May 25, 2019
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Some of the 99 reasons to be optimistic as 2018 comes to a close

Rafiq Maqbool | AP
Rafiq Maqbool | AP
Hindu devotees offer prayers standing in the waters of the Arabian Sea at sunset during Chhath Puja festival in Mumbai, India, Nov. 13, 2018. On Chhath, an ancient Hindu festival, rituals are performed to thank the Sun god for sustaining life on earth.

As 2018 comes to an end, many Americans are feeling anxious and concerned. The Trump administration appears to be descending further into chaos with the recent departures of top aides who brought stability and clear-eyed thinking to the White House. Scientists warn that people are running out of time to avert the deadly consequences of climate change. The stock market has been especially volatile, prompting many Americans to worry about their retirement savings.

But there are also many reasons globally for optimism as we look ahead to a new year. The folks at Future Crunch, which promotes “intelligent, optimistic thinking for the future,” have put together a list of 99 such reasons that fall into these categories: global health, global conservation, rising standards of living, fossil fuels and clean energy, justice, violence, a healthy planet. Here’s a sampling.

Improved living standards

Poverty, globally, is on the decline. The tipping point came in September, when, for the first time since agriculture-based civilization began 10,000 years ago, the majority of humankind is no longer poor or vulnerable to falling into poverty, the Brookings Institution reported. “Barring some unfortunate global economic setback, this marks the start of a new era of a middle-class majority,” the think tank said.

Perhaps because of this economic turning point, optimism is also on the rise. A new global youth survey by Ipsos showed that young people in all countries are more optimistic than adults. Nine in 10 teenagers in Kenya, Mexico, China, Nigeria and India reported feeling positive about their future.

One reason for optimism is that democracy is becoming more widespread, especially in South and Central America. Six in 10 of the world’s countries are now democratic, the most since World War II, according to the Pew Research Center.

A more tolerant planet

The Supreme Court in Costa Rica overturned that country’s ban on same-sex marriage and courts in India and Trinidad and Tobago ended bans on gay sex. A Lebanese court ruled that being homosexual is not a crime.

Pakistan’s parliament passed a law ensuring citizens the right to self identify as transgender and to have that identity registered on all officials documents. That law also forbids discrimination by employers, schools, health care providers, private businesses and others.

There has been a significant drop in the horrid practice of female genital mutilation. In East Africa, the mutilation rate has dropped to 8 percent among girls age 14 and younger, according to a recent study by BMJ Global Health. The rate was 71 percent in 1995. There were also significant decreases in north and west Africa, although not as dramatic.

Global health progress

Smoking rates are dropping in many countries, including the U.S., where they are at historic lows for adults. The rise in vaping among American teens, however, is cause for concern.

Since 2010, global HIV/AIDS infection rates have fallen by 16 percent in adults and by 35 percent for children. Most countries are now on track to eliminate infections by 2030, according to a recent study. In South Africa, home ot the largest population of people living with HIV, new infections have declined 44 percent since 2012.

Malaria has been eliminated in Paraguay, the World Health Organization has certified and the malaria death rate has been cut in half in Tanzania.

Conservation and clean energy

Holes in the ozone, which captured public attention in the 1980s, are healing, the United Nations reported. The upper ozone above the Northern Hemisphere should be repaired by 2030, scientists reported Monday at a meeting in Ecuador. A hole over the Southern Hemisphere is closing more slowly and is expected to be covered by 2060.

Numerous marine preserves were created last year in Chile, the Seychelles and Spain. Niger has planted 200 million new trees over the past three decades and the population of wild tigers has nearly doubled in Nepal.

The amount of installed wind and solar power has increased more than 100-fold in the past decade. The costs of these installations continue to drop, making them competitive with dirtier fossil-fuel power generation. Spanish energy company Repsol said in May that it will no longer seek growth in oil and gas development, focusing instead on growing renewable energy sources.

There was plenty to be frustrated about in 2018, but there are also reasons for thanks and hope around the world as we welcome a new year.


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