Thursday, October 25, 2007

Science Journals Set to Tackle Poverty and Human Development (Update)

Just a brief update to my previous post on how science journals are tackling global poverty. There is an excellent editorial in the latest issue of Nature entitled "The War on Want". Here is a sample:

That concept of time is vital to understanding poverty. In 1915, the United States resembled India today on several poverty indicators, from child mortality to life expectancy, and Mexico has now achieved standards of human development equivalent on some scores to Sweden in the 1950s. Many of the countries labelled as 'Third World' are in fact well along the same trajectory to prosperity as today's wealthy nations. Yet growing prosperity means that new technologies are needed even more urgently, because as more countries escape the shackles of poverty, demand for energy, water and other resources will exacerbate the problems, such as climate change, that face our planet.

It is essential that the myths about poverty are debunked for policy-makers. Few scientists have done more in this regard than Hans Rosling, a global-health researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Extracting and collating vast amounts of data on poverty, he has created stunning visualizations that vividly dispel many preconceived ideas about poverty. He also highlights the importance of factors such as good governance and institutional capacity building, showing, for instance, that although economic growth is the motor of escape from poverty, that escape is achieved faster when public health is improved.

I recently came across the Ted Talks videos with Hans Rosling (see here and here) and they are very informative and helpful. Anyone interested in global poverty will want to watch his talks. Placing things in a "big picture" perspective like Rosling does (rather than looking at things frozen in the "snapshot" of the present) really helps one comprehend the magnitude of the challenges humanity faces. And the link between improving public health and fighting poverty is very important.

This link is the subject of a short piece that I have forthcoming in the next issue of Journal of Evolution and Technology. And that paper will help explain why I think the aspiration to retard human aging is a requirement of justice. So I will post and link to that piece, entitled "3 Wishes", when it comes out next month.