Meehan Crist

Meehan Crist’s ‘Is It OK to Have a Child?’, the second of last year's LRB Winter Lectures at the British Museum, is being expanded into a book.

The first photosynthesisers converted light into chemical energy to do work on Earth; humans converted solar energy stored in fossil fuels into work on Earth; the cyborgs will convert solar energy directly into information which they will use to do work on Earth, and humans will cede the world to a non-carbon-based form of life that will geoengineer the climate and attain exponentially greater and greater understanding of the cosmos. So the news from the frontier of human civilisational collapse isn’t all bad!

Is it OK to have a child?

Meehan Crist, 5 March 2020

One evening last year, the Democratic member of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was chopping vegetables in her kitchen while speaking to her millions of Instagram followers via livestream: ‘Our planet is going to hit disaster if we don’t turn this ship around,’ she said, looking up from a chopping-board littered with squash peel. ‘There’s a scientific consensus that the lives of children are going to be very difficult.’ Her hands fluttered to the hem of her sweater, then to the waistband of her trousers, which she absentmindedly adjusted. ‘And it does lead, I think, young people to have a legitimate question, you know, should …’ she took a moment to get the wording right: ‘Is it OK to still have children?’ Her comment spawned a flurry of pieces on why you should or should not procreate. But the thorny question of whether it is OK to have children – a question about what we owe one another and what we owe the unborn – remains.

Diary: California Burns

Meehan Crist, 21 November 2019

The first post that popped up showed a shaky video shot from the front seat of a car barrelling through a gauntlet of fire. As I watched it, I realised that the scene was familiar. It looked just like a video I saw after the Camp Fire. That video had left me shaken. This one did not. I’d already assimilated what was, a year earlier, an unimaginable horror. As we glide along the path of our own destruction, this is how we normalise it – one tweet at a time.

I can’t help but wonder what Rachel Carson would have made of our present crisis. She believed there were limits to the changes humans could bring about in the environment without fundamentally altering the balance of nature, and her vision of this balance was not a single point of ideal equilibrium but one of dynamic change. ‘The balance of nature,’ she wrote, ‘is not a status quo; it is fluid, ever shifting, in a constant state of adjustment. Man, too, is part of this balance. Sometimes the balance is in his favour; sometimes – and all too often through his own activities – it is shifted to his disadvantage.’ This is the first time in human history that the entire global climate is shifting to what may be our permanent disadvantage.

Meehan Crist writes: Nicholas Wade takes issue with ‘the tattered lie that race has no basis in biology’, citing the existence of ‘genetic differences between human populations’. Here, as in his book, Wade conflates race with genetically defined human populations. No geneticist would deny that genetic variation exists across human populations as defined by geography. However, the question at...

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