Fri 30 Sep, 2011 11:42 am
The world is getting better -- not worse
A new study shows -- despite everything -- how far we've come.
Opinion Article by: ANDRES OPPENHEIMER , Miami Herald
Updated: September 27, 2011
Heads of state speaking at the United Nations last week painted a bleak picture of the world's future, talking about the great recession, rising poverty rates, global warming and armed conflicts everywhere.
Without denying any of these problems, it's time to put things in perspective.
Is the world really getting worse? Even if we don't believe those prophecies claiming that the world will come to an end in 2012, is the current wave of global pessimism justified?
A massive new study, titled "The State of the World 2011" and published by an international think tank known as the Millennium Project, helps us put the current world troubles in perspective. It says that, despite major threats on various fronts, the world is becoming a better place to live in.
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"The world is getting richer, healthier, better educated, more peaceful, and better connected, and people are living longer," it says, while reminding us that despite all these signs of progress, "half the world is potentially unstable."
Granted, food prices are rising, water is becoming scarce in some countries, corruption and organized crime are thriving, climate changes are increasing, and the gap between the rich and poor has widened since the 2008 world recession.
But the report suggests that if you put these problems in historical context, progress is undeniable.
Despite often catastrophic headlines in the media, there is a growing awareness that we are one species and that we must learn to live with each other.
The massive aid during the recent calamities in Haiti, Pakistan and Japan, as well as the solidarity with democracy movements across the Arab world, are just the latest symptoms that people are more interconnected and care more about one another, it says.
"Fifty years ago, people argued that poverty elimination was an idealistic fantasy and a waste of money," the report says. "Today, people argue about the best ways to achieve that goal within 50 years."
Consider some of the report's figures on what has happened just in the last 25 years:
• The average life expectancy worldwide rose from 64 years in the mid-1980s to 68 years today.
• Infant mortality worldwide has fallen from nearly 70 deaths per 100,000 people to 40 deaths today.
• Poverty, defined by the percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day, fell from 43 percent of the world population in the mid-1980s to 23 percent today.
• The percentage of the world population with access to water rose from 75 percent to more than 86 percent.
• Secondary school enrollment rose from 45 percent in the mid-1980s to nearly 70 percent today.
• The number of major armed conflicts declined from 37 in the mid-1980s to 26 today.
And unless we mess things up, these trends may improve even faster thanks to new technological advances. "The coming biological revolution may change civilization more profoundly than did the industrial or information revolutions," the report says.
"Thirteen years ago, the concept of being dependent on Google searches was unknown to the world. Today, we consider it quite normal," it adds. "Thirteen years from today, the concept of being dependent on synthetic life forms for medicine, food, water and energy could also be quite normal."
My opinion: I was happy to read this study, because I agree that the world is getting better, despite periodic setbacks like the current one.
Whenever the "end of the world" discussion comes up, I always ask my friends a simple question: If you could choose between having lived 200 years ago or today, what would you choose?
Even the most recalcitrant pessimists have to admit that living 200 years ago -- when life expectancy was less than 40 years, and you couldn't get anesthesia when you had a toothache or a kidney stone -- was no fun. We live longer, and better, today.
But I'm an anxious optimist who doesn't take progress for granted. The fact that the world is getting better should not lead us to complacency, but, on the contrary, should be an antidote against skeptics and a driving force to advance even faster.
None of this will fix our current problems, but it can help us navigate with a little more sense of direction through the current climate of doom.
A very interesting topic
Is the world really better than say 1965.
Definitely the technology is more advanced. And problems unsolvable in 1965 are now 'easy as pie'
So many have no idea of a world with computers and all that technology has produced.
In 1965 . no pc's no mobile phones . no internet. Coulor Tv just came of age.
Men landed on moon in a tin can with processing power of a 5$ Taiwanese
Ecconomy was at 10% growth and US ruled world.
Im a child of 60's . i was there. And the world now is NOT better.
It is worse.
A lot worse.
Bureaucracy is taking over .
And when it is done.
We are f****ed
I wonder... are you a minority?
Are/were you poor?
Did you need medical care in 1965? Physical therapy?
Were you in a car accident? Did your car have seatbelts, airbags, safety glass?
Did your kids have a carseat?
Did you need a replacement hip?
Could you obtain nearly any type of entertainment when you wanted it?
Were there free lectures available on nearly any subject?
You attempt personal insult.
I am so far above your league
that if your league exploded.
I would not the bang for 3 days.
Which has nothing to do with if the world is better or worse.
I post on topic
And you reply with garbage that has nothing to do with the topic
You attack ME. not my ideas. Cause you cannot think
You are devolved to brute force and violence
physical or psychological
And in case your thinking .. ''he's a physical nothing'
I'm Happy to face you anywhere
im 200 pound of bikie muscle
And i aint had enough practice.
IDK I am a child of the 60's 1963 and I agree, there were no computers, rebox, Ipads, shirt if we got $5 it was like OMG, and fish and chips were 10c or at least chips were, can't remember I never paid for them
The reality is Man controls the World, his greed can in-deed create wars, his lies in Politics can in-deed create problems however, the wars are not like they were when my Grandfather was alive who died walking across the road, having had one too many on a main street, in stress over all he saw.......
I personally don't know if the World is getting better but I think, that people are "thinking" more in this day and age.
I'm not attempting a personal insult. (Is it an insult to you to ask if you're a minority?)
I'm suggesting that today is better than 1965 for myriad reasons. One of those happens to be the strides we've made with civil rights.
And I don't fight mentally challenged people, which is what this last post of yours seems to imply about you.
what is 'A MINORITY'
The answer is . your prejudice
"I personally don't know if the World is getting better but I think, that people are "thinking" more in this day and age."
I cant see it.
people actually THOUGHT more before computers. When a good book was a topic of a long converstion.
How many people do i know who have read a book?
Can you talk on Such basics as 1984. or Don Quijote. , ? Why is it that the white rabbit means nothing to those that watched the matrix.
Now it about movies. So those thousands of books.. i burn? Fahrenheit 451?
And thus im a movie buff with several thousand [movies] on shelf..
How else to find a path to communication and connection.
And i love meg ryan
It seems the movie idiocracy is a valid prediction
what is 'A MINORITY'
The answer is . your prejudice
The answer is: someone who has a lot more rights now than they did in 1965.