Throughout history, humans have faced a myriad of large-scale problems such as unintended deaths, hunger, disasters, enemies, accidents, freak nature, and fires. They have sought solutions to problems, sometimes successfully and sometimes with unintended consequences. Some of the solutions are simple and effective while others are expensive and not necessarily effective. In problem-solving it has been found that a complex problem can be solved best by first breaking it down into smaller and manageable chunks. Many problems do have simple solutions to them, and it is only a matter of finding that solution. This has been demonstrated over the years by human inventions and innovations.
Human populations grew slowly and even decreased at times mainly because of epidemics, wars, and famine. Famine led to wars and was caused by poor agricultural productivity (BBC). The problem was eventually solved by the agrarian revolution, or more precisely, the invention of the nitrate chemical fertilizer, which is abundant (Levitt and Dubner 142). Human population has since grown tremendously (Overton, 2011). Another example is the American energy industry, which depended on whales for oil. 700 ships and 70000 workers hunted 7700 whales annually (Levitt and Dubner 135). The whale population was dwindling fast, but the discovery of petroleum saved the whale, employed many people, and produced far more energy than the whales ever did. In medicine, polio had afflicted all cadre of the American society right up to the presidency. The disease maimed and killed many, and the cost of care for a patient was 10 times the average family’s annual income. After much research, a simple and effective solution was found, a cheap vaccine given to young children (Levitt and Dubner 141). Heart ailments required a fortune to treat through delicate surgery, and the prognosis was still poor. Aspirin was found to be an effective yet affordable preventative treatment for high blood pressure and heart disease. Back in the 1950’s, like today, 40,000 Americans died on the roads. There were far fewer roads and cars then than today (NHTSA, 2016). The accident fatalities have been reduced by the introduction of seat belts which cost a paltry 25 dollars, and car seats which are more expensive. Seat belts have reduced fatalities by 60 percent while car seats have reduced child injuries by 54 percent (Levitt and Dubner 148).
Simple Solutions with Unwanted Consequences
Many human endeavors intended to aid humans had unintended collateral damage. For example, for centuries, doctors endangered the very lives they swore to protect. They transferred germs from cadavers to patients because they failed to observe hygienic standards. A discovery by one Dr. Semmelweis identified germs as the cause of maternal infection and death. The doctor’s prescription was even simpler, to wash hands thoroughly with a salt solution before entering the maternity ward (Levitt and Dubner 135). Mortality was reduced from 10 to just one and today doctors routinely sterilize their environments and instruments.
Solutions with More Harm than Good
Some solutions to human problems have caused more problems than anticipated. The chemical DDT was a simple and highly potent pest control measure, but it also devastated the environment, killing fish, pets, and birds and had to be discontinued (Edwards). Another example is the American Disability Act (ADA) which was intended to protect persons with disabilities from workplace discrimination, but instead scared many employers from hiring them in the first place for fear of retribution if they tried to discipline or fire the persons (Levitt and Dubner 139). The Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombs were deployed to end the war quickly, but the aftermath is felt to date, with thousands of civilians killed, and many more afflicted with cancers and deformities (Union of Concerned Scientists, n.d.). When garbage fees were changed from weight to volume based charges, ostensibly to encourage less waste like plastics, many people opted to burn the wastes in their backyard and stuff trash bags (Levitt and Dubner 160). The aerosol was invented to make life easier in hygiene, pest control, and cooking, but the aerosol has caused great harm to the ozone layer, leading to global warming and an increase in the spread of cancer. Nuclear power is highly efficient and cost-effective to produce. However when accidents occur, such as the one at Chernobyl and Fujiyama, the effects are catastrophic (Union of Concerned Scientists). In the wrong hands, the nuclear power is a threat to world security and peace. Current world politics are centered on Iran’s, North Korea’s, and Pakistan’s nuclear programs.
Some human challenges remain largely unresolved. Hurricanes on the East Coast of the nation are caused by ocean temperatures in the Atlantic (Levitt and Dubner 158). Some solutions proposed are that the water temperature should be controlled on the surface of the vast ocean. Humans have yet to get the ultimate speed machine that allows personal freedom and fewer accidents. A lightweight and affordable jet pack would be the ultimate flying machine, but such a machine is yet to be operational.
It is clear that
the best way to solve human problems is to seek simple remedies. Solutions may
cost much to develop, but their widespread use makes them cost-effective. Widespread
problems need to be worked on by many experts. Many solutions are found in
traditional yet unknown communities, for example, herbal medicines or the
ancient practice of boring through the skull to relieve tumors. Care needs to
be taken to avoid undesirable results, as suggested by some quarters to have
been the case with HIV/AIDS.
BBC. “British History In Depth: Agricultural Revolution In England 1500 – 1850”. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Edwards, J. Gordon. “DDT: A case study in scientific fraud.” Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons 9 (2004): 83-88.
Levitt, Steven D, and Stephen J Dubner. Superfreakonomics. [New York]: William Morrow, 2010. Print.
NHTSA. “Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) | National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA)”. N.p., 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
Union of Concerned Scientists. “A Brief History Of Nuclear Accidents Worldwide”. N.p., 2011. Web. 20 Feb. 2016.
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