My brother Peter posted 14 days of these observations on facebook, wanting to save it and pass it on, I’m posting them here. Enjoy I hope you find this as uplifting as I do…
Please note, that I personally do not agree with all statements presented here, some I find simplistic and others I find just plan short sighted, however on the whole I find that optimism is rational in this day and age… please read and give your own opinion.
From his Posting:
Our movies promote an apocalyptic vision of our future. Our news is story’s of misery, bigotry, and tragedy followed by documentaries of doom. Over the next seventeen days with the help of Matt Ridley, zoologist, economist, financier, foreign correspondent and author of ‘The Rational Optimist’, we’re going to look at our world as it really is. The truth is there has never been a better time to be alive. Not just here, but with very few exception anywhere in the world. Join me in seeing the world we live in in a different and rational way and see that our future is truly bright and promising.
Rational Optimist Day One: We’re better off now. Compared with just 50 years ago, when I was born, the average human now earns nearly three times as much money (corrected for inflation), eats one third more calories, buries two thirds fewer children, and can expect to live one third longer. In fact it’s hard to find any region of the world that’s worse off now than it was then, even though the global population has more than doubled over that period.
The Rational Optimist Day 2; Urban Living is a good thing. City dwellers take up less space, use less energy, and have less impact on natural ecosystems then country dwellers. The worlds cities now contain over half it’s people, but they occupy less than 3 percent of its land mass. Urban growth may disgust environmentalists, but living in the country is not the best way to care for the earth. The best thing we can do for the planet is build more skyscrapers.
The Rational Optimist Day 3: Poverty is nose-diving. The rich are getting richer, but the poor do even better. Between 1980 and 2000, the poor doubled their consumption. The Chinese are ten times richer and live about 25 years longer than they did 50 years ago. Nigerians are twice as rich and live nine more years. The percentage of the world’s people living in absolute poverty has dropped by over half. The United Nations estimates that poverty was reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500.
The Rational Optimist day 4: The important stuff costs less. One reason we are richer, healthier, taller, cleverer, longer-lived, and freer than ever before is the four most basic human needs – food, clothing, fuel, and shelter – have grown markedly cheaper. Take one example: In 1800, a candle providing one hour’s light cost six hours work. In 1880 the same light from a kerosene lamp took 15 minutes work to pay for. In 1950, it was eight seconds. Today, it’s half a second. In these terms, we are 43,200 times better off than in 1800.
The Rational Optimist Day 5: The Environment is better than you think. In the United States , rivers, lakes, seas, and air are getting cleaner all the time. A car today emits less pollution traveling at full speed than a parked car did from leaks in 1970.
The Rational Optimist Day 6: Shopping fuels innovation. Even allowing for the many people who still live in abject poverty, our own generation has access to more calories, watts, megahertz, square feet, air miles, food per acre, miles per gallon, and of course, money than any who lived before us. This will continue as long as we use these things to make other things. The more we specialize and exchange, the better off we’ll be.
The Rational Optimist Day 7: Global trade enriches our lives. By 9 am, I have shaved with an American razor, eaten bread made with French wheat and spread with New Zealand butter and Spanish marmalade, brewed tea from Sri Lanka, dressed in clothes made from Indian cotton and Australian wool, put on shoes of Chinese leather and Malaysian rubber, and read a new paper printed on Finnish paper with Chinese ink. I have consumed minuscule fractions of the productive labor of hundreds of people. This is the magic of trade and specialization. Self-sufficiency is poverty.
The Rational Optimist Day 8: More farm production = more wilderness. While the world population has increased more than fourfold since 1900, other things have increased too – area of crops by 30% harvests by 600%. At the same time, more than two billion acres of “secondary” tropical forest are now regrowing since farmers left them to head for the cities, and it is already rich in biodiversity. In fact, the author makes the outrageous prediction: The world will feed itself to a higher and higher standard throughout this century without plowing any new land.
The Rational Optimist Day 9: The good old days weren’t. Some people argue that in the past there was a simplicity, tranquility, sociability, and spirituality that’s now been lost. This rose-tinted nostalgia is generally confined to the wealthy. It’s easier to wax elegiac for the life of a pioneer when you don’t have to use an outhouse. The biggest-ever experiment in back-to-the-land hippie life-style is now known as the Dark Ages.
The Rational Optimist Day 10: Population growth is not a threat. Although the world population is growing, the rate of increase has been falling for 50 years. Across the globe, national birth rates are lower now than in 1960, and in the less developed world, the birth rate has approximately halved. This is happening despite people living longer and infant-mortality rates dropping. According to an estimate from the United Nations, population will start to fall once it peaks at 9.2 billion in 2075–so there is every prospect of feeding the world forever. After all, there are already seven billion people on earth, and they are eating better and better every decade.
The Rational Optimist Day 11: Oil is not running out. In 1970, there were 550 billion barrels of oil reserves in the world, and in the 20 years that followed, the world used 600 billion. So by 1990, reserves should have been overdrawn by 50 billion barrels, Instead, they amounted 900 billion – not counting tar sands and oil shale that between them contain about 20 times the proven reserves of Saudi Arabia. Oil, coal, and gas are finite, but they will last for decades, perhaps centuries, and people will find alternatives long before they run out.
The Rational Optimist Day 12: We are the luckiest generation. This generation has experienced more peace, freedom, leisure time, education, medicine, and travel than any in history. Yet it laps up gloom at every opportunity. Consumers do not celebrate their wonderful field of choice, according to psychologists, people say they are “overwhelmed”. When I go to my local superstore, I do not see people driven to misery by the impossibility of choice. I see people choosing.
The Rational Optimist Day 13: Storms are not getting worse. Not at all. While the climate warmed slightly last century, the incidence of hurricanes and cyclones fell. Since the 1920, the global annual death rate from weather-related natural disasters (that is, the proportion of the world’s population killed rather than simply the overall number) has declined by a staggering 99 percent. The killing power of hurricanes depends more on wealth than on wind speed. A big hurricane struck the well prepared Yucatan in Mexico in 2007 and killed nobody. A similar storm struck impoverished Burma the next year and killed 200,000. The best defenses against disaster are prosperity and freedom.
The Rational Optimist Day 14: Great ideas keep coming. The more we prosper, the more we can prosper. The more we invent, the more inventions become possible. The world of things is often subject to diminishing returns. The world of ideas is not; The ever-increasing exchange of ideas causes the every-increasing rate of innovation in the modern world. There isn’t even a theoretical possibility of exhausting our supply of ideas, discoveries, and inventions.
I look forward to the comments this post will no doubt generate…