A Modest Proposal: Hearth Hour

A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of the world from committing a climate catastrophe, from being a burden to their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the planet.

by Simon Hedlin Larsson (with inspiration from the Earth Hour movement, and the invaluable contributions of Dr. Jonathan Swift). 2010

It is a melancholy object to those, who have walked on the glaciers, or travel in the Arctic, when they see the few ice floes and the land patches crowded with polar bears of the female sex, followed by, two, three or five cubs, all in famished condition, and importuning any passenger for subsistence. These mothers instead of being able to hunt for their honest livelihood, are forced to employ all their time in swimming to find sustenance for their helpless infants who, as they grow up, either turn to thieves for want of cubs, or leave their dear native country, to fight for the Wild Animal Fighting club in Indonesia, or sell themselves to San Diego.

I think it is agreed by all parties, that this prodigious number of cubs in the arms, or on the backs, of rat the heels of their mothers, and frequently of their fathers, is in the present deplorable state of the Arctic, a very great additional grievance; and therefore whoever could find out a fair, cheap and easy method of making these cubs – and all other fauna and flora living rough from human climate change – better off than under present circumstances, would deserve so well of the public, as to have his statue set up for a preserver of the planet and its resources.

But my intention is very far from being confined to provide only for the children of Mother Nature: it is of much, much greater extent, and shall even take in the whole number of human infants at a certain age, who are born of parents in effect as little able to support them, as those who demand our charity in the streets.

As to my own part, having turned my thoughts for many years, upon this important subject, and maturely weighed the several schemes of our projectors, I have always found them grossly mistaken in their computation. It is true, a child just dropt from its dam, may be supported by her milk, for a solar year, with little other nourishment: and it is exactly at one year old that I propose to provide for them in such a manner, as, instead of being a charge upon the nature or their parents, or the parish, or consuming energy and animals and plants for the rest of their lives, they shall, on the contrary, contribute to the energy consumption, and partly to the feeding of many millions.

There is likewise another great advantage in my scheme, that it will prevent those voluntary abortions, and that horrid practice of women murdering their bastard children, alas! too frequent among us, sacrificing the poor innocent babes, I doubt, more to avoid the expense than the shame, which would move tears and pity in the most savage and inhuman breast.

The number of souls on this planet being usually reckoned six point eight billion, of these I calculate there may be about two hundred million couple whose wives are breeders; from which number I subtract fifty million couple, who are not making a large impact on the environment (although I apprehend there cannot be so many, under the present distresses of our planet) but this being granted, there will remain hundred and fifty million breeders. I again subtract fifty million, for those women who miscarry, or whose children die by accident or disease within the year. There remain about hundred million children annually born. The question therefore is, How this number shall be reared, and provided for? which, as I have already said, under the present condition of the environment, is utterly impossible by all the methods hitherto proposed. For we can neither offer them vegetables or meat; agricultural production emit vast amounts of carbon dioxide (I mean in terms of combusted fossil fuels), and breeding animals costs extreme amounts of energy, which were decades ago already at an unsustainable level.

I am assured by our environmentalists, that a boy or a girl, before fifteen years old, is of no possible contribution to the nature, and even when they come to this age, they will mostly not yield any benefits for the inhabitants of the forests or the oceans.

I shall now therefore humbly propose my own thoughts, which I hope will not be liable to the least objection.

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed, is, at a year old, a most superiorly efficient energy source, whether compared to oil, gas, coal or bio fuels; and I make no doubt that it will equally overbear nuclear and organic waste. As have been explained to me, a human child put in a hearth will upon ignition generate heat equivalent to ten thousand times its weight in coal or wood. A child will also serve as an exceptional replacement of raw material in any combustion power plant. The extents of using children as a combustion energy source are thus barely conceivable.

I do therefore humbly offer it to public consideration, that of the hundred million children, already computed, twenty million may be reserved for breed, whereof only one fourth part to be males; which is more than we allow to sheep, black cattle, or swine, and my reason is, that these children are seldom the fruits of marriage, a circumstance not much regarded by our savages, therefore, one male will be sufficient to serve four females. That the remaining eighty million, at a year old, be offered in sale to the persons of quality and fortune, over the planet, always advising the mother to let them suck plentifully in the last month, so as to render them plump, and fat for a good hearth or combustion plant. A child will generate two weeks of energy consumption for a standard American household, and if it is a single person who lives in a small apartment, a one year old will be enough for a month’s demand of electricity.

It is my most truthful hope that this proposal may be realized in before long for the needs of stopping climate change and environmental damage are urgent as it was never thus. I call for immediate action, and advise the driving spirits and scrupulous that this message may reach, that today, March 27, 2010, at 20:30 local time, take part in a global movement that hence shall be known as the “Hearth Hour”.

Parents are urged to allow their children to be consumed in combustion, and their flames will not only spread warmth to every cold soul or numb body, they will symbolize the end of the much prolonged human intervention in our planet’s sensitive ecosystems in search for energy. In addition, I have been told that there is no such delicacy as the ashes of a child. My humble proposal may therefore not only satiate our needs of climate- and environmental-friendly energy, but also satisfy our distinctive taste for the finest delicacies.

I can think of no one objection, that will possibly be raised against this proposal, unless it should be urged, that the number of people will be thereby much lessened in the world. This I freely own, and ’twas indeed one principal design in offering it to the world. I desire  the reader will observe, that I calculate my remedy for this one planet Earth, and for no other that ever was, is, or, I think, ever can be in the universe. Therefore let no man talk to me of other expedients: Of taxing our carbon dioxide emissions: Of using agricultural subsidies to fund extensive climate research: Of preventing ecological and energy-inefficient means of production: Of quitting this political game of demanding other actors to make the first move: Of preventing a cap-and-trade system for political purposes: Of planting two new trees for every one chucked down: Of learning to love life and all the other lives on this planet: Of increasing funding to energy research: Of taking measures for biodiversity in rainforests as well as oceans. Lastly, of putting a spirit of honesty, industry, and skill into our environmentalists, who, would save the last polar bear, rather than a human child.

Therefore I repeat, let no man talk to me of these and the like expedients, ‘till he hath at least some glimpse of hope, that there will ever be some hearty and sincere attempt to put them into practice.

I profess, in the sincerity of my heart, that I have not the least personal interest in endeavouring to promote this necessary work, having no other motive than the public good of our planet, by advancing our development, providing clean energy, replacing fossil fuels, relieving the polar bears and other animals, and stopping climate change. I have no children, by which I can propose to put in a single hearth.

Simon Hedlin Larsson

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