Give thanks that we no longer live on the precipice

Fossil fuels helped humanity improve our health, living standards and longevity in just 200 years

Paul Driessen

Thanksgiving is a good time to express our sincere gratitude that we no longer “enjoy” the “simpler life of yesteryear.” As my grandmother said, “The only good thing about the good old days is that they’re gone.”

For countless millennia, mankind lived on a precipice, in hunter-gatherer, subsistence farmer and primitive urban industrial societies powered by human and animal muscle, wood, charcoal, animal dung, water wheels and windmills. Despite backbreaking dawn-to-dusk labor, wretched poverty was the norm; starvation was a drought, war or long winter away; rampant diseases and infections were addressed by herbs, primitive medicine and superstition. Life was “eco-friendly,” but life spans averaged 35 to 40 years.

Then, suddenly, a great miracle happened! Beginning around 1800, health, prosperity and life expectancy began to climb … slowly but inexorably at first, then more rapidly and dramatically. Today, the average American lives longer, healthier and better than even royalty did a mere century ago.

How did this happen? What was suddenly present that had been absent before, to cause this incredible transformation?

Humanity already possessed the basic scientific method (1250), printing press (1450), corporation (1600) and early steam engine (1770). So what inventions, discoveries and practices arrived after 1800, to propel us forward over this short time span?

Ideals of liberty and equality took root, says economics historian Deidre McCloskey. Liberated people are more ingenious, free to pursue happiness, and ideas; free to try, fail and try again; free to pursue their self-interests and thereby, intentionally or not, to better mankind – just as Adam Smith described.

Equality (of social dignity and before the law) emboldened otherwise ordinary people to invest, invent and take risks. Once accidents of parentage, titles, inherited wealth or formal education no longer controlled destinies, humanity increasingly benefitted from the innate inspiration, perspiration and perseverance of inventors like American Charles Newbold, who patented the first iron plow in 1807.

Ideas suddenly start having sex, say McCloskey and United Kingdom parliamentarian and science writer Matt Ridley. Free enterprise capitalism and entrepreneurship took off, as did commercial and international banking, risk management and stock markets.

Legal and regulatory systems expanded to express societal expectations, coordinate growth and activities, and punish bad actors. Instead of growing, making and buying locally, we did so internationally – enabling families, communities and countries to specialize, and buy affordable products from afar.

The scientific method began to flourish, unleashing wondrous advances at an increasingly frenzied pace. Not just inventions like steam-powered refrigeration (1834) but, often amid heated debate, discoveries like the germ theory of disease that finally bested the miasma theory around 1870.

All this and more were literally fueled by another absolutely vital, fundamental advance that is too often overlooked or only grudging recognized: abundant, reliable, affordable energy – the vast majority of it fossil fuels. Coal and coal gas, then also oil, then natural gas as well, replaced primitive fuels with densely packed energy that could power engines, trains, farms, factories, laboratories, schools, hospitals, offices, homes, road building and more, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.

The fuels also ended our unsustainable reliance on whale oil, saving those magnificent creatures from extinction. Eventually, they powered equipment that removes harmful pollutants from our air and water.

Today, coal, oil and natural gas still provide 80% of America’s and the world’s energy for heat, lights, manufacturing, transportation, communication, refrigeration, entertainment and every other aspect of modern life. Equally important, they supported and still support the infrastructure and vibrant societies, economies and institutions that enable the human mind (what economist Julian Simon called our Ultimate Resource) to create seemingly endless new ideas and technologies.

Electricity plays an increasingly prominent and indispensable role in modern life. Indeed, it is impossible to imagine life without this infinitely adaptable energy form. By 1925, half of all U.S. homes had electricity; a half century later, all did – from coal, hydroelectric, natural gas or nuclear plants.

Medical discoveries and practices followed a similar trajectory, as millions of “invisible hands” worked together across buildings, cities, countries and continents – without most of them ever even knowing the others existed. They shared and combined ideas and technologies, generating new products and practices that improved and saved billions of lives.

Medical research discovered why people died from minor wounds, and what really caused malaria (1898), smallpox and cholera. Antibiotics (the most vital advance in centuries), vaccinations and new drugs began to combat disease and infection. X-rays, anesthesia, improved surgical techniques, sanitation and pain killers (beginning with Bayer Aspirin in 1899) permitted life-saving operations. Indoor plumbing, electric stoves (1896) and refrigerators (1913), trash removal, and countless other advances also helped raise average American life expectancy from 46 in 1900 to 76 (men) and 81 (women) in 2017.

Washing visible hands with soap (1850) further reduced infections and disease. Wearing shoes in southern U.S. states (1910) all but eliminated waterborne hookworm, while the growing use of window screens (1887) kept hosts of disease-carrying insects out of homes. Petrochemicals increasingly provided countless pharmaceuticals, plastics and other products that enhance and safeguard lives.

