Every morning when I would shuffle to our refrigerator to lug out the gallon of milk for cereal, or after school when I’d stand in front of it wondering if there was anything inside to scrounge, I would see the small clipping from a yellowing newspaper that my mother had taped to the door: “The greatest challenge facing modern man is the ability to survive progress.”
Doubtless this was a formative bit of advice, and I am reminded of it this morning as I read this article on our coming “post-antibiotic age.” As a civilization we rightly pride ourselves on modern medicine, modern agriculture, modern technology. But, as we approach a time when our antibiotics will no longer combat evolving drug-resistant bacteria – thanks in considerable part to the overuse of anti-biotics as a regular practice – the author of this chilling article tells of the end of much of modern medicine, modern surgery and modern farming. Childbearing could again become deadly. Even skinned knees could be life-threatening.
The past half-century of increasing safety and bounteous food-stuffs has been bought, it seems, to the detriment of countless generations that will not know the advantages that we briefly enjoyed. Like much of our modern age, our current enjoyments are “achieved” by absconding from the future. I await a science-fiction novel that will portray a future generation that will tell stories of a time when people had old hips replaced, survived strep throat, and in which people worried incessantly about the problem of being overweight.