October 21, 2014

Childfree Celebrities: Famous Authors Edition – Women’s History Month

Cover of "The Second Sex"

Cover of The Second Sex

As a children’s author I once wrote a post about Dr. Suess and other famous kiddie-lit authors that didn’t have kids.

 

You can read it here.

 

Notable female childfree children’s authors include: Margaret Wise Brown, famous for “Good Night Moon,”  Beatrix Potter of “Peter’s Rabbit” fame, and Louisa May Alcott, author of “Little Women.”

 

Here is a list of other famous female writers, authors and journalists who made their mark on the world with their words and not their offspring. It’s quite an impressive club:

 

Elizabeth Gilbert – Author, “Eat Pray Love

 

Marie Colvin – Award-winning American journalist for the British newspaper The Sunday Times

 

Dorothy Parker – American poet, short story writer, critic and satirist

 

Anaïs Nin – Author

 

Melanie Notkin – Founder of SavvyAuntie.com, Author of “Savvy Auntie: The Ultimate Guide for Cool Aunts, Great-Aunts, Godmothers and All Women Who Love Kids” (Morrow/HarperCollins 2011)

 

Rachel Carson – Conservationist and author of  “Silent Spring”

 

The Joy Luck Club

The Joy Luck Club (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Anita Brookner – British novelist and art historian

 

Amy Tan -  American writer best known for her book “The Joy Luck Club

 

Harper Lee – Author, “To Kill a Mockingbird”

 

Marian Keyes – Author

 

Maeve Binchy – Novelist

 

Virginia Woolf – Author

 

Hilary Mantel – Novelist

 

Simone de Beauvoir – Author, “The Second Sex

 

Charlotte Bronte – Author, “Jane Eyre”

 

Edith Wharton – Pulitzer Prize-winning American novelist

 

Jane Austen – Author, “Pride and Prejudice,” “Sense and Sensibility”

 

Isek Dineson – (pen name Karen Blixen) author of “Out of Africa”

 

Gloria Steinem – American feminist, journalist and political activist

 

WNKies do you know any other women that should be added to this list?

 

 

 

Nulliparity Health Risks

Pondering nulliparity health risks.

Pondering nulliparity health risks.

Almost nine months ago I attempted to define nulliparity in the context of childfree couples, (“Nulliparity Definition“), and I asked readers to consider stretching the definition at least, at least rhetorically, to include both males and females in nulliparous relationships.

Derived from Latin… a usable nulliparity definition would be the condition of not bearing offspring (normally applied to a human woman). (Nulliparity Definition – Why No Kids?)

A medical term used to refer to a condition or state in which a woman has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy. (biology online)

At the time, my endeavor was mostly academic. Educate myself. Educate Why No Kids? readers. Move on. Instead, I’ve stumbled upon worrisome nulliparity health risks.

Is Nulliparity Bad?

I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m drawn to dialogue inspired by (and surrounding) childfree by choice couples. I’m not a strident advocate for childfreedom, nor am I categorically opposed to bearing children. In fact, at times, my conviction is admittedly blurry, but I am always intrigued by the conversations and debate provoked by the parent/childfree divide. It’s a healthy and often entertaining topic, and — though I’m still not prepared to hypothesize exactly why — it’s a debate that provokes ample emotional and intellectual opinioneering.

That said, I’ve never given much credence to claims that choosing not to bear children is ethically wrong, biologically bad or — this is real, folks — a religious sin. Such binary reasoning strikes me as naive, not infrequently hateful and always intolerant. My world is not painted in primary colors, and it’s certainly not black and white. I believe that the parent/childfree divide hinges upon subjective opinions and preferences.

Nulliparity Concerns

But my previous nulliparity post has catalyzed some new questions and concerns for me including the potential for some troubling nulliparity health risks. Ever since publishing the post, we’ve experienced a dramatic uptick in traffic from visitors looking for information about nulliparity. Sure, that’s logical enough. But I was surprised and I remain surprised at the volume of people trying to learn more about nulliparity. Certainly they’re not all “childfree curious”…

Google Insights shows that the trend is global, and that it’s been about seven years since people began looking for more information about nulliparity. A little data mining reveals these top three search queries:

  1. nulliparity definition
  2. nulliparity define
  3. nulliparity breast cancer

The first two are effectively the same search for a definition of the term nulliparity, and their popularity explains the popularity of my first attempt to define nulliparity. But the third most popular search offers a hint at why there’s been growing interest in nulliparity globally. Fear.

