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Peasant working his field

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Crete’s hilly, rocky terrain creates problems for agriculture and also makes access to the fields difficult. The donkey, a traditional mode of travel, transport, and towing, is the animal best suited to the topography of the island. It remains widely used today, as in this fertile plain of the Lassithi plateau. The local climate, considered one of the healthiest and gentlest in Europe, may favor the exceptional longevity of the inhabitants of Crete. Yet the virtues of the Cretan diet, in which olives and olive oil reign supreme, surely also play a role. Cretans, however, are not the only group of people who commonly live a full century; the Vilcabamba Valley in Ecuador also has many centenarians. Medical progress and improved health conditions around the world are gradually extending the average human life expectancy, which now stands at 66 years. But the duration of life on Earth remains very uneven; in Japan and Canada, people on average live to the age of 80, whereas in the least developed countries three out of four people die before the age of 50.

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