What if I told you statistically speaking, the world is becoming a better place? Would you believe me? According to “How the World Got Better in 2018, in 15 Charts” by Elijah Wolfson, several indicators prove that argument. Below are my highlights.
· 10% of the world’s energy comes from renewables
· 50 species were delisted from the endangered species list
· Global poverty is falling
· 87% of the world has access to electricity
· 90% of adults over the age of 15 can read
· Global infant and maternal mortality continues to drop
· Teenage birth rates continue to fall
· The gender gap in primary and secondary schools is nearly closed
· 24% of democratically elected seats of power are held by women
· 30 countries now recognize same-sex marriage and protect it under law
All of this data exists on top of the fact that some researchers argue we are living in the least violent time in human history. So, why do things seem so bad? Why does it seem like everywhere we look the world is barely holding itself together? The answers to these questions are multi-faceted, but I have my own opinion. This opinion is the basis for my 2019 letter on the State of Society.
The media isn’t built to share good news. We aren’t conditioned to respond to it either. Study after study proves we respond to bad news and tend to ignore the positive. This means news outlets of all kinds feed us the diet we like best. Bad news is everywhere because it feeds our appetite and we aren’t getting full anytime soon.
On top of our media diet, we are losing faith in institutions of power. From the halls of democracy to the sanctuaries of our local houses of worship, more and more people are openly questioning those expected to lead. This shift can lead to the rise of tribalism which will sew deeper divisions, or it can mean the birth of new institutions. If we choose the latter, it is my hope we can create institutions that are more nimble, agile, and responsive to the needs of a changing landscape and population. This is a good thing. Who among us, both liberal and conservative, haven’t wished for the death of slow-moving bureaucracy?
The internet was built to reveal utopia. Instead, it has become an extension of the worst parts of humanity. We all know this to be true. Read the comment section of any website and watch how quickly things get out of control. Yet, it doesn’t have to be this way. We can build a better internet. We can build a more civil internet. All that is required is community standards and people who won’t tolerate the bullying and belittling that has become commonplace. Of course, we can’t do this alone. Those who have created this world will have to help us build it anew.
We are arguing about the fringes of progress. I want the world to run solely on renewable energy, but this shift requires massive amounts of the economy to change. This means new infrastructure and re/training of a workforce to support it. I want babies to be born healthy, mothers safe, and a lower teenage birthrate. This means a societal shift in some spots and a better debate around family planning in others. This takes time as does most of the things we find ourselves debating.
Societal progress like all other forms of progress takes time. At times, it can feel like we are rolling a boulder down a rocky hill. It can be arduous and slow, but if it ever catches speed, it can be nearly impossible to stop. I take pride in the numbers listed above, but I also know it doesn’t take much for us to take a couple of steps backward. I also know there are numbers that leave me scared like the statistics on our changing climate. Still, I am hopeful. Change is good. Change across the media, institutions, internet, and our policy debates would be even better.
Be good to each other,
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