Nulliparity Fears

Is nulliparity dangerous? Are there conclusive indications of nulliparity health risks? A quick glimpse at some recent articles suggest that nulliparity may indeed be dangerous.

Changes in decade of first birth and nulliparity do not explain the changes in breast cancer incidence… [but] breast cancer incidence has increased in the same cohorts. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

A higher incidence of SPM [second primary malignancy] of the breast is observed in women treated for papillary thyroid cancer. Additionally, this risk is increased by nulliparity… (WJSO)

Catholic nuns… pay a terrible price for their chastity because they have a greatly increased risk of breast, ovarian, and uterine cancers: the hazards of their nulliparity. (The Lancet)

Nulliparous women had a 44% increased risk of hip fractures independent of hip bone mineral density… childbearing reduces hip fracture risk by means that may be independent of hip bone mineral density. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

Incidentally, this eerie, late night film plot resurfaces in “Why nuns might be stoking cancer in quest to stay chaste“. Spooky, right? Looks like more research is in order.

Nulliparity’s Silver Lining

Fortunately not all nulliparity news is bad news.

In a linear regression model… it was found that nulliparous women and women who went through menopause later in life had significantly less cognitive decline. (National Institute of Health, NCBI)

So where does this leave us? It’s clear that many people all around the world are concerned about a possibly causal relationship between nulliparity and breast cancer and about nulliparity health risks in general. But from my standpoint, not much else is clear.

Does Nulliparity Increase Health Risks?

I’m hoping that one of our readers will know more about this and share their insights. Does (or should) the definition of nulliparity include increased health risks?
Are there additional nulliparity health risks that I’ve overlooked?

 

Fast Forward

fast type

Image by mightymoss via Flickr

Wednesday already? I keep bumping the fast forward button!

Seems like only yesterday Susan, Amy, Brian and I were bumping along the highway from Costa Rica‘s Papagayo Peninsula to Lake Arenal psyching each other up for windsurfing with crocodiles, slurping up coconut milk from roadside vendors, and brainstorming a blog about our childfree lifestyle choices. Fast forward and we’re entering our 9th month and 107th post. Wow!

Thank you for making it possible. Thank you for reading our posts, commenting, sharing on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ and submitting guest posts. You continue to inspire us, and we’re enjoying every minute of it. Even when I bump the fast forward button…

While everything’s zipping past in a blur, there are a couple of quick snippets I want to showcase, sort of a “Wednesday WNK Digest”. First up, Brian nailed it in a recent post about how taboo a topic the childfree choice remains. Though he focused largely on celebs (a category that I’m thoroughly unqualified to address), the following excerpt about gender distinctions is oh-so-spot-on:

when a mother DOES speak out against mothering… she’s entering taboo territory, a place where people overreact and use the word “crazy”… Because these are words that mothers aren’t allowed to speak. “Don’t have kids” or “I wish I didn’t have kids” are somehow heard as “I wish they weren’t alive” or “I hate children”. It seems… From where I stand, men are given much more room.. to vent, admit, complain or translate their desire for silence and freedom and fresh air into advice or comedy… Mothers seem to police themselves, vigilantly. (Celebrities, WiNKs, Taboos and The Childfree Apology)

Another highlight? The clever crew over at The Onion nailed it with ‘This Is The Happiest Day Of My Life,’ Lies Man Holding Baby. Just to tickle your childfree fancy:

Looking out at a sea of expectant faces, new father Dan Rudloff commemorated the birth of his daughter, Elizabeth, by holding the small, vulnerable child in his arms and blurting out a series of lies and half-truths about how happy he was at that moment.

“Oh my God,” said Rudloff, staring down at the squalling, vernix-covered infant who will depend on him for everything from eating, to bathing, to keeping her head upright. “She’s beautiful.”

Realizing he was now forever tethered to this utterly helpless new life… Rudloff rattled off a series of patently false pleasantries about being overjoyed with his new baby girl. (The Onion)

For overly sensitive readers who sometimes miss humor, farce and send-ups, this is funny. Not snarky. Or cynical. Okay, maybe it’s all three!

Onward. Julie, The Hiking Humanist, took a protracted and reflective look at the term, childfree, in a recent post that’s worth passing along. She explains why the word is necessary descriptor to distinguish those who choose not to have children from those who are unable to have children.

