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Which Kills More: Terrorists Or Air Polluters?

The War On Terror has led the United States of America to start two disastrous wars, to create an entirely new cabinet-level department of government, and to trash most of the Bill of Rights. It’s all been done, they say, to prevent more deaths from terrorism. In 2012, for example, there were 11,098 deaths from terrorism, worldwide, according to the U.S. Department of State.

which kills more terrorism and air pollutionThat sounds like a large number, even though none of those deaths took place in the United States. Even this year, with all the attention the Boston Marathon bombing has gotten, counting the number of US terrorist deaths doesn’t even take up all the fingers on one hand.

Compare the number of deaths from terrorism to the number of deaths from other causes, and one’s perception of the significance of terrorism shrinks. For example, research just published by the Institute of Physics estimates that something like two million people die every year as a consequence of air pollution.

The graphic below shows the difference between the 11,098 terrorism deaths and the 2,000,000 deaths from air pollution. Reducing air pollution doesn’t involve the creation of a new cabinet department, starting new wars, or violating the Bill of Rights, but as you can see, it’s a much more deadly problem than terrorism.

So how come the War On Terror is getting most of the attention, from the news media and from our own government?

terrorism and air pollution compared

11 comments to Which Kills More: Terrorists Or Air Polluters?

  • Tom

    Good point J. Despite this fact, nothing will be done about air pollution, automobile accidents (another large killer of innocent people), alcohol abuse, cigarettes, or guns. Our society is so programmed to accept these as a given (like CO2 pollution, which is driving the entire human species and most life on earth to extinction), that one must come to the conclusion that we’re insane.

  • Oil-Qaeda kills orders of magnitued more than Al-Qaeda does.

  • Tom

    Remember all the controversy about chem-trails? Well now Snowden reveals that it is part of a “beneficial” system that’s been going on for years. You want to deny that now too?

    http://www.chronicle.su/news/snowden-uncovers-shocking-truth-behind-chemtrails/

    • Jim Cook

      Actually, Tom, what you link to is a satirical website that publishes fake stories to rile up conspiracy theorists. You’ve been punked by them — sorry.

  • Dave

    Tom, regarding “nothing will be done about [insert list here] “,next time I light a smoke, crack open a bottle and settle down to clean my gun, should I look over my shoulder to see if you are watching? Mind your own business, dude. Society is not “programmed” to accept these things, although it sounds as if you might like to get behind some programming of your own. Who is this great programmer who has programmed society thus? Could it simply be that perhaps most folks generally overlook the small vices of their neighbors because it’s the neighborly thing to do, not to mention that the neighbors might be regularly cleaning their guns?

    • Ralph

      Exactly. People overlook the vices of their neighbors, even though those vices end up killing a lot of people. Why? Because it’s worth it to live in a society where people mind their own business and don’t make you constantly look over your shoulder. So why are we willing to give us so many of our rights when it comes to the relatively tiny threat of terrorism?

  • Ralph

    “give up,” not “give us”

  • Tom

    Jim: you mean there’s Sum Ting Wong with that paper? My bad . . .
    Dave and Ralph: Hey, whatever floats yer boat . . . thanks for helping to make my point.

  • Dave

    Ralph, that’s a good question. One worthy answer may be found in human nature itself. Our vices and, for that matter, our sometimes foolhardy way of living – driving the freeway to work, drinking too much sugar, etc, are choices of our own. We determine the fast or slow death, the method and the “terms” so to speak. Thousands check out too early, but that is their choice.

    Terrorists, although bringing about a fraction of deaths, do it on their own terms for their own reasons, assuming a right to make the choice for you. This gets people’s hackles up, and they give the nod to politicians who, no matter the cost in liberty and public treasure, will make the threat go away, or at least appear to.

    Not saying it’s the best thing, just saying that may explain it.

    • Ralph

      Dave, I don’t think that fully explains it.

      Individuals choosing acts with fatal consequences for themselves might explain our blasé attitude toward deaths from cheeseburgers and cigarettes, which vastly outweigh deaths from terrorists. But that doesn’t explain our blasé attitude toward deaths from reckless drivers or air polluters, which also vastly outweigh deaths from terrorists–though just like terrorism these are cases of individuals choosing acts with fatal consequences for others.

      Why are we so blasé about people killing so many Americans with fast cars and factories? Let’s face it. We are, as a society, pretty OK with privileged, wealthy people killing Americans in fairly large numbers. If it’s really bad recklessness on their part, maybe they should spend some time in jail, but it’s nothing to re-order our society around. But if it’s minorities or outsiders killing Americans–even in much smaller numbers–we simply can not, MUST NOT, tolerate it, our rights be damned!

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