A different perspective on the state of the world: four major
areas where mankind's long-term progress is striking.
First, the good news: Bad news does not define the human race.
Yes, awful things happen in the world. Somewhere militias are
settling political scores with AK-47s. Somewhere a tyrant is
compiling a list of dissidents to arrest. Somewhere - too many
somewheres - children don't get the food and health care they need,
and their mothers remain oppressed as the property of men.
But here's something you'd never guess from watching cable news:
There is progress in mankind's affairs as well. Consider these
War may be on the decline. Scholars who study the subject say
that, today, fewer wars are starting, more are ending, and those
that remain are contained within smaller areas. Since the late 1940s
annual world battle deaths have fallen by more than 90 percent.
It's not just classical big army clashes that appear to be passe,
either. Everything from low-intensity militia conflicts to civil
wars and, yes, terrorism is becoming less frequent and less deadly.
"If war is really obsolete, it would be one of the most important
developments in the history of the human race," says John Mueller,
chair of national security studies at Ohio State University in
Columbus and an expert in conflict trends.
Poverty could be shrinking. Eleven years ago the United Nations
challenged the world to halve extreme poverty by 2015. Right now it
looks as if developing nations will reach that goal. The World Bank
says they're already 80 percent of the way there.
The number of people living on less than $1.25 a day is projected
to be 883 million in 2015, compared with 1.4 billion in 2005 and 1.8
billion in 1990, according World Bank statistics.
The outlook for developing countries to reduce hunger, enroll
children in primary school, and reach a number of related UN-set
benchmarks is similarly good.
"Their progress is much better than I expected," says Delfin Go,
lead economist at the World Bank's Development Prospects Group.
Globally, women's lot is rising, both in absolute terms and
relative to men. In developed countries there's an increased
consensus supporting formal legal rights and guarantees of equality
for women, says a World Bank report on the subject. In many - but
not all - developing countries, more women are literate and their
overall education level is catching up to men's levels. …