Everywhere I turn I see doomsayers.
The 24-hour news channels rarely broadcast positive stories, and if you watch them you will certainly ask yourself, “Where exactly is this world going, and why are we all in this pretty little hand-basket?”
The news is dominated by the bad around us. What about all the good stuff? This can’t be the full story; can it? After all, every day tiny, life-altering, legitimate miracles, and beautiful gifts from on high occur in our desperate world. A perfectly grilled crispy rolled taco from Aloha Tacos and More is only one example.
But still we hear about doom, gloom and our inevitable demise at every turn. The oceans are rising, the sky is falling and everything we do to survive is killing us. Recently, “60 Minutes” aired an interview with a learned man named Paul Ehrlich. Ehrlich has been predicting the end of the world for decades. In 1970, he asserted there would be total collapse of society within 15 years. He sold over three million copies of a book claiming that no intervention could prevent significant increase in the overall death-rate of humanity, but of course death-rates have continued to decline despite his dire warning. He also claimed that England would not exist by the year 2000 due to climate change, but the Commonwealth of Nations continues to soldier on more than two decades later.
I know it’s easy to hear these scary predictions and fear for the future, particularly when it comes from someone with lots of letters after his name speaking on a respected news program. But, the truth is that the world is actually doing OK, and the human condition continues to improve.
Worldwide, extreme poverty has been reduced by more than half in 20 years. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute, worldwide hunger is falling, too. According to the International Labor Organization, child labor has been reduced worldwide by about 40% from 2000-2016. Total leisure hours have increased throughout the developed world, although the United States has notably stagnated in this department recently. Percentage of disposable income spent on food in the US has notably fallen, and this is despite the fact that Americans are eating out more often. Child mortality is down, lifespans are longer, and people are growing taller, faster and stronger than in the entire history of our species (and at an extraordinary rate of increase as well).
There’s more good news too. More people have guaranteed rights and an ability to choose their leaders through election than ever before. There are fewer nuclear weapons in existence now than since the 1950s, and violent crime has been dropping in the United States pretty consistently for more than 30 years. More people know how to read than ever before, tremendous innovation in technology continues to occur on a daily basis, and the U.S. has been steadily adding forested land since the 1940s.
I’m not saying the world doesn’t have problems. I’m not saying we shouldn’t try to continue to make the world a better place. I’m just saying that maybe things aren’t so bad. They might even be pretty OK. Humanity continues to innovate in food production, transportation and medicine.
Life isn’t perfect. People aren’t perfect. But it’s not quite time to listen to Chicken Little yet.
John Judkins is a Greenfield attorney.