Safe water and wastewater treatment – also made possible by fossil fuels, electricity and the infrastructure they support – supported still healthier societies that created still more prosperity, by eliminating the bacteria, parasites and other waterborne pathogens that made people too sick to work and killed millions, especially children. They all but eradicated cholera, one of history’s greatest killers.

Insecticides and other chemicals control disease-carrying and crop-destroying insects and pathogens. Ammonia-based fertilizers arrived in 1910; tractors and combines became common in the 1920s. Today, modern mechanized agriculture, fertilizers, hybrid and biotech seeds, drip irrigation and other advances combine to produce bumper crops that feed billions, using less land, water and insecticides.

The internal combustion engine (Carl Benz, 1886) gradually replaced horses for farming and transportation, rid cities of equine pollution (feces, urine and corpses), and enabled forage cropland to become forests. Today we can travel states, nations and the world in mere hours, instead of weeks – and ship food, clothing and other products to the globe’s farthest corners. Catalytic converters and other technologies mean today’s cars emit less than 2% of the pollutants that came out of tailpipes in 1970.

Power equipment erects better and stronger houses and other buildings that keep out winter cold and summer heat, better survive hurricanes and earthquakes, and connect occupants with entertainment and information centers from all over the planet. Radios, telephones, televisions and text messages warn of impending dangers, while fire trucks and ambulances rush accident and disaster victims to hospitals.

Today, modern drilling and mining techniques and technologies find, extract and process the incredible variety of fuels, metals and other raw materials required to manufacture and operate factories and equipment, to produce the energy and materials we need to grow or make everything we eat, wear or use.

Modern communication technologies combine cable and wireless connections, computers, cell phones, televisions, radio, internet and other devices to connect people and businesses, operate cars and equipment, and make once time-consuming operations happen in nanoseconds. In the invention and discovery arena, Cosmopolitan magazine might call it best idea-sex ever.

So, this holiday season, give thanks for all these blessings – while praying and doing everything you can to help bring the same blessings to billions of people worldwide who still do not enjoy them.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and author of books and articles on energy, climate change, economic development and human rights.


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John F. Hultquist
November 25, 2018 3:26 pm

Thanks. Nice essay.

An example from the ICU that helped save my wife:

An IABP: intra-aortic balloon pump

steve case
November 25, 2018 3:26 pm

Great essay – thanks for posting. Yes, at our Thanks Giving dinner we often go around the table to say why we are thankful, and I shorten all of what Paul has said to: “We live in a wonderful world and wonderful country allowing ordinary people to enjoy life like never before.”

November 25, 2018 3:33 pm

A while back, CBC Ideas featured Christopher Hedges talking about the downfall of America. link It sounded like he was making a few interesting points so I kept listening. The interviewer asked him, ‘What about Steven Pinker?’ Pinker points out that things are getting remarkably better and points to data that proves his point. link

Hedges was absolutely caustic: ‘Pinker has to get out more, blah blah blah, climate change.’ He didn’t go to the trouble of actually refuting any of Pinker’s points. It was good that he did that. It meant I could quit listening and take Princess Fenrir the 1023rd out for her walk.

Duncan Smith
November 25, 2018 3:46 pm

I will start off saying thanks to our USA brethren, of all colors (non-Canadian spelling out of respect) and Stripes. My work email load was greatly reduced while you enjoyed your well deserved time off. For this, I thank-you. Now get back to work.

Getting back to the article, Paul while being 100% correct is missing the point of the leftist fantasy. They can’t have their cake and eat it too. His simple logic is way over their heads, impossible to argue. Logic has become obtuse.

Reg Nelson
November 25, 2018 3:54 pm

We live in extraordinary times — times of peace and prosperity. Our parents, grandparents and great grand parents survived Two World Wars and the Great Depression. They brought an end to segregation and discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation.

We should be celebrating this as a Golden Age — which by historical measures it certainly is. But instead we are indoctrinated by thoughts of fear, blame, guilt, hatred and envy.

old engineer
Reply to  Reg Nelson
November 26, 2018 10:02 am

“We should be celebrating this as a Golden Age”

You are so right. My parents, who experienced WW1 as children, and the Great Depression and WW2 as adults, never stop impressing on me that the last half of the 20th century was a golden age. They had lived through adversity and knew good times when they saw them.

Why those under about 45 are so negative about our current times is a mystery to me. Is it because they have not had any real adversity?

A few have. Those who fought in our wars in the last half of the 20th century, and continue to fight in the war against terrorism, do know adversity. But they are a small group of the whole population. And there are those in the U.S. who do struggle to put food on the table. But they also are a minority.

The CAGW alarmist would have us repudiate our prosperity in order to save the world from a non-existent threat. And they seem to be winning.

November 25, 2018 3:57 pm

I will never understand why the green blob want to ram our civilization back to the 1650’s.

