Clean water:
I should like to have a convert for every time I have heard the words, “They had a lot of children back then because so many of them died.”

In impish mood, I would answer, “Well the world is thick with ancient fertility goddesses.  It is a lot easier to keep a healthy child than to have a new one.  If the death of children were such a big issue, surely there should be ancient idols for health more than for fertility.  A big killer of babies is infant diarrhea.  Have you ever seen an idol to the Formed Stool God?

Some socially minded friend told me recently how many things could have been done for the world if the money spent on Operation Iraqi Freedom had been spent instead on alleviating human suffering.  One thing he mentioned struck me.  It would have been possible to assure pure safe drinking water to everybody in the world who now lacks it.  And of course diarrhea is by and large caused by contaminated water.

Cheap and effective filters have been devised.  (A Killer Water Filter, Melinda Wenner Mayer, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN vol. 303 no. 6 December, 2010 page 48)  Maybe now it will happen.

The article states point blank that diarrhea is the single greatest cause of death in the world today.  What a way to go.  (Bad choice of words.)  I mean it’s avoidable.  It can be stopped.  It should be stopped.  Giving people good water can now be done.

My first reaction was, “See.  That proves me right.  Diarrhea was a dreadful curse.  And so I am sure it was.

But no stool idol.

The nearest thing I can recall is an occasion when some unhappy enemies got into possession of the Ark of the Covenant.   God struck them with a plague of hemorrhoids.  (That’s scripture for you.  Something whispers, “They really let you print this?”)  The upshot was that eventually somebody made an idol of a hemorrhoid, or an image anyway.  Not stool.  Close but no cigar.  (I do seem to be finding the infelicitous word today.) 

So I do not feel particularly vindicated.  I rather think that things are more crowded, water more scarce and sanitation often poorer than in the dim and distant past.  If it had been the number one killer, surely somebody should have mentioned it.

So I think I have to belt up about that missing idol.  But I will stand by the general principle.  If a high death rate were a bigger problem than fertility then it should have been addressed.

Meanwhile let’s hope those filters get into action.

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