American Elephants


A Little Good News for a Change by The Elephant's Child

green-7 by anild sud courtesy eyeTraffic in the Seattle area was impossible yesterday, due to e visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and aside from his entourage, there must have been hundreds of newspeople. The rest of us still have our ordinary errands, which became hours long instead of minutes. Should have stayed home.

On the East Coast they have the same problems because of the visit of the Pope. Today, a horrible traffic accident in Seattle between a tour bus and the Duck Bus  (another tourist enterprise), four people killed, forty-four taken to hospitals. It’s clearly time for some good news and Ronald Bailey at the Reason Foundation supplies it, from their latest magazine.

Paul Erlich, notorious spreader of gloom and doom, was deeply concerned with overpopulation, along with his wife biologist Anne Erlich in the March 2013 Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Not only overpopulation, but overconsumption of natural resources, but “global toxification” which has “exposed the human population to myriad subtle poisons.

Hasn’t happened, for the greening of the earth caused by the natural fertilization of plants from increased amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere means more food. Fewer people across the world are going hungry.

Most people think that the risk of dying from cancer is going up because of chemicals and pollution, but even as the number of man-made chemicals has increased, your risk of dying from cancer has been decreasing for more than 40 years. Age-adjusted rates of cancer have been dropping largely because fewer people are smoking,  more Americans are having colonoscopies, and cancers are being diagnosed and treated earlier.

The overall incidence of cancer has been falling by about 0.6 percent a year. Modern medicine has increased the five-year survival rates of cancer patients from 50 percent in the 1970s to 68 percent today. That means that in recent years about 100,000 people each year who would have died are alive today.

Although President George W. Bush has been widely criticized for the Medicare Drug program because of the program’s cost, it has saved a lot of lives by getting needed medications to seniors at prices they could afford. It is the only program that came in at less than the estimated cost because of the “donut hole” incentive that encouraged seniors to use generics when they were as effective as more expensive brand-name medicines. Democrats, who simply do not understand incentives, eliminated the incentive, so costs are higher now.

The Erlichs are still going on about overpopulation and shortage of food, but in most societies women with more education have fewer children. Given current age, sex and education trends world population will most likely peak at 9.6 billion by 2070 and then begin falling. If education levels are pursued more aggressively, would population could top out at 8.9 billion in 2060 before starting to drop. Increased economic opportunities, more education, longer lives, more liberty are all trends that reinforce each other and accelerate the trend of falling global fertility.

In 1950 the average yield in the U.S. for a acre of corn was 51 bushels which would support 5 people for a year.  Today, the yield from an acre of corn is 166 bushels that would supply enough calories to support 16 people for a year. (Since we are a rich country, we’re putting a lot of it in our gas tanks) In India the average is 42 bushels that would support 4 people and in Africa, the yield is an average 32 bushels per acre per year to feed just 3 people. With lots of room for improvement.

Much of the increase in our food supply can be attributed to advances in biotech crops.

The board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) the largest scientific organization in the United States has, on October 20, 2012 point-blank asserted that “contrary to popular misconceptions, GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply. There are occasional claims that feeding GM foods to animals causes aberrations ranging from digestive disorders, to sterility tumors and premature death. Although such claims are often sensationalized and receive a great deal of media attention, none have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.” The AAAS board concluded, “indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

The entire article is here, and offers some positive news for those who follow the IPPC’s version of fear about global warming as well.

We still have our worries about the economy, national security, wars and trials and tribulations, education, and the general messed-up state of humanity, but really, there is good news.
 


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