So is our quality of life getting better or worse? Such a complex question may be largely a matter of one’s point of view, but in any case there are almost certain to be two primary lines of thought. First are the benefits reaped from improved technology and second are the reduced options resulting from decreased resources and increased demand – things like space, air quality, water, and forest depletion. Technological developments expand our range of communications, improve medical knowledge and procedures, lead to greater understanding of our planet and universe, and provide us with material products benefitting every aspect of our lives. A downside of this is that we invariably spend less time interacting directly with one another and our families although this issue can probably be worked out in the coming decades.
Reduced options resulting from decreased resources may take place over a lifetime or over many lifetimes and may not be readily apparent (similar to the experiment where a frog is subjugated to incrementally rising water temperature and it slowly dies without realizing what is happening to it). A blatant example of notable depletion is the American Plains Indians’ horrific loss of space and buffalo. As the country expanded westward the tribes were strangled for space and the buffalo herds nearly exterminated in order to starve the remaining tribes into accepting submissive lives on reservations. The buffalo herds decreased from an estimated 40 million to near the brink of extinction.
Decreased quality is ubiquitous: the flavor of fruit bought at super markets almost certainly lacks the flavor remembered from decades ago, the water pressure in showers has been reduced to enable more people to partake of limited water supplies, wood burning fireplaces are now outlawed in most municipalities due to atmospheric deterioration, the cost of good quality lumber like redwood or Douglas fir is so expensive that few can afford them. Buying usable land and/or building one’s own home are no longer realistic options for most people.
Not only is there a continuous depletion of material resources, but as population grows and we are forced closer together more and more regulations and restrictions are mandated by government. The depletion of the most valuable resource of all is the freedom to decide and orchestrate one’s own life style. Reducing quality of life, even incrementally, in order to support greater quantities of humanity surely is not a brilliant strategy for our future.