human progress, world in data, poverty rate

Life has really changed over the past 200 years.

It’s unfortunate that humans are wired to notice everything bad going on in the world and to ignore the things that are going right. Our collective negativity bias was illustrated in a 2016 survey that asked people in 17 countries “Do you think the world is getting better or worse, or neither getting better nor worse?”

Fifty‐eight percent of respondents thought that the world is getting worse, and 30% said that it is doing neither. Only 11% thought that things are getting better.

However, there is a wealth of data to support the idea that the world is only improving when it comes to the hallmarks of human progress: education, freedom, poverty and health.

In a recent interview with Upworthy, Chelsea Follett, the managing editor at Human Progress, explained why humans have a bias toward negativity, and the media isn’t doing us any favors.


"Historically, obviously our ancestors in a primitive environment who overreacted to danger were more likely to survive than those who underreacted," Follett told Upworthy. "But there is a point where unwarranted panic can actually be detrimental to your survival if you abandon policies or institutions that are actually working, or that have allowed you to make tremendous progress in the past.

"There's also the nature of the media," she added. "Obviously sudden, noteworthy and rare events are the ones that make headlines, whereas long-term slow, steady, incremental progress is just not as interesting."

Our World in Data, an organization that performs "research and data to make progress against the world’s largest problems" has created a revealing document that shows just how far humanity has come over the past 200 years. The graphs show how life has changed for a random sampling of 100 people over the past two centuries.

The graph covers six topics that are cornerstones of human progress: poverty, basic education, literacy, democracy, vaccination and child mortality.

Poverty

In 1820, 84 out of 100 people lived in extreme poverty, and over 200 years that number has dropped more than nine times to just 9 in 100. “The headline could be ‘The number of people in extreme poverty fell by 130,000 since yesterday’ and they wouldn’t have this headline once, but every single day since 1990, since, on average, there were 130,000 people fewer in extreme poverty every day,” Our World in Data wrote.

via Our World in Data

Basic Education

Two hundred years ago, 83 out of 100 people had no education at all. That number has been reduced to just 14 over the past 200 years.

Our World In Data says that number is only going to get better. “Focusing on the educational breakdown the projection suggests that by 2100, there will be almost no one without formal education and there will be more than 7 billion minds who will have received at least secondary education,” Our World in Data said.

via Our World in Data

Literacy

In 1820, only 12 people out of 100 could read. In 2019, that number has risen more than seven times to 86. These numbers will continue to rise because a large portion of the world’s illiterate population is older.

via Our World in Data

Democracy

Only 1 out of 100 people lived in a democracy back in 1820. Now, 56 out of 100 people live in a country where they can select their elected officials. This was a big change that came after World War II.

“In the second half of the 20th century, the world has changed significantly: Colonial empires ended, and more and more countries turned democratic,” Our World in Data wrote. “The share of the world population living in democracies increased continuously–particularly important was the breakdown of the Soviet Union which allowed more countries to democratize.”

via Our World in Data

Vaccination

Over the past 60 years, the number of people out of 100 that would have been vaccinated against diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus has risen from 0 to 86.

via Our World in Data

Child Mortality

Can you imagine living at a time when almost half of all children born never lived to kindergarten age? “In 1800 the health conditions were such that around 43% of the world’s newborns died before their 5th birthday,” Our World In Data wrote. “In 2017 child mortality was down to 3.9% – 10-fold lower than 2 centuries ago.”

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

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Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

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Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

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