In a neat little feature for Vox, Dylan Matthews summons a variety of graphics and charts indicating that, over time, certain critical measures of quality of life around the world are getting better, not worse. For example:
- “Extreme poverty has fallen”
- “Child labor is on the decline”
- “More people have access to malaria bednets”
- “Violent crime in the US is going down”
- “More people are going to school for longer”
- “Access to the internet is increasing”
Okay, so maybe it’s the classic glass-is-half-full perspective, and the more curmudgeonly among us may frown and shake our heads. (Hey, I feel that way virtually every time I leave a faculty meeting….)
But perhaps this isn’t about a clash between the World as Great Place versus the World Sucks & Then We Die scenarios: Most of this progress did not occur accidentally. These social and economic improvements are largely the result of smart, dedicated initiative, innovation, enterprise, and policy, topped with generous dollops of care and humanity.
In other words, it means that those who are trying to make a difference potentially can do so, sometimes even dramatically.
So if you are engaged in some effort, big or small, to make the world a better place, and that work fuels your passion for life, keep going, be a change agent. And if you never meet many of those who are benefiting from your good works, be grateful, for it means that your efforts have caused ripple effects that are transcending your time and place.