Customer Review

9 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars With streams of purest water, 10 July 2010
This review is from: The Rational Optimist: How Prosperity Evolves (Hardcover)
The product description tells us that 'the availability of almost everything a person could want or need has been going erratically upwards for 10,000 years and has rapidly accelerated over the last 200 years' and that amongst the examples of these copious benefits is included 'clean water'.

So, 10,000 years ago, the earth was covered with polluted water and now, thanks to progress, everyone on the planet has an uninterrupted supply of as much clean water as they can drink. What an interesting book!
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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 19 Jul 2010 07:59:08 BDT
Bo back 150 years and you;ll find that people in UK died of cholera from polluted water. They rarely if ever do now. Polluted water comes (largely) as a consequence of urbanisation. Its taken a while to figure out how to avoid the worst effects...but the technology and understanding of how to do it is now commonplace. Go read about John Snow, Bazalgette and The Great Stink of London and learn some history, then feel free to make your insubstantial sixth form debating points.

And the chances of the reviewer surviving infancy to be able to read and write such a review even 200 years ago were much less than they are now.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Jul 2010 08:51:41 BDT
Howie Firth says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Jul 2010 09:09:19 BDT
I have no clear idea how clean the water was 10,000 years ago, and neither do you. But I'd take a fair guess that for the poor people of that time in the rudimentary cities getting clean water was no easier than it is today.

Personally I have grave doubts about the vision of pure innocent beings living happily with nature in a land flowing with milk, honey and clean fresh life giving water. Nor do I have any desire to return to those ways of living. Which seem to me (and to the archaeological evidence) to have been a perilous existence racked by disease, infant mortality, famine and other nasties

I do observe however, that the explosion of the human population from estimated 10 Million 10,000 years ago to in excess of 6,000,000,000 (a five hundred fold increase...or 50,000% if you will), seems to be in line with Man's ability to control some of the unpleasant things noted above.

Sure, believe in your rural idyll, your idealised primitive paradise, your Garden of Eden before the Fall of Man if you wish. They are nice fancies and fantasies. Comforting perhaps if you find today's real world too hard to deal with.

But fantasies exist only in the imagination. The world we have is the one we have to deal with, however much we'd like it to be otherwise.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Jul 2010 09:51:58 BDT
Juts to add that its usual practice to write a book review having read the actual book, not just the advertising.

Takes a wee bit longer, but much more convincing than an ad critique. You really should try it sometime.

In reply to an earlier post on 19 Jul 2010 10:11:15 BDT
Howie Firth says:
Surely you must know what water was like 10,000 years ago! You can take a walk in the Scottish Highlands and see clean lochs and mountain springs. Are you really suggesting that it could have been otherwise?

Do you suggest that where pollution is found in water today it is mainly due to nature? Or is it due to chemicals and a rapid growth in population which has led to lack of basic sanitation?

The situation with water globally is so severe that the World Health Organisation tells us that 1.1 billion people today have no access to clean drinking water. In what way is this an improvement on the water situation of 10,000 years ago?

By the way, if you think that the bulk of the world's population 10,000 years ago lived in 'rudimentary cities', you need to read some more of Amazon's books and find out about which parts of the world had by that time developed agriculture and settled conditions and which parts were mesolithic.

If you think about it, your argument is not a new one. You are saying that the natural conditions of humans are not good, and that over time humans would 'naturally' improve them. That is the argument made by Victorian colonialists - that they were invading and industrialising other parts of the world for the good of the people who lived there. This was the language of Thomas Hobbes in the 17th century and Thomas Huxley and Herbert Spencer in the Victorian era - and it was elegantly refuted in an excellent book, The Origins of Virtue, by a writer called Matt Ridley. I cannot understand how the same writer can be now going in the opposite direction and reviving the Victorian doctrine of Progress.

In reply to an earlier post on 22 Jul 2010 11:40:00 BDT
Howie Firth says:
Yes, that's a fair point, which I accept. I was so disappointed to see that the author of The Origins of Virtue had written something of such contrasting form that I wanted to sum it up in a single comment, but that really doesn't do justice to the argument on either side. I'll write a fuller review and will be interested in your comments.

Posted on 14 Aug 2010 17:41:23 BDT
tim says:
"..satisfies his hunger with roots and fruits, slakes his thirst in a mountain stream, sumisgetai te epitukausi, and returns to his former state of calm and contemplative repose". (Peacock, 'Headlong Hall"). Maybe.

It is clear that clean water was fairly readily available 10,000 years ago, if you happened to live in the right place. Since then pollution has increased in many areas: but in most modern cities it comes safely out of a tap (I can remember the days when you didn't drink the water in France). And the Thames (unlike 50 years ago) is clean enough to take salmon. Let's concede, for the sake of argument, that the availability of clean water may not exactly fit the general description. But it does say 'almost everything'. Do you have other examples, or is this the only one?

Posted on 14 Apr 2013 10:33:30 BDT
Is water "more readily available to the average person that 10,000 years ago"?

Yes. Some of us now get it from taps instead of having to carry it in pots on our heads.

In reply to an earlier post on 3 May 2013 18:59:49 BDT
Howie Firth says:
Some of 'us' indeed do. Around 800 million don't.

In reply to an earlier post on 1 Jul 2013 10:01:35 BDT
10,000 years ago, everyone drank from streams, lakes and ponds, which were hardly ever completely pollution free. They could be muddy, they could carry waste matter from other animals and people, and parasites along with that waste matter, and they could contain toxic minerals such as arsenic. They weren't always at a convenient location, either. Where a tribe camped might be quite some distance from where the water was. In a dry season or a drought, that distance could be particularly long. By today's standards, the average person of 10,000 years ago did not have ready access to clean water. Today, according to the UN, the average person does have access to clean water, and those who don't are an unfortunate minority.
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