India has hideous problems, as does the rest of the world. But each year, even during the crash, the UN Human Development Index has hit new records. We are living in an era where the world’s problems are being outweighed by its breakthroughs.
As countries grow richer, they grow healthier. Life expectancy keeps setting new records, for both the rich and the poor world, as developments in medicine advance rapidly. Malaria deaths peaked in 2004 and even Aids deaths peaked five years ago. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading authority on the disease, said last month that there could be an “Aids-free generation” in the reasonable future. “We have no excuse, scientifically, to say we cannot do it,” he told an Aids conference in Washington. Such a statement would have been unimaginable just a decade ago. Aids remains the world’s most lethal contagious disease, responsible for almost two million deaths each year. But medicine is catching up with it. We can now dare to believe that Aids will go the way of smallpox.
A healthier world means a rising population. This, in turn, leads to neo-Malthusians worrying about how the planet won’t have enough resources for all of us – but history proves them wrong. The great British economist, William Stanley Jevons, warned in 1865 that the economy was on the brink of collapse because the coal would run out. Oil was used instead, and everything changed. In the last five years a new energy source, shale gas, has halved American electricity prices. The thousands of British wind turbines may be rendered redundant by shale deposits discovered in Lancashire, which could yet turn Blackpool into the Dallas of England.