With mass media so often focusing on negative developments, it is easy to forget how much progress has been made in different spheres of human life. Here are six ways in which the world is improving!

1. More than half of the world lives in a democracy

Image: Our World in Data

In 2002, the number of democracies in the world surpassed the number of autocracies (Varieties of Democracy Project 2019). As of 2015, 56% of the global population lived in a democracy, as illustrated in the chart above. Democratisation has been linked to increased protection of human rights, higher rates of school enrolment and even better health outcomes, marking a positive shift in the lives of millions of people.

2. Nuclear stockpiles are shrinking

From an all-time high in 1986, the number of nuclear warheads in the inventory of nuclear powers has fallen by 84% (Our World in Data). Additionally, countries such as South Africa, Libya, Ukraine and Kazakhstan have voluntarily dismantled their nuclear weapons programs. These developments could signify greater peace and security between nations.

3. Literacy and formal education attainment are at an all-time high

Image: UNICEF South Asia

As of 2015, 86% of the world population aged 15 or above had at least some basic formal education, with many more going on to complete primary and secondary education, an incredible increase from just 49% in 1950 (Our World in Data). The UNESCO Institute for Statistics reports that, as a result, global literacy has reached a record rate of 86%.

4. Ozone-depleting substance emissions have plummeted

Image: Our World in Data

Ozone is a gas found in the stratosphere that shields the Earth from the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation, which has the potential to harm all life on Earth. In humans, this would mean increased levels of skin cancer, cataracts and immune system damage. In the 1970s, it was found that the industrial emission of certain chemical compounds depleted ozone levels, posing a serious risk to our environment and ourselves (NASA). 

However, as shown on the graph above, total emissions of ozone-depleting substances have declined drastically. This shift can be attributed primarily to the 1989 Montreal Protocol, a highly effective international treaty which sought to reduce and subsequently eliminate the use of man-made ozone-depleting substances.

5. The number of children in child labour continues to fall

Image: International Labour Office (ILO)

Between 2000 and 2016, the global number of child labourers fell by 40% (International Labour Office 2017). This marks an enormous stride in ethical labour practices and in the quality of life of millions of children who are no longer potentially endangered by hazardous working environments and who are now better able to pursue an education.

6. Life expectancy is increasing

Image: Our World in Data

Over the past 70 years, life expectancy has steadily risen all over the world. This trend can be attributed to leaps in healthcare provision, quality and innovation which have led to lower rates of infant mortality, more hygienic practices and campaigns to eradicate various infectious diseases.

All of these changes can be accredited to the work of individuals and organisations committed to bettering human life. Even in the face of ongoing challenges, we must never lose sight of what can still be achieved.

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