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We Need Optimism (and the Facts) More Than Ever

The vast majority of people believe that things are getting worse, not better. People everywhere think the world is more frightening, more violent and more hopeless – in short, more dramatic – than it really is. This belief is fueled by the news media.

Contrary to this popular belief, the World is actually getting better. Despite what the media would have us believe, we have reason to be optimistic.

Step-by-step, year-by-year, the world is improving. Not on every single measure, every single year but generally as a rule. Though the world faces huge challenges, we have made and continue to make, tremendous progress. This is supported by facts beautifully described by author Hans Rosling in the great book, “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World”.

The facts of the matter are…
The proportion of the global population living in extreme poverty has halved in the past 20 years.

Almost all children are vaccinated in the world today and almost all human beings alive today have some access to basic modern health care.

According to Rosling, the viewpoint that the world is divided into two – the West and the rest, is dated. Levels of income, education, health care, electricity and democracy all tell the same story: that the world used to be divided into two but isn’t any longer. Rosling stresses that we should stop using such simple categories to suggest there is.

The human brain is a product of millions of years of evolution and we are hard wired with instincts that help us to survive. Our brains often jump to swift conclusions without much thinking. This helps us in times of immediate threat. We have become alert to potential threats, drama and an interest in gossip and dramatic events. Whilst we have instincts that used to be helpful a thousand years ago, we live in a different world today.

Whilst we still need these dramatic instincts to be on the lookout for potential trouble, we need to learn to control our drama intake. Rosling states “Uncontrolled, our appetite for the dramatic goes too far, prevents us from seeing the World as it is, and leads us terribly astray.”

Rosling advocates that his book will make you feel more positive, less stressed and more hopeful….we need those benefits in schools, more than ever. It worked for me and is well worth the read.