Biggest Killers Of The 20th Century

Via Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish, here’s a fascinating Information Is Beautiful graphic accounting of how humans died over the course of the most recent century (click on image to go big):


A couple of things jump out at me. First is the prominence of disease (which took out just over 4 billion of us). Second is that infectious disease mortality (1.7 billion) vastly outweighs cancer mortality (.53 billion), which you wouldn’t know based on how we allocate research dollars. Third is that cardiovascular disease, which is really to say lifestyle (meat eaters and smokers, listen up!) killed more than 1.2 billion people.

I am also impressed that we–humanity–managed to take out about a billion or our own species (and you can only imagine the opportunity cost of all the resources we devoted to doing that). And, finally, that the natural world we love to fear (and make reality television series about), was almost benign in contrast, killing just .136 billion of us.

This is a very illuminating way of looking at what really kills us. I would love to see a similar graphic for non-human deaths over he course of the 20th century. Mortality due to humans would no doubt practically blot out the rest of the factors.

The War On War

Fiery, impassioned, words from former New York Times reporter Chris Hedges: railing against the inhumanity, the immorality, the futility, the waste of human on human violence. And the costs to those who experience it.

They come from a speech he gave in New York on Sunday, denouncing the 11th anniversary of the war in Afghanistan. The event, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, was led by Veterans for Peace.

I am not a pacifist in all instances. But I do see extreme tragedy in the fact that human culture and politics have yet to develop the wisdom and institutions needed to remove violence from the equation of human interaction. Imagine what could have been achieved if all the energy and resources devoted to war, that are still devoted to war, had been invested in education, human development, science and stewardship of the planet. It’s stunning.

Read Hedges’ full speech, but here is the conclusion:

Towering about us are banks and other financial institutions that profit from war. War, for some, is a business. And across this country lies a labyrinth of military industries that produce nothing but instruments of death. And some of us once served these forces. It is death we defy, not our own death, but the vast enterprise of death. The dark, primeval lusts for power and personal wealth, the hypermasculine language of war and patriotism, are used to justify the slaughter of the weak and the innocent and mock justice. … And we will not use these words of war.

We cannot flee from evil. Some of us have tried through drink and drugs and self-destructiveness. Evil is always with us. It is because we know evil, our own evil, that we do not let go, do not surrender. It is because we know evil that we resist. It is because we know violence that we are nonviolent. And we know that it is not about us; war taught us that. It is about the other, lying by the side of the road. It is about reaching down in defiance of creeds and oaths, in defiance of religion and nationality, and lifting our enemy up. All acts of healing and love—and the defiance of war is an affirmation of love—allow us to shout out to the vast powers of the universe that, however broken we are, we are not yet helpless, however much we despair we are not yet without hope, however weak we may feel, we will always, always, always resist. And it is in this act of resistance that we find our salvation.

Defy war. Resist violence. Seek peace and salvation. Change everything.

%d bloggers like this: