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Cleaned by Capitalism XXXVII

Quoting page 228 of Stanley Lebergott’s indispensable 1984 volume, The Americans: An Economic Record:

[A]nnual deaths in the entire United States from all air and water pollution a century later about equaled New Orleans’ yellow fever deaths in 1853-1854.

Countless are the times that I drove with my parents past the Odd Fellows Rest cemetery in New Orleans (at the northern end of Canal Street, where it meets Metairie Road).OddFellowsRestCemetery-MG-7177  That cemetery first opened in 1849.  My mother would invariably point out whenever we saw that graveyard that “That’s where a lot of people who died from yellow fever are buried.”

However dangerous or unpleasant modern-day pollution might be – however worthwhile it might be on the margin to scale back emissions of carbon and other elements emitted into the atmosphere by industrial and commercial activities – do not lose sight of the fact that the environment today, in modern industrial societies such as that of the United States, is far less unpleasant, dirty, and lethal than was the natural environment that was for our pre-industrial ancestors a frequent source of discomfort and disease and a not-infrequent cause of death.


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