It’s a Wonderful Life, So Far

Published October 1, 1999

The quality of life in the U.S. has been improved dramatically during this century. Just since 1945, the average life expectancy has gone from approximately 57 years to nearly 79. And they are better years, too: Medical statistics show that the “boomer” generation has grown up to be the healthiest in history.

The highly touted “global community” is made possible by advances in transportation and communications. While the average American was limited to traveling by foot at about 3 mph at the beginning of the century, we now routinely cross continents and oceans at over 500 mph. Computer whizzes tell us our infant Internet is only a faint shadow of marvels to come.

And, speaking of infants, most fatal childhood diseases have been virtually wiped out by vaccines. Many of us owe our lives to medical advances not even dreamed of when we were born.

Much of our good health we owe to diet. We thrive on a rich, abundant food supply that even the wealthiest couldn’t enjoy when the century began. Think of it: fresh fruit and vegetables all year long. That wasn’t even possible when this writer was born (and that wasn’t all that long ago, thank you).

Enjoy it while you can.

If the anti-progress wing of the environmental movement has its way, the glory days of our civilization are over.

A cure for cancer? Forget it. Without testing of drugs on animals–a practice such animal rights activists as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals want ended–there aren’t going to be any new cures for anything, even the common cold.

High speed travel? Also out of the question. It’s back to walking. Although today’s autos are dramatically cleaner that their predecessors, that progress apparently isn’t good enough for those who would demonize automobile travel. Vice President Al Gore, who has designs on being the millennium’s first President, has labeled the automobile the single greatest threat to humanity. The diesel engines that power trains and ships have been found to be equally objectionable . . . and airplanes suck up fossil fuel like there is no tomorrow.

Even roads are falling prey to the environmentalists. They resist the construction of new roads, and call for the destruction or abandonment of old ones. The U.S. Forest Service is actively “decommissioning” roads in our National Forests. If some of the extremist organizations have their way, it may no longer be possible to drive coast to coast.

Abundant food supply? The American farmer is able to feed this country many times over. But he does that using four things: pesticides, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and refrigerants.

Pesticides. Some environmentalists would ban virtually all pesticides, though properly used pesticides–including DDT–have never been shown to harm human health. In fact, we first began using chemical pesticides in quantity after 1945. This makes the “boomers”–the healthiest generation ever–the first to be raised on pesticide-protected food.

Fertilizer. Organic food is all the rage, and its health benefits are extolled by many environmentalists. But organic foods tend to be much more expensive, because plants generally don’t produce as much food organically as they do when fertilized. As for fertilizer run-off from farms–another bugaboo for environmentalists–substantial progress has been made. According to EPA, phosphate run-off into the Great Lakes has been reduced to the point where lack of phosphate is harming the lakes’ food chain.

Fossil fuels. It’s tough to run tractors, combines, and other farm equipment without fossil fuels. Still, those environmentalists on the global warming bandwagon say we must curtail fossil fuel use dramatically. They make this demand despite evidence that what minimal global warming has occurred over the past century took place before 1940–before our dramatically increased use of fossil fuels. Similarly, air quality nationwide has improved dramatically over the last half of this century–after we greatly increased our burning of these fuels.

Refrigerants. Here our quality of life is faced with a double-whammy. Efficient refrigerants– chlorofluorocarbons–have been banned. Their less-efficient replacements use more electricity. But some environmentalists want us to use less fuel to produce less electricity. So maybe we’re back to dry ice?

The Internet? As is reported elsewhere in this issue, Al Gore’s invention demands electricity . . . lots of it. The Internet has brought with it huge increases in demand for electricity; that demand is forecasted to grow dramatically as more people get wired in more complicated and powerful ways. Electricity in this country is, of course, produced with fossil fuels.

The American dream? Forget it. The single-family home with the white picket fence, two cars in the garage, and a couple kids in the backyard has everything wrong with it, according to some environmentalists. The home is made completely or in part of wood . . . but logging is a bad thing. That little yard in a small suburban or rural community contributes to “urban sprawl.” When those two cars leave the garage for work or the grocery store or to take the kids to school, they burn unacceptable quantities of fossil fuels traveling paved roads which, in all too many cases, prevent animals from migrating (apparently only chickens are able to cross the road). Oh, those two kids? They are a problem, too. Overpopulation, you know.

Enjoy America while you can.