A more dangerous world?
FROM FAR AND NEAR - Ruben Almendras (The Freeman) - January 21, 2020 - 12:00am

With the recent eruption of Taal Volcano in the Philippines and another island volcano in New Zealand two months ago, the huge forest fires in California late last year, and the ongoing even larger forest fires in Australia, the downing of a Ukrainian airliner in Iran after the drone attack in Iraq, and the many hurricanes and typhoons that hit many parts of the world, we should really wonder if the world is becoming a more dangerous place to live in compared to previous years. Or are we just more aware of all these natural and man-made disasters because of the advent of information and communication technologies? If we include the casualties in the political conflicts in Africa, Syria, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and Libya, and in the ongoing civil protests in Bolivia, Chile, Hong Kong, and Venezuela, and the resurgence of hard-to-cure epidemics from Africa and China, we can understand the insecurities and fears of people all over the world.

Casualties and mortalities have many causes. Even with the advances in medical science and technology, and the longer lifespan of many nationalities in many countries, disease and deteriorating health conditions are the main reasons for dying. Infant mortality has significantly been reduced all over the world due to better sanitary conditions. Medical and health care varies among countries depending on the economic development status, so richer countries have lower mortalities due to diseases. Political and social conflicts are the other major causes of mortalities, that if we include the major wars, it would be the number one cause. Statistical data available excluded the world wars as it triples or more the mortality rate of the world. Minor conflicts including the drug wars, terrorism, criminal activities, and civil disturbances are already included.

Then, there are the natural and man-made disasters. Volcanic eruptions, earthquakes. Typhoons, landslides, fires, and tsunamis, while spectacular, account only for 1% of the world death rate, (excluding the war years). Man-made disasters like transport accidents and collapsing buildings due to ineffective government regulations and prevention/mitigation bring this up to 3%.

The effects of global warming and other environmental negligence, including population concentration and density, actually increases the mortality rate. Add to these, the deliberate persecution and killings perpetuated by some dictatorial governments against their own people, then we can see the importance of responsible political leadership for the well-being of their citizens. These are best exemplified by the low mortality rates of the highly-developed democratic states in the Scandinavian countries.

Technological advances in weather prediction and movement, more and better equipment in disaster relief and operations, safer modes of transportation, and improved treatment options of many diseases have much improved or reduced the mortality rates in these areas. But the improved technologies in armaments and war machines have also increased the potential for more casualties and mortalities.

Weapons of mass destruction like nuclear bombs, biological warfare, and even conventional firearms have increased the potential for a geometric increase in mortality rates, if ever these weapons are unleashed in a war or a world war. It could be because of this potential destruction and mortality, pure luck, or God’s will that major wars have been occurring less frequently in the last 70 years. Hopefully it will stay this way for the next hundred years.

From 1950 to 2019, the world mortality rate has fallen from 19.1 persons/thousand/year to 7.579 persons/thousand/year, excluding the war casualties particularly the Vietnam War. It has been in a general downtrend except in 2016, 2017, and 2018. The same downtrend was experienced in the Philippines which came from 14.184 persons/thousand/year to 5.968 persons/thousands/year but also went up from 2016 to 2019.

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