“Struggling for breath in that ditch full of pee 65 years ago in a working-class suburb of Sweden, little did I know that I would be the first of my family to go to university.”
- Hans Rosling in “Factfulness”
Have you ever read anything so beautiful?
Beautiful in two ways. First, I needed a mental remap of Sweden anyway. There had to be more to the country than IKEA, meatballs and Nordic murder mysteries. Now I can add that ditch and its forlorn occupant to my mental list of visuals, and will never think of Sweden quite the same way again.
Buried in that sentence though, or drowning I suppose is better, is a substantially more valuable message that Rosling elaborates on in his book, and which was recently actually commented on by media outlets: the fact that humanity has just enjoyed its best decade ever.
It’s true, despite the relentless obsession with climate change in certain circles (more on that in a minute). By many, many yardsticks, humanity is in a sweet spot unparalleled in human history, and that sweet spot is growing, not shrinking.
As noted in the article and in Rosling’s book, extreme poverty is falling on a global basis. It’s not just falling a bit, it is down massively. Child mortality rates are way down, and famines that used to make the news regularly are now extremely rare. Witness how the world responds to any sort of calamity; help pours in from everywhere.
The death toll from natural disasters has completely collapsed. Per Rosling’s book, in 1940 there were 453 deaths annually per million people from such events; in the past half-decade that number is now 10. The global media circus swarms every negative event so that it seems like the world is ending, but that is a function of the media’s boredom and mobility far more than the frequency of actual large-scale disasters. The media loves drama and tragedy; there aren’t many clicks/views/likes in a story about a forest fire that was put out in half an hour.
The list goes on, to the point of being almost endless. More people than ever have better access to dental care, refrigerators, air conditioning, vaccinations, etc. Rosling even goes so far as to point out the skyrocketing number of guitars per capita. An odd statistic, but a useful one that is indicative of our growing ability to enjoy leisure, and also hopeful signs that a new Eddie Van Halen will appear somewhere on the globe as an antidote to the relentless inert droning of the likes of Drake, whose vocal stylings make me wish that I too was submerged in a ditch full of pee.
Oh, but some of you will want to talk about climate change, how that slow-moving zombie is growing and will wipe us all out. Our ears are full of thundering warnings, how human civilization will collapse by 2050 due to CC, how CC will cause huge drops in food production, how horses are getting fat due to CC, how pigs are getting skinny due to CC, and how CC is making sharks right handed. The media loves this bombastic silliness; there’s sort of a jaunty one-upmanship that they fall for every single time and, having crossed the Rubicon, find themselves unable to take a stand no matter how outlandish the “peer-reviewed” gibberish gets.
But ok, I’ll play along. I’ll listen to the “scientific consensus”. Here is what a calm, civilized bunch has to say. I’m not cherry-picking some soft middle-of-the-roaders; these guys are all-in on CC are in full agreement that mankind is causing it (they even quote the erroneous statistic that 97 percent of scientists agree). Despite their firm stance on CC, notice what they have to say about it when stripped of the hyperbole of social engineers and a crazed media: “The consequences of changing the natural atmospheric greenhouse are difficult to predict, but certain effects seem likely: On average, Earth will become warmer. Some regions may welcome warmer temperatures, but others may not. Warmer conditions will probably lead to more evaporation and precipitation overall, but individual regions will vary, some becoming wetter and others dryer. A stronger greenhouse effect will warm the oceans and partially melt glaciers and other ice, increasing sea level. Ocean water also will expand if it warms, contributing further to sea level rise. Meanwhile, some crops and other plants may respond favorably to increased atmospheric CO2, growing more vigorously and using water more efficiently. At the same time, higher temperatures and shifting climate patterns may change the areas where crops grow best and affect the makeup of natural plant communities.” [emphasis added]
Even if you are overwhelmed with the fear of CC, which is understandable because the media onslaught is monumental, pay attention to what the message actually is when all the layers of politics, social engineering, and anti-capitalism are removed. The message is: things might change. We are not all going to die. Our civilization will not collapse, nor will our livestock become bulimic or morbidly obese.
If things unfold as the scientists above theorize, things might change, but consider the framework in which they are changing. It is a framework where humanity has overcome staggering challenges to create an unprecedented standard of living. Rising sea levels could impact some coastal cities by some magnitude (if that indeed happens) and some regions will be wetter and some dryer (if that happens), but none of those are going to offset even a fraction of the positivity that has enveloped the human race over the past century due to the alleged perpetrator of CC.
Because, lest we forget, the entire sublime shift in humanity’s fortunes has been due to cheap energy, which means fossil fuels. There is no other way to interpret that, just as there is no other way to interpret the fact that we can’t live without them for the foreseeable future. Some jurisdictions try, such as California, Germany, and parts of Australia, and their grids become unstable and unreliable in proportion to the degree to which they rely on wind and solar. Germany has gone farther than anyone towards wind/solar, and yet they remain the world’s leader in terms of burning lignite or “dirty coal” – the “dirtiest” of all fossil fuels. China, heralded as a renewable energy visionary, is actually going flat out developing all forms of energy including both coal and renewables. India is no different.
That is what happens, that is the consequence, of achieving the towering accomplishments noted above. Humanity has never been in a better place, and remaining in that place has an environmental footprint. However, we have also never been in a better place to deal with the multiple challenges of keeping our standard of living while protecting our environment, all the while keeping 7 billion people warm, fed, and healthy. And never forget the glorious feeling that many humans have, once they acquire full confidence that they have stood waist deep in pee for the last time (unless by choice).
All those Christmas presents safely returned? Use the cash to pick up “The End of Fossil Fuel Insanity” at Amazon.ca, Amazon.com, or Indigo online. These Amazon reviews may be the wisest material you’ll find on the internet (except that one loser).