Barbara Kingsolver, an author that I've greatly enjoyed in the past, has written a new book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, about her family's rather drastic move to a small farm where they have tried to eat locally and produce as much of their own food as possible. I haven't read the book yet (although I'm planning to), but I've read several reviews that have intrigued me enough to put it on my "to read soon" pile.
The most recent review I read contained the following statement by Kingsolver, "The worst thing you can do for your species is raise helpless offspring. And our society is doing that. We've convinced ourselves that being able to manage a Web site is more important than knowing how to grow food or cook it." ("The New Frontier," Rebecca Barry, More, May 2007, p.42.)
That statement is both appealing to me and repellant to me. (For the sake of this post, I am assuming she was quoted accurately.)
The statement appeals to me because I do feel that it is extremely important for all humans to know how to grow and cook their own food, as well as to know many other practical skills. I also feel that it is extremely important that we all know and understand the biological principles behind healthy food and about our position within a (hopefully healthy) ecosystem. Raising competent, knowledgeable offspring is extremely important for the survival of any species. It only takes a generation or two or three for competence and knowledge to be lost, sometimes irretrievably.
On the repellant side, one of my problems with the statement is the concept of "helpless." What constitutes "helpless"? Is "helpless" different in our modern society than in a more primitive society? And what should constitute "competent, knowledgeable"? I know that our definitions of "helpless" are different for our own society than they would be for a "less advanced" society. Should those definitions be different and, if so, in what ways?
However, the biggest problem I have with Kingsolver's statement is the designation "the worst". Is raising helpless offspring "the worst" thing one can do for one's species? It's certainly bad, but is it "the worst"? What would be worse than that?
For some reason that I can't quite fathom, this is bugging me. I've rewritten this post several times, often being drawn into elaborate arguments with myself regarding the above questions, but I think I'm just going to put the questions out into the blogosphere.
Any ideas or thoughts, anyone?