Life or Death?

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In 1900 the average global life expectancy was 40.

By 2000 it was 70.

This is entirely because of the impact we have had on 3 mortal factors: contagion, famine, war.

In 1330 an infection, starting in a village in China, spread westwards. By 1335 it was called the Black Death and it had killed nearly 60% of the population of Eurasia.

In the late 1400s and early 1500s the Spanish went to Mexico. Within 3 years smallpox and flue had wiped out 90% of the Aztec population.

In the late 18th century Captain cook landed in Hawaii with a boat full of sailors carrying an assortment of diseases unknown in the Pacific. Within 3 years a population of 250,000 was reduced to 50,000.

Between 1692 and 1698 famine and disease reduced the population of Europe by 15% and the population of Scotland by 20%.

In 1918 Spanish flu, carried to Europe by the war effort importing rubber, gunpowder and oil to the troops, killed nearly 100 million around the world.

Nowadays, we think of war as containable and avoidable. The cold war did not end in nuclear holocaust. Terrorism killed a global total of just under 8,000 last year. in 2016 the World Health Organisation stopped Smallpox vaccination, declaring the disease obsolete.

If you don’t find the above stats interesting, you might still like this one: 3 times more people in the world now die from overeating than from malnutrition.

This year there are 800 milion people without enough to eat. That’s shocking. Not as shocking as the 2.2 billion obese people at serious risk of death.

The true enemy is not Isis but soft drinks and junk food. Billionaires eat lettuce and gluten free salad. Poor people consume pizza, burgers and Coke.

But we are all living longer. We know that. The pressure on the NHS, on the pension system. It’s clear. So do we think we will live forever? Or at least will our grandchildren live twice as long. Will you have a boss whose ideas were formed a hundred hears ago? Will bringing up our kids seem like a distant memory? Will the prospect of being married to the same person for 120 years seem ridiculous?

Don’t worry … nothing’s actually changed!

Galileo died in the 1670s aged 77. Michelangelo did even better. He died in 1564 age 88.

The truth is nothing’s changed.there is nothing at all in our basic makeup which makes us live longer. We are just much more likely to avoid the three main causes of death –contagion, famine, war.

Why have I written this? In case you are wondering if there’s no point in having adventures, taking risks, living life to the full. Imagine if Google’s £2 billion project designed to let us live until we are 500 actually bears fruit. Would you ever even get in a car? Would you ever leave the house? Would you ever get within ten feet of another human, in case they had some ghastly disease?

We live longer now because we avoid the main causes of premature death. So now we get cancer, heart disease and the rest. Science is beginning to turn the tables on even those killers.

But it’s slow going –and anyway is that a good idea?

For now and for the foreseeable future you can rest assured you don’t stand any more chance than Michelangelo. Nothing’s changed. So get out there and live it.

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