Cheer Up!

Cheer up. That is the message this week in case you feel pessimistic.

People and the media fling gloomy news at us. The market is tanking. The economy is fated for disaster. Pollution will engulf us. We are running out of _________ (Fill in the blank.).

Today, a few reminders of reality.

We have always been swamped by lousy news of one sort or another. Always. However, we have not always been blessed with the heartening news of the sort we have today.

For instance, never have the earth’s 6 billion residents “lived better, longer, more peaceful, and more prosperous lives.”  So writes Charles Kinny in the magazine Foreign Policy. Despite the global financial mess, humans today earn more than ever. You may feel this is not the case. If you lived in India or China, billions who have escaped the poverty and starvation their parents knew might argue the point with you.

Media spotlight disease, poverty and war. But the cold facts are that we have less of them than ever. And across the globe, levels of education and literacy keep rising. Higher percentages of babies and children survive. People live longer. And birth rates keep falling. (So stop fretting that the world will be burdened by too many people.)

As for the environment, we keep learning how to improve it. We keep developing technology to mend the harm we inflict.

Also on the technology front: Miracles. The Week magazine brings us news of such wonders as new hearts. Grown from ingredients we produce in our bodies.

That is what is just over the horizon. Right now scientists use cells to produce pig hearts, rat livers and mice teeth. At Wake Forest scientists grow human bladders. Think of that. There are more than two dozen people living today with human bladders grown in labs and implanted into them.

If you live another 20 years you will likely see medical scientists grow new ears and noses and other body parts. You will likely see paraplegics walk again when scientists re-grow damaged spinal cords. You may well see patients whose lungs are replaced with new ones, grown from their own cells.

Some species re-grow parts they lose. We do too. Think of skin and bones.

Our species probably re-grew more parts, once upon a time. As The Week put it, scientists may turn this miraculous power back on. By manipulating specific genes.

On the energy front, ExxonMobil has inked a $300 million deal with a synthetic genome company. It will create algae that produce liquid fuel. We may indeed see an era when we no longer need to drill or dig for our fuels. The company also expects to design bacteria that will be programmed to make biodegradable plastics.

We can always focus on the dreary stuff in this world. To paraphrase Christ: The dreary stuff – it will be always with us. However, we can choose instead to focus on the endless wondrous developments all around us.

The miracle is that some day they will be so common that people will not regard them as miracles. Imagine what miracles those folks, 20 years from now, will see coming down the pike.

From Tom … as in Morgan.

For more columns, for Tom’s radio shows and new TV show (and to write to Tom):

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