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Don’t Worry, Be Happy

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It seems like we’re constantly bombarded with negative news, doesn’t it? We live inside a 24-hour news cycle, where cable television, social media and hundreds of online news outlets compete for our attention. As a result of this competition, our news is designed to elicit our emotions…and much of it is sensationalized. Everywhere we turn, talking heads frame the day’s events in terms of what could go wrong.

Our instincts tell us to tune in and be informed – but there’s a price to pay. Too much negative news can make us sad and anxious. After a long day at work, negative news can be overwhelming.

The reality is, the world is not falling apart. There are a lot of good things happening for the human race and the environment. All we need to do is take a step back and take a broader view. For example:

  • Most working people in the world are working fewer hours, but earning more.
  • The percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty is now just 10 percent, down from 50 percent in 1950. Meanwhile, the global literacy rate for people aged 15 and above is now 86.3 percent.
  • We’re making strides on climate change, even in developing countries. Clean energy is getting cheaper and more plentiful. In 2017, solar energy generation rose 51 percent while the use of coal, nuclear energy and natural gas declined. Last year, for the first time, the world invested more in renewable energy than in carbon-emitting fossil fuels.
  • Life expectancy has risen 20 years in the last half century, while the number who die from disease and in childbirth has decreased dramatically.
  • Motor vehicle deaths have been dropping for years as cars have become safer – despite texting while driving.
  • Scientific research output is doubling roughly every 9 years, and new scientific discoveries abound. For example, in just the last few years huge strides have been made toward curing HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis, some forms of cancer and Alzheimer’s.
  • Gun violence is horrific, but has been on the decline. From 1993 to 2013, the number of homicides by firearm was cut in half. According to FBI data, violent crime as a whole decreased 49 percent since 1991.

While it’s important to keep up with what’s going on in the world, it’s also important to balance the negative with the positive. Here are a few reading suggestions:

  • The Good News Network,
  • “Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism and Progress,” by Steven Pinker
  • “Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World,” by Hans Rosling
  • “Know This: Today’s Most Interesting and Important Scientific Ideas, Discoveries, and Developments,” by John Brockman