The whole world is getting healthier and wealthier.

Check out this incredible visualization of the global trend toward greater prosperity over the last 200 years.

Let this put our naive nostalgia in check… In many ways, now is the best the world has ever been.

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16 responses to “The whole world is getting healthier and wealthier.”

  1. Your comment reminded me of the “happy planet index” that I had to fill out for a class. It is a survey that rates how “happy” you are based on a number of factors like the sustainability of your lifestyle, your relationships, exercise and other factors. Though these are some practical aspects of happiness, we would make a mistake if we thought that that is what life is about. People can be “unhappy” yet full of joy in Christ and filled with purpose in their lives even without long life expectancy and material possessions. We have eternity to be happy in heaven and we have the current time to live in the trenches. (would that I did so)

  2. jamsco says:

    I going to guess that the these people (those who live in the nostalgia you call naive) consider the ways that the world is now better to be less important.

  3. Jonathan says:

    Can everyone make it to the “wealthy” corner? I don’t think it’s feasible for everyone to have the Western lifestyle: it’s too resource intensive, and the planet can’t sustain that kind of wastefulness. So maybe it’s possible for everyone to make it there, but where “there” is would have to change.

  4. Dustin says:

    This is fascinating.

  5. em_ali says:

    I don’t want to be too pessimistic. And I get really irritated by nostalgia (especially widely inaccurate nostalgia). But its is a bit of a jump to use a superlative term like “best” based only on income and life expectancy. To do that, you have to claim that human life is essentially only how long we live and how many material possessions we have while living those years. Those things are by no means unimportant. But there’s something called the myth of progress to compete with myths of idealizing the past.

  6. brooke says:

    I think we have to have a balance of understanding that better health care, more ability to care for our families, have a childhood and get an education are all good things, while being realistic about what we have also lost.I really get annoyed at people who idealize a certain time period, though.This was really great. Good perspective.

  7. Amy says:

    Hi David,I’d like to disagree respectfully. (And this has turned out to be longer than originally intended! So sorry!)You see, I live in South Africa, where we, the “bourgeois” (for lack of a better description for the middle class to stinking rich), live jowl to jaw with the utterly impoverished – & i wouldn’t call what they do on less than $1 a day “living”. Because of this, I’m constantly reminded that, although i can’t afford something as important as health insurance & would rather die (literally) than trust our sketchy-&-unpredictable public healthcare system (okay, silly example!), i’m *much* richer than i think (& that’s just materially!)Perspective (i’m sorry about the numbers/statistics): – $1 = R7 – Milk: min. R8 per litre – Bread: appr. R8 per litre – Clean drinking water / sanitation = a luxury – Schooling is not free (though i think they’re trying to make that possible for the poorest of the poor…?)“Roof” (or no roof) overhead: – Rent for tiny appartment, in the crummy part of my town (which, granted, is unnecessarily expensive): +/- R15000 per month (excl. water & electricity) – Other options incl. informal settlements or an open field (like the one next to the church where i serve), or a night at the adult homeless shelter (R10 per night).Also consider: 25.3% unemployment (our neighbours, Zimbabwe, are at 95%!) Highest number of HIV/AIDS infections in the world (leaving grandparents to raise hordes of grandchildren, as well as child-headed households etc.)*Note: our economy is thriving – in comparison to the rest of Africa, that is…Please don’t get me wrong: this is not, in *any* way, an attempt to guilt-trip you or anybody else. I just have (in fact, live) a different perspective. We’ve got to count our blessings & remind ourselves that the higher cost of living which goes with higher “standards of living” are indicators of an extremely privileged life – at/beyond a certain point, we choose our standard of living, & therefore our living expenses.Ultimately, no matter which quadrant we find ourselves in, our material wealth isn’t the most important though. So eventhough i’m convince of my responsibility to help/uplift where i can, seeing the physically impoverished (& i do *not* believe that things are “improving” as our dear Academic claims! the rich are simply getting richer, while the poor eek out their meagre existence) gets me thinking about my call to hold out gospel hope & truth to everybody…

  8. Interesting that the timeline is almost identical with the modern missions movement. It would be a connection worth exploring.

  9. Wow, the measurements of the common grace of God. I can see this being used as an argument to defend the evolution of man according to Atheists. Yet, I keep that visual in light of the laws of thermodynamics and Romans 1:18-32 and the results are sobering, to say the least.

  10. fscottqc says:

    As far as I’m concerned, there is only one relevant distinction on moving from poor to wealthy financially speaking… before and after toilet paper. All other distinctives are relative. A man who has toilet paper is a wealthy man. Especially for all you lefties out there.

  11. Josh S says:

    And I wish I had a time machine to send those people back for a bit. They might come back less nostalgic (if they were still alive). Or if they liked it better, they could just stay…

  12. Jared says:

    Danny – a very interesting observation. This also seem to add some support to a Postmillennial view of eschatology.

  13. Jan says:

    Thanks for this helpful perspective Stephen.

  14. Laura says:

    If the population of the planet is small enough, the bounty of the earth is yours. All the real estate you could want. Tons of meat running around free for the killing. I don’t really know how you would measure wealth in an economy like that, but I tend to think that I wouldn’t consider myself poor.

  15. Laura says:

    If life expectancy and wealth are the things to be had, I would say right before the flood was the best the world has ever been. (Excluding Eden)

  16. Josh S says:

    You think someone in 5000 BC was wealthier than people today? In what way? I can’t even think of one.

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