It’s been another week of bad news. Our thoughts and prayers go out to the survivors of the Orlando nightclub shootings on Sunday, as well as to the families in despair over the loss of their loved ones, and others impacted by recent Florida tragedies. Here in Michigan, a teen survivor of the February shootings at a restaurant in Kalamazoo is still struggling – this time, with an infection after doctors inserted a plate into her skull to replace bone destroyed by a bullet. We hope for Abigail Kopf’s recovery too.
Hope and despair are powerful emotions, with effects taking a toll on the human condition every day. A refugee crisis threatens the financial well-being and social fabric of Europe; China’s economic woes make the future seem uncertain for its citizens, and here in the U.S., we’re watching one of the strangest presidential election seasons in history. If you don’t know what to think, don’t worry – no one else does either!
While it’s easy to focus on all of the bad news events happening around the world, it’s also easy to forget that some good things are happening, too. In his article, “10 Reasons to be Cheerful,” Jim Parker, vice president of DFA Australia Ltd., has some economic good news alternatives that we can use to balance our negative emotions:
- Over the last 25 years, 2 billion people globally have moved out of extreme poverty, according to the latest United Nations Human Development Report.
- Over the same period, mortality rates among children under the age of five have fallen by 53 percent, from 91 deaths per 1000 to 43 deaths per 1000.
- In September 2015, all members of the UN set 17 sustainable development goals for 2030, including targets for eliminating poverty and hunger and lifting standards in health, education, water, energy and infrastructure.
- Global trade has expanded as a proportion of GDP from 20 percent in 1995 to 30 percent by 2014, signaling greater global integration.
- Global bank regulators recently announced that since the financial crisis they have implemented reforms to reduce leverage, address systemic risk and build capital buffers into the banking system.
- The world’s biggest economy, the US, has been recovering. Unemployment has halved in six years from 10 percent to 5 percent.
- Global oil prices, while about 80 percent up from January’s 13-year lows, are still 50 percent below where they were two years ago. While bad news for the oil sector, lower prices also raise real incomes for consumers, increase profits outside energy and decrease costs of production.
- While fossil fuels still play a major role in the economy, renewable energy sources—such as solar and wind—accounted for nearly 22 percent of global electricity generation in 2013 and are seen rising to at least 26 percent by 2020.
- We live in an era of rapid innovation. One report estimates the digital economy now accounts for 22.5 percent of global economic output, and projects digital technologies could generate $2 trillion of additional output by 2020.
- The growing speed and scale of data are increasing global connectedness and transforming industries as new discoveries are made in such areas as engineering, medicine, food, energy, and sustainability.
Here’s another cheerful thought on my list: As a Rotarian, I am proud of our mission to eradicate polio from the face of the earth. When we started this work in 1984, over 350,000 children were stricken with polio around the globe every single year. As of January 1, 2016, there have been only 16 cases of polio reported, contained in Afghanistan and Pakistan. India and Africa are now polio free. We are so close and we will get there!
While the tragedies of the moment have our attention, we can balance our anger, despair and sadness with comfort -- the lives of many other people who have few or no resources are improving. Positive stories like that may not make the headlines often, but they do affect us. They may provide business or investment opportunities that improve our own lives; but more importantly, they indicate that we are making empathetic human progress.
Remember, as Desmond Tutu once said, “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” Here’s to good news days ahead.