Why the World Is Getting Better

Many times, it seems as if the world is getting worse when, in fact, as a whole, the world is getting better. This is may seem contrary to what you see in the news, and even what you read  on this site, but when we look at the “big picture”, it becomes clear. Today, I thought we’d take a minute to put things in perspective.

How is it getting better? It is true that there are areas that may have worsened a bit, but the truth is that if we look at the whole world, we will see that so many people have never read and written, that extreme poverty has never decreased as much, and that there are fewer and fewer wars.

So today, we are going to review a series of graphs that show that the world is better and we are closer to a utopia.

Let’s start with the Human Development Index, which combines not only GDP per capita, but also literacy and life expectancy, which is why some people consider it a better alternative to GDP. Well, the HDI has improved on all continents and in all geographies.

Extreme poverty about to be eradicated?

I am tired of hearing that the poor are getting poorer and the rich richer. The first statement is completely false. If we look at the real poor (those who live on less than one or two dollars a day), each time they are a smaller percentage of the population. Let’s take a look at the following graphic:

At the beginning of the 19th century, extreme poverty (defined as the purchasing power parity of the population living on less than a dollar a day), hovered around 90% of the population and in 1980, had been reduced to less than 50%, and today it is estimated that around 10% of the population live on less than $1.90 per day. Jeffrey Sachs spoke in his book The End of Poverty, of how our generation could see extreme poverty eradicated, well, we are close to this point.

Deaths from famine

In addition, in the last three decades the proportion of people killed by malnutrition has fallen to levels lower than any seen before in history. Also the percentage of children who die before the age of five is lower than 5%, compared to 20% in the mid-20th century.

An increasingly educated and peaceful world

Do we complain that the education system is worse and that young people are less prepared? It is possible, but seen from a global perspective, if in the mid-50s around half of the population could not read or write, this has been reduced to less than 20% of the population in this decade. In addition, in most of the world the proportion of school children is growing, so that the illiteracy rate will foreseeably be reduced

Percentage of literate population

In addition, deaths from wars are decreasing more and more throughout the XX and XXI century. Maybe a small rebound in recent years, but much better when compared to the situation in the 70s or 80s.

If there is one aspect where I accept unquestionably that the situation is not getting better, it is the Environment. Economic development implies more consumption, more pressure on natural resources and on the environment. If we have improved the situation of people, our next step should be to improve the environment, as shown by carbon dioxide emissions, whose concentration in parts per million has not stopped growing in recent years:

Global Co2 Concentration Ppm

†However, the declining cost of renewable energy (mainly solar and wind) suggests that in the future developing countries will choose them, not for their environmental benefit but for their low cost, making the pressure on the environment lower to the expected, especially if in parallel, the developed countries are transitioning little by little to sources of cleaner energies. But we will talk about this another day.

Am I too optimistic? Hey, it’s Friday!

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