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We control uniqueness—human well-being is on the rise

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We control uniqueness—human well-being is on the rise

Goklany 9Worked with federal and state governments, think tanks, and the private sector for over 35 years. Worked with IPCC before its inception as an author, delegate and reviewer. Negotiated UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Managed the emissions trading program for the EPA. Julian Simon Fellow at the Property and Environment Research Center, visiting fellow at AEI, winner of the Julian Simon Prize and Award. PhD, MS, electrical engineering, MSU. B.Tech in electrical engineering, Indian Institute of Tech. (Indur, “Have increases in population, affluence and technology worsened human and environmental well-being?” 2009, http://www.ejsd.org/docs/HAVE_INCREASES_IN_POPULATION_AFFLUENCE_AND_TECHNOLOGY_WORSENED_HUMAN_AND_ENVIRONMENTAL_WELL-BEING.pdf)
Although global population is no longer growing exponentially, it has quadrupled since 1900. Concurrently, affluence (or GDP per capita) has sextupled, global economic product (a measure of aggregate consumption) has increased 23-fold and carbon dioxide has increased over 15-fold (Maddison 2003; GGDC 2008; World Bank 2008a; Marland et al. 2007).4 But contrary to Neo- Malthusian fears, average human well-being, measured by any objective indicator, has never been higher. Food supplies, Malthus’ original concern, are up worldwide. Global food supplies per capita increased from 2,254 Cals/day in 1961 to 2,810 in 2003 (FAOSTAT 2008). This helped reduce hunger and malnutrition worldwide. The proportion of the population in the developing world, suffering from chronic hunger declined from 37 percent to 17 percent between 1969–71 and 2001–2003 despite an 87 percent population increase (Goklany 2007a; FAO 2006). The reduction in hunger and malnutrition, along with improvements in basic hygiene, improved access to safer water and sanitation, broad adoption of vaccinations, antibiotics, pasteurization and other public health measures, helped reduce mortality and increase life expectancies. These improvements first became evident in today’s developed countries in the mid- to late-1800s and started to spread in earnest to developing countries from the 1950s. The infant mortality rate in developing countries was 180 per 1,000 live births in the early 1950s; today it is 57. Consequently, global life expectancy, perhaps the single most important measure of human well-being, increased from 31 years in 1900 to 47 years in the early 1950s to 67 years today (Goklany 2007a). Globally, average annual per capita incomes tripled since 1950. The proportion of the world’s population outside of high-income OECD countries living in absolute poverty (average consumption of less than $1 per day in 1985 International dollars adjusted for purchasing power parity), fell from 84 percent in 1820 to 40 percent in 1981 to 20 percent in 2007 (Goklany 2007a; WRI 2008; World Bank 2007). Equally important, the world is more literate and better educated. Child labor in low income countries declined from 30 to 18 percent between 1960 and 2003. In most countries, people are freer politically, economically and socially to pursue their goals as they see fit. More people choose their own rulers, and have freedom of expression. They are more likely to live under rule of law, and less likely to be arbitrarily deprived of life, limb and property. Social and professional mobility has never been greater. It is easier to transcend the bonds of caste, place, gender, and other accidents of birth in the lottery of life. People work fewer hours, and have more money and better health to enjoy their leisure time (Goklany 2007a). Figure 3 summarizes the U.S. experience over the 20th century with respect to growth of population, affluence, material, fossil fuel energy and chemical consumption, and life expectancy. It indicates that population has multiplied 3.7-fold; income, 6.9-fold; carbon dioxide emissions, 8.5-fold; material use, 26.5-fold; and organic chemical use, 101-fold. Yet its life expectancy increased from 47 years to 77 years and infant mortality (not shown) declined from over 100 per 1,000 live births to 7 per 1,000. It is also important to note that not only are people living longer, they are healthier. The disability rate for seniors declined 28 percent between 1982 and 2004/2005 and, despite better diagnostic tools, major diseases (e.g., cancer, and heart and respiratory diseases) occur 8–11 years later now than a century ago (Fogel 2003; Manton et al. 2006). If similar figures could be constructed for other countries, most would indicate qualitatively similar trends, especially after 1950, except Sub-Saharan Africa and the erstwhile members of the Soviet Union. In the latter two cases, life expectancy, which had increased following World War II, declined after the late 1980s to the early 2000s, possibly due poor economic performance compounded, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, by AIDS, resurgence of malaria, and tuberculosis due mainly to poor governance (breakdown of public health services) and other manmade causes (Goklany 2007a, pp.66–69, pp.178–181, and references therein). However, there are signs of a turnaround, perhaps related to increased economic growth since the early 2000s, although this could, of course, be a temporary blip (Goklany 2007a; World Bank 2008a). Notably, in most areas of the world, the healthadjusted life expectancy (HALE), that is, life expectancy adjusted downward for the severity and length of time spent by the average individual in a less-than-healthy condition, is greater now than the unadjusted life expectancy was 30 years ago. HALE for the China and India in 2002, for instance, were 64.1 and 53.5 years, which exceeded their unadjusted life expectancy of 63.2 and 50.7 years in 1970–1975 (WRI 2008). Figure 4, based on cross country data, indicates that contrary to Neo-Malthusian fears, both life expectancy and infant mortality improve with the level of affluence (economic development) and time, a surrogate for technological change (Goklany 2007a). Other indicators of human well-being that improve over time and as affluence rises are: access to safe water and sanitation (see below), literacy, level of education, food supplies per capita, and the prevalence of malnutrition (Goklany 2007a, 2007b).

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