“Things are bad and getting worse. Each day its something new. With all the stuff I hear about, I don’t know what to do!”
That is the beginning of a charming kids book called “More Parts.” It is a book about a boy who hears the expressions that grown-ups use and misunderstands them. For example, after one of his favorite toys breaks his mom says, “That must’ve broke your heart”. The boy completely freaks out thinking his physical heart is in danger. What else on him could break? What precautions should he take to prevent further damage?
“Things are bad and getting worse. Each day its something new…”
Doesn’t that sound like the perception most people are carrying about the world today? The truth, however, is that–much like the boy in the story–misperception is what causes us to believe this. Misunderstanding of history contributes to this feeling as well–we forget (or have never learned) the reality of how far we have come, how true it is that things keep getting better and better.
So, do you want to start Spring off with some hope? I have some facts that should cheer you right up:
*In 1990, a goal was made by the UN to cut the number of people living in extreme poverty throughout the world in half. It was determined that could possibly be accomplished by the year 2015. It was recently figured out that the goal was met in 2008. The UN estimates that poverty has been reduced more in the past 50 years than in the previous 500 years–with much of it taking place in the past 20 years. And, how was it accomplished? Through much government intervention? No. Actually, it was because of global capitalism. In other words, the direction the world is naturally taking is actually solving the problem of poverty. In fact, even in the current period of slow growth, the global economy will grow 10-20% faster then it did a decade ago, 40% faster then two decades ago and more then four times as fast as it did three decades ago. Hand in hand with this is the fact that global inequality is also at its lowest recorded levels.
*While economies have continued to grow, the use of fossil fuels has actually been declining. And, actually, this isn’t because of government policies. It is primarily because of the growth of technology which has enabled things to run more efficiently.
*How about health? Well, let’s look first at the atrocity of wars. There are certainly some tragic things happening around the world. However, the number of people who have died from war, civil war and terrorism is down 50% from the 1990s. It is down 75% from the previous five decades. So, fewer people are dying of war and terrorism. That is pretty good news. At the same time, advances in medicine and other factors that influence health have caused life expectancy around the world to rise dramatically. We gain five hours of life expectancy every day! (And, as the author of one article I read pointed out: that’s without even exercising!) A third of all babies born in the developing world this year will live to be 100. Also, people are taller today then anytime in modern history. Why does that matter? While height is genetic, in a population at whole, height is also an indicator of nutrition. We have better vitamin, mineral and protein intake and fewer diseases which mean that our bodies can use its energy for overall growth and health. In the past, there were cycles of height. A population would grow in height and then a disease epidemic or famine would occur and height would decrease. Now, we have only been on an upward trend. (By the way, while some look at America–which was the tallest country in the world–and see our fall in rank as proof of the nutrition crises that has hit our country, that isn’t really the whole story. The truth is that the tallest nations in the world are the Netherlands closely followed by the Scandinavian countries. As they have caught up nutritionally, they have grown taller as their genetics are predisposed for height. At the same time, America’s population has been shifting and as more immigrants from other areas join our ranks, that affects our overall outcome as well.)
*Food — We may not all be on the same page regarding the state of our nation’s food sources, but we can all agree that there is much to be thankful for. Living in the days of supermarkets and global food chains are so vastly improved over the past that there is no comparison. Think of the foods that you ate over the past week, how many of them would you have eaten if we were not able to get food from other areas and use refrigeration to preserve them until they got into our tummies? Nutritionally, it is a great day to be alive.
*Finally, technology and opportunity. Do you know that the cell phone most of you have in your purse or pocket has more computing power than the Apollo space capsule? It is said that we are in the infancy stages of a “Third Industrial Revolution” involving science and manufacturing. Think of the possibilities!
Are there local, national and global problems that need to be addressed? Absolutely! The exciting thing is that we are living in a day of answers! We are living in a day when the solutions to problems lie within reach!
It is only when viewing the world with a correct perception that we will be able to rise to the challenge and be the answers the world needs!
The main sources cited are:
Ridley, Matt “Cheer Up!” Reader’s Digest April 2012
Chandy, Laurence and Geoffrey Gertz “With Little Notice, Globalization Reduced Poverty” Yale Global Web. 5 July 2011.
Zakaria, Fareed “This Astonishing Age” Reader’s Digest January 2013
“Why 2012 was the best year ever” The Spectator 15 December 2012