body autonomy (like the supporters of forced pregnancy, but we’re more used to them so it doesn’t feel as outlandish). But on the bright side, they don’t require any changes to misogynist and patriarchal social systems.

The other trajectory is to give women control over their own reproduction. Wherever that is done, birth rates drop dramatically. They may not fall all the way to replacement levels, but they get much closer than any other method. Giving women control works, it works sustainably and long term.


But it deprives society of its main tool to control all aspects of women’s lives. Your reliable producers of the next generation, your unpaid domestic servants and nannies and handholders and caregivers, gradually find other things to do with their lives. Members of the upper caste might have to do their own dishes. Your whole system falls apart.

And therein lies the rub. All our current problems are made much worse by overpopulation. Dealing with that requires treating women like human beings. Which gives the patriarchy the vapors.

So suddenly respect for medieval religions and medieval cultures make it impossible to promote birth control. They might be offended!

There’s not the same action-limiting respect when it comes to things that serve the caste system. Porn is all over the place even though the Pope disapproves. But breastfeeding is too avantgarde for the delicate sensibilities of men on Facebook. Nor is there ever equivalent concern that women object to being erased.

The discrepancy has a name. Sady Doyle wrote about it almost three years ago, Trump, Putin, Assange, and the politics of sexism. Supposedly all three are exponents of radically different systems, and yet they have a lizard brain-level understanding that they’re on the same side. Her focus is social and political effects, but the same allergy to anything kind or well-meaning is everywhere.

Recently, reactionaries have made The Misogyny of Climate Deniers obvious by their revolting comments against a 16 year old who’s done nothing except use the full weight of all the evidence to disagree with them.

The connection has to do with a sense of group identity under threat, … both by developing gender equality—Hultman pointed specifically to the shock some men felt at the #MeToo movement—and now climate activism’s challenge to their way of life, male reactionaries motivated by right-wing nationalism, anti-feminism, and climate denialism increasingly overlap, the three reactions feeding off of one another. … Climate change used to be a bipartisan concern, the first Bush senior presidency famously promising to tackle global warming. But as conservative male mockery of Thunberg and others shows, climate politics has quickly become the next big battle in the culture war—on a global scale.

Misogyny isn’t the only motivation of reactionaries. There’s greed and garden variety hatred in there, too, but misogyny is the core. It’s misogyny, not greed or racism or ordinary hatred, that makes men fear weakness more than anything. And fear of weakness is what ties together the worst of what they do.

They think strong man governments are a good idea. They like guns and “defence” — war, really, so long as somebody else dies in it. Peace is only tolerable “through strength.” The reactionaries are against anything that doesn’t shout big power. They like nukes because gigawatts! dangerous! The truth is that even building a new gigawatt nuke every two months from 2010 till 2050 would solve only a small part of climate change and energy needs. Meanwhile renewables could provide all our energy by 2050 for a fraction of the cost and without radioactive waste. But distributed power, whether that’s rooftop solar or real democracy, strikes reactionaries as la-la limp-wristed hippie crap. Likewise, restraint against environmental destruction is pathetic weakness in the face of hard choices.

And weakness is the worst thing you can show. They (“They”) come and take your man card away. It’s the only thing that gave you any standing and it’s gone.

That is a future so horrible it’s worth burning the world down to avoid it. It must never be spoken lest saying its name calls it forth.

Crossposted from Acid Test.

104 Responses to "The world’s most taboo subject"

Interestingly, Bernie, he who calls reproductive rights a “distraction,” recently came out saying population control would be necessary to get ahead of climate change.

Since he’s got multiple misogynist bones, I figured he’d go full-China, coercive control on us.But no. He actually talked about how it was stupid to prevent women from controlling their own reproduction.

He did have to drop in the usual those-people-in-all-those-poor-countries remark, being Bernie and having plenty of racist bones too. But at least he didn’t go full right wing from the getgo.

The right instant started screaming about zomg! abortions! because of librul global warming hoax! eugenics! Because of course they did. In their world there is only coercive control. Letting women control their own bodies is exactly the topic that must never be named.

quixote, thank you for this post. How did the over-population threat fade from public view. No, it’s not a threat as something in the future; it’s been causing huge environmental degradation for decades.

