Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Monday, January 03, 2011

The big public health story of 2011

As Yogi said, I believe, or at least he said something like this, it's hard to make predictions, especially about the future. But I am pretty sure that in 2011, people are going to be talking about the weather even more than usual.

Everybody has heard of the flooding in Australia, where half of Queensland is under water. I pay pretty close attention to the news, but I only noticed recently that Colombia is in even worse shape. Mozambique got hammered last spring, and of course you've heard about Pakistan although it fell off the corporate media radar pretty quickly. Unprecedented flooding in the U.S. in Nashville and the Rio Grande area, and now in Southern California, also made the news last year. New Year's day tornadoes in the midwest? That too.

A warmer earth means a more energetic atmosphere, that holds more water vapor. We don't have to wait until 2050 to see the result, it's happening now. In the U.S., where we generally have adequate warning of these events, and people have means to evacuate, we don't often have large numbers of deaths, at least not as an immediate, direct result of flooding. But when people are displaced, communities destroyed, homes and livelihoods lost, the consequences can be severe in the long term.

Insurance companies are convinced, even if Republicans are not. So are the leaders of China, and the U.S. military. I've given a couple of links to Climate Progress already, and I recommend that you bookmark it. This is for real, folks. And it's coming faster and harder than just about anybody predicted even two years ago.


Unknown said...

I know those "voluntary extinction" types are seen as the lunatic fringe, but really the more time I spend working in public health the more I see where they're coming from. We're devouring all of the Earth's resources, making it unusable, all to support a massive, massive population of humans and frankly doing a poor job of it in the long run. Having a sustainable society, I'm starting to be convinced, more and more means having a sustainable population.

Not that eugenics or maximum age restrictions or anything like that is acceptable, but simply encouraging fewer births world-wide with tax incentives, etc I believe would really hit at the heart of many of our problems.

My two cents, anyway.

Cervantes said...

I do agree, there have to be fewer of us. We can get there by the route you suggest, or the hard way.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps a universal safety net for older people (e.g., Social Security)? It would eliminate a big reason many in 3rd world countries have big families.
Also health care that increases the expectation that the kids you do have will still be around when you need them?
I know this won't fly in our current political climate since it will also improve the lives of the 'little people' as a side effect.

Cervantes said...

Indeed. Raising the status of women, improving the health of children, and providing more security for the old are all associated with declining birth rates.