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Maybe One: A Personal and Environmental Argument for Single-Child Families
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Maybe One: A Personal and Environmental Argument for Single-Child Families

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  191 Ratings  ·  38 Reviews
From the groundbreaking author of The End of Nature -- a provocative book that presents a compelling, environmentally sound argument for saving the planet through voluntary population control.Bill McKibben's books and essays on our environment -- both physical and spiritual -- have shaped and spurred debate in America since The End of Nature was published in 1989.

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Hardcover, 254 pages
Published January 1st 1998 by Simon & Schuster
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May 21, 2015 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: environment
Bill McKibben is the head of and a hero of mine. In this book, he discusses one-child families and the problem of overpopulation.

There are many prejudices against only children. Number one is that they are "spoiled." In one essay, the author discusses this and other wrongful ideas.

He is in no way interested in a Chinese style forced one-child policy.

The world has about 7 billion people now. It may peak out at about 11 billion. A sustainable number would be less than 3 billion. Good lu
Jun 25, 2007 Crystal rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found it non-preachy and not critical of people who choose to have many children. I finished reading this book a little while before my son was born and I think it's a well done and sensitive exploration of the subject on a personal basis. Also, I'm very much encouraged to know that if my son is an only child, we won't have "messed him up." I know several only children who are fine, but still I had a lingering doubt.
Some disclaimers, the same as for The Case for the Only Child: Your Essential Guide :)

(1) We haven’t made a final decision about our family’s size.
(2) I am not critiquing/judging/suggesting anyone else’s family’s size, reading this book is just a part of my own personal journey into motherhood.
(3) I understand the distrust that many of us have of statistics from scientific studies. In my own training I have learned enough about statistics to believe that while this distrust is often warranted (s
Aug 17, 2007 Dianne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people wondering whether to have children
Good things: McKibben blows away the perception that only children are somehow emotionally disadvantaged compared to kids with siblings; and he argues persuasively that people with fewer children can do good in the world in other ways, because they have more time to spare. A Christian himself, he deals head on with the attitude shared by the Catholic church and Christian fundamentalists everywhere: that "be fruitful and multiply" means we ought to take no control of our reproductive lives. McKib ...more
Sep 23, 2012 Scribble rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book had me convinced I should get a vasectomy at the age of 20 and never have any children. My father talked me out of the procedure. Six years later, Bill McKibben came to my community to speak. I introduced myself at a reception and told him the story. He said his views had changed since writing this book and that he puts less stress on the P of the I=PAT equation now (as is also evidenced by his more recent works and advocacy). I asked him to sign my copy of Maybe One; he wrote "Hold of ...more
Mar 30, 2008 Jessica rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
As an only child, I went into this with high expectations, and they were mostly met.

McKibben does a fantastic job of breaking down the ethical & environmental reasons why US families should consider remaining childless, or having "maybe one" child. In the process, he also addresses the origins and impact of some of the more persistent myths about only children & their development.

We aren't ALL spoiled brats with no social skills, I SWEAR.
Stefanie B
Mar 20, 2008 Stefanie B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: just-read
Just adds to my argument that only children are the best children. Seriously, a super important book if you are having a baby (like me) discusses the environmental impacts of each new American.
Aug 03, 2008 Karen rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Sep 08, 2011 Erica rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was somewhat disappointed by this book. Maybe because it now seems old (1998) and strange though it seems for a population book, I found myself thinking many times about certain arguments he would make, "Well, not since 9/11." The more real critique for me is that when I picked it up, when it was recommended to me, I did not think it would be a population book. I thought it would be a book about the best ways to raise a single child, the benefits of it, the gifts. Instead there's chapters and ...more
William Gerke
An interesting take on the usually taboo subjects of how many children to have and the impact of population on the environment. McKibben writes from the perspective of someone who vowed to have no children who now has one, so he takes a step back from some hard-line positions. The result is a sensitive analysis of the arguments around population, children, siblings, and environment.

If there's one lesson to take from it, I would say it's that the decision about how many children to have should b
Oct 10, 2008 Sue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Of ocurse this book might be hard to read if you have more than one child, the book is fascinating in where some of the myths of only children come from - surprise - bad social science. Also interesting from the religious side that doctrine made from the opinions of people, not mandates from Christ/God. The environmental section is also saddening for where we are headed on this planet and McKibben does a good job of discussing our environmental footprint, not just the # of children. An eye-openi ...more
Jul 14, 2008 Erin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very thorough argument for single-child families, and one that I wholeheartedly agree with (if you plan to have your own biological children). For people like me who hope to not reproduce, however, he doesn't give that perspective as much weight. Maybe he hasn't met many of us who are thinking deliberatly about it, and not just with self-interest in mind...
Anne Mannes
May 17, 2014 Anne Mannes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thought this book was really insightful regarding population and environmental issues. Good/important read regardless of if you have kids or not.
Mar 02, 2009 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i loved it... i only wish that more people would read this book.
Jun 04, 2010 Beth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What the fuck, Bill McKibben?
This book should be titled Absolutely One: Or Else You Are A Selfish Bastard.

