These days, it can sometimes feel like everything is getting worse. We’re faced every day with the problems we haven’t solved yet and new ones that we’re creating, and the barrage of bad news can be dispiriting. In these times of seeming despair, it’s extremely important to take a step back and realize the progress we’ve made in the past few decades.

Just look at the child mortality rate, for instance. In the 1950s, more than 20 million children died each year. Now child deaths are much rarer. In fact, the child mortality rate has dropped by two-thirds since the 1950s, according to a new report. That’s an amazing achievement, and a reminder of how awful the world used to be, how quickly it has improved, and, yes, how much we still need to do. Even better, that gain in lives has been accompanied by similar gains in living conditions. Far more people are literate. Far fewer live in extreme poverty. Fewer go hungry. Most people have access to the internet — something not even the richest among us enjoyed in 1950.