The news of Carrie Fisher’s death was a blow. 60 seems way too young for such a vibrant, witty, irreverent survivor to go. The zeitgeist of the year says that it’s uniquely awful. 2016 is being talked about as if it’s a curse, springing ridiculous political twists and mowing down beloved public figures.
Of course, more than a few people have pointed out that when many of our celebrities are baby boomers, born from 1945 to 1950, we’re going to start seeing a lot of attrition. Other wise folks have pointed out that social media is locking us into the 24hr news cycle–where outrage follows disaster follows farce. Sadly, most of the world now seems to believe that we’ve entered a dark time.
That’s because most people don’t know the underlying trends, and confuse incidents with the direction of events. Even worse, trends respond to sentiment, and this pessimistic outlook in the face of what could honestly be described as a golden age for humanity, could be dangerous.
Famine has more or less disappeared since the 1940s. For the first time in the history of humanity. Child mortality has plummeted. Birth-rates even in “developing” nations are rapidly dropping to the levels of wealthy countries. Absolute poverty is declining around the world. More people die in car accidents and suicides than from war and murder, and not because car-accidents and suicides have increased by much. Even cancer rates in developed nations, in direct contradiction to exploitative conspiracy sites like naturalnews.com, are down–partly because smoking rates continue to fall. Installing new solar energy plants is now cheaper than building any other kind of energy production per megawatt. Cheaper even than wind power. We can see a future of incredibly cheap, totally clean energy just on the horizon.
The future for humanity, barring unforeseen disaster, is looking pretty cushy. But this comes at the expense of the other organisms on the planet.
Kruger is a time capsule. A little piece of the South Africa that was before the 20th Century. A place that was as rich a haven for indigenous trees and animals as it was for indigenous humans. Now the majority of South Africa is given over to human-made landscapes. Agriculture doesn’t approve of bushveldt trees and marauding elephants. Not to mention feisty lions. Without the environment, smaller mammals, birds, and insects are rarely able to adapt.
As we find ever more ingenious ways to eradicate deprivation among humans, the situation for the environment is likely to deteriorate further. Clean energy may eventually halt global warming and reduce pollution. But it’s unlikely to reverse habitat destruction.
Many, perhaps most, of the visible species of animals may become extinct in the next hundred years due to this encroachment. We’ll likely live in a world that is easier and safer, but considerably less interesting. So a place like Kruger has become truly precious. The wilderness that once threatened us is now a place of peace and nostalgia.
Although we’ve already lost so much, it may be wise to soak up as much as we can now. Because much of it will be gone within my lifetime. People outside the Middle East should be much more worried about that than about Islamic State, which is losing its absurd battle to reverse the tide.