With so much chaos and uncertainty around the world — war, terror attacks, racial division, health concerns, and more — it can be easy to become overwhelmed by the negativity of it all, to wonder if things will ever change and if we should even bother trying to help what seems like a lost cause.
But sometimes a shift in perspective can really go a long way. Instead of focusing on what is going wrong in the world or your life — which is not the same as ignoring it or pretending it isn’t real — focus instead on what is going right, such as the gift of being alive, the ability to access information, or the support of your friends and family. Practice gratitude for the beauty in this world. Regardless of how small the thing you allow yourself to feel grateful for, practicing gratitude can create a huge shift in yourself and those around you. It’s truly infectious.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the amazing and positive events that are currently taking place on our planet. After all, “It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”
1. Life Expectancy Is Growing to an All-Time High
Most babies born in 1900 did not live to see the age of 50. Yet now, the average life expectancy in the country with the most impressive longevity, Japan, has reached 83 — an astonishing increase in just over a century. Life expectancy in other wealthy counties clocks in at 81, and overall, people are now expected to reach old age, which was a rare feat not so long ago.
Better sanitation and clean drinking water have contributed to this tremendously, as have our access to and quality of healthcare, though it’s important to note that, in recent years, we have been taking cleanliness too far. Keeping things clean is not the same as keeping them sterile, and our overuse of antibiotics, harsh cleaners, and sanitizers is making us more, rather than less, susceptible to disease and infection. In order to thrive, we need to be exposed to the good, beneficial bacteria that our bodies depend on.
2. Extreme Poverty Is at Less Than 10%
This statistic can be largely attributed to vast improvements in Southeast Asian countries. In 1990, 60% of this region (992.2 million) was defined as living in extreme poverty, which means living on less than $1.25 per day. This has shifted over the years, as the below numbers show:
1990: 1,959 billion = 37.1% of world’s population.
1999: 1,747 billion = 29% of world’s population.
2012: 902 million = 12.8% of world’s population.
2015: 702 million = 9.6% of world’s population.
Extreme poverty, which is now defined as living on less than $1.90 per day, now hits Sub-Saharan Africa the hardest, though their numbers are falling as well. Nevertheless, “We are the first generation in human history that can end extreme poverty,” World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has said.
3. The Ozone Layer Is Repairing Itself
According to a panel of United Nations Scientists, the Earth’s ozone layer is actually now starting to repair itself, thanks largely to the banning of harmful chemicals in aerosol cans in the 1980s.
4. More Countries Are Starting to Donate All Unsold Food to Those in Need
This one seems like a no-brainer, but only recently have organizations and governments started to think in this way, with countries like France and Italy making huge strides toward putting an end to food waste. You may have heard of a growing trend called “Dumpster Diving” where people sift through the dumpster bins behind grocery stores to retrieve perfectly edible unsold food, but you may not have heard that some supermarkets have resorted to pouring bleach on these items to prevent people from taking them. My question is, if they are in the garbage anyway, why should it matter?
Just last year the France senate voted unanimously and implemented a law that bans all supermarkets and grocery stores from throwing unsold food before it’s best before date into the garbage. This alone will enable charities to give out millions more meals to those in need. What’s more, these meals will consist of fresh produce, not just canned goods and other (often unhealthy) non-perishables.
5. Energy Produced From Renewable Resources Is Drastically Increasing
There are many sources of renewable energy available to us now, and luckily, governments are catching on. Based on the Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century’s (REN21) 2016 report, renewables contributed to 19.2% of humans’ global energy consumption and 23.7% of their generation of electricity in 2014 and 2015.
Renewable energy has the potential to greatly assist impoverished nations. You may have heard the story of Akon, the popular musician who partnered up with a Chinese solar panel company to create the Akon Lights Africa Project, which is on track to provide electricity to 80 million Africans by the end of this year. If just one project can have such an impact, imagine the collective power of multiple projects all working toward this end.
I’ll leave you with just one more. The giant panda, which is often used as a symbol for wildlife conservation, is no longer on the endangered species list. If that doesn’t make you hopeful for our future, I don’t know what will!
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