Reply to  Hivemind
November 25, 2018 5:55 pm

Actually, most would like to return it to the “golden innocence” of 1491. When the Moors still enslaved Spain, and threatened Austria, Italy, and the Baltic coast. And the native Americans were living in their glorious Stone Age isolation with only dogs, women, and slaves for power.

Reply to  RACookPE1978
November 26, 2018 7:25 am

A lot of them want to return us to the hunter gather stage.

Rod Evans
Reply to  MarkW
November 27, 2018 12:36 am

Mark, Unfortunately it is even worse than that. The Greens via their stop all energy use want to reduce the number of us on the planet back to about 1 billion.
They have realised it is the availability of reliable power that is driving population and resource consumption.
The Greens are actively promoting and developing an unsustainable society, with the specific objective of reducing how many of us can survive.
NB The media here in the UK are actually saying (BBC news 26.11.18 )the temperatures will rise 5 deg C by 2070!!

Alan the Brit
Reply to  Hivemind
November 26, 2018 2:21 am

They don’t, they just want everyone else to do so, they want lots of bad things to happen to the peasants, but not the ruling elites!!!!

November 25, 2018 4:01 pm

As I am almost 92 and still have a brain that works and a good memory, I can recall what life was like from the 1930 tees. Now while a child I accepted things back then as “Normal”{it was considered normal to not to own a a car, if at all, but not before one was about 40. We had bycycles and that kept us physically healthy and while a dull life by todays standards, first radio receiver at 12 years, a family set. we were happy. The war was a interesting time as a child, 12 to 18,, Twickenham, so saw the Battle of Britain, and we were fortunite not to lose a single member of the extended family.

But the contrast to todays world from 1939 when I built a chrystal set to today being myself a amateur radio operator VK5ELL, is amazing.

It has been a good time to have lived, despite all of the nasties which have occurred world wide, over its been a very enjoyable lifetime.


Reply to  Michael
November 25, 2018 8:01 pm

May you live another 12 years in good health Michael, and live to see 2030 is not the end of the world.

November 25, 2018 4:07 pm

As I am almost 92 and still have a brain that works and a good memory, I can recall what life was like from the 1930 tees. Now while a child I accepted things back then as “Normal , such as not to own a a car, if at all, but not before one was about 40. We had bicycles and that kept us physically healthy and while a dull life by todays standards, first radio receiver at 12 years, a family set, we were happy. The war was a interesting time as a child, 12 to 18,, Twickenham, so saw the Battle of Britain, and we were fortunite not to lose a single member of the extended family.

But the contrast to todays world from 1939 when I built a chrystal set to today being myself a amateur radio operator VK5ELL, is amazing.

It has been a good time to have lived, despite all of the nasties which have occurred world wide, overall its been a very enjoyable lifetime.


Reply to  Michael
November 25, 2018 8:16 pm

Thank you for your optimistic message Michael.

God bless, Allan

John Robertson
November 25, 2018 4:09 pm

Simply put we live in a time of great wealth and luxury,for those of us lucky enough to be in the right countries.
It is due to this wealth and luxury that our modern “environmentalist” can persist in their delusions.
If they succeed in their quest to render modern society “sustainable”,they will face a much meaner society than they enjoy today.
Useless eaters are the first to suffer when society contracts.

Duncan Smith
Reply to  John Robertson
November 25, 2018 4:47 pm

Agreed, I would take it one step further, fossil fuels have been an environmental revolution for the better. Examples, no longer do we need to kill whales for oil (lubrication & light), don’t need to cut tree’s for heat, much smaller area’s are needed to farm land efficiently and with synthetics we no longer need to kill for Fur to stay warm. Also unloading persons from menial work, more leisure time as is was, allows humans to contemplate our impact on nature…and then finally do something about it (with all that free time).
Remove all that and you would have an eco-green holocaust. They (the greens) should be thanking human ingenuity & fossil fuels for saving the environment, not the inverse. Could this all have be done on wind power alone, NO!

Al Miller
Reply to  John Robertson
November 25, 2018 9:08 pm

Well said John.: it needs to be emphasized that it is the very wealth that fossil fuels have blessed us with that gives these people the time, energy and ability to Survive nicely without backbreaking labour, early death from numerous diseases, fear of being killed by others (war) or being eaten by wild beasts. To be blessed with this gift of time and to spend it crying doom and gloom for all (except of couture few high priests of AGW) is the crime here. A

Another Ian
November 25, 2018 4:20 pm

“As my grandmother said, “The only good thing about the good old days is that they’re gone.” ”

My mother’s version was “I don’t remember much good about the good old days”

Len Jay
November 25, 2018 4:44 pm

Mr Driessen,

Would you please send a copy of your excellent essay to signorina Alexandra Octavio Cortez and her devoted followers for a wake up call.

