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Capitalism is the Great Anti-Pollutant

Climate science today is a veritable cornucopia of unanswered questions. Photo: Corbis

Contrary to popular myth, the environment over the past 200 years has become less polluted and toxic for humans.

In July 1924, Calvin Coolidge Jr., the Presdient’s 16-year-old son, died of an infection from a toe blister he got playing tennis on the White House lawn. The bacteria that took young Calvin’s life is staphylococcus aureus, known as “staph.” …

Were health-care products such as antibiotics, antibacterial ointments, and inexpensive clean and disposable bandages available 92 years ago, Calvin Coolidge Jr., would have escaped the bacterial pollution that killed him. Factories and vehicles used to produce and distribute these items use energy, and dispense waste. But capitalist production and consumption are not destroying a pristine Eden. Instead, capitalist production and consumption are replacing more immediate and more lethal forms of environmental pollution for less immediate and less lethal forms.

We denizens of modern market economies are today largely free not only of the filth of lethal staph infections, but also of other up-close and dangerous pollutants that our ancestors routinely endured, or died of. We sleep, in sturdy buildings, on beds that rest on hard floors beneath hard roofs. Our pre-industrial ancestors did not. Save for the tiny fraction of people in the nobility and clergy, nearly everyone slept in flimsy huts on dirt floors beneath thatched roofs. (Sometimes these dirt floors would be strewn with hay, thresh, to make them less unpleasant.)

Not only were thresh-strewn dirt floors obvious sources of regular up-close pollution of a sort that is unknown to a typical first-world person today, thatched roof themselves were ferments of filth. They kept out rain and cold less effectively than our modern dwellings. Worse, they were home to rats, mice, birds, spiders, hornets, and other animals, which would drop their own wastes onto the huts’ inhabitants. They were also highly flammable.

Of course these pre-industrial huts contained no running water or indoor plumbing. Daily bathing and other routines of personal hygiene that we moderns take for granted were largely unknown to most before the industrial revolution.

For heat in the winter families would bring farm animals into the huts, especially at night. To shield themselves from the droppings of these farm animals, each of these families would cut a trench in the floor across the width their hut. They’d sleep on the side of the trench opposite where the animals slept. Unfortunately, the trench did little to protect the family from whatever insects the animals brought into the huts with them. Read the rest of this entry »

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[VIDEO] Who’s the Champion of the Panda Kingdom? 37-Year-Old Senior Citizen ‘Jai Jai’ Breaks World Record in Hong Kong

Jai Jai has become the world’s oldest captive panda at the grand old age of 37, entering the history books and breaking a 16-year-old record, from her home in Ocean Park, Hong Kong.


The Golden Age Is Now

For all the world’s problems, human beings have never had it better

20140523-yfFor City Journal, Yevgeniy Feyman writes:  Bjørn Lomborg is well-known as a climate “skeptic.” He has frequently voiced concerns that money spent battling climate change could shift scarce resources away from more urgent global problems, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS. But the most recent book by the self-proclaimed “skeptical environmentalist” does more than just voice concern; it attempts to evaluate the damage caused by a variety of problems—from climate change to malnutrition to war—and project future costs related to these same issues. In How Much Have Global Problems Cost the World?, Lomborg and a group of economists conclude that, with a few exceptions, the world is richer, freer, healthier, and smarter than it’s ever been. These gains have coincided with the near-universal rejection of statism and the flourishing of capitalist principles. At a time when political figures such as New York City mayor Bill de Blasio and religious leaders such as Pope Francis frequently remind us about the evils of unfettered capitalism, this is a worthwhile message.51u6XmYkS-L._SL110_

[Order the book How Much have Global Problems Cost the World?: A Scorecard from 1900 to 2050″ edited by Bjørn Lomborg (Cambridge University Press) from Amazon.com

The doubling of human life expectancy is one of the most remarkable achievements of the past century. Consider, Lomborg writes, that “the twentieth century saw life expectancy rise by about 3 months for every calendar year.” The average child in 1900 could expect to live to just 32 years old; now that same child should make it to 70. This increase came during a century when worldwide economic output, driven by the spread of capitalism and freedom, grew by more than 4,000 percent. These gains occurred in developed and developing countries alike; among men and women; and even in a sense among children, as child mortality plummeted. Read the rest of this entry »