Monday, August 2, 2010

Context Is Everything

"Contrary to Mr. Crowther's suggestion, the 18th century was not less polluted than the 21st; it was vastly more polluted. Human excrement and other environmental hazards were a part of everyday life in the 18th century in ways that we in the 21st can barely imagine. Any good book on life in that century tells a repugnant tale of dirt, disease, and environment-borne dangers.
For example, in her 2000 book Dr. Johnson's London <> , Liza Picard describes conditions in the world's wealthiest city in the mid-18th century. They weren't pretty. She writes, for instance, of the common danger of weaning babies "on to solid food, prepared from germ-laden water and milk and polluted bread, in unhygienic kitchens" [p. 158].
We today do have more of certain kinds of pollution than did our 18th-century ancestors. But on the whole, the industrialized world of the early 21st century is indescribably cleaner, safer, and more pleasant for humanity than was any time prior to the industrial age.
Donald J. Boudreaux"

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