Reply to  Len Jay
November 26, 2018 12:24 pm

Len Jay,
I caution – be circumspect.
It is possible that the recipient may consider it a hate-crime, wishing to be i prisoned in her leftish fantasy echo-chamber for ever (or for her term in Congress).


Reply to  Auto
November 26, 2018 12:26 pm

imprisioned. Of course.
Never trust autocorrect.

November 25, 2018 4:45 pm

The rapid onset of societal modernization and improvement has got to be taught in our schools with full attribution to ALL the drivers of change. Capitalism. The PROFIT MOTIVE. Energy. Industrialization. Americans have no “needs”. Even the poorest American has the basics necessary for survival.

My personal medical miracle is a hip replacement. Surgery at 9:30a on Monday, walking the hospital hallways at 1:30p, and discharged by 2:30p on Tuesday. Going from barely being able to walk (with extreme pain) … to strong pain free mobility. And never feeling any pain from the surgery. The anterior (high tech) surgical procedure. Strapped onto a high tech, computerized operating table, with laser alignment of my hips to ensure a natural gait. High tech ceramic, plastic, and titanium materials … and a surgeon who has performed more than 10,000 of these surgeries prior to mine. Just think about that – 10,000 specialized surgeries. Our freedom (provided by a safe, abundant, healthy society) has allowed extreme specialization. Wherein my surgeon can do virtually nothing but knee and hip replacements. I am the grateful beneficiary of this man’s 10,000 hour rule … EXTREME expertise and perfection.

What a blessed society we live in.

R.S. Brown
November 25, 2018 4:50 pm

Those were the days, my friend…

November 25, 2018 4:50 pm

Wonderful read, linked it around quick. It was my grandfather who explained that the good old days weren’t all that good.

01 Cat
November 25, 2018 4:55 pm

Very true: I often think, the Greens are the best argument there is for developing the means to travel to Mars and establish a human colony there; they are always banging on about how wonderful “wilderness” is, well, they would find plenty of that on Mars, so we could send all of them there, and thus allow the rest of us to enjoy the beautiful earth-and the rich resources she gives us-in peace!

Rainer Bensch
Reply to  01 Cat
November 26, 2018 7:16 am

We can rename it to ‘New Australia”.

November 25, 2018 5:10 pm

Paul Driessen, thank you for this well-timed post.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Patrick MJD
November 25, 2018 5:14 pm

This is the reason why many people have enough time, rest, health, food and resources to “feel” they need something to worry about.

Jeff L
November 25, 2018 5:19 pm

What do you think greens are grateful for? Anything at all?
It has been my experience that a common trait of greens is a lack of gratefulness. Always seeing the negative, never seeing the positive. Never being grateful for their many blessings and those who make those blessings possible. A sad way to go through life.
I’m grateful to everyone who has made modern life the best in human history & grateful for those who will make it even better going forward!

Tom Graney
November 25, 2018 5:27 pm

If you’re interested in this, you should read this book
Bourgeois Dignity – Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World by Deirdre McCloskey.

November 25, 2018 5:28 pm

I personally would like to go back to about 1955-1960 and live my life over. Nobody cared if you smoked or what you ate, your choice, leave eachother alone. Jobs pretty well everywhere. Cheap gas, big cars, and the muscle car era about to start. No, life wasn’t perfect back then, but today, too many agitators keep telling others how to live.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  Davis
November 25, 2018 6:30 pm

And the ’50s had the lowest homicide rates the country has seen. A lot can be said for those times.

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 25, 2018 6:58 pm

Clyde — Interesting.
About 1955 I got a BB-Gun, then a single shot 22, used my mother’s 20 gauge, and about 1960 I bought a 30-06 — about a year later, I turned 18. I bought a Browning semi-auto 12 gauge. This sequence was not unusual where I lived.
Recurve bows were common, until the Jennings Compound Bow. A friend and I were early adopters.
We all survived.

John M Ware
Reply to  Davis
November 25, 2018 7:36 pm

Lately I have been watching the Perry Mason shows starring Raymond Burr, Barbara Hale, Ray Collins, William Talman, and William Hopper, dating from the 1950s and 1960s. Shot in California (with rare individual scenes elsewhere), the episodes show characters entering unlocked cars from the passenger side and sliding quickly across to the driver’s side; if the car is a convertible, the top is usually down. Wealthy people, asked about their annual salary, usually reply in the $20,000 range, or lower. Phones, of course, required laborious dialing that enabled a sharp observer to tell what number was dialed. Prices, when quoted or shown, were notably cheap compared to now. Perhaps more significant: The shows were clean, concise, legally accurate, intricately plotted, and extremely well done. No curse words, very few blows struck (dead bodies were discovered on site, not made dead on camera). True, the fifties and sixties lacked many of today’s advances; but that time was sufficiently advanced to afford good livings for many people. I lived through that time. While I have no wish to go back, I do miss the gentler atmosphere that I remember (Was it real? I thought so).