I’ve never wanted children, which I put down to growing up nearly TV-free and in a rural enough area that I fortunately missed out on much of the usual socialization. The idea that it’s selfish to not have children is so absurd it’s hard for me to believe some people really think that. It’s obviously selfish to think that you need to perpetuate your own genetic lineage, especially at the cost of adding yet one more being to this crowded world. I’m not that special and neither would be my children. As for kids taking care of their parents in old age — that’s a gamble. Relatives can do anything, and that includes abuse. Also, who’d want to bring kids into a world like this? Then there’s also the time, money, and energy involved.

Being a parent, especially a mother, is one of the most important and difficult and rewarding (at different times) activities a person could undertake. I’ve never felt any yearning for children. Interesting, when I was in family practice the group of patients who commented most frequently that they valued my care were pregnant women and young mothers — perhaps because they could talk with me about their fears, the discomforts of pregnancy and mothering, as well as the joys? It’s nearly forbidden for mothers (or fathers) to mention anything bad about parenting. It’s all supposed to be rosy all the time. Well, I’ve been going off on a tangent.

Humans will smother the Earth with themselves if things continue on the present course.

Critter break after my downer comment.

But, but, population control, oh noes! There will be fewer white babies.

Geez, 3:50 a.m. CDT and the temp out there is still 82° with a feel like of 88. Instead of Run Forrest run, it’s Run a/c run.

Killl your TV, stop driving and quit breeding. I’m a male baby boomer who never had children because I didn’t want to abuse children. I think that every child that is born is abused because adults abuse children because they can. And abused children become adult child abusers. I also don’t own a car. I own 3 bicycles instead. I don’t own a TV because Frank Zappa sang about the slime that oozes out of your TV set and he was telling the truth.

Interesting that you got in here Otto on the first comment. Usually first comments go into pending.
So is this your first time at The Widdershins?

Great post Q! Thank you for taking on Tuesday, and thank you Fredster for letting Quixote know it was okay to post. I should be able to post in a few days, can do the weekend if needed.

I think misogyny and white supremacy are both incredibly powerful forces in our society. I usually think of it as white male supremacy, so I am combining the two. In any case, I agree that if you just treat women as human beings with free will, a lot of our societal evils would be moderated, including climate change. And to the men who are freaking out and attacking a 16-year-old climate change activist because she’s a woman…here”s a free tip: you all look weak as hell.

Trump just fired John Bolton via twitter.

@5, Where I am it’s suddenly switched to fall weather, and back to cloudy and rainy. Have to wear another layer to be comfortable, and it seems I was just getting used to summer.

@9, DYB, !!! Wow, John Bolton wasn’t mean enough for the Orange Dictator?

@11 Luna, I had the same reaction. One of the most blood-splattered people in the administration wasn’t blood-thirsty enough for Trump.

@13, DYB, Also, Bolton was a hawk on Russia and N Korean and he said mean things about Donny’s friends.

Mustache (Mental) Midget? !!! I have something wrong with me because it just makes me guffaw. Live by the Mango Moron, die by the Mango Moron.

Re overpopulation, thinking about how sexism ties so many of the current problems together, means we’ve somehow got to make it speakable. Possibly by tying it to women’s rights every single time. And the only way to do that is by putting them first, every single time. Otherwise too many people, women included sadly, can’t even hear it.

My marketing mojo is nonexistent so I can’t think of a catchy mantra. Women’s rights! Mothers care! They don’t have more babies than the world can bear! (You see what I mean. Needs — a lot — of work.)

@10: Oh I wish for that wx. There is a big high parked over us, which, during tropical season isn’t a bad thing. There is a little tropical low in the gulf that may move this way – nothing organized – with a hope of some rain and lower temps.

And speaking of tropical stuff, today, the 10th, is the peak day during the tropical season. Statistically, it’s all downhill from here.

Waiting for tRump to get out his sharpie.

@16: My marketing mojo is nonexistent so I can’t think of a catchy mantra. Women’s rights! Mothers care! They don’t have more babies than the world can bear! (You see what I mean. Needs — a lot — of work.)

How about picture of a big ole fat guy with a stogie in his mouth and the caption: You lug it around in your belly for nine months.

