New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof has written one of the most upbeat articles of the year.
Although many of us think that the 21st century is a repeat of the dark ages, Kristof makes his case with the use of a lot large numbers.
He wrote that each day on average, about another 295,000 people around the world gained access to electricity for the first time.
Every day, another 305,000 were able to access clean drinking water for the first time.
And each day an additional 620,000 people were able to get online for the first time.
Never before has such a large portion of humanity been literate, enjoyed a middle-class cushion, lived such long lives, had access to family planning or been confident that their children would survive.
In 1960, 19% of children worldwide died by the age of 5. The percentage for 2003 was much lower, 7%. Now, the number has dropped to about 4%. We hope to see the percentage drop to zero soon.
Kristof wrote that he covers the butchery and misrule every other day of the year, but he does the annual column to show there are numbers to be thankful for.
Journalism is supposed to inform people of the world, but it turns out that most Americans (and citizens of other countries, too) are spectacularly misinformed. For example, nine out of 10 Americans say in polls that global poverty is worsening or staying the same, when in fact the most important trend on the planet is a huge reduction in poverty. Until the 1950s, a majority of humans had always lived in “extreme poverty,” defined as less than about $2 a person per day. In the early 1980s, 44% lived in “extreme poverty.” Today, fewer than 10% — adjusted for inflation — do.
Americans estimate that 35% of the world’s children have been vaccinated. In fact, 86% of all 1-year-olds have been vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis.
“Everyone seems to get the world devastatingly wrong,” Dr. Hans Rosling, a brilliant scholar of international health, wrote in “Factfulness,” published in 2018, after his death. “Every group of people I ask thinks the world is more frightening, more violent and more hopeless — in short, more dramatic — than it really is.”
Instead of guessing that the world is declining into more poverty, more untreated illness and wartime deaths, we should check the numbers at least once a year like Kristof does. It’s a good way to raise our spirits and welcome the blessings of new scientific discoveries and fast-moving technological progress.