Over the last 200 years, U.S. life expectancy has more than doubled to over 80 years, with vast improvements in health and quality of life. However, while most people imagine medical advancements to be the reason for this increase, the largest gain in life expectancy occurred between 1880 and 1920 due to public health improvements such as control of infectious diseases, invention of penicillin, more abundant and safer foods, cleaner water, and other nonmedical social improvements.
Our current global health crisis is a reminder of how little we want to return to the days when deadly infections carried away vast swaths of our population. Yet also in some way, advances back then were a first step on a path towards planetary ruin. The success against infectious disease, alongside other major developments, dramatically improved our survival and set humanity’s numbers soaring, from little more than 1.25 billion people only 200 years ago, to 7.7 billion now....a SIX FOLD INCREASE in global population.
Now, climate change, biodiversity and extinction crises, and yes, coronavirus, are forcing us to consider the legacy of that success. The pandemic is becoming the latest focus for an old, uniquely contentious question: are there just too many of us on the planet?
The basic argument is hard to deny. With fewer of us around, there would be fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less pollution and waste, more space for both us and the rest of the natural world to survive and thrive.
But be forewarned: finding answers isn’t nearly as easy as posing questions. And with sexism, racism, nationalism, misogyny and eugenics playing out in our politics, the issues are incredibly complex, so this blog cannot address the intricacy and nuance of the real issues. But let's take a look at some objective facts.
The history of pandemics is a long story of "culling" of the population by mother nature. But as a percentage of world population, hasn't had much effect since the black plague (Bubonic) of the 14th century.
So, we are left with an open question. If improvement in medical technology has not actually helped reduce the population percentage since the 14th century, should we be growing this fast? What do you think???????