Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Home Sweet Home and Plunging Birthrates

We drove home from San Francisco to Los Angeles yesterday afternoon and evening. Driving Interstate 5 at the end of a holiday weekend is not a bright idea. We sat in bumper to bumper stop and go traffic through the grapevine. The air quality was also not great.

At first, I thought that the sunset was really spectacular. Then I realized that was not the soft backlight of the sun setting over the coastal mountain range, but a wildfire. My little point and shoot camera got a couple of images of the brightest part of the fire. Click here to see a map of CA wildfires. Then click on the big red area north of LA to see the extent of the fire. [You can manually edit the link http://activefiremaps.fs.fed.us/fireplots/cgbYYYYDOY_HHMM.jpg where YYYY is the year, DOY is the day of year from 001-365, HH is hour from 00-23, and MM is minute and should be left at 00.]
Addendum: This has been dubbed the Day Fire because it began on Labor Day. I post more about that on September 15.

We did show Iris the exact spot that mommy and daddy met. Unfortunately, the laboratory was all torn apart and not very photogenic.

I rest my case.

Now the plunging birthrates part

There was another article about plunging birthrates (in eastern Europe) over the weekend. Read it soon before the link disappears. Notably, the governments put their main focus on changing the behavior of women. There didn't appear to be any attempt to change the behaviors of the men who father children or the employers who make life so difficult for mothers. Linda Hirshman is right. Maybe, if the birthrates plummet enough, there will be more than band-aid changes.

When we were in Australia in 2003, I read an article in one of the papers about the low birthrate in Australia. The government there had surveyed birthrates in industrialized countries around the world and found a strong correlation between the amount of time fathers spent on housework and childcare and the birthrate. Australian men fared very badly compared to American and Canadian men, and so did their birthrate. I wonder why that was not a bigger international news story?

Maybe they should bring back mandatory home economics classes in high school for both boys and girls. Equal participation in family work would be much more character and nation building than sports programs for boys. I am not advocating getting rid of sports entirely. A study of the factors that influence girls to earn doctorates in the sciences found that childhood participation in competitive sports was the second greatest influence (only slightly less influential than the encouragement of a teacher or parent). ;-)

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