I’ve stopped watching the news (for obvious reasons). I figure five minutes a day is plenty to get caught up. Anything beyond that that is just scary and depressing. While we are dealing with a new threat now, don’t forget that the world has made remarkable progress in recent years.
We need some good news right now.
So here they are. Ten facts about the world that should make you proud to inhabit this planet. (All data comes from Factfulness, by Hans Rosling).
- Extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half over the past twenty years. Countries such as China, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam have seen profound improvements in their standard of living. In 1990, 37 percent of the world population lived in extreme poverty (less than $1.90 per person per day). Today that number has been reduced to an amazing 10 percent. According to author Gregg Easterbrook, “The decline of developing-world poverty should be viewed as the focal story of the last quarter-century.”
- In the year 1800, the life expectancy throughout the world was 30 years. This number is a little misleading because nearly half of people died during childhood which pulled down life expectancy averages. The average life expectancy in the world today? 72. In 1800 44% of children died before their 5th birthday. Now, the number stands at 4% worldwide. I don’t know about you, but I can’t even imagine living in a world where nearly half of the kids on in my neighborhood are dying from smallpox or polio.
- The terrible violence of war has also dipped significantly. Worldwide, in the early 1940’s 201 people out of every 100,000 died in battle. In the past 30 years, worldwide, battle deaths have dropped precipitously. From 1990-2017 for every 100,000 people on this planet, one person died in battle each year.
- Nuclear proliferation has been reduced dramatically as well. In 1986 there were 64,000 nuclear warheads in the world. Today, the number stands at 15,000. While we have a long way to go, the nuclear arms race has clearly been reversed.
- Hunger worldwide has experienced similar progress. In 1970 28% of the world was undernourished. Today that number has been reduced to 11%. That equates to nearly ONE BILLION fewer people going to bed hungry today versus 50 years ago. While 11% is still an unacceptable number, organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have made it their mission to pour billions of dollars into eradicating world hunger once and for all.
- While we still have a lot of work to do to protect our environment- we have already made a lot more progress than many people realize. Ozone-depleting substances have been dramatically reduced since 1970. In 1970, 1,663,000 tons of ozone-depleting substances were dispersed into the air. In 2016 that number had dropped to 22,000 tons. That is about 99.9% fewer pollutants going into the air.
- Democratic nations are now proliferating across the world. In 1816 only 1% of the world population lived in a democratic society (all of whom lived in the U.S.A.). That number today is 56%. The communist threat is basically over, and free societies are popping up all over the globe.
- Literacy rates have skyrocketed in the past 200 years. In the year 1800, incredibly, only 10% of the world population could read. In 2016, the number had increased to an 86% literacy rate across the nations. Literacy rates might have the most profound and far-reaching effects on progress in this world.
- A lack of clean drinking water has created devastation for centuries. In 1980, only 58% of the world population had access to clean drinking water. Now nearly 88% of the world receives their water from a clean, protected water source. Diseases such as Cholera, Typhoid Fever, and Dysentery has caused misery for thousands of years, and current technologies could erase these terrible illnesses within the near future.
- Lastly, people with cell phones has increased from .0003% in 1980 to 65% of the world population owning a cell phone today. Why is this such an important advancement? While the overuse of smartphones in the U.S. is well-documented (just hang around with a group of middle school girls)- people in developing countries use cell phones to improve commerce and receive life-saving information, and, of course, it lets them see what their friends from high school are doing.
I hope all of this information gives you a good sense of what an incredibly positive trajectory the world is moving. It is so easy to get caught up in temporary upsetting events. While this world is certainly not perfect, and tremendous effort is required to solve the problems we still face- we have come a LONG way.