The bad news just keeps on rolling. Another mass shooting. Chemical murder. And antibiotic-resistant bacteria that are ALREADY killing over 23,000 Americans each year. How to respond? The first two are hard, the third may prove impossible.
Antibiotic resistant bacteria is a problem that could easily dwarf even climate change in its breadth and duration of damage. And it shares with climate change a long history of smart people doing virtually none of the perfectly well-known things that could have headed it off, or at least slowed it down. Doctors, patients, and meat-producers all have been busy over-using antibiotics, helping to breed resistance. Patients mostly get a pass here. Mostly. They can be presumed to have been ignorant, though a lot of them weren’t. A lot of them knew perfectly well about the marginal or non-existent benefit of taking antibiotics for a viral condition, but wanted them anyway, because benefits (if any) accrued to them, and any risks were generalized off to others in the future. Meat producers were just another part of the ruthless private quest for greater profits. How could they help it if they lobbied the government not to regulate their business for mere public health reasons? But doctors? Them I don’t get on this. They very much knew the dangers, and one would think that they might feel a professional obligation to raise a very public wailing siren of alarm about their overuse. Maybe they did. Maybe I missed that. Mostly I seem to remember my friends getting questionable prescriptions, from somebody.
So here we are. Americans think that the magic of research will produce new antibiotics as soon as they are needed. This won’t be quite soon enough for the 23,000 who died last year, or the similar number the year before, but soon enough for them, they hope. Meanwhile, they angrily demand that the federal government cut its wasteful spending, without even thinking that some of what that’s getting cut is….guess!