If you’re tuned into the 24-hour news cycle, there’s a good chance you feel like the world is ending. Every day, we’re barraged by headlines full of pessimism and fear-mongering about the future—politically, environmentally, and everything else. While it’s good to be informed about the world and indisputable that humankind has challenges to hack and hurdles to overcome, it’s also true that the news simply isn’t geared for optimism. Thus, what I’m about to tell you won’t be heard on CNN or read in the Washington Post. The truth is that we are on the cusp of a Longevity Revolution and the environment is actually getting fundamentally safer and more favorable to longer and healthier lives.
Longevity refers to the average lifespan of individuals in a population. In the simplest terms, a longevity revolution means we’ll live longer. This is a reason for optimism if I’ve ever heard one. Let me guess: you’re skeptical. I’m not surprised. That’s why I’m going to outline a number of ways in which the environment, from the air we breathe to the food we eat, is actually getting more conducive to living a longer, happier, healthier life.
The world is getting greener—literally
China and India are the world’s most populous countries, each with over 1.3 billion people. They’re leading the way in protecting and improving the environment, thanks to intensive agriculture, tree-planting programs, and mass adoption of renewable energy (such as solar and wind). Because of their size, initiatives undertaken by China and India have an outsized impact on our longevity—great news for Planet Earth and its human inhabitants. Don’t take it from me, though. Take it from NASA. A NASA study from 2019 based on satellite imagery found that Earth’s green leaf area has increased by five percent since the early 2000s—an increase equivalent to the size of the whole Amazon rainforests! A third of that increase is attributable to the two countries being discussed here. More specifically, China has undertaken an ambitious tree-planting program.
That’s not all. China is set to become the world's renewable energy superpower.
The International Energy Agency predicts renewable energy will account for 40 percent of global power generation by 2040. Wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems generate electricity with no associated air pollution. This is particularly relevant to the quest for longevity, as air and water pollution caused by burning coal and natural gas have been linked to respiratory and heart problems, neurological damage, cancer, premature death, and a host of other health issues. A Harvard University study estimates the life cycle and public health costs of coal to be $74.6 billion every year. Meanwhile, one-third of deaths from stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease can be traced to air pollution. Thus, a turn towards renewable energy means better human health in the process—a harbinger of greater longevity.
Humans will no longer be behind the wheel
It’s not rocket science that average longevity can be extended by preventing premature death, as the discussion of pollution already showed. That brings us to the second way in which the world is getting safer. Each year, nearly 1.25 million people die in car crashes—almost 3,300 people per day. In the United States alone, 40,000 people die in car accidents each year and 2 million are injured; crashes are the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29. In 94 percent of fatal road accidents, human error is a major contributing factor. The solution is pretty simple: by eliminating human error, you can eliminate most of these deaths.
That’s where self-driving cars come in. Also known as driverless or autonomous vehicles, self-driving cars use sensors and software to control, navigate, and drive a vehicle—removing human fallibility from the equation and the road. Already, tech giants like Google, and Uber, and major automakers including Tesla and General Motors are racing to develop fully autonomous vehicles that will make the driving environment safer for everyone.
Food, the best medicine, is getting even better
Most nutritional scientists agree that restricting calories can promote longevity—some say by improving sleep, while others attribute this to decreasing amounts of free radicals in our systems. It’s hardly a secret that a carefully designed diet can often be the best medicine. To that end, the rise of plant-based foods improves the environment while also helping more people to consume healing, functional substances as opposed to harmful ones. The arrival of foods that mimic the taste and texture of real meat, eggs, and fish will allow more people to embrace this lifestyle without having to sacrifice traditions or the dishes they love.
A prime example of this trend is the company Beyond Meat, which makes plant-based meat substitute products. Before its initial public offering on the Nasdaq stock market, in May 2019, the company was valued at $1.5 billion. In less than a month, Beyond Meat’s market value soared to more than $10 billion—ten times the market capitalization of the popular fast-food chain Shake Shack—as investors clamored to get in on what is clearly the future of food. Regardless of what happens with Beyond Meat’s stock price, optimism about the company’s future is indicative of the larger trend of plant-based consumption—a revolutionary shift that will make us all healthier.
So far, we’ve looked at three examples of how the environment is becoming safer and more conducive to longevity. Add in areas like technology and economics, and confidence in the coming Longevity Revolution should be a no-brainer, constant barrage of depressing news about the world.