We don’t feel deaths equally

The January 21st issue of The Economist provides another strong example of how poorly our emotions serve us where it comes to evaluating and responding to abstract threats. They say:

NOx emissions cause the premature deaths of an estimated 72,000 Europeans a year.

This is in the context of carmakers like Volkswagen using software to cheat on NOx emissions tests for their diesel cars.

Now, if anything direct and intentional (terrorism, a criminal gang, etc) killed 72,000 people in one year in Europe it would be WWIII. The way in which we obsess about tiny direct threats from serial killers to plane hijackers while feeling little emotional impact from pollution-induced deaths and threats like climate change profoundly damages our ability to make sensible policy choices.

No effort without error or shortcoming

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Theodore Roosevelt