We don’t want to be encouraged to have kids, or pitied for not having them, or seen as lonely or sad, or as selfish and hateful. The word we identify with exists to legitimize our choice, and to be a word for the lifestyle that we’re keen to talk about among ourselves and encourage acceptance of in the public sphere… This word is “childfree.” The word differentiates us from the childless, and from parents. More importantly, the word communicates that the absence of children is a positive thing for us, something we’re happy about and do not wish to be pitied for. (Defending The Word “Childfree”)

Julie’s a little huffy, but many of us have been at one point or another when slighted bingo’ed one time too many.

As a follow-up to Amy’s recent post on “Childfree Getaways” and my post on “Childfree Dining Tips“, I’d like to pass along a few childfree travel suggestions from Child Free Nation:

Here are a couple quick tips for avoiding the diaper set during your getaway:

  • Spring for Luxury
  • Consider a Private Resort
  • Enjoy a Bed and Breakfast
  • Read the Reviews

(Seven Tips for Child Free Travel)

That catches me up a little bit… Of course, I’m liable to bump the fast forward button again before long. Sorry!

Nulliparity Definition

Shows fundal height at various stages of pregnancy

Image via Wikipedia

Nulliparity isn’t jargon for Jimmy Buffet haters. On the contrary, I suspect there might be a significant overlap between the Parrothead and nulliparity lifestyles!

Deployed infrequently outside of the medical context, a nulliparity definition demands clarification if for no other reason than that it arises from time to time on Why No Kids?

Derived from Latin, the etymology of nulliparity is straightforward:

  • nullus, none
  • parere, to bear

So, in simplest terms, a usable nulliparity definition would be the condition of not bearing offspring (normally applied to a human woman).

A medical term used to refer to a condition or state in which a woman has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy. (biology online)

Nulliparity vs. Nullipara

Although I understand why this term evolved to refer almost exclusively to women (men being biologically excepted from pregnancy), I would propose a nulliparity definition that is broader and more inclusive, applying to women and men who have not born offspring. Pregnancy and childbearing, after all, does generally imply the participation of a male in the creative process despite the disparity in inputs (ie. a few minutes versus 9 months!)

That said, the term nullipara specifically refers to a woman who has never given birth.

A female who has never given birth to a child, or has never carried a pregnancy. (biology online)

Choosing Nulliparity

This latter term, although obviously derived from the same Latin root, was unfamiliar to me until recently when I discovered Rhiannon Alton’s blog, Nullipara Life while searching for breeder bingo examples. A catchy title from a woman unabashedly committed to her childfree choice.

Don’t ask me when I’m going to have kids unless you’d like to hear my smart-ass response. I do not want kids. Parenthood is a choice, not an obligation. Some people might think there’s no point to me getting married if I’m not going to have kids…this is a completely asinine and ignorant thing to say. You see, my fiance is more to me than just a reproductive organ. I am not defined by my uterus, so please don’t tell me what I should be doing with it. Also, don’t tell me I’ll change my mind in a few years. How would you feel if I told you you’d change your mind about being a mother in a few years? Think about that the next time you try and pass judgment on me. (Rhiannon Alton)

Nulliparity, folks, is not the exclusive domain of the “childfree by choice” crowd as it certainly includes the involuntarily childless, but the straightforward, efficiency of the term is powerfully, succinctly echoed in Ms. Alton’s comments:

  1. Parenthood is a choice, not an obligation.
  2. You see, my fiance is more to me than just a reproductive organ.
  3. I am not defined by my uterus

Thanks for translating the life choice not to bear children into bold, bullet-point-able 21st century jargon, Ms. Alton! Any questions, folks? I suggest you start with Nullipara Life

The Childless Revolution

The Childless Revolution, by Madelyn Cain

The Childless Revolution, by Madelyn Cain (now available at Amazon.com)

Perhaps you’ve noticed that our tagline for Why No Kids? is “Childfree by choice and happy! Here’s why…”

Childfree. Choice. Happy. Our vision for this site was born out of those three powerful, empowering and surprisingly complicated words and the inevitable questions they provoke when conjoined.

Why would you choose to be childfree?

How could you or anyone be happy about being childfree?

We believe that a happy, rewarding, truly intentional life is in many respects made more feasible when the often difficult choice not to procreate is made and maintained.

