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Let’s Keep Losing!

Fundamentalist evangelical environmentalist Bill McKibben’s pessimism about modern humanity is fully displayed in the opening line of his reflections, in today’s Washington Post, on the past 40 years of Earth Days: “Forty years in, we’re losing.”

Losing?  Forget facts such as that agricultural yields and proven reserves of petroleum are today at all-time highs.  Instead, focus on one of the best single indicators of the state of the environment: life-expectancy.

Life-expectancy across the globe is rising.  It’s now higher than ever – and not just, or even especially, for rich westerners such as Americans (whose 78.1 years of expected life duration today is 7.3 years longer than it was 40 years ago).  Indians today live, on average, 20.6 years longer than they did in 1970; South Koreans 16.9 years longer; Brazilians 12.1 years longer; and the Chinese 11.8 years longer.

In contrast, North Koreans’ life-expectancy today of 63.8 years is only 1.8 years longer than it was in 1970, despite the fact that the commerce, industry, and division of labor that McKibben believes are toxic to mother nature and to humanity are, in that country, virtually non-existent.