Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Personal Notes

I am back home with the family after two weeks spent with my mother and father while he recovered from several serious complications. I am humbled by how complicated end-of-life issues have gotten in the face of medical costs, advanced methods, a plethora of pharmaceuticals, Medicare, and insurance. It is no easy thing to decide how far one should go in using invasive measures to extend the life of the elderly. "Natural death" has become a mythological standard, and the presence of state funding encourages doctors to try heroic measures that may only cause more suffering in the long run.
I am adamantly pro-life, and have always felt that the least the doctors should do is feed and hydrate the patient to the very end, however artificially. Now I know that it is not so easy. A feeding tube may cause the patient to aspirate and vomit; an i.v. may repeatedly "fail" in fragile blood vessels, emptying its contents in the subcutaneous layer and causing great pain.
Then there is the issue of the role of the state. With the availability of Medicare, private insurance companies often refuse coverage until the state coverage has run out, leaving those (like myself) who have a principled objection to state involvement in a quandary.
There is no doubt that my dad would have expired by now without Medicare-funded intervention this month. It has allowed him another chance to prepare for the hereafter. For that I am grateful.
On the other hand, the same conditions that threatened his life (diabetes and cholesterol blockage in the vessels) remain, and he will still die from complications caused by them. His legs which were on the verge of amputation have been saved by stenting, at least for now. For how long, we don't know. He complained bitterly about his treatment in the hospital and rehab facility, though he got decent, pleasant service and they did save his life. The costs may approach $100,000 by the time all bills arrive. Was it justified?
If Medicare hadn't been available...private insurance would have kicked in. If my parents couldn't afford insurance...my dad would have stayed home, cared for by my sacrificially-loving mother, and suffered greatly in his slow, "natural" death.
We surely need an extra dose of wisdom to know how to apply Biblical principles in this modern age.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Population problem misread from start

Here is an article I submitted to my local newspaper as a guest editorial. They published it Friday the 13th :).

Population “Bomb” May Not Be What You Think

By Arden Sleadd

Is the human race the “global equivalent of a swarm of locusts destroying and devouring everything in its path”, as one writer to the Courier described? I wonder, does she live in Oregon? When I look out my window I see towering 100-foot pine and fir trees between my neighbor’s acre and mine. No visions of swarming locusts, that.

Population growth has been getting a bad rap. Paul Erlich popularized the Malthusian theory that population would exceed the earth’s sustainability with his 1968 book, The Population Bomb, and since then environmentally-conscious folks have regarded humans as weeds, consumers and destroyers. Never mind the fact that nearly every prediction made in Erlich’s book failed to come true. Most notably, the “hundreds of millions of people” he predicted would die of starvation due to overpopulation in the 1970s and ‘80s, didn’t. Still, the overpopulation myth has become so embedded in our thinking that any facts to the contrary are ignored.

While it is true that population has grown more in the last century than at any other time, this is more a result of longer life spans than of high birth rates. Quality of life has improved, food production has improved (also defying Erlich’s predictions) and people are generally healthier. This is a good thing. However, it is also true that the number of children in the population has been steadily dropping. We are aging at a precipitious rate. The implications are not pretty.

While an educator, I first heard about the world’s “birth dearth” in 1988. This very real trend, also dubbed the Demographic Winter, has been gaining steam for at least three decades.

I quote from the website www.demographicwinter.com: “Worldwide, birthrates have been halved in the past 50 years. There are now 59 nations, 44% of the world’s population, with below-replacement fertility. Sometime in this century, the world’s population will begin to decline. At a certain point, the decline will become rapid. We may even reach population free-fall in our lifetimes. For some countries, population decline is already a reality. Russia is losing three-quarters-of-a-million people a year. The term ‘nuclear winter,’ popularized in the 1980s, alluded to the catastrophic environmental impact of a nuclear war. The long-term consequences of a demographic winter could be equally devastating.” (emphasis added)

Imagine a world in which 80% of the population is in retirement age, and 20% are working or in childhood. Imagine hospitals and nursing homes bursting at the seams with old people, and not enough young doctors and CNAs to care for them. Imagine thousands of old people dying in their beds and left there for days or weeks because there is so few people remaining to carry them out, or who even know they’re dead. Imagine the rampant disease that would result. Imagine ghost-towns full of McMansions going back to the coyotes. The population bomb is coming, but it may not play out the way you think.

