The Miraculous Decline in Deaths by Fire
New York City is on track this year to break its record for the fewest number of deaths by fire. According to the New York Post:
The department attributes the drop “to an aggressive campaign of fire-safety education and quicker response times,” said Fire Commissioner Sal Cassano.
Maybe. But how about acknowledging the massive technological progress — in building materials, lighting, and many other factors — that has made fire so much less of a menace than it used to be?
To me, the decline of death by fire is one of the most underappreciated success stories of the past 100 years. There are many others, of course. We modernists are very good at pointing out the big problems in contemporary society, but we are even better at failing to acknowledge the progress that has been made, whether in public safety, medicine, food supply, etc.
How drastic is the decline in fire deaths in the U.S.? Consider the following graphic*:
I am curious: what do you consider the most impressive but underappreciated measures of progress in the past 100 years?
*From our new illustrated edition of SuperFreakonomics.