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Chin up. Things Aren’t That Bad.
nation’s mood is sour these days. Rampant unemployment, home foreclosures, and
a yo-yo stock market are souring the nation’s mood.
closer look, though, reveals that things aren’t that bad and are getting better.
And, agriculture is leading the way in that respect.
Matt Ridley, a zoologist who authored the book, The Rational
Optimist, notes increases in
agricultural productivity has led to more land being set aside for forest and
“In the eastern Seaboard in the United States, there used to be 70% farmland. Now
it is 70% forest. Much of Europe now has more forest covering it (in place of
farmland). We are now so productive with farmland that we can spare some of
that land for wilderness.”
spoke at the BASF Global Agricultural
Solutions Press Info Day in Ludwigshafen, Germany, this month. Other good news
he shared includes:
You’re likely doing better
economically than your parents and grandparents.
“Ask yourself, how long does it take you to earn an
hour of reading light,” he says.
A person living in 1800 and reading by the light of
a tallow candle would have to labor 6 hours to pay for it. In the 1950s, an
average person would have to work 8 seconds to afford an hour of reading light
from an incandescent bulb.
The cost today? On average, .5 seconds with a modern
compact fluorescent lamp.
You’re healthier. “On average, we are living
30% longer than our grandparents,” says Ridley. “We are defeating early-age
mortality by defeating diseases like tuberculosis.”
The good news doesn’t stop there. “Today’s diseases
like heart disease and cancer are beginning to trend downward in rich
countries,” he says. “That wasn’t supposed to happen. Pessimists in the 1970s
said that was supposed to be the other way around. Cancer rates were supposed
to go up, due to (degradation) in the environment.”
Less violence exists. ‘The odds of being a
victim of homicide is down 35 times compared to the Middle Ages,” he says.
We are more equal
“Some people think (economic) inequality is getting worse,” he says. “Globally,
inequality is getting better. Poor countries are getting richer faster than
rich countries. The rich world has stagnated.”
So why are things so much
showed a stone arrowhead made by prehistoric hunters to a modern computer
mouse. One person could make the stone arrowhead that efficiently sliced up an
animal.Despite this invention, though, matters stayed the same economically for
Stone Age hunters for centuries.
dozens of individuals collaborated to create the computer mouse and the
technology is helps drive.
secret of what enables all this (positive change) to happen is the
extraordinary capacity of human beings to swap and exchange ideas,” says
Ridley. “No human being on the planet knows how to make a computer alone.
Knowledge is distributed through human exchange.”
is also necessary for spurring ideas. “Look at Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison,”
says Ridley. “They weren’t driven by the fear of what might be happening,
Instead, they were driven by optimism of what could happen.”