Reply to  John M Ware
November 26, 2018 8:10 am

I just watched the first 100 episodes or so of PM. Great stuff. Now I’m onto Groucho Marx, You Bet Your Life, a wonderful window into the fifties, when you could smoke a cigar anywhere!

November 25, 2018 5:39 pm

rampant diseases and infections were addressed by herbs, primitive medicine and superstition.

Some herbs and their use in poultice wraps actually have solid medicinal value.

“The main ingredient of eucalyptus oil, cineole, may help speed the healing of acute sinusitis.
The main ingredient of eucalyptus oil, cineole, has been studied as a treatment for sinusitis. In a double-blind study of people with acute sinusitis that did not require treatment with antibiotics, those given cineole orally in the amount of 200 mg 3 times per day recovered significantly faster than those given a placebo. Eucalyptus oil is also often used in a steam inhalation to help clear nasal and sinus congestion. Eucalyptus oil is said to function in a fashion similar to menthol by acting on receptors in the nasal mucous membranes, leading to a reduction in the symptoms of nasal stuffiness. ”

But don’t forget bloodletting. Nothing quite like purposefully losing a pint blood when someone is already near shock to speed them on their way to the grave.

Clyde Spencer
November 25, 2018 6:40 pm

“…life spans averaged 35 to 40 years.”
One often sees variants of this claim. Most people think that it means it was unusual to see old people. The reality is, the “average” was based on the life expectancy of those babies who made it through their first year. Because the mortality of children was so high, it dragged down the average life expectancy. Also, childbirth was dangerous for women, and without effective birth control, women were frequently put at risk. Men of military age fought a style of war that meant large battles with large numbers of casualties and no effective medical treatment. This further suppressed the average longevity. However, those who made it through childhood and the early years of adulthood were often the toughest and could live to ripe old ages. The difference with today, is that there is a much larger percentage of those born who reach old age. And, we are suffering diseases such as cancer, that were not as common. So, there is good news and bad news.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 25, 2018 7:53 pm

Looking through my family history from 1550 to 1850 I was surprised how many of my forebears lived to be over 80. If you made it to 40 the chances were you were tough stuff.

One lady lost four children one after another each dying before the age of three. This supports your point that the average was misleading. Adults sometimes did quite well.

The miracles of today are too many to count. We should continue cleaning up the environment and make fewer things that wear out.

Reply to  Crispin in Waterloo
November 25, 2018 8:42 pm

Good comments as usual Crispin.

Most of my earlier family also lived into their 80’s or even 90’s. Lifespans were cut short by infant mortality, farm accidents and wars.

It still bothers me to think of the utter waste and cruelty of our wars – often fought for no adequate reason. I am not talking about the necessary wars WW1 or WW2, although the senior officer leadership in these wars was often less than competent. My uncle survived Dieppe in 1942, the only officer in his unit to do so. My great-uncle was killed in a large action in the last weeks of WW1.

I am thinking about Sherrifmuir in 1715, when we lost 90% of our adult men in one day, fighting to overthrow the German Kings of England, and Culloden in 1745 for a similar cause. Going back further to the Battle of Largs in 1263, we expelled the Vikings from Scotland – I suppose that was a just battle – but so many times we were effectively drafted to indulge some leader’s inflated ego.

Now we are engaged in another battle – with the Marxists, who want to cripple our energy systems through global warming alarmism, as a means of destroying our economy and taking control. This is as serious and as righteous as WW2, since we are again fighting the forces of darkness. Nobody should be deluded as to the intentions of the Marxists – if they win, we will become a brutal dictatorship, like so many other countries in the world today – think Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Cuba and North Korea, and many more…

Happy Thanksgiving to my American friends…

Best, Allan

November 26, 2018 7:30 am

There was nothing necessary about WWI. That goes double for the US.

November 26, 2018 10:48 am

Crispin and Allan:

I solidly agree!
I spent a lot of time this past summer researching family and building a family tree.
Even wives who managed to survive large broods of children easily lived into their seventies and longer. (Giving birth ended the life of many wives.)

There are many whose lives appear truncated when compared to their close relations who lived long. Only the devil is in the details; several were struck down by ‘yellow fever’, others were casualties during various wars.

Once children survived birth and early childhood dangers, many lived to ripe old age.

In delving family lineage, I came across many interesting ancestors. Tracking one Scotsman family line back to North Boston, I couldn’t find anything about how he arrived into the Colonies.
However, I did locate his Father who died, in France, from injuries sustained in the battle of Culloden.

A friend McDonald, sent me an article about Scottish slaves who were brought to America. They were enslaved after the battle of Culloden and used for hard labor with a number of prisoner slaves imported to the Colonies.
After seven years working in the American Colonies, most of those who survived, were freed.

