There’s a tendency to believe that things used to be better. Think “Make America Great Again”. Although good for believing change is possible, it’s wrong to think that everything is worse now than in the past. In fact, in many ways, the world has never been better.
Currently, 91% of the world’s population lives in middle and high-income countries. This compares to 200 years ago, when 85% of the world’s population was in poverty. More than this, thanks to global economic growth over the last 20 years, extreme poverty has almost halved.
It seems that China has been responsible for 75% of this achievement. Although inequality is rising quickly in the country, it managed to reduce its rate of extreme poverty from 84% of its population in 1980 to just 10% right now.
A century ago, most women in the world were not allowed to vote. Thanks to international suffrage movements, feminism and economic development, most countries in the world now have equal voting rights for men and women. In fact, legally-speaking, the Vatican city is the only state in the world where women can’t vote when men can.
In 2016, 5.6 million children died before their fifth birthday. A high figure by itself, it’s easier to digest when we see that 19.89 million under-5’s died in 1966, just 50 years earlier. Also worth noting is that back then, there were far fewer babies born as well.
Moreover, although climate change has been responsible for more frequent and more severe natural disasters in recent years, fewer people are dying from them. Today, deaths from natural disasters are just 25% of what they were 100 years ago. This is largely thanks to advancements in affordable building materials making low-income communities safer than ever before.
45 years ago, 35% of the world was malnourished. In 2015, the figure was just 13%. This is even more impressive considering that during these 45 years, another five billion people have also been added to the planet.
To conclude, although we face many problems in today’s world, we mustn’t forget to look at how we’ve progressed. At the very least, we can see that our predecessors’ efforts towards a better haven’t been wasted. And at the most, we can feel energised to continue towards a better world.