Compared to the Past, Life Now is Good
If you listen to the media, you could get the impression that the world is in worse shape than it has ever been. True, we have problems, some are serious. Debt, Terrorism, Crime, and more all deserve serious attention. If we don’t get a handle on these soon we may find ourselves in great trouble in the not so distant future. This leaves some people pining for the good old days. The truth is despite our current problems the human race has never been better in terms of our day to day life.
Just a scant 50 years ago, the countryside was scattered with smokestacks all spewing thick, black poisonous smoke into the atmosphere, our rivers and lakes were polluted with sewerage and industrial waste, and Jim Crow laws were still active and rigorously enforced in the South. One Hundred and Fifty years ago it was dark every day after sunset, the streets were loaded with horse manure, and there was very little running water. People did not bathe regularly. Six hundred years ago people literally lived in their own filth. Religion and superstition ruled the day, and scientific thought was discouraged greatly.
When I researched this I found that the reasons we have it so good today could come roughly under three headings: People live longer and better, Societal changes have benefited us and technology has allowed us to live better and more healthy lives.In fact, the rise of science and technology is the reason behind most of societies advances. Listed below are 13 reasons why we have it so good today. As I said above, we have our problems (some of which are caused by the advances below):
A person born in 1870, could expect to live to 55 or so, (provided he survived the first 5 years of his life), If his birth was in 1930, he could expect to live to his mid sixties. Today life expectancy is 77 or 78. Below are a few reasons:
If you have a malady, today you can go to the doctors or ER and the chances are good they will recognize your problem and find a remedy for it. Many diseases, which in past years were death sentences, are curable now. Even if it isn’t curable, in most cases medicine can extend your lives and /or make you more comfortable in your old age.
In the past infant mortality was widespread. It was common for a child not to see his first birthday. Also, many otherwise healthy woman were cut down in child birth. Woman (and their children) today in those same situations have an excellent chance of survival using procedures that have become routine and successful in modern maternity wards.
Today were are heading off many of the sicknesses and diseases with preventive medicine. For example, a person who knows he has high cholesterol, can head off the resulting heart disease by eating right, exercising and taking regular prescribed medication. Vaccines and inoculations can prevent people from diseases and research has eradicated many diseases that have run rampant in the past. Add that to the fact that people are more educated about their health and we have the reason that people tend to live longer and better.
In 2009, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) celebrated it’s 50th birthday. To mark the occasion, the IIHS tested a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air against a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu in a frontal offset crash test. In the head on crash at 40 mph, both vehicles were destroyed. However, in the test, the Malibu’s passenger compartment was largely intact and the dummy was restrained. The Bel Air was markedly different. The front end completely collapsed and was pushed into the passenger compartment. The in car camera shows the unrestrained Bel Air driver first hitting the steering wheel and then, as the front seat broke off it’s base, the driver’s head was forced into the roof with great force. To make matters worse, the dummy was pushed back into the low back seat. It’s head and neck continued back in a whiplash motion. IIHS engineers said that a real driver would likely have suffered fatal injuries, while the Malibu driver likely would have relatively minor knee and foot injuries.
This test showed how far automobile companies have come in the last 50 years in making our highways safer. With crumple zones, airbags and other safety innovations, a seat belted car occupant can survive even a devastating crash, where years ago he would have certainly been killed.
Pollution and the Environment
Years ago smokestacks spewed thick black, poisonous smoke into the atmosphere, car emissions were full of deadly chemicals and our rivers and lakes were polluted. Our environment was dirty and made people sick.
Today things are different. Autos are engineered to emit lower emissions, and industry is no longer allowed to pollute our environment. The Environmental Protection Agency was established in 1970 to research and regulate environmental standards in the US.
Good hygiene has become part of the daily habits of billions of people on Earth. But it was not always this way. Up to the middle part of last century, running hot water in homes were rare and it was not unheard of for an individual to go several weeks without bathing. In colder climates, before running water, it was not uncommon for a person to wear the same clothes for the entire winter and not bathe once. It makes perfect sense that since we are now cleaner, there are less germs to make us sick.
Cleaner, more Wholesome Food
Federal, state and local regulations and agencies guarantee that the food we eat and milk we drink are free from toxins and impurities that could harm us.
Purer, Better Drugs
Where once snake oil salesmen could put anything into a bottle and claim it cured all sorts of maladies, today the drug industry is highly regulated. The purveyors of medicine cannot make wild claims as to the effectiveness of their drug. That regulation also extends to the purity of the product. With research and production, we now have drugs that can made us well if we are sick and keep us healthy.
As recently as 30 years ago, it was not uncommon to see someone with fingers or hands missing as a result of industrial accidents. Today with tight safety regulations and agencies like OSHA our workplaces are safer. In addition, people who work with dangerous chemicals and substances are well protected
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
Our increase in longevity is due largely because of the scientific research and development Mankind has undertaken in the last century or so. But science has not just made us safer and living longer. It has helped us live easier and more entertaining lives;
The harnessing of electricity for household and industrial use may be the most significant scientific development of all time. Without electricity, most of the inventions which have made our lives easier and better would have never existed. By just simply bringing us light, it has extended the day by several hours. Before electricity, the day’s production ended when the sun went down.
Until Samuel Morse invented the telegraph in 1837, information only traveled as fast as a man on horseback or an oceangoing vessel could go. In the past it could be weeks before the public knew the results of an election or other important new. Today, news travels instantaneously and the average person can call someone half a world away without any difficulty.
The amount of information that a person had access to has increased exponentially over the past few hundred years. First newspapers, then radio, TV and finally the internet have made us better informed. I don’t know if that has made us any smarter, but the average citizen certainly knows more about his world. And the vast amounts of information on line have made our jobs easier and more productive.
With modern air travel, a person can be anywhere in the world in very little time. Formerly, he had to endure an arduous train journey or weeks in the damp hold of a ship. In 1870, to go from New York to Los Angeles by railroad would take 8 days. Before the Trans Continental Railroad was built, the dangerous journey by wagon train would take months. Now to take the same journey by air, it takes about 6 hours.
The above changes brought along by Science, have changed our society. But our society has changed in other ways:
Where in the past, the average uneducated person was easily led by his government or church, now the more intelligent person knows to question and object to his situation if he feels it isn’t right. Granted there still are societies in this world that keep people down, but they are in the minority.
On the whole, the world’s population is better educated now. In the past even learning to read was looked upon by powers as a threat to their leadership. Now, not only do the majority of people know how to read but college attendance and other post secondary education is the norm in free countries.
Freedom and Equality
Modern human history is stained by episodes of prejudice and persecution. European anti Jewish pogroms and the Holocaust, slavery and Jim Crow laws in the US, Apartheid in South Africa are 3 examples, but by no means all of them. As a result of these, society has become more accepting to formerly persecuted peoples. In the free world, they are protected and allowed to live with the same advantages that others have. At least in the US, we are as close to equality as we have ever been. I understand that persecution still exists in the world and a few people are victims (see Middle Eastern Muslim women) but on the whole things are a lot better.
Things are not perfect now, but the vast majority of us would find it difficult to live without the improvements that exist today. As I said above, many of these improvements have brought along other problems that we struggle with today. And while Science and Technology have improved our lives in many ways, they also have been used to develop and perfect weapons that can lead to greater, more efficient killing. While we will never be perfect, life is good now.