And the argument made for why you're a selfish bastard?
Well, apparently, Bill McKibben feels that people who choose to have no children are selfish. And immature. And self-indulgent.
Well, Bill McKibben, why didn't you adopt one of the desperately in-need children who was already on this planet, maybe a little girl from China whose parents abandoned her with a note pinned to her blanket, an
Jan 05, 2011 Laura rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An excellent and compelling argument about the need to reduce population for environmental reasons, McKibben goes into a thorough analysis of the elements behind his argument that people in the U.S. should considering having one or fewer kids. I thought the most interesting part of the book was the first part where he talks about the myth that only children are spoiled and unsocialized. He looks into the history behind that stereotype, and he reveals research that shows the only children are in ...more
Katherine Pershey
Jul 03, 2008 Katherine Pershey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: parenting
I would give this three and a half, if I could. It was an emotionally difficult book to read, especially the large section on the environment. Especially considering that it was written ten years ago and so much is so much worse.

A quote that stuck out like a sore thumb: "If gasoline cost $2.50 a gallon, we'd drive smaller cars, we'd drive electric cars, we'd take buses - and we'd elect a new president." Golly gee, that sure didn't happen...

So maybe Bill McKibben didn't get everything quite righ
Jul 25, 2016 Ming-Hui rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Lovely, cogent, and personal. He tries to advocate for a cultural shift to having one child in a gentle way, unpacking biases about only children, addressing religious motivations for having multiple children, explaining why it would be better for the planet in the long run if the U.S. population went to about 230 million. I love that he shows his wrestling with the complexity of these thoughts-- with immigration, with the resources someone in the U.S. tends to consume vs. someone in another cou ...more
Jan 30, 2012 Kelli rated it liked it
Shelves: owned-books, 2012
I wanted to be more fired up about only having one child after reading this book, but I really wasn't. McKibben made some good arguments, but he wasn't as impassioned as I thought he was going to be. He kept weaseling out of his arguments by saying, "well, this isn't for everybody." Though I agree that having one child (or no children) is a personal choice that shouldn't be mandated by anyone, c'mon! You're writing a book about how Americans choosing to have one child will help the planet. Be mo ...more
I liked this book, and I think it made a very convincing case about having smaller families. It's not at all invasive, it's just saying that maybe it would be good if more Americans had single-child families... given the world's population problems. McKibben works to break-down the biases against only children, talks about concerns like Social Security and caring for the elderly (and how to change how we conceptualize old age), changing US lifestyles, and population issues more broadly. He talks ...more
Jun 27, 2008 Blythe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The first and last chapters of this book were especially interesting; the author delved into myths and research about only children, and discussed parents' decision making processes and their motivation as they decided whether to have more than one child. The rest of the book focused mainly on environmental and population issues, which are intriguing too, and areas the author is brave to tackle as it's rare to read anyone who is willing to come out and say we need to have fewer children in order ...more
Anna George
I think this is a nice addition to my environmental shelf, as it explores some of the issues with the population explosion that's currently responsible for basically all of our environmental issues. He is thoughtful on most parts of this topic, and is one of the few environmental authors prepared to address religion in a respectful manner. But I agree with other reviewers--the decision not to have kids is not necessarily selfish, just as the decision to have a kid (or multiple) is not necessaril ...more
Dec 02, 2012 Bethany rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: other-nonfiction
I really like this author's take on Christmas, and I've been thinking about my future career and hypothetical children lately, so I decided to see what he has to say about parenting. This book feels very dated, and is more about population concerns (immigration wut?) than the realities of raising an only child. Still, it's an interesting topic, so I hope to find other works about being childfree or only having one.
Jun 19, 2011 Cassie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very elegant little book. Written in 1999, it's sections on climate change are hard to read: all his environmental predictions - based on thorough science at the time- have come true- but being right is less effective than being compelling. He is most insightful and readable when examining his own motives and thought process in becoming a parent.
Jan 27, 2016 Jen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It kind of jumped around to various environmental topics and often did not feel focused on the issue of family size, but still an interesting read (despite being written 10 years ago). Loved the studies/statistics on only children; they were fun to read!
Mike Manella
Have only one kid? Didn't the author end of having two kids? Prescribing the number of children a free man can have is just an anathma to me. Lets try to target some lower hanging fruit. If there are too may people in the world, especially westerners go live in a tent in Africa or get a vasectomy.
Dec 03, 2011 Kathi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Anyone who has ever worried about whether they should have child #2 to make sure that child #1 wasn't a screw up should read this and feel relieved. There are many myths about only children, and this book puts them to rest.
if you are in the mood for a high-tailed adventure that stays on course and keeps you on the edge of your seat, i would not tread this tirade. he has some good points, but his delivery is lacking and as a consequence, this book takes many too many months to read.
In my inner search for whether or not to have children, I found the social and environmental arguments for one child compelling. I always enjoy McKibben's writing, but would have enjoyed a more personal argument as well. There were several chapters that seemed more suited for a textbook.
Sep 23, 2013 Sarah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
There were a couple interesting chapters, but for the most part, this book dealt with issues that are not at the top of my list of reasons to not have more children. So it got boring and I skimmed those parts and just read what was applicable to my situation.
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Bill McKibben is the author of Eaarth, The End of Nature, Deep Economy, Enough, Fight Global Warming Now, The Bill McKibben Reader, and numerous other books. He is the founder of the environmental organizations Step It Up and, and was among the first to warn of the dangers of global warming. In 2010 The Boston Globe called him "probably the nation's leading environmentalist," and Time maga ...more
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