In the long arc of human history, 2019 has been the best year ever


Nicholas Kristof: I fear that the news media focuses so relentlessly on bad news that we leave the public believing that every trend is going in the wrong direction

The bad things that you fret about are true. But it’s also true that since modern humans emerged about 200,000 years ago, 2019 was probably the year in which children were least likely to die, adults were least likely to be illiterate and people were least likely to suffer excruciating and disfiguring diseases.

Every single day in recent years, another 325,000 people got their first access to electricity. Each day, more than 200,000 got piped water for the first time. And some 650,000 went online for the first time, every single day.

Perhaps the greatest calamity for anyone is to lose a child. That used to be common: Historically, almost half of all humans died in childhood. As recently as 1950, 27% of all children still died by age 15. Now that figure has dropped to about 4%.

This is something that I generally try to communicate to people when they complain about how messed up the world is. Sure, there's a lot of work to do, but this doesn't diminish the amazing work that's been done and is still being done. Far too much of the daily news focuses on the negative, as that's what people pay attention to. If the news were peppered with more stories about the things people around the world are accomplishing, then maybe we'd feel better about our civilisation and all that it's capable of.