Today’s Solutions: May 19, 2022

They can tell you anything about 2013. That it was a miserable year because of the ongoing crisis, the NSA leaks or the violence in Syria and Egypt. More than 10 million people in the Philippines were victimized by a typhoon. Of course, they’re right: 2013 was horrible.
But don’t forget all the things that remind us our lives are pretty darn good—how long we live, how happy and free we are. There is only one conclusion: the world is a better place than ever before. ThinkProgress made a great list of 5 positive trends.
1. We live longer. Fewer children die young.
Every single year the life expectancy of newborn babies increases. This applies to all countries and all social groups. During the 1950s, the average life expectancy worldwide was 47. By 2011 the number had reached 70, an increase of 50 percent. Between 1990 and 2000, the number of children that died before their fifth birthday was halved. Fewer parents have to go through the grief of burying their child.
The number of deaths by tuberculosis has diminished by half and the number of deaths from measles has decreased by 70 percent. Even the number of deaths due to HIV and AIDS has dropped with 25 percent. ThinkProgress concludes: “We are winning the battle against death.”
2. Fewer people live in extreme poverty. We are growing happier.
In 2010, 721 million fewer people lived in extreme poverty (defined as $1.25 or less per day) than in 1981. That’s a decrease from 40 percent to 14, as calculated in a recent study by The World Bank. The decline has occurred worldwide, not just in developed nations: Even in the poorest countries, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty dropped from 63 to 44 in the last three decades.
The middle class is doing better as well. Their access to products that make life easier, healthier and more careless has expanded. Everything from televisions to refrigerators—which until recently were considered a luxury—have become more affordable. And while purchasing power isn’t always directly related to happiness, economic growth leads to material progression that simplifies life significantly.
3. There are fewer wars with fewer deaths. The world is getting to know more freedom.
We’ve written about it before: The world is getting more and more peaceful. The number of deaths by civil wars or wars between countries per 100 thousand world citizens has decreased drastically the past few decades, from almost 300 during World War II, to almost 30 during the Korean War, to less than 10 in the seventies and eighties. In the 21st century, it’s less than 1 death per 100 thousand. There are more civil wars now—like the one in Syria—than wars between countries, and civil wars result in fewer deaths.
An important reason for this trend is the spread of democracy. The number of democracies have expanded over the same period, from just a few to 40 percent around the end of the cold war, and jumping to more than 60 percent today. A free world is also safer.
4. Murders and other violent crimes are decreasing.
Crime is decreasing. This includes crimes citizens commit against each other as well as crimes governments commit against their citizens. Slavery is nearly eradicated. Torture as legal punishment has gone down. The developed world is seeing less and less crime, in particular a huge decrease in the number of murders, robberies and car thefts.
Although the worldwide murder rate went up between 1970 and 1990—a temporary turn in the downward trend that started in the late nineteenth century—the number of murders has fallen further in this century. In 2001, 557,000 people worldwide were killed. Seven years later that number was 289,000. And the decline continues, according to the United Nations.
5. There is less racism, sexism and discrimination.
Racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination are not gone. But over time, people have made great progress in fighting these issues. African Americans were in chains just 150 years ago; European Jews were massacred more recently still. Women were denied the chance to work outside of the home. But things have changed. In a study by the World Public Opinion in 2011, 91 percent of respondents from 21 countries indicated that equal treatment of people was important to them.
Those are not just words. Some examples: between 1995 and 2011 there was a 20 percent decline in “observable gender inequalities,” according to the United Nations. IMF figures show a consistent decline in global income inequality between the sexes. Ten years ago, gay marriage didn’t exist in the United States; now 38 percent of Americans live in a state where marriage between gay men or lesbians is allowed. Opinion polls in recent years showed a continued increase in acceptance of homosexuality, especially among young people.
All this doesn’t mean that the world is perfect. There is still too much poverty in the world. And violence. And disease. And discrimination. It also doesn’t mean that we can sit back and relax. On the contrary, we have to feel encouraged that there are so many positive trends we can contribute to. That is, according to ThinkProgress, perhaps a better, more effective way to work towards progress than lamenting what is wrong in the world. As ThinkProgress concludes: “As best we can tell, the reason humanity is getting better is because humans have decided to make the world a better place.”
Photo: Beth Scupham/Flickr

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