Our personal reasons and answers are merely the springboard for a much broader conversation. Just as we bemoan (or mock) the myopic Breeder Bingo exchanges we encounter, we don’t pretend that our individual preferences, biases and hypotheses are universal. We do not proclaim an antinatalist manifesto, not do we categorically judge or condescend to breeders. We do endeavor to cultivate broad reflection and conversation about one of the biggest choices humans make during their lives: to have — or not to have — a child.

For this reason, we’re thrilled to witness and participate in a steadily dilating childfree chorus. You’d have to be living under a well trafficked jungle gym slide in a busy suburb of babyland to have overlooked the mounting buzz from childfree advocates, nulliparity advocates, etc.

Madelyn Cain’s The Childless Revolution is one of the voices connecting the childfree choice with happiness. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to read the book,

but I’m intrigued by the perspective of this reviewer.

This book recognizes and heralds a new dawn for women, opening up their lives (and minds) to fact that one is not less of a woman just because one did not choose or happen to become a mother. This is the next step in women’s revolution: that women be able to choose for themselves consciously (and be accepted by the general population–those this has yet to happen) that it’s OK to be childfree and to choose not to be a mother despite having the equipment for it. (Niconica’s Pinpricks)

Reviews differ, and Jessa Crispin’s harsh criticism is altogether less encouraging.

Motherhood is the new divisive issue amongst feminists and women… The more you try to explain your position the more head shaking and sighing there will be. Which is why I could tell Madelyn Cain’s The Childless Revolution would be a mess by one simple sentence: “Cain lives in Los Angeles with her husband and daughter.” She is a mother writing about “what it means to be childless today.” … She has chosen her side while pretending to occupy middle ground… In fact, the “childfree” as she calls them receive the least attention… This is a book about women who wanted children but didn’t get them… The only thing we know for sure at the end of this book is that Cain thinks motherhood is the greatest thing ever, even if she does envy the free time of the childfree. (Bookslut)

Not such a promising review! An excerpt from Madelyn Cain’s The Childless Revolution appeared in The Utne Reader and it sounds thoughtful and provocative.

Childless women today are on the precipice of redefining womanhood in the most fundamental way ever. Entering the workforce was merely the initial step toward redefining women—and possibly the first toward childlessness. The advent of the pill, the legalization of abortion, and advanced education for women were essential adjuncts to this change. The move toward remaining childless, however, is more profound. For a society based on “family values,” this shift is historic. At its most fundamental level, the emergence of childlessness means that women are seizing the opportunity to be fully realized, self-determined individuals—regardless of what society at large thinks of them. (The Utne Reader)

Have you read The Childless Revolution? Would you recommend it?

Sexiest Reason Why No Kids? Sex!

Condom

Image via Wikipedia

Today’s guest post is from John Davis, a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute. John’s previous posts, “Why Five Cats?” (a lighthearted look at the merits of nulliparity and cat ownership) and Sire of All Crises (a “no holds barred” look at human overpopulation), primed the pump for this intimate-if-lighthearted look at the childfree holy grail: sex!

What is the sexiest reason to abstain from having children?

That would be sex, of course.  All you young couples out there, wondering whether or no you should have children, ask some parents to honestly answer the question, did you have sex more or less often after you had a baby?  (You might want to choose close older friends for your focus group research, as asking random strangers about their sex lives could quickly turn awkward!)

Although much church doctrine argues against the decoupling of sex and procreation, that decoupling has been largely accomplished materially; and for the sake of this crowded world, and our own busy lives, that is for the good.  Birth control advances have allowed couples to decide whether and when they want kids.  The fewer kids you have, the more free time you’ll have to enjoy wild pursuits, including that most fun and intimate of acts.

You young folks entering an active sex life will have the greatest amount of activity over the longest run, I’ll wager, if you always practice safe sex and opt not to have children.  Or if you do really want children, have just one (read Bill McKibben’s excellent defense of the one-child family in Maybe One) or at most two (read Dave Foreman’s new book, Man Swarm, on how human over-population is smothering the natural world).  This year, the human population will top 7 billion, meaning the number of people in the world has more than tripled during my parents’ lifetime.  Why take on the difficult, time-consuming challenge of parenting when there are already more than enough kids in the world?

One of the most effective population planning programs I ever encountered was a surly and chubby child, thought of as Girtha, from the unlikeliest, nicest slimmest parents.  How these kind and fit parents suffered their unruly and sour-faced child was beyond any neighbor’s comprehension.  Most of us love most children we meet, but this round hellion was a reminder, at a time when otherwise I might have wondered about fathering a child, that not only do all children need much of their parents’ time, but some turn quite disagreeable.  I did not quite dare suggest to these parents with the patience of Job that they go on tour with their child to college campuses with a presentation, This Could Happen to You!; but I think such a show could have significantly cut fertility rates in the US for years.

