We have a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also celebrate how far we have come.
There’s also widespread unemployment, disease, extreme poverty, war and climate change to contend with.
If you’re depressed about all of this, I don’t blame you.
Yet, we are also living in the best time in human history, so don’t give up just yet.
It’s definitely true that we face some very serious problems at present, and these issues need to be acknowledged and addressed. We have a long way to go, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t also celebrate how far we have come.
In his recent address to the United Nations General Assembly, President Barack Obama stated:
Around the globe, there are signposts of progress…
I often tell young people in the United States that this is the best time in human history to be born, for you are more likely than ever before to be literate, to be healthy, and to be free to pursue your dreams.
Indeed, life today is decidedly better than it was even just half a century ago. Recent headlines might have convinced you otherwise, but they don’t tell the whole story.
Here are six reasons why we live in the best time in human history:
1. Disease Is In Decline, A Century Ago You Wouldn’t Have Lived To See 50
At one point in time, old age typically meant fighting off a debilitating illness until death finally came. Today, that is occurring less frequently. People are suffering less and able to spend more time with their loved ones towards the end of their lives.
All of this is a direct product of human innovation. The industrial revolution fueled the growth of life-saving technologies. Likewise, the development of vaccines and other medical advancements has helped quell both the onset and spread of life-threatening diseases.
While many might believe that this trend is leading to overpopulation, many scientists agree that people are misinterpreting this problem.
Simply put, it’s not that the planet can’t sustain humans, it’s that humans have to find a better way to sustain the environment. We have be more productive and innovative with our agricultural practices and less destructive to the world around us.
If humans are dying, it’s not because the world isn’t big enough or can’t provide for us, it’s because we haven’t been innovative and sustainable enough. We have to take care of the planet if we want it to take care of us.
2. There Are Fewer People Suffering From Poverty Today
Global poverty is still a very serious problem. At the moment, around 2.7 billion people live on less than two dollars a day. Accordingly, the fight to eradicate extreme poverty is far from over.
At the same time, despite a huge increase in the world’s population, global poverty has declined dramatically over the past 30 years. Since 1981, the number of people living on less than $1.25 a day has declined by over 700 million – more than twice the population of the United States.
In the past 20 years, the global poverty rate has been cut in half, and there is hope that this trend will continue.
Yet, despite these immense strides, one out of five people around the world still lives below the poverty line. However, the point is, we have already made a great deal of progress, signaling that this is a fight we can win.
3. War Isn’t As Common And Kills Fewer People, Congrats Humanity!
One hundred years ago, World War I began. By the time it ended in 1918, around 17 million soldiers and civilians had been killed. Many people believed that this conflict had been devastating and bloody enough to end war altogether. Unfortunately, they were wrong.
World War II started in September 1939, barely 20 years after the cessation of WWI. When the war ended in 1945, around 60 million people had been killed.
This was a devastating conflict that fostered the creation of the United Nations, and the hope that the world would never see such death and destruction ever again.
As we now know, both world wars failed to eradicate violent conflict completely. However, wars are now occurring less frequently, and fewer people die in them. Believe it or not, humanity has become more peaceful in general over time.
Steven Pinker is one of the preeminent thinkers on war and violence throughout human history. As he puts it:
Believe it or not, the world of the past was much worse. Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species.
This has happened because humans have made a concerted effort to end the cycle of violence. Overall, the globe is more democratic than it has ever been. Democracy arguably makes the international system more peaceful, as it gives more people a voice.
Around 60 percent of all states are democracies. Of course, even democracies are subject to corruption, and the ideal of democracy has never been fully realized. Furthermore, democracies go to war all the time, the United States is a prime example.
Yet, one might also contend the world is becoming freer and safer as a consequence of increased interconnectedness. Globalization and technology have connected us in unprecedented ways.
Likewise, more people are beginning to realize that all of our fates are linked. If we don’t work together, we will all perish separately.
Correspondingly, organizations like the United Nations, which was created to end war, have helped spread peace across the world. UN Peacekeeping missions have experienced great success for example.
It’s true that there are still inadequacies, and the UN has lot of room for improvement, but in general, humanity has made great strides when it comes to ending war.
4. There Aren’t As Many Murders, And We Are Generally More Peaceful
Violent crime has decreased dramatically in the United States over the years. Between 1993 and 2012, homicide, robbery, rape and aggravated assault decreased by 48 percent in the US.
Since 1993, the gun homicide rate in the United States has dropped by 49 percent, despite the fact that a majority of Americans (56 percent) believe gun crimes have increased.
Correspondingly, even though most Americans perceive Chicago as a very dangerous place, violent crime rates have dropped significantly over the past three years within the city.
Moreover, this isn’t just happening in the United States, it’s global. In 2002, the United Nations received reports that around 332,000 homicides occurred in 94 countries around the world. By 2008, that number was down to 289,000.
Simply put, the world is decidedly less violent than most people think. Americans, particularly, should take note of this, as it seems they are exceptionally unaware that crime has dropped.
5. There’s Less Racism, Sexism and Discrimination, Keep Spreading The Love
It would be foolish to claim that racism, sexism and discrimination are not still present in the world.
One only has to look at the recent events in Ferguson, Missouri, or the backlash against Emma Watson’s speech on gender equality, to realize this. We have a long way to go in the struggle to create a more tolerant and equitable world.
Still, we have made great strides, particularly in recent times. Many people would have never imagined that they would’ve seen an African-American man as the President of the United States.
Whether you like him or not, the election of President Obama was a remarkable moment in the history of the United States.
Correspondingly, there are data to support the notion that the world is moving towards tolerance and egalitarianism. There is still room for improvement, and the fight is far from over, but love is ultimately stronger than hate.
6. Clap Along… Because The World Is Getting Happier
Optimism is contagious, and so is smiling. So turn that frown upside down. As the great philosopher and musician Bob Marley once stated:
You just can’t live that negative way.
You know what I mean. Make way for the positive day. Cause it’s a new day…
With poverty, war, disease, violence and intolerance on the decline across the globe, there are many good reasons to be happy. Smile my friends, life is good, and every breath is a gift.
by John Haltiwanger
This post originally appeared on Elite Daily. Reprinted with permission.
John Haltiwanger is currently the Political Writer at Elite Daily. He finds it extremely difficult to sit still. As a child it got him into trouble in school, as an adult it has led him to travel the world. John recently moved back to the United States from Scotland, where he completed an MSc in International Relations at the University of Glasgow. He grew up in the Washington DC/Maryland area and earned a B.A. in History from St. Mary’s College of Maryland. He loves writing and don’t get him started on politics or history cause he’ll make your ears bleed. In his free time, John enjoys hiking, fútbol, music, film, good conversations, general tomfoolery, caffeine, beer, whiskey, burritos, and pizza.