Not as Bad as it Seems

By Bradley Tusk  |  September 20, 2016

To listen to Donald Trump in his acceptance speech, disaster looms at every turn. There’s a dark cloud hanging over every block, our safety is in jeopardy at all times, and we can only survive by clamping down as much as possible in every way we can. In other words, his view (or at least what he wants us to believe) is that the world is a terrible place and we need him to protect us from it.

He’s right – this is a period of massive global change and upheaval – technologically, politically, physically. Governments are changing hands quickly, whether in autocratic places like the Arab Spring or the UK leaving the EU and that causes disruption. Technology has connected virtually the entire globe, bringing us closer but also highlighting our differences. And climate change is already wreaking havoc and forcing us to adapt in ways that aren’t appealing. None of this is easy. But it’s also not the first time that the world has undergone periods of radical change. And the nation that hides its head in the sand, tries to close its borders and turn back time is always the first loser.

Even more important, when you look at the facts, all in all, the world is in a better place than it’s ever been.

For example:

o According to The World Health Organization (WHO), the number of countries reaching and sustaining 90% coverage of children with routine life-saving vaccinations has doubled since 2000. [1]

o According to the WHO, since 2000, there has been a significant increase in the number of countries that have moved towards malaria elimination. Of the 106 countries with ongoing malaria transmission in 2000, 57 achieved reductions in new malaria cases of least 75% by 2015. Eighteen countries reduced their malaria cases by 50-75%. [2]

o According to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation, from 1980-2000, the overall mortality rate from heart attack fell by almost half, from 345.2 to 186.0 per 100,000 persons. [3]

o When it comes to hunger, the proportion of undernourished people in the developing regions has fallen in line with the extreme poverty figures – down from 23.3% in 1990–1992 to 12.9% in 2014–2016, according to data provided by the World Economic Forum. [4]

o Because of unprecedented policy changes and global investment in health, things are slowly improving all around the world. For instance, according to data from the Gates Foundation, since 1990, global maternal deaths have dropped by 45%, and the percent of children who die before five years old has been cut in half. [5][6]

o According to the most recent estimates by The World Bank, in 2012, 12.7% of the world’s population lived at or below $1.90 a day. That’s down from 37% in 1990 and 44% in 1981. This means that, in 2012, 896 million people lived on less than $1.90 a day, compared with 1.95 billion in 1990, and 1.99 billion in 1981. [7]

o According to United Nations Human Development Report, the child mortality rate fell by more than half, and under-five deaths fell from 12.7 million to 6 million. More than 2.6 billion people gained access to an improved source of drinking water, and 2.1 billion gained access to improved sanitation facilities, even as the world’s population rose from 5.3 billion to 7.3 billion. [8]

o And it’s not all just abroad. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 20 million people have gained health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act, new estimates show. 6.1 million uninsured young adults ages 19 to 25 have gained health insurance coverage because of the Affordable Care Act. This is especially important because young adults were particularly likely to be uninsured before the law went into effect. [9]

When you look at the quality of life of the 7.5 billion people populating the planet, the standard is higher than it’s ever been. Yes, it’s chaotic. But that’s in many ways because more people are empowered than ever. Yes, it’s scary. Times of change and upheaval always are. But the best way to handle it is not by closing our eyes, putting our fingers in our ears and screaming as loud as we can. It’s to recognize the change occurring all around us – the good and the bad – and shape and embrace it not just for what it is, but for what it could be.

[1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8] [9]