But of course they won’t Jennifer.

@18 – LOL!

Did you all know there is an NC special election today? The Democrat may just have a fighting chance.

Quixote, excellent post! I love it! People having huge families, and I’m not talking about those with foster/adopted kids, exasperates the crap out of me. Most of the time they can’t afford it and the rest of us end up subsidizing them, and I believe its usually the fault of religions. They keep up their “no birth control or abortions” mantra because they need a constant supply of new humans to keep the religions going.

I’ve thought it was insane since I was a kid. And I usually like kids and did want to be a mother someday, after I’d traveled and done some interesting things, but I planned to stop after two, and ended up with one. I actually think people that breed an excessive amount of kids should pay an extra tax to their communities, not the other way around. I know several women (not related or friends) who have had multiple children with multiple men in order to get welfare and other benefits. Apparently, they think that’s a better life than working!?! The few times I’ve been around their kids, I urged them to get an education and a good career.

Anyway, like all of the points you make, especially about sexism and misogyny.


@18. Ewww. Gross.

socalannie, one of the things I do on the side is write old style, the-good-folks-don’t-turn-into-bad-ones kind of science fiction. And that’s actually a feature taken for granted in my futures: there are increasing taxes for every kid after #2. (Half of each is credited to each parent.)

I know what the objection would be: but then only rich people can have lots of kids. And that is a problem. Possibly solvable by using the Swedish system where e.g. traffic fines are proportional to your income and assets. For instance, a rich guy with a speeding ticket paid a fine of 254,000 kroner.

@24: a rich guy with a speeding ticket paid a fine of 254,000 kroner

I found a currency converter that gave this:

254,000SEK =

Not exactly chump change is it?

@25, maybe for a rich guy it is, lol!

Yep, just charge ’em a % of their income.

@26: Could be, could be.

@20, Sadly, it looks like a defeat for Dems. OTOH, it was very close compared to the 2016 R:D voting ratio.

Republican Dan Bishop pulled out a narrow win in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District on Tuesday, giving the GOP a victory in a district that President Trump won easily in 2016 but which proved to be a fierce battleground.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Bishop was leading with 50.6 percent to Democrat Dan McCready’s 48.8 percent.

Aargh about NC-09. I wonder what the voter suppression estimates are.

Re the Swedish fine: I gather it hit the guy about as hard as a speeding fine does for one of us: steep but not ruinous. Everybody should have proportional fines!

I actually came here to share a great thing I saw on @Womensart. (I’m not on twitter, so this is kludged, bear with me)

Beaded jewellery created by young Maasai women and girl artisans. Maasai women themselves are creating an alternative rite of passage to female circumcision, in which girls participate in a 3 day long session about sex education, self-confidence and their human rights #womensart

9/11 is always a great day to not be on facebook. I’m appalled every year by how many of my friends post the most graphic footage and photos from that day… It’s almost like pornography, the fetishization of 9/11. It’s so gross.

@31: For the longest time, NBC (I believe) would replay all of their coverage of that day.

No. Just no.

@34: Has McCready conceded yet?

@34 – I agree with her. Election security and Republican Election Fraud should be words that come out of every Dem candidate’s mouth frequently.

Q that pic is awesome!

9/11 has been forgotten in that 1) the first responders are still not reliably getting what they need for their health, and 2) our disgusting f*cktard of a Resident invited the Taiban into our country on this day. What’s next? Is he going to congratulate NYC, DC and PA on the events of this day????

Have you all seen this? It’s about time. #GoNancy

Love the beaded ‘No FGM’ woman!

Once more, the cruelty is the reason. Time to chisel out that message on the Statue of Liberty.

@37> Wow. That’s what every single Democrat should be doing when asked these questions. In person and on social media. But they keep acting as if Republicans do anything in good faith (and the media pushes that narrative.) Look at what these asshole Republicans did in North Carolina, overriding the budget bill while Democrats were at 9/11 memorial, after telling Democrats there would be no votes that day.

@39> Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are doing what they were hired to do.

NWLuna @34, the results in that county are sketchier than a Pollock painting! I hope McCready refuses to concede until there’s an audit, preferably of the whole damn district. The cheating is likely to be everywhere, just less screamingly obvious in areas that start out redder.