Clyde Spencer
Reply to  ATheoK
November 26, 2018 11:59 am

You said, “Even wives who managed to survive large broods of children easily lived into their seventies and longer.”

A work by Harrison Brown (The Challenge of Man’s Future) has a graph in it that indicates that a woman living in North Africa in 200 AD who managed to live to age 70 could expect to live longer than a 70-year old woman living in the US in 2000 AD.

Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 26, 2018 6:02 am

You raise an interesting point. As with climate, don’t confuse advances in detection with increases in frequency.
Many diseases were undetectable prior to high tech detection methods and the widespread use of autopsies.
It is not at all clear that cancers, certain forms of diabetes, and other illnesses were less common in the past.

Bill Murphy
Reply to  Clyde Spencer
November 26, 2018 7:24 am

RE:Also, childbirth was dangerous for women, and without effective birth control, women were frequently put at risk. Men of military age fought a style of war that meant large battles with large numbers of casualties and no effective medical treatment.

Exactly. A prime example of all this is General George Pickett. He lost his first wife in childbirth and his second to complications from childbirth a few weeks after. Then he participated in the CSA attack at Gettysburg which still bears his name as “Pickett’s Charge.” That action alone accounted for over 7000 casualties in a war that killed over 600,000 mostly young men. About 2% of the US population of the time.
The largely spoiled and uninformed “snowflakes” today have no clue how short and brutal life was everywhere pre 20th century and still is in energy impoverished places today, or how brutal and short it could become if they get their way and destroy Western civilization. Sadly, even many academics seem to be clueless about what life was really like then and what the unintended consequences of their policy agendas will probably be in the future, if adapted.

November 25, 2018 6:44 pm

Capitalism, decentralized limited governemnts, and inalienable individual (not collective) rights to: life, liberty and property, were the true driving forces behind humanity’s astounding advances in living standards, science, technology and longevity.

Unfortunately, these driving forces which served us so well are under assault and are rapidly being replaced with failed Socialistic economies, gigantic centralized governments and absurd intersectionality philosophies.

It’ll be interesting to see if humanity can finally learn from history and avoid a social and economic collapse if the current trajectory is not reversed.

Reply to  SAMURAI
November 25, 2018 7:03 pm

Unfortunately, telling people that the reason why they don’t have everything they want is because someone else stole it from them, is an easy sell.

Reply to  MarkW
November 25, 2018 7:07 pm

Jew… White privilege, and, generally, diversity or color judgments (e.g. racism), have been the foundation of politically congruent ideologies with surprising frequency.

November 25, 2018 7:04 pm

Hydrocarbons have been good for human development, the viability of flora, and delectable in certain ecosystems.

Carbon-based human life is basically good, too.

J Mac
November 25, 2018 7:09 pm

Paul Driessen,
Thanks for this wonderful paean to modern civilization and the oil, gas, and coal that powers its unheralded success!

As a survivor of stage 4 throat cancer back in 2005 and a cardiac artery double bypass graft surgery in October of this year, I am a testament to and evangelist for clean, inexpensive, reliable, dispatchable 24/7/365 energy and all of the other products made possible by coal, oil, and natural gas resources.

Life is good and I am extremely grateful for our wonderful all-natural fuels!

Tom Abbott
Reply to  J Mac
November 26, 2018 6:15 am

“and a cardiac artery double bypass graft surgery in October of this year”

Last month! Well, it sounds like you are doing good. Take it easy for a few months and good luck to you.

Since we are talking about medical breakthroughs, I read a story in the Daily Mail about a year ago about the most prominent heart surgeion in the UK (don’t have his name at hand), and this Heart doctor had 12 patients whose hearts were so bad they all needed heart transplants, but the doctor had no hearts available to give them, so as a stop-gap measure, the doctor implanted Left Ventricle Assist Devices (LVAD heart pump) into the patients chests and the LVAD’s took over much of the work of pumping blood from the heart.

As a consequence of implanting these LDAV’s, the doctor noticed that the patiet’s hearts were repairing themselves and he gave them drugs that helped this repair process, and these drugs could only be used with the LDAD in place because the drugs would slow the heart to unacceptable limits withouth the heart pump.

Of the 12 patients that got this treatment, the first patient had his LVAD removed after six months and his heart had repaired itself to the point that it was equivalent to the heart of a healthy person of that age, and a transplant was not necessary.

The last patient had his LVAD removed after 18 months. All of the patient’s heart had rebuilt themselves to the point that they were able to resume their normal lives and none of them needed transplants.

The doctor is continuing his study of this procedure and has asked that other medical facilities join him. This seems like a very significant development to me. I may have to invest in LVAD’s. 🙂

A few months ago I tried to do a search for this article on the Daily Mail and could not find it again. I don’t know what the problem is.

