When you think of the current state of the world, you may have negative thoughts about how our future will turn out. It’s not your fault that what you usually read or hear is, for the most part, pretty dismal. Reporters and journalists seem to love covering the scrumptious scandals, the devastating wars, and the natural disasters. Tragedy is the product, and apparently, we’re still buying. And so they’ll tell you about the trees that burn down, not about the trees that grow.
But I want to tell you something different. We are in much better shape than we think. Despite what you have been told, global poverty, illiteracy, and disease rates have all dropped in recent years. Yet not many people know or think about these encouraging statistics. For example, when asked what percentage of the world’s population is living in extreme poverty and how that number had changed over the past 20 years, Americans were way off the mark. Two-thirds thought the percentage had doubled, while 29% thought it had remained more or less the same. According to the World Bank, however, the number has actually halved. How can 95% of the population be so wrong? Maybe it’s the way issues are covered (or not covered) in the media.
The 2013 gapminder.org survey, part of the Ignorance Project, asked a series of questions to gauge American’s level of awareness regarding world issues. While approximately 80% of the world’s population is literate, only slightly over half of Americans were aware of it. Since 1990 more people, especially women, are being educated and extreme poverty has seen a dramatic decrease. We definitely still have a long way to go, but if these trends continue we should see greater balance on this planet.
The fact that extreme poverty rates are plummeting and we are not hearing more about that in the mainstream is saddening, but at least there is hope for the UN’s goal to eradicate global poverty by 2030. They’ve also come up with 17 other issues they wish to tackle, such as gender equality and affordable clean energy. We’ve heard some of these before, but they seem more achievable now that that birth rates have fallen, more girls are being educated, and family planning services are being provided to poorer families.
To further the positive news that sometimes doesn’t make it to the front page, Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to establish a $2 billion fund to invest in developing countries. He also said China would cancel the debts of the world’s least developed nations, including small island nations, and that Beijing would assist in 600 overseas projects in the next five years and offer more scholarships.
It might not be time to shout from the rooftops — yet — but these numbers and attitude shifts are greatly encouraging for those of us who believe a world more relationally balanced is possible.