It can get scary out there.
You don’t need me to tell you that it’s been a rough few years, and it’s easy to get the impression that the world is sliding wholesale down into the depths of Hades.
As we are barraged daily with the latest updates on the climate crisis, various wars, numerous humanitarian and ecological crises, some days it feels like the apocalypse is just around the corner.
But hold on – it’s not. The world is, for the most part, getting better. In fact, life for the average person globally is much better than it was back in the middle ages, or even just a hundred years ago. And wars are decreasing. Believe it or not, things are actually getting better.
I’m not making this up. Recently I came across some fun facts that the news media tend to ignore. I mean, when was the last time CNN had a headline that said something like:
Don’t worry, be happy. Things are getting better!
Global poverty dropping!
Cancer deaths on the decline!
Forest coverage around the world is expanding!
But it’s true, and for today’s post I’d like to share some good news I recently came across:
- World gross production tripled from the year 1500 to 1820, then grew to 3.4 trillion by 1900. Global economic output reached 121 trillion in 2018. This increase in productivity has allowed us to lift the majority of people out of poverty, as will be seen in the next few points.
- Global GDP per capita barely increased from the time of Christ until 1800. Then it skyrocketed with the spread of free-market capitalism around the world, and the industrial revolution, increasing the average standard of living around the globe ten-fold, and even more in the developed west.
- In 1830, the global population in extreme poverty was 84 percent. Today it is 8.6 percent.
- The percentage of people living in urban slums has decreased sharply on every continent since 1990.
- Since 1952, global inequality between people and countries has been decreasing.
- People are far wealthier, despite working less. In 1950 we worked an average of 2,123 hours. By 2017 it has dropped to 1,723.
- There are more trees in Europe today than there was in the Middle Ages. The area covered by trees has also been increasing in Asia and North America.
- Since 1960 the number of democracies has been steadily increasing and the number of autocracies has plummeted.
- There are far fewer wars on the planet now than 70 years ago.
- The global literacy rate in 1820 was only 10 percent. Today it is 90 percent.
- In 1820 the average global life expectancy was thirty. Today it is seventy-two.
- Infant mortality has plummeted across the globe since 1950.
- Rates of malaria and tuberculosis have dropped sharply since 2000.
- The number of deaths from cancer has been declining since 1995.
- In 1800, 60 percent of the nations around the world had legal slavery. Today legalized slavery is almost nonexistent.
- Child labour, common around the world up until the 1800’s, has been disappearing and is no longer acceptable.
- Access to clean water has increased from 75 percent of the world’s population in 1990 to 90 percent.
- Air pollution is declining.
- Infectious diseases have been decreasing.
- In 1900, US households had to spend 80 percent of their income on necessities like food, clothing and housing. US households now spend less than 50 percent on those same necessities.
- In 1800 it took 5.4 hours of work to pay for 1,000 lumen hours of light. By 1900 it took .22 hours; today it takes a mere 0.00012 hours of labour for 1,000 lumen-hours. People used to have to work hard just to keep the lights on. Now, the cost of lighting is negligible.
This flurry of fun facts and good news has been gleaned from:
Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting. By Ronald Bailey and Marian Tupy (2020).
I’m not advocating that we stick our heads in the sand like ostriches and ignore what’s going on. There are issues and numerous problems that still must be addressed, and as I’ve blogged previously, we should do our part as we are able to. But that doesn’t mean we need to be chicken littles, nor should we live in fear of impending doom.
I’ll wrap up this post with a quote from Jordan Peterson:
“Things aren’t as bad as they are trumpeted to be. In fact, they’re quite a bit better, and they’re getting better, and so we’re doing a better job than we thought. There’s more to us than we thought. We’re adopting our responsibilities as stewards of the planet rapidly. We are moving towards improving everyone’s life.” ―Jordan B. Peterson, Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life
Now, go find some friends and have a wonderful day!