Sometimes it seems like all we hear is bad news. The world is full of wars, terrorism, natural disasters, economic crises and catastrophic climate change. But in reality the world has never been a better place for humans to live in.
For most of human history, life expectancy has hovered around just 20 to 35 years of age. But, beginning with the arrival of the Industrial Revolution around 1760, life expectancy began to rise dramatically. By 2012, global life expectancy was 70. In Australia today, males born in 2012 are expected to live to the age of 80 whilst females are expected to live to the age of 84.
Right now, people are being lifted out of poverty at a quicker rate than at any time in history and a smaller percentage of us are poor than ever before. The percentage of people living on less than $1.25 a day has dropped from 40% to 14% over the last 30 years. In fact, The Economist believes that between 1990 and 2010 more than a billion people were lifted out of poverty. Click here for a concise summary of global poverty reduction from the Cato Institute’s Human Progress website.
Indeed, Swedish academic Hans Rosling believes extreme poverty could be eradicated completely in just 15 years.
We often hear a lot about inequality and how the gap between the rich and the poor is growing. But, as World Bank economist Branko Milanovic says, we are currently living through “the first decline in global inequality between world citizens since the Industrial Revolution.”
Diseases that used to be deadly are declining or being eradicated completely. Between 1990 and 2010 the percentage of children who died before their fifth birthday dropped by almost half. Deaths from measles infection were reduced by 71% and both maternal and tuberculosis deaths dropped by around 50%. Deaths from AIDS-related illnesses are down by 24% since 2005. For more information on the progress we are making against disease, check out the World Health Organization’s compendium of health statistics.
There are even fewer wars than in the past. The number of wars has declined sharply since the Second World War and the number of civil wars has dropped 40% since 1990. Even the wars we do have are less deadly. The average number of people dying in civil wars has declined by 96.5% since the 1950s. Furthermore, more wars are ending in negotiated settlements according to the Human Security Report 2012.
Human beings work less, earn more, have more time for fun and are generally happier than they have ever been. We are even taller than we used to be! This interesting article from Canada’s Maclean’s magazine says now is the best time to be alive in history.
It hasn’t always been like this. For most of human history, for most people, life has been hard, boring and short.
So if everything is so good, why are there still so many poor people in the world? To answer that, we must first look at why rich countries are rich.