I tell everyone I know about this new technique. I think a medical facility in Ohio is doing these implantations of LVAD’s although I don’t know that they are doing it as a means to rebuild hearts. I’ll find out more about this in the near future.

Richard of NZ
November 25, 2018 7:37 pm

The example “”The internal combustion engine (Carl Benz, 1886)”” is out of place. The important advance was the Otto 4 stroke cycle of 1876.

November 25, 2018 8:36 pm

A nice retort to the ‘doomer’ mentality, I’ll just post this little reflection of the high-minded ‘goodies’ who think they know better and can stand in judgement of humanity and advancement.

“Industrial Revolution – From Wikipedia

Opposition from Romanticism

During the Industrial Revolution an intellectual and artistic hostility towards the new industrialisation developed, associated with the Romantic movement. Romanticism revered the traditionalism of rural life and recoiled against the upheavals caused by industrialization, urbanization and the wretchedness of the working classes. Its major exponents in English included the artist and poet William Blake and poets William Wordsworth, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, John Keats, Lord Byron and Percy Bysshe Shelley. The movement stressed the importance of “nature” in art and language, in contrast to “monstrous” machines and factories; the “Dark satanic mills” of Blake’s poem “And did those feet in ancient time”. Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein reflected concerns that scientific progress might be two-edged. French Romanticism likewise was highly critical of industry.”

As seen from that paragraph, “The movement stressed the importance of “nature” in art and language, in contrast to “monstrous” machines and factories; the “Dark satanic mills” …”, that mentality has not changed, and nor has their excuses and doomer/alarmist psyche and prophecies.

So we probably should not be expecting different. Basically, ignore them and get on with it, laugh at them if you feel it will help, but they aren’t going to change much. That anti-advancement behavior and attitude is like a ‘standing-wave’ in the backwaters of human culture.

November 25, 2018 8:40 pm

One of the most important reasons for mankind’s rapid improvement since 1800 is coming out of the Little Ice Age and the crop failures, famines, and plagues that were initiated by the climate. History shows that mankind advances when it’s relatively warm, and declines when it gets cold. And if we think we’re so advanced to be out of danger, then consider what just a 10-year cold spell or medium sized meteorite impact would do. Do we store enough food to last even 10 years? I don’t think so. We could all end up hunter-gatherers again. Plan ahead.

Reply to  Karl Baumgarten
November 25, 2018 9:14 pm

I agree Karl.


In 2002, I predicted that natural global cooling would commence by 2020 to 2030, in an article published 1Sept2002 in the Calgary Herald. I am now leaning closer to 2020 for cooling to start, possibly even earlier. I hope to be wrong. Humanity and the environment suffer during cooling periods.

I suggest that it is long past time for society to prepare for the possibility of moderate global cooling. This would involve:
1. Strengthening of electrical grid systems, currently destabilized by costly, intermittent green energy schemes;
2. Reduce energy costs by all practical means.
3. Development of contingency plans for food production and storage, should early frosts impact harvests;
4. Develop contingency plans should vital services be disrupted by cold weather events – such as the failure of grid power systems, blocking of transportation corridors, etc.
5. Improve home insulation and home construction standards.

The current mania over (fictitious) catastrophic global warming has actually brewed the “perfect storm” – energy systems have been foolishly compromised and energy costs have been needlessly increased, to fight imaginary warming in a (probably) cooling world.

I suggest this is the prudent path for Western societies to follow. It has no downside, even if global cooling does not occur, and considerable upside if moderate cooling does commence.

Best, Allan

November 25, 2018 9:43 pm

Several things have made life better.
– Instant communication with someone half a world away. Back in the days of dial-up landlines, and before that, you were lucky to not have to be on a party line if you were out in the country. Party lines in rural areas were still in place in 1968.

– Better, certainly not perfect but better, weather forecasting. I’m still waiting for the possibly 12 inches of snow to show up, but it’s 33F here in northeastern Illinois and the humidity level is 91%, so if it’s anything, it’s a mix of snow and rain, or slop. I can live with slop. I know that in other areas, the temps dropped and the wind has been fierce, causing some trucking accidents and making it difficult to get around.

– Natural gas piped straight to my home for heat and cooking and hot water. Without central heating, it would be impossible to stay warm, even though my house is well-insulated. Without natural gas as a cheap, affordable fuel, I would have no heat, no way to cook food, and no hot water. Period.

– Low cost reliable electricity, produced by a natural gas-fired power plant. I keep getting offers for “clean, sustainable” electricity at 9.5 cents per kilowatt hour. My current cost is barely 6.45 cents per kilowatt hour. Why should I, or anyone else, pay ++50% more for an unreliable energy source, EVER?

But the ecohippies think all of this is dreadful and want to be in a more “natural” lifestyle. Can we please find them their own planet so that they leave the rest of us alone? If that is really so important to them, why have they NOT gone to living the way the Amish and Mennonites do? There’s never any answer to that, is there?

