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Our human species has endured many tragedies. It is possible that Coronavirus may be remembered as one of those tragedies when viewed from five hundred years into the future. This Probaway post will give us some historical insights into things our ancestors endured and survived and how we might respond to this thing emotionally.

Effective vaccines will be created to control the Coronavirus. However, the authorities associated with creating similar flu vaccines say it will probably take over a year to bring a Coronavirus vaccine to us. Straight-line projections seen on the charts below, with a one-month base-line, suggest the whole human population could be exposed to having the disease within six months. That won’t happen, in part because there are always complicating factors, and we are all taking precautions that will impede the Coronavirus, like limiting social interactions and taking personal actions that prevent the disease from descending into our lungs. But the possibility remains that we will become infected, and we must be responsible for caring for ourselves and others.

The world population has grown over the last five thousand years from about 0.03 billion to 8 billion at present and it was about 0.2 billion in 1 CE. There are forty times more people alive now than when Jesus and Caesar were around. (8 / 0.2 = 40) And there are about two hundred and sixty-seven times more people around now than when the first pyramids were being constructed in Egypt in 2600 BCE. (8 / 0.03 = 267).

All of those population numbers are approximate, as you can see from the error bars in the chart below. You can halve or double any of those numbers, but they are accurate enough for giving a perspective on how small those human populations were, or alternatively how huge our current population has become relative to historic times. During my lifetime (I’m eighty-four), the population has gone from about two billion to about eight billion. The point of that observation is that the death of six thousand people from Coronavirus disease is tiny compared to our increase of six billion while I have been alive. The problem is the disease’s possible growth, but it won’t kill every one, by a long shot, and it will immunize the vast majority of you young people, who will likely survive.

World population history

Population smoothed to easy-to-remember dates, but within demographers’ estimates.

I created the chart below to visually illustrate the 100 Greatest Atrocities of Human History. The 100% population curve is presented on a logarithmic scale and it is reproduced at 10%, 1%, 0.1%, and 0.01% level. The data points were derived from a list in the book Atrocities by Matthew White.

Log chart of historical war deaths

A history of major war deaths shown on a logarithmic chart.

It takes about 0.3 million (300 thousand) dead to make it onto the atrocities chart. That number is seen in the lower right corner of the chart above, where there is a cluster of identifying numbers which can be seen in the text below the chart. The number currently dead of Coronavirus disease is 5,400. (300 thousand divided by 5,400 gives us 55.) That means the death toll would have to be fifty-five times worse before it would barely make it on to the 100 Greatest Atrocities of Human History.

Coronavirus compared to Ebola on a logarithmic chart.

Unfortunately, if we project the deaths from the chart above, using the February 1st to March 1st number of cases as the baseline angle, then that death count will be reached about June 1st. That is only two and a half months away. Yikes! I hope I’m wrong!