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Monday, July 9, 2012

Reducing Suffering Worldwide

There is a great deal of suffering in the world.  There always has been, and many philosophers have noted it.  For humans, suffering may be due to famine, war, incarceration, disease, and many other causes, although those first four are probably the most important.  Over the past several hundred years, human suffering has been reduced considerably.  Famine, as always, is a regional phenomenon, but nowadays there are usually serious efforts to transport food to where it is needed.  There are not as many wars as there used to be.  Prisons are mostly less cruel than they used to be, although with many local exceptions.  And modern medicine and public health practices have reduced the prevalence of most diseases, as well as the suffering of those afflicted.  The pain of childbirth has also been greatly reduced by modern medical practice.  The same is true for injuries due to accidents.  Of course a large fraction of the world's population does not have access to modern medical practice, so there is still a lot of future progress possible.  In order for the world to continue the trend of reducing suffering, there must be enhanced food security globally, increased access to effective medical treatment, fewer & shorter wars, and fewer prisons with inhumane practices and conditions.  It's not clear that these things will happen.  One important impediment is continued growth of the human population, which reduces food security and motivates nations to go to war over dwindling resources.

The potential exists for the human race to reduce suffering for many species of animals as well.  I'm certainly not claiming it's likely any time soon, and may never happen.  I just want to point out that it's possible. Humans would have to first get their act together, stop having so many children worldwide, and get the human population down to a level that is sustainable, and with a good quality of life for all.  This is necessary because as the human population increases it is accompanied by a decrease in animal habitat.  This causes much suffering among the animal populations.  There are also many animals that are in the custodial care of humans.  These would be farm animals, laboratory animals, zoo animals, and pets.  There are already trends in place to reduce suffering of these animals; these trends would merely need to be continued.  When wild animals suffer it can be due to many different causes, and those vary from species to species. But a major cause of suffering for many of the large mammals is overpopulation. Most animals have high birth rates, and if conditions are right for a few years their populations can acheive levels such that the food supply is inadequate, leading to death by starvation for many.  Starving IS suffering.  Deer in many parts of North America illustrate this phenomenon.  Humans can reduce suffering of this type by population control efforts, either by hunting, or by birth control drugs administered either by bait or by dart.

In order for the processes described above to be implemented worldwide, it would probably require forcible intervention by some world body to change the governments and cultures of the many dysfunctional or nasty nations around the world.  (Syria, Zimbabwe, Somalia, North Korea, etc.)  I wrote about this possibility in an earlier article:

All of the above could be achieved by 2100 if that was what people, and their leaders, wanted.  Of course they don't actually want that, or rather it is very low on their list of priorities, so this is just a fantasy. A fantasy of the possible.


  1. This is so depressing because it is all correct.
    What a great, and dark ending paragraph. and ending sentence. haha


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