Ian Macdonald
November 25, 2018 10:35 pm

With the possible exception of solar panels, every solution to climate change the Greens have proposed is a revival of an old idea. Bicycles, trams, windmills, battery cars, biomass.. etc.

Thing is, if they studied their history properly they’d understand why those ideas were abandoned the first time round, and see that the reasons will likely still apply to an updated version of the same. The Romans stripped the countryside of wood to feed their hypocaust heating systems. Victorian horse carriage operators complained of the lawlessness and risktaking of cyclists weaving crazily through the traffic. Battery cars were popular in the days before the IC engine was a reliable product. Trams have fundamental issues, notably that a single breakdown blocks the line and brings the whole system to a halt. As for windmills, if they’d studied the work of early industrialists they’d know that they were a last resort, only to be used if steam or water power were not available because their output is too unreliable to base a business on.

November 25, 2018 11:13 pm

If the Greens were “Fair dincom” (For real) they would get together and buy a island. Now they could then build windmills, no buying the commercially made ones, thery needed fossell fuel.

Let them find water, dispose of their bodely wastes, and of course find their own food. They can find a lot in the sea or on the beaches. Land can be cultivated, we will give them some seeds, not of course the commercially produced ones.

So just how many would take up such a offer to “Prove” that their ideas of Sustainability living actually works.


Reply to  Michael
November 26, 2018 6:31 am

“So just how many would take up such a offer to “Prove” that their ideas of Sustainability living actually works.”

0.0000097% ?

Reply to  Marcus
November 26, 2018 10:57 am


November 26, 2018 1:40 am

Progress always amounts to less dependency on land and nature.
In this regard, solar panels and windfarms, on a national scale, are backwardness.

November 26, 2018 6:07 am

Great essay.
How to promote these important truths in a public square dominsted by fear mongers and apocalyptic claptrap?

November 26, 2018 11:20 am

“starvation was a drought, war or long winter away; rampant diseases and infections were addressed by herbs, primitive medicine and superstition. Life was “eco-friendly,” but life spans averaged 35 to 40 years.”

There is that cursed “average” again, skewing so-called life spans. Face it, if you are over 40 years old, that average life span never would have applied to you. Nor did it ever help the countless kids who died in their first year.

Given any number of disasters; e.g. crop failure, plague, war, etc. America is still dangerously close to starvation.

The scary part is how few people store any food. With many if not most of them ignorant about how to grow, harvest and put up food.

In the early part of the Twentieth Century, most families kept a garden and stored what excess food they grew.

In these nanny state days, all too many people believe that they are owed sustenance, medicine, housing and health care.
Many suburban dwellers live under covenants forbidding raising animals for food, and they frown on sufficiently large gardens, as gardens are not high on best landscaping plans.

D Cage
November 26, 2018 11:40 am

Speak for yourself. Here in the UK I feel we have returned to my childhood where we had to watch every penny spent on heating. For decades power failures were non existent but now we get admittedly short failures but they are back. I have had to cancel all social media contact as so many young people I know plug climate change I get utterly depressed at the success of brainwashing that has been achieved.
I see young people wearing badges saying ban fur use Faux fur simultaneously with ban plastic and not seeing anything wrong except the fact I ridiculed her and told her to throw away her phone as well as never using gas water of electricity as all are totally dependent on plastic. Worse still she informed me it was her teacher’s two pet hobby horses.
I just hoe this generation gets a brain before it destroys itself.

November 26, 2018 12:16 pm

here is a thought about thanksgiving, especially those living near the Mexican border…

November 26, 2018 2:16 pm

Regarding growing your own food in what used to be a generous backyard. Todays politicians are forcing us to live in smaller and smaller blocks, because of the cost of infracture spending.

In the 1930 tees here in Australia many survived by growing their own food, plus the use of a .22 rifle to shoot the rabbits, a pest here.

Also ironically exports of wool were used to keep the Japanese troops fighting in China warm. Plus the export of scrap iron to Japan brought in some cash, they did return the iron by bombing the port of Darwin.


Rod Evans
November 27, 2018 1:00 am

We don’t enjoy a specific day given over to thanksgiving here in the UK. That is in itself something of a surprise given our copy cat mindset/attitude these days, or possibly our mixed cultural societies.
We used to have Harvest Festival which was half way towards what the essay covered, but not as wide ranging, or as deep as we have just had the pleasure of reading about.
I have reached the stage in life where I am forever thankful I am able to mark these events.
Without our scientific advances, many of us would not be here and certainly would not have the time or the energy, (that word again) to do anything much beyond survive.

Johann Wundersamer
December 2, 2018 6:31 pm

By 1925, half of all U.S. homes had electricity; water from the tap and sanitary installations.

a half century later, all did.

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