The Not-So-Supremes: well, so much for the rule of law. It was nice while it lasted.

I love my Gov. Gavin……………………..hip, hip hooray for California!!

California Approves Statewide Rent Control to Ease Housing Crisis.

My landlord just upped my rent starting Oct 1st. Google, Uber, etc. has made rent in the Bay Area a living Hell.

California lawmakers approved a statewide rent cap on Wednesday covering millions of tenants, the biggest step yet in a surge of initiatives to address an affordable-housing crunch nationwide.

The bill limits annual rent increases to 5 percent after inflation and offers new barriers to eviction, providing a bit of housing security in a state with the nation’s highest housing prices and a swelling homeless population.

Livestream link. Uh, DNC, there are some of those candidates I do not want to hear.

@43, Shadow, this is wonderful!

@36: the first responders are still not reliably getting what they need for their health

But, this:

‘Put down your swords’: Senate passes bill ensuring 9/11 victims fund will never run out of money

@47, I’m impressed. I thought #MoscowMitch would continue to put this on the slow burner. Well, good for the Repubs — all except the 2 nay-voters — for joining with Dems to pass this.

Betcha he’s also sending a ‘friend’ over to have coffee with Smolenkov.

@48: I would say there was probably some public shaming by Jon Stewart that helped on passage.

@49: Will the “friend” bring pastries?

@46: Such a little cutie.

Dear god, the media are such blithering idiots. I’ve been waiting for this ever since public talk started about the “high-placed” Russian source who had to be extracted. One of these bozos would ferret out the name and splash it everywhere as a scoop.

I’m sure Putin already knows who it is, but once it’s public he *really* has to make an example of the man, so now the guy is in way more danger. Good job, doofus scooper.

@53, I was am also afraid for this guy. What the hell is wrong with journalists.

Glad about the California rent bill.

So the rethugs are going after McCabe?

@53: I had thought they were withholding the guy’s name from the public. Good grief.

Uh-oh, no debate tonight for me. Thursday night football with two divisional rivals.

Ugh, the debate is too early for me on the West Coast. So annoying.

Now wait a minute you lot.You’re supposed to be slogging through the debate so I don’t have to.

(Me? I’m pretty sure that time is scheduled for washing my hair. 😛 )

@59: Spray dry shampoo.

I turned it on. Bernie and Joe look so senile.

When they called on Bernie to make his opening statement, he stood at his platform looking looking lost and the moderator had to call his name again. I think he might have paused because he was hoping for more vigorous applause. I can’t for the life of me understand what anyone sees in him.

Is there another debate with more candidates, or have they weaned it down to these 10?

Talking about gun control–again Biden looks dumb. Kamala made a little joke to him and he didn’t get it.

I have started watching it now. Everyone is way better than Drumpf. I think I need to stop watching it while I eat dinner!

I checked the mainstream (ie CNN’s web site) and they said Harris and ORourke did well. Also Biden who got points for being a magic grandpa. Sanders did not, so at least there’s that.

Does that agree with what all y’all are hearing or saw?

Annie @63: no, thank the merciful goddess, they’re down to just one debate.

@66, Quixote, agree except I thought Buttigieg was better than Beto today.

Hmm. Interesting. I have to admit that Buttigieg is one of the people I can’t wait to see nothing of. His whole aren’t-I-a-bright-young-thing shtick coupled with the Republican lite just gets me the wrong way. Still, whatever works. If he’s got hidden depths that escaped me, that’s great.

Anybody but kleptocrats. It’s important. And NO magic grandpas.

@63: No it was only the 10 and one night. I had that at the top on the side but there’s no way to really make it stand out. I wish there was a way to make blinky lights or something that sort of say “hey look here”, but don’t know of any way to do that.

@69: I have no use for him at all. And the same for Beto.


leaking of negative information that hurt Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Then James Comey needs to get hauled up for breaking policy and giving (fake) negative information on Hillary to the press. Not holding my breath.

I think we do know what happened in 2016 — Hillary was cheated out of an EC win.

