Born in the south of England in 1955, as I write this my parents are still alive, an amazing fact. My mother has just turned 87, the average life expectancy in Norway, the highest in the world, is 73.6, in Afghanistan the worst is 31.3. Comparing the proportion of relative ages of skeletons found in archeological digs it seems that longevity only began to significantly increase past the age of 25 about 30,000 years ago. But limited evidence suggests ancient Greek and Roman average life spans were not much better. However, the inclusion of infant mortality rates in calculating life expectancy distorts the figures. If you got pastsixteen years of age, birth and all the infections of juvenile mortality then half of Romans were dead before age 45. From the 1500s to the year 1800, life expectancy in Europe hovered between 30 and 40 years.

My father is 88 and unable to care for himself, his mind is sharp,his body weak. As my mother says – you must make the most of every day.

I live in Australia,live on the Mid North Coast beside a forest by the sea. I have a partner I love very much and we are coming up to our 25th anniversary. In other words I am blessed with luck. Just to be alive is lucky, but life itself is a stroke of luck. An asteroid collected our planet five billion years ago, knocking us off our axis, the tilt drives the seasons, their rages, storms and drought, fire and ice. The Permian event is the closest life on Earth came to fail, 95 percent of marine species expiring, more catastrophic than the late Cretaceous cataclysm that emptied the world of the dinosaurs. 

I live on Gumbaynggirr land. The loss of land and culture has devasted the physical and mental health of Aboriginal people. Almost half of Aboriginal men and over a third of women die before they turn 45. New figures calculate life expectancy at birth as 67 years for men and 73 years for women (2007), 11.5 years lower than non-Indigenous men and nearly 10 years lower than non-Indigenous women.

Captain Cook was patronsing but not as intolerant as earlier (Dampier) and later commentators: “They may appear to some to be the most wretched people upon Earth, but in reality they are far more happier than we Europeans; being wholly unacquainted not only with the superfluous but the necessary Conveniences so much sought after in Europe, they are happy in not knowing the use of them … the Earth and sea of their own accord furnished them with all things necessary for life …”

I need much more, a car, computer,TV, fridge, cooker, roof and walls, luxuries have become necessities.

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