The question about the condition of the world is one we have all pondered upon, and often assume the worst – or we’re just dumbfounded most of the time. But it is important that we understand our benchmarks: is it just the well being of our people, or do we include the planet as well? It is, after all, home to our (not so) generous species, as well as numerous others. We have here, two very revealing scenarios, of data – and of mere observation – that provide awfully contradicting statements; drastic differences that become evidently clear when presented.
Our Progress As Humans
As humans, our progress, or development as such is often studied under six major categories: poverty, literacy, health, freedom, population, and education. The data collected tells us how much these six categories have evolved – extremely drastically – merely over the span of the last two hundred years, and how they have led (or not) to the desired betterment of the human race.
From when only a small portion of the world’s population – in 1821 – were above the poverty line, when 44% of the population was still below it. Today, only a mere 10% of the world’s population finds themselves below the poverty line; to live below the poverty line, one must earn less than 1.90 USD a day, after taking into account non-monetary sources of income.
When, two hundred years ago, being able to read and write was a privilege shared by only a tenth of the world’s population, and with the education system as it is today, and literacy gaining more importance, 85% of the population finds itself sharing this privilege.
While it was very common, two centuries ago, for most infants to die before they turned five, improvements made in science and medicine, and more importantly, sanitation, has paved the way to longer lives for our kind. While this has meant an immense increase in population, increasing at a factor of almost seven times during this period, merely because the birth rates are much higher than mortality rates. But it is expected, at least by the next century, that this increase will halt and the population will begin to reduce.
Over time, as a species, though slow, we have been growing to be better. The reason we fail to see this is because we have found ourselves focusing on singular events that make us believe otherwise.
Effects On Our Environment
While the human species has found its standards of living improving, our effects on the environment seem to be getting worse. While, as a species, we might be developing, we might soon find ourselves without a world to inhabit, rendering everything we’ve worked towards futile. Having already gone through five mass extinctions, we’re well on our way to the sixth – one that might see almost 75% of all species disappearing. Human intervention has sped up the extinction rate by almost a hundred times. This is something we should be worried about. Paul Ehrlich, Bing Professor of population studies at Stanford, reassures us on what has happened,
The general estimate is that about half of the life forms people are aware of have disappeared; not the kind, but the number of individuals.
And much like how the betterment of human beings has been explained over six categories, this too arises from five causes: climate change, agriculture, wildlife crime, pollution, and finally, disease (primarily in the case of disease that infect wildlife or, in this case, amphibians). In our move towards our own development, we have forgotten to worry about what matters most to us – what we depend on for our survival.
Is This Dysfunctional Relationship Inevitable?
It seems almost that with development comes destruction, in some form or the other. Exploitation is something that we humans have become famous for. But must it always be this way? Is there nothing we can do?
Oddly enough, there is. we can end our dependence on fossil fuels and migrate to cleaner forms of energy; we can stop farm encroachment, and as biologist E.O. Wilson predicts, we would save 84% of species; reject wildlife products that are the cause of death for several endangered species.
While we possess the capacity to create harmony, we must first choose to do so ourselves.