We still don’t know what happened in the 2016 election

It took 3 years for Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.) to find out that Russian actors had hacked into her state’s voting systems ahead of the 2016 presidential election. First she was unaware the Kremlin had penetrated any counties, then she heard it was two, and now new intelligence suggests four jurisdictions might have been breached. The public has even less information than she does — because, as she explained in a Post op-ed, she is not allowed to share much of what she learns.

Ms. Murphy’s experience of finding out about Russian interference mirrors the country’s. Law enforcement indicated two states had been targeted, then 21, and then, this summer, a Senate report revealed that all 50 were probed. Investigators have uncovered no evidence the hackers actually tampered with votes, but even that is uncertain in jurisdictions without paper ballots to back up the count. Americans still don’t know what they don’t know about Russian interference.

Ms. Murphy now has the names of at least some of the compromised counties in her state, only because she and her colleagues read special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report and demanded a briefing. But she has been barred from sharing those names with her constituents.

Grrrr. Something ate my comment instead of posting it. Then I reproduced that comment and it was gulped into nothingness again.

@69, Oh, I didn’t mean I’m a Butti fan, I just thought he was better spoken than Beto last night. I would be thrilled if the four B’s exit the stage: Bernie, Biden, Butti & Beto. And they can take Yang with them.

@74, annie, I’m with you.

Fredster, thanks for putting up that sidebar piece. Had all the info. Please keep doing it. Sorry I didn’t notice this time!

So does anyone know who else is still running that wasn’t at the debate?

Annie @76, I can’t even remember all 10 who were at this debate. The rest of them just make me think of Rabbit’s friends and relations …

(Fredster, remember the infamous <BLINK> tag?)

Luna, found both iterations of your comment and got them both out.

@79: No, I don’t. Refresh my memory.

As Luna says, critter break.

Eddie Money died from cancer today at age 70.

Fredster, I forgot that wp would eat any <, > tags, even on an obsolete one like BLINK. Edited my comment so it shows up. And now you probably know what I was trying to talk about 😀 . The advertisers would use them to grab attention in the good old pretty-much-text-based web, in the days when grabbing attention was Not Cool. /*nostalgia attack*/

Annie, I wasn’t implying you thought highly of Butti. Just that I think lowly of him!

As for Ivanka’s moral compass:

@87: Oh that’s right about blink. IIRC, I think I tried to use it once and of course it was an utter failure.

@85 & 86: That’s sad. Didn’t even realize he had been ill.

An announcement: DYB will be doing the weekend post for me. Right now no SEC team has a bye week scheduled so *lots* of college ball tomorrow. Then Sunday the Saints visit the (cringe) LA Rams. As our chatblu was fond of saying about particular Georgia games, I may be hiding behind the couch for this one.

Fredster, it is 84 in San Francisco. I think it was almost 90 today. It’s hot!!

I have seen that Harris, Warren, Castro, Booker and Beto did well last night. I’ve also seen that Sanders is on the way out.

All I’ve heard about Biden was that he doubled down on the racist trope of “black mamas don’t know how to talk to their kids therefore crime. Oh, and record players are good.” OY VEYYYYYYYYYYY

@94: That’s incredible for S.F. isn’t it?

Fredster, Thanks for getting my comment out!

That doxie is the cutest. We need breaks for cuteness, and furry animals.

Ivanka has a moral compass? If it’s like her dad’s, we’ll be getting porn stars and a couple divorces coming up soon, plus a dozen bankruptcies (which she probably already has but well-hidden).

And Barr gets the sleazoid award.

She was just bitch-slapped. That was as good as Krystal and Alexis.

@99, Her expression — as if she just ate something so sour it nearly killed her!

I’m a little surprised the caller wasn’t cut off.

@100: Looking again, I’m seeing that moxnews thing at the bottom so I wonder if this was a fake?

@101: Guess it wasn’t a fake. (I didn’t play it)

94- yes Biden blew it in that regard. I am listening to Joy this morning discussing this, interviewing an author that said he received a personal tweet from a Trump operative listing a number of racist gaffes made by Biden. He used this info to support his belief that Biden is a “nice” racist of a type whose time is gone. I tend to agree, but my question is why did a Trumpite offer this info at this stage of the game? They do nothing that is not self serving.


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