One letter to the Courier has attempted to paint population growth as analogous to lily-pad reproduction. Since it actually takes two humans to produce one new one, this analogy presumes a human birth-rate at a constant of 4.0, or double the replacement rate, along with a death rate of zero. The truth is that population growth has proven to be linear, not exponential. The U.S. fertility rate is currently only 2.1, or just enough to maintain our current population. Western Europe’s birth rates are much more dismal—Italy is at 1.2, Spain at 1.1, and so it goes. The governments of these countries are very worried, and are offering large sums to induce women to have more children. Few are taking the carrot.

Recent data shows the primary culprit of resource waste has not been overpopulation, but family breakdown. Divorce causes one household to become two, resulting in more capital destruction and consumption, to the tune of $112 billion a year, according to a recent study. If we really care about being “green”, we could start by keeping our love alive and our marriages intact.

Not all humans behave alike. While some are over-consumers, most people learn to produce or contribute at least as much as they consume over their lifetimes. The key is training our young people to be responsible and caring, and the onus is on parents to be diligent in their training.

How should we be truly “green”? 1. Get married and stay married. 2. Have children (at least four, to make up for lost time). 3. If it’s too late for you, adopt a few. 4. Devote your life to loving and training your children (and grandchildren) to be good stewards of our planet. 5. Treat flora, fauna, and humans alike with kindness, and 6. Work sacrificially for those who cared for you.

It may not be the easy road, but it is the high road. The future of our civilization depends on it.

Arden Sleadd is a home-educator, mother of five, grandmother of one, and former school teacher. Her blog is womancomehome.blogspot.com. She and her husband founded Covered Bridge Family Ministries (www.coveredbridgefm.org). They reside in Grants Pass, OR.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Visiting my folks

I am posting this blog from my mother's home an hour away from our town. My 83yo father is in the hospital with various complications due to vascular disease and diabetes. It has been touch-and-go for over a week and we still are not out of the woods. He has serious complex wounds on his feet, fighting gangrene, and his i.v.'s keeping failing. My mother has been a real trooper, trying to dress his wounds herself at home, and now is running back and forth to the hospital to make sure he eats right, etc. She is a real inspiration. I hope I learn to be half as compassionate and caring as she is.
With Father's Day coming up, I decided I needed to honor my father and spend this week here to be available and help them in whatever little ways I can. We never know how many more days we have together. John is holding down the fort at home, finishing up the last week of homeschool with the kids. God Bless him.
At age 50, family life is coming at me from both directions, as it is for my sister. Motherhood seems to only grow in its job description with the passing of time. On my plate are such things as: 1. supporting my 18yo son's courtship and developing a relationship with my prospective daughter-in-love; 2. helping my 20yo daughter as she grows in motherhood and raises my grandson; 3. raising my three left at home, including homeschooling my 11yo son, training my 14yo daughter in homemaking skills, and helping my 16yo son venture into moneymaking and career-planning; 4. being a secretary, helpmeet and hostess to my husband's pastoral work; 5. care for aging grandparents. I must remind myself that all mothers have walked this road before me and managed famously. So I will stop patting myself on the back for how much I do. It's God plan for shaping and moulding us. And what a ride it is.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Book review: Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury

My good friend Robin lent me this book and my 11yo son Caleb and I have been reading it. I thought I knew something about economics, but I realized I have a lot more to learn. This is a great book. It is written in an engaging, simple style yet teaches some profound concepts. My son liked it as much as I. It is eye-opening to follow the author's exercises for determining just how much inflation is eating away your wealth and how inflation is really the government's hidden tax on people which cause us to make investment mistakes that ultimately benefit the government. I highly recommend it. It is so important for us who wish to build a family legacy to be aware of our financial status and make wise decisions.
Find out what TANSTAAFL stands for. Find out what really causes inflation. Find out why a $50,000 profit can really be an $8000 loss with inflation. Read this book!