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5 Signs the Environment Will Actually Help Us Live Longer

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Everything from the food we eat to the air we breathe is getting better. I recently shared my thoughts with Thrive about why the future of longevity looks so exciting, and why our environment will help us live longer and healthier than ever!

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 spewing significant pessimism and fear-mongering about the future—politically, environmentally, and everything in between. But 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 primed 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 longevity-friendly.

Longevity, for those less familiar, refers to the average lifespan of the population or the highest age attainable by one of its members. So in the simplest terms, a longevity revolution means we’ll all be living longer—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 spell out a quick sample of ways the environment, from the air we breathe to the food we eat, is actually getting more conducive to living longer, happier, healthy lives.

The world is getting greener—literally

China and India are the world’s most populous countries, each with over 1.3 billion people, and they’re leading the way in improving the environment thanks to intensive agriculture, tree-planting programs, and a turn towards renewable energy. Because of their size, any 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 recent NASA study based on satellite imagery found that Earth’s green leaf area has increased by five percent since the early 2000’s—an uptrend equivalent to adding green areas the size of all the 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, while China and India have both vastly ramped up their agriculture.

That’s not all, though. China is also set to become the world’s renewable energy superpower, while the International Energy Agency predicts that renewable energy will comprise 40 percent of global power generation by 2040. Renewable energy like wind, solar, and hydroelectric systems generate electricity with no associated air pollution. This is particularly relevant to the overlooked longevity revolution, as air and water pollution caused by coal and natural gas have been linked to breathing problems, neurological damage, heart attacks, cancer, premature death, and a host of other issues. A study from Harvard University 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 attributed to air pollution. No wonder the World Health Organization doesn’t mince any words, writing point blank that it’s “destroying our health.” Thus, a turn towards renewable energy means the renewal of human health in the process—a harbinger of greater longevity.

Humans will no longer be behind the wheel

It’s not rocket science that living longer can be achieved by preventing premature death, as the discussion about pollution already alluded to. That brings us to the second way the world is getting safer. Each year, close to 1.25 million people die in car crashes—nearly 3,300 people per day. In the United States alone, 40,000 people die from driving each year and 2 million are injured, while crashes are the leading cause of death among people aged 15 to 29. In 94 percent of fatal road crashes, human error is a major contributing factor. The solution is pretty simple: eliminate human error, eliminate most of these deaths.

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