anxiety caused by too much bad news

It’s the most wonderful and inspiring time of year. After many hours of researching books, articles, and websites, let’s kick off 2020 with what’s become my annual New Year’s blog on how the world keeps getting better, and better, and better, and better…

This tradition started six years ago with “A Dose of Reality: Our World is Dramatically Better.” The following year we reported, “Despite Dire Headlines, the World is Getting Much, Much Better.” The next year we added to our long and growing list of positive facts with “Beyond the Doom and Gloom: Over 65 Ways Our World Keeps Getting Better.” After another trip around the sun, we piled on more evidence with “Don’t Get Dragged Down by all the Negative News: Life’s Better Than Ever.” Last year we continued getting real with “Don’t Get Sucked in by the Gloomy Headlines: The World’s Getting Better and Better.”

Here’s the tip of a very big research iceberg that’s just a tiny sample that this year’s research uncovered:

  • The 1987 Montreal Protocol banning CFCs reversed catastrophic ozone depletion, and the layer is now healing. CFCs are thousands of times more powerful than carbon dioxide. Without this reduction, the earth would be 1.5 times warmer today with a 25% faster rate of sea ice melt. Many see this as a powerful example of nations working together to combat climate change.
  • Yale University’s Environmental Performance Index shows “the world has made great strides in protecting marine and terrestrial biomes, exceeding the international goal for marine protection in 2014” and “three-fifths of countries in the EPI have declining CO2 intensities, while 85 – 90% of countries have declining intensities for methane, nitrous oxide, and black carbon.”
  • Forest areas have increased by 7% in France, from 26% to 45% in Nepal, doubled in Costa Rica, and China by 4.56 billion m³ between 2005 and 2018 to cover 22% of land area.
  • Coal-fired power plants are declining rapidly around the world. Coals shipments in the U.S. are at the lowest levels in almost 40 years, while American clean energy jobs grew by 110,000 last year.
  • This year, the cost of new wind and solar generation dropped below the costs of coal and nuclear energy. The U.K. and Germany generated more electricity from wind, sun, and biomass than coal, oil, and gas. In April, the U.S. did the same.
  • Prices for battery packs have dropped 87% since 2010. Automakers have committed $225 billion for electric vehicles in the next five years.
  • Single-use plastics, microbeads, Styrofoam, etc. are banned in a rapidly growing number of countries and jurisdictions.
  • The 2019 Social Progress Index reports, “since 2014, the world average score increased from 61.80 to 64.47, and there has been improvement on eight of 12 social progress components.”
  • The Global Burden of Disease Report shows the number of kids and teenagers dying around the world decreased by half in the past three decades.
  • Global suicide deaths have fallen 38% since 1994.
  • Poaching rates in Kenya have dropped by 85% for rhinos and 78% for elephants in the past five years.
  • Strokes for U.S. adults over 65 have dropped by a third for each decade in the past 30 years.
  • Global rates of measles have dropped by 2/3 from 2000 to 2018.
  • Type 3 polio became the second species of poliovirus eliminated in 2019.
  • Extreme poverty around the world has dropped from 36% in 1990 to 8.6% in 2018.
  • Save the Children’s 2019 Global Childhood Report shows children’s lives have improved in 173 of 176 countries since 2000.
  • Today more than 90% of children around the world attend some elementary school.
  • The number of people around the world killed in wars fell 43% since 2014.
  • The 2019 Global Terrorism Index shows deaths from terrorism cut in half in the past four years.
  • Annual homicide rates in the 15th and 16th centuries across Europe ranged from 24 to 150 deaths per 100,000 people. Today international homicide rates are 5.3 per 100,000.
  • The international homicide rate has dropped 20% since 1990.
  • Only 4% of the world’s population lived to be older than 65 before the 20th century.
  • Since 1900, infant mortality fell by more than 95% in the U.K. and U.S.
  • Global food production quadrupled since 1961, while the population has increased two and a half times. Undernourishment fell from 37% in 1969 to 10.9% in 2017.
  • The global rates of deaths from diarrheal diseases fell from 62 per 100,000 in 1985 to 22 per 100,000 in 2017.
  • Global malaria mortality has dropped by 60% between 2000 and 2015.
  • 148 of the 167 countries measured and tracked for prosperity on the Legatum Institute’s 2019 Prosperity Index (containing 88% of the world’s population) have improved since 2009.
  • A new treatment for early-stage breast cancer could wipe out a growth in just one treatment.
  • Two new treatments for the lethal Ebola virus saved nearly 90% of newly infected people.
  • ISIS fighters in Afghanistan are now down to 300 from an estimated 3,000 earlier this year.
  • Humpback whales have rebounded from the brink of extinction, going from a few hundred to 25,000.
  • Atmospheric acidity is back to 1930s levels in Europe and the U.S.
  • In 1920 it took about 10 ounces of materials to produce a dollar of value in the U.S. Today, it takes just 2.5 ounces — a drop of 75%.

Sources and Further Reading