The Times has a chat on the timeline of human brutality. Encouragingly, the overall picture appears to be that (compared to past periods) less people – as a percentage of the total – die from violence. Here is the Times on the top three most deadly human conflicts:
The savagery of the Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan may have culled the global population by about 11 percent; two bloody upheavals in China — the An Lushan Rebellion and the collapse of the Xin Dynasty — each may have felled about 6 percent of humanity. Those are but 3 of the 100 worst atrocities in history, as cataloged by Matthew White in “The Great Big Book of Horrible Things,” an amusing (really) account of the murderous ways of despots, slave traders, blundering royals, gladiators and assorted hordes.
They do not drive SUVs. Some have never even seen a light bulb. But according to research one of the most effective ways of preventing climate change is to ensure that poor women in the developing world do not have a lot of children.
Because of their advertised positive impact, I used to be a proponent of population control family planning programs in the developing world. And then I saw the data and changed my mind. Reducing the number of people being born in the developing world will not reduce the effects of climate change. What needs to happen is a change in consumption habits in the West and among the upper classes in the developing world. The poor too need to stop cutting down trees for charcoal. But we should not push them into having less children and make it a climate change issue. They are not responsible. Those responsible should change their consumption habits and perhaps invest in providing alternatives to charcoal for the poor.