So now that you have had a squizz and a chuckle at the excellent satire of Brad Plummer in the Washington Post [here is the link again if you missed his must see post], what should we make of a world where some of the big metrics of quality of life and lifestyle are trending in the right direction?
Yes it is true that there is still poverty, disease, crime, environmental degradation, precarious economies and the prospect of global changes out of our control, but the reality is that, even with so many of us, the majority are in pretty good shape. And those lucky enough to live in the developed world really do live like kings compared to the kings of just a few generations ago.
Not even all the King Georges in the House of Hanover who were having a ball before and after 1800 had electricity, TV or a mobile phones. All four of them would have had to get a lackey to heat their bathwater and another to send out the pigeons when messaging for a booty call.
What the numbers that Brad Plummer collated tell us is that there is a transition in most things. We start off slowly, get things moving to the point that they are a problem, and then turn them around so as to fix the problem. Next to no heart disease in the 1900’s, peaks at 40% of deaths in America during the 60’s and 70’s and now declining proportionately [probably because we got pretty good at human plumbing].
Humans are actually very good at this sequence.
Explore, innovate and exploit while we can get away with it, then put checks on all that exploitation and start to [slowly] clean up the mess. It is as inevitable as the earth orbiting the sun with a slight wobble in the tilt of its axis.
It means that ‘it will get worse before it gets better’ is often true and that we like it that way. Perhaps we even need it to be so.
We seem to need the worse to be upon us before we do anything about it. This is, of course, a great risk at a time of 7 billion human souls all striving and many getting a better life. Because it assumes that whatever the ‘worse’ is we can fix it — one day we will wake up to that fact that emission reduction is trendy policy but will not solve the climate challenge, but I digress.
The key message though is the psychology that makes Plummer’s post satire. We universally fail to see that what we really have is actually, for the most part and for most people, pretty good and getting better. Instead we prefer to be told that the sky is falling down.
Maybe there is a way to work through this necessary ‘doom saying’ faster. We could shunt along through it and get quickly to the other side where the solutions are found.
So all we need is a little rescheduling on TV — after Today Tonight, just before the inane sitcom starts, we get a ten minute Ted talk on some really neat idea that will solve a global challenge.
Easy and a bit like when the Magic Roundabout was on before the news to make sure that the kids were still around to get a glimpse of the headlines showing death, destruction and the political chaos of the day.