A few brief reasons for optimism

An article on the Vox website (link) argues that in many ways the world is getting better, vastly so in comparison with 200 years ago. For example:

In 1820 about 90 percent of the world population lived in what we today would consider extreme poverty. Even in 1950 this was true of 3/4 of human beings. But by 1980 it was well under 50 percent, and today it’s under 10 percent. Since 1990, the total number of people in extreme poverty has fallen by an average of 190,000 a day, every day, even as the total world population has increased.

Two hundred years ago only about 10 percent of the world population was literate. Today it’s about 85 percent. Or to put it differently, in 1800 there were 120 million people who could read, and today the number is 6.2 billion. Other measures of education are improving as well. Globally, about 10 percent of adults have at least some college today versus only about 4.7 percent 30 years ago.

In 1800 about 43 percent of children worldwide died before the age of five, and the figure was not much better in rich countries than in impoverished ones. Now the global average is around 4.3 percent.

In 1800 democracies were relatively rare. Now about half of humans live in more or less democratic countries.

Overpopulation is a problem (see for example this previous post) and the world’s population continues to grow. But its rate of growth is slowing, and in about 60 years it’s projected to reach stability.

Here’s a graphic summing this up:

Graphs showing improvements in the human condition over the last 200 years

For more on the good news that often gets overlooked, see these previous posts about surprising positive trends:

2016 December
2016 February
2015 September
2014 January
2013 July

None of this is meant to imply that everything is just great and there are no reasons to worry. Just look at who’s about to become president of the United States. Loss of species is at a level comparable to major extinction events in Earth’s history. There has been some progress on global warming, but not enough. There are still misinformed people not vaccinating their children. And while it’s received relatively little attention in the news media, for some unexpected subsets of the U.S. population life expectancy has stopped growing and even dropped, as noted in these posts from last month and from 2013.

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