Girtha was a child before the metastasis of computer games and cell phones, so I must suppose that a difficult child could be even more of a hindrance to a happy romance these days.  What a downer on a sex life it must be for couples who have children noisily playing computer games and chatting on their cell phones late into the evening – as well try to make love in a Best Buy store!

Good parenting and other forms of nurturing are among the noblest of human instincts and endeavors, undeniably.  In this crowded world, however, people do well for themselves and others by forgoing the opportunity to procreate and using their nurturing skills to help raise nieces and nephews or foster children and to provide homes for needy cats and dogs.  Be a good uncle or aunt, and you enjoy the pleasures of being with kids without the constant obligations of raising them.  Small, close families are an ideal to which our society should aspire – lest we, as cultures and as individuals, be overwhelmed by problems stemming from overshooting our carrying capacity, from crime to pollution to hunger to roadkill to war.

Along with the huge amount of time that parents must invest in their children (time that otherwise might be spent in bed or on the beach) is the hefty cost of raising children.  The average middle-class American couple invests hundreds of thousands of dollars raising a son or a daughter, and those costs are rising, with young people’s lofty expectations of material abundance.  Such investments are rewarding for many parents, but people still wondering about procreation should surely factor them into their decisions.  You’ll have more time and more money for romantic vacations and wild excursions if you opt to remain free of the obligations of parenting.

Peace activists in the 1960s righteously urged, Make love, not war!  This is a good motto, but may need updating.  Let us care lovingly and well for all children (and dependent cats & dogs, too!) the world over.  Let us not, though, bring more new children (or cats or dogs) into this world, unless we simply must, and then only in small numbers.  Make love and peace, by caring for those already here!

John Davis is a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute.

Sire of All Crises

"The Blue Marble" is a famous photog...

Our world’s travails and torments (Image via Wikipedia)

Today’s guest post is from John Davis, a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute. John’s previous post, “Why Five Cats?“, took a lighthearted look at the merits of nulliparity and cat ownership. Today’s post is excerpted from an essay that will appear in a forthcoming population anthology, Apply the Breaks! Environmentalists Confront Population Growth, edited by Eileen Crist and Philip Cafaro, University of Georgia Press. We’re hoping to review the anthology on Why No Kids? when it is published.

Virtually every major problem in the world today is caused or exacerbated by human overpopulation.  From famine and disease to war and extinction (the overarching crisis of our time), the main driving force is the exploding human population.  Planet Earth is being wrecked by too many people consuming too much of the natural world through technologies too harmful.

The litany of overpopulation’s problems is the list of the world’s travails and torments: habitat fragmentation and destruction, species extirpation and extinction; air, land, and water pollution; global climate chaos, extreme storm damage, killing droughts; unemployment, declines in social services, poverty, starvation, disease, epidemic; degradation of natural and cultural amenities, such as trails, parks, and gardens; loss of individual meaning, influence, and opportunity; ennui, angst, and mental disorders; congestion, noise, traffic, road rage, crime; exploitation, imperialism, war …   If our civilization is to have a prayer of persistence, we must face the huge challenge of humanely, peacefully reducing our numbers – probably several orders of magnitude, over many decades – to within biological carrying capacity, to a level compatible with the long-term well-being of all our fellow denizens on this sensitive planet.

With good reason, the hot topic of the day is just that – global overheating.  Obviously, the problem is not just that we drive gas guzzlers, overheat our poorly insulated houses, and waste too much paper.  The problem is also that too many people are driving; too many people are heating their homes with fossil fuels; and too many people are consuming natural resources and supplanting natural, carbon-storing habitats with crops, cows, lawns, and houses.

In the United States at least, demographic and economic trends of recent years strongly, if surprisingly, suggest that fertility is more amenable to reconsideration than is consumption:  People will apparently more easily accept a smaller family than they will a smaller energy budget.  Americans would rather have fewer children than stop driving their cars and running their air conditioners.  So, while we must also confront the problems of excessive consumption and harmful technologies, we will likely make the greatest strides toward saving the world from disaster by instituting educational, financial, and cultural incentives for lower birth rates.

