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Tell Them's Newest Supporter: Dante?

Posted by Ryan Morgan on June 24, 2013 at 11:33 AM

When I go on vacation, I like to grab a good "beach read" for the trip. Something that takes me away from my daily work and whisks me off to another world. 

So I was thrilled to learn that Dan Brown of The DaVinci Code fame has just released his 4th Robert Langdon book, Inferno.
 In this latest installment, Langdon wakes up in a hospital in Florence, Italy, with no memory of the past 2 days. Within 10 minutes, he's on the run with Dr. Sienna Brooks, the doctor treating him and (unbeknownst to Langdon) child genius. They search Florence for answers, following Langdon's footsteps from the past two days, meeting new characters along the way - but never fully sure who is whom. The book itself has a very similar feel to the other Dan Brown books - full of adventure and intrigue, with lots of history and literature thrown in. The literature in this case is Dante's Divine Comedy, "a 14,233-line epic poem describing Dante's brutal descent into the underworld, journey through purgatory, and eventual arrival in paradise. Of the Comedy's three sections - Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso - Inferno  was by far the most widely read and memorable."[i] The villain Langdon and Sienna are searching for is obsessed with the idea that human beings are on course to live through Dante's Inferno (or hell) if we cannot get control over a single issue: overpopulation.

Ozone depletion, lack of water, and pollution are not the disease - they are the symptoms. The disease is overpopulation. And unless we face world population head-on, we are doing nothing more than sticking a Band-Aid on a fast-growing cancerous tumor. [ii]

The theory discussed in Inferno basically says that there are too many people on the planet, and that human beings cannot control their over-sized fertility rates, despite easy access to a variety of effective contraception and education. The book references Thomas Robert Malthus, a 19th Century English mathematician, who predicted that the world will end because of human overpopulation. "Population growth is an exponential progression occurring within a system of finite space and limited resources" [iii] warns Sienna during the book. Despite my initial desire to find a book that would get me away from work, I was being brought back to Tell Them and our efforts to encourage responsible family planning options - especially when I read this passage:

We are an organism that, despite our unmatched intellect, cannot seem to control our own numbers, No amount of free contraception, education, or government enticement works. We keep having babies... whether we want to or not. Did you know the CDC just announced that nearly half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned? And, in underdeveloped nations, that number is over seventy percent! [iv]

All in all, Inferno was exactly what I needed for a vacation book - it was exciting and interesting, and was a very "easy" read. It kept me off in a different world rather than allowing me to wish for a random WiFi signal so I could check in at the office. But if certainly did not take me away from my job - helping to bring responsible reproductive health policies to South Carolina.


  • [i] Inferno, page 64
  • [ii] Inferno, page 139
  • [iii] Inferno, page 215
  • [iv] Inferno, page 439

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