Good News (Part 1)


As we head toward the new year, I’d like to talk about some good news!

Most news is bad news. Why? Because the news media are like the immune system: their job is to warn us of threats. But an over-sensitive immune system can actually cause diseases, like allergies and auto-immune disorders. And the same thing can happen to the body politic when the news media exaggerates threats!

You’ve already heard more than enough bad news. But you may not have heard this good news:

• From 1990 and 2015, the proportion of the world’s population that is undernourished has almost halved, dropping from 19% to 11%.

• Global child mortality from all causes has more than halved since 1990. So, 6.7 million fewer children under the age of five are dying each year now than in 1990.

• Violent crime has declined both in the US and globally: there has been a 35% decline in overall violent crime in the US from 1995 to 2014, and a 6% decline in global homicide rates over from 2000 to 2012.

• There hasn’t been a single case of polio detected in Africa in almost a year and a half! Polio is now known to exist only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. A disease that used to be a major killer, with 350,000 cases in 1988, is now almost extinct.

• Since 2000, worldwide cases of measles have dropped by more than two-thirds, saving more than 17 million lives—largely thanks to vaccination.

• Ebola seems to have been defeated: between November 1st and December 16th, there were only 4 confirmed cases of the disease. Trials of an Ebola vaccine this spring indicated that it was 100% effective.

• Worldwide , the number of children not going to primary school has fallen from 100 million in 2000 to a projected 57 million in 2015.

• This September, for the first time ever, less than 10% of the global population lived in extreme poverty, defined as less than $1.90 per day. This is down from 37% in 1990.

Of course not everything is going well—that’s not what I’m trying to say. Humanity faces a lot of tough problems. But I think many of us will be better at solving these problems if we can learn to be more optimistic. That’s true of me, at least.

(There seem to be people who are too optimistic—but strangely, I don’t know them personally. Am I just avoiding them, or are they avoiding me?)

These facts were taken from here:

• Charles Kenny, 2015: The best year in history for the average human being, The Atlantic, 18 December 2015.

Some are paraphrased from Alexander Kruel, a cool dude who pointed out this article on Google+. You can see the sources for the facts above in the article.

I would like to know if $1.90 is in constant dollars, but I didn’t have the patience to dig through the report where this fact came from:

Global Monitoring Report 2015/2016: Development Goals in an Era of Demographic Change, World Bank, Washington DC, 2015.

Can you find out?

12 Responses to Good News (Part 1)

  1. Grandpa D says:

    Hey Wow ! Thanks ! Good to know that something good….. Happy Holidays, David (and Judy)

  2. sitearm says:

    Very nice post and positive message going into 2016. Ty! I watched a recording of Hans Rosling’s 2006 TED talk a few years back showing via animation of UN stats the improvement in life expectancy and income for countries and their regions since 1810.

  3. sma045 says:

    HPV vaccine works. I was disappointed when Vi Hart tweeted that she suffered from it, that she didn’t say “everybody get vaccinated”.

    • John Baez says:

      Sorry to be so ignorant, but what’s HPV vaccine? (I could look it up, of course.)

      • Todd Trimble says:

        Human Papillomavirus. It’s an STD, a very prevalent one at that, but often goes unnoticed, although it can also present as warts. It can eventually lead to cancer. I think I heard that it’s easily detectable in females but less so for males. It’s been in the news recently in connection with Gardasil.

  4. yachris says:

    “Between 1991 and 2014, the teen birth rate declined by an impressive 61% nationwide [in the USA]”:

  5. John Baez says:

    I hadn’t been posting much on this blog for a few months, but these “Good News” posts seem to have revived it. Here are the readers per hour today:

    The main referrer is Hacker News, and most people are reading “Good News (Part 1)”.

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