A central tenet of sensible population planning is the education and empowerment (social, political, and financial) of women.  From my recent experiences out exploring North America’s endangered but not lost wildways, often guided by great naturalists, let me humbly suggest a complementary strategy, one already being promoted well but not widely enough by environmental educators: immersion of young people in wild Nature.  Get kids out roaming the woods, paddling the creeks, snorkeling the ponds, looking at birds and flowers and trees and frogs and butterflies …  Help them see how wondrous and exciting and beautiful our wild neighbors are and help them understand the connections between land and wildlife, between land and people, and between the actions we take as people and the consequences to the land and wildlife.  Go forth and don’t multiply, young people!

The Inconvenient Truth of human-caused planetary overheating may best be met with the more convenient truth that by peacefully and voluntarily reducing our numbers, we not only help stabilize the climate and abate the extinction crisis, we also treat virtually every ecological, social, and cultural ill in the world today.  Then, rather than our many descendants cursing us for condemning them to a world of poverty, pestilence, and war, our small number of offspring would thank us for recognizing just in time the moral imperative of ending humanity’s march against the natural world, for rejoining the biotic community and celebrating our connections with land and wildlife.

John Davis is a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute. A longer version of this essay will appear in a population anthology, Apply the Breaks! Environmentalists Confront Population Growth, edited by Eileen Crist and Philip Cafaro, University of Georgia Press.

Why Five Cats?

Cougar / Puma / Mountain Lion / Panther (Puma ...

Image via Wikipedia

Today’s guest post is from John Davis, a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute.

Many are the personal reasons to practice nulliparity:  As compared to the majority of couples who (some unthinkingly) decide to have kids, you and your mate(s; ample freedom for diversity, if you desire that!) will have more free time, more disposable income, a cleaner house, less stress, fewer arguments, greater opportunities for travel, and a generally simpler life.  You will be spared having to relive adolescence.

You should NOT suppress your nurturing instincts, however; just apply them where the benefits clearly outweigh the costs.  I allude, of course, to the noble cat.  Dogs can be wonderful family members, too, but in the end they are a lot like kids – needy and sloppy.  (I should say at the outset: most of my friends have kids and/or dogs, and I love them all, but I’m glad they’re not mine!)

Millions of cats (and dogs) need good homes.  Adopt a cat from an animal shelter, and you are saving a life.  While you are at it, adopt two, so they can keep each other company (with your in-laws looking in on them daily) while you are traveling the Orient.  Nay, two will not do; you’ve a big house, with plenty of potential feline territories: Adopt three or four or even a wholesome five cats!  Then can you feel duly righteous, and enjoy ongoing amusement at the antics of four armfuls of playful, comely, cuddly, tidy, mouse-eradicating, self-cleaning, self-assured, unconditionally loving family members.  (Beware, though, that mature unfamiliar females may not take to each other.  Males or siblings are often easier, with Felis familiaris, that is, unlike Homo sapiens.)

My wife Denise entered our marriage with one cat, Maverick, and one son, Justin.  I entered with two cats, Taiga, and Ptarmigan.  Maverick won my confidences immediately, and gradually those of Taiga and Ptarmigan.  Justin bonded with Ptarmigan (fluffy white old male cat), but remained enigmatic to me till cancer took our beloved Ptarmigan from us much too soon.  Then did Justin rise to the occasion and console the grieving family:  He marched us down to the animal shelter where we adopted three more cats!  Though we sorely miss Ptarmigan, life is full and rich again.  By the way, for their own longevity and for the sake of songbirds, we keep all our cats indoors, and they are quite content that way.

Oh, one reason transcending the personal, if I may, to adopt cats or dogs or foster kids rather than bringing more people into the world: wild cats!  Human overpopulation is clearing and paving over much of the wildlife habitat needed by the undomesticated relatives of our beloved house cats.  To name but five of the great cats we could see restored to healthy numbers if we humans learn to control our growth:  In Africa, the kingly Lion and fleet-footed Cheetah are both dangerously reduced in numbers.  In Asia, the Leopard and Tiger have been eliminated from most of their original habitats and some subspecies teeter on the brink of extinction.  In South and North America, the Cougar, or Puma or Panther or Mountain Lion, has been widely displaced, shot, and trapped, to the point it is nearly gone from the eastern United States.  How much richer the world will be if we someday have a good chance of seeing these great cats in their natural habitats, then returning home to tell our house cats of our visits with their wild cousins!

John Davis is a wilderness explorer and writer, former Wild Earth editor, and Fellow of The Rewilding Institute.