Review : Factfulness; Ten Reasons We Are Wrong About the World and Why Things Are Better than You Think by Hans Rosling et al (2019) Assessment 3 out of 10

I didn’t much like the Book. Tellingly, I kept calling it “Forgetfulness”.

There were strengths:

The analysis of social economic & demographic transitions. Four Prosperity Levels are recognised Levels 1-4, the explanation of people moving up the Levels interesting.

 An impressive list of matters are improving, slavery, oil spills, HIV infection, battle death, smallpox, nuclear warheads, 1986 64,000 2018 15,000, (still enough to kill us all many times over).That fewer people live at Level 1 means those dying from natural disasters has fallen significantly. Emergency aid has further reduced deaths where disasters do occur in Level 1 populations

Extreme poverty has dropped from 85% of world population in 1800 when the world population was 1 billion to 9% now when it is approximately 7.7 billion. I extrapolated   850 m in absolute poverty then 700 million now.  How was “absolute poverty” defined? How to measure it say amongst hunter / gatherers?

 There were some interesting sections

 The evidence does not indicate development depends on democracy. S Korea apparently is the jurisdiction which moved fastest from Level 1 -3 Prosperity, achieved under military dictatorship

The recovery position was developed in WW2 & the Korean War to stop soldiers chocking on their vomit. It was applied incorrectly to babies, who turn naturally on their side if they vomit & may not tilt their heads to keep the airway open and so may be endangered by being put on their tummies 

In deepest poverty, do nothing perfectly; it will steal resources from where they are better used. Almost all improved child survival is achieved by local nurses, midwives & educated parents not by doctors or hospitals

The explanation for half built houses, seen in level 2 & 3 jurisdictions

I checked some of the statistics

 Falling crime. In the US, that those dying in mass shootings has significantly increased is ignored

Rosling states the Vietnamese fight against China lasted 2,000 years, its occupation by the French 200 years and the war against the US 20 years, which is why the greatest monuments in Saigon are to the fight against China. I checked. French military action in Vietnam began in 1847 and lasted until 1956, so 109 years   US intervention began with significant support for the French in 1954 and lasted until 1975, so closer to 30 years

 He writes “Who can say the world is getting worse? “ I do for one.

 Improvements cited in animal protection, national parks worldwide & climate awareness are selectively chosen statistics. Actually global warming is worsening & the deterioration of ecology accelerating

“Since 1950 urban populations have increased seven-fold, primary energy use has soared by a factor of five, while the amount of fertiliser used is now eight times higher. The amount of nitrogen entering the oceans has quadrupled.

All of these changes are shifting Earth into a “new state” that is becoming less hospitable to human life “These indicators have shot up since 1950 and there are no signs they are slowing down,” Prof Will Steffen of the Australian National University and the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

He plays down culture differences, placing great emphasis on contraceptive use by Moslems as an indicator of the unimportance of culture. This view would make much of the study of history uninteresting, but then I was unsure much of the Book was interesting.

His explanation of the demographic transition is not new. His blithe acceptance of a human population of 11billion (presently 7.7) appalling. Yes, population growth will tail off, but at an unacceptably high levels.  His advocacy of the reduction of extreme poverty resulting in reduced births is convincing but the argument it is justified on moral grounds alone & view that “we must save the planet …difficult for [him] to hear “   is not.

He was              

Egotistical “We are all wrong sometimes, even me.” “They sometimes call my lectures inspirational”

Repetitive, that people estimate statistics wrongly on boring repeat play

 The Book (I think) was meant to encourage wider reliance on statistics and diagrams. This is hardly original. Read the Graphic Details page in the Economist. It was also meant to prove things are rosier than we think. When analysis shows some of his stats are dodgy and his choice of environmental “facts” selective at best, I was unconvinced.  

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