The good news that nobody wants to read
Are we missing the truth? The headlines are full of horror, doom and gloom. Some experts say there is plenty of positive news, but we’re hardwired to focus on the bad.
When you read the news, sometimes it can feel like the only things reported are terrible, depressing events. Why does the media concentrate on the bad things in life, rather than the good? And what might this depressing slant say about us, the audience?
It isn’t that these are the only things that happen. Perhaps journalists are drawn to reporting bad news because sudden disaster is more compelling than slow improvements. Or it could be that newsgatherers believe that cynical reports of corrupt politicians or unfortunate events make for simpler stories. But another strong possibility is that we, the readers or viewers, have trained journalists to focus on these things. Many people often say that they would prefer good news: but is that actually true?
EXTREME POVERTY HAS FALLEN
The U.N.’s vow to cut extreme poverty came with aid commitments from rich countries as well as debt forgiveness, which allowed some nations to put resources toward education or health rather than toward paying debt service on loans to international funders. But those measures were not primarily responsible for the overall rise in incomes.
Though poverty has declined everywhere, China and India, the world’s most populous countries, account for a vast majority of the progress. Their economic growth, spurred by reforms that opened its economy to trade and improved agricultural productivity, as well as foreign direct investment, gave the government the means to reduce poverty.
The government provided free elementary education for all children and financed major construction projects to bring electricity and clean water to rural areas. People moved from the countryside to coastal cities, where they worked in factories and sent money home. Government-sponsored programs moved more than a million people — some reluctantly — from the drought-stricken desert to newly built villages closer to roads and water.
GLOBAL HUNGER IS FALLING
This year marks the halfway point of the Sustainable Development Goals, leaving only seven years to achieve SDG2 Zero Hunger. As the year 2030 looms, nearly three-quarters of a billion people are still unable to exercise their adequate right to food. While there have been many years of advancement, progress in reducing hunger worldwide is improving.Hunger is not new and neither are its drivers.
On 12 October, Welthungerhilfe (WHH), together with Concern Worldwide, launched this year’s edition of the Global Hunger Index (GHI). Even though the global hunger index is falling, The 2023 report paints a worrying picture: the global GHI score for 2023 is 18.3, less than one point below the GHI score of 19.1 for 2015—the year the SDGs were implemented.
What is the Global Hunger Index?
The Global Hunger Index is a peer-reviewed report published by Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide on an annual basis. Since 2006, the series has measured and tracked long-term trends of hunger on a global, regional, and national level. The report also raises awareness of the scale and scope of hunger across the globe with the aim of providing incentives to act.
DEATH IN CHILDBIRTH IS RARER
Improvements in healthcare, nutrition, and hygiene mean maternal deaths are much rarer today. But women are still dying from pregnancy-related causes that are preventable.
Today the world region with the lowest maternal mortality is the European Union, where 8 women die per 100,000 live births. In today’s world where 140 million women give birth each year, if all countries had this level of maternal mortality, 11,000 would die.
We can see how much global maternal health is improved: if we still had the living standards of 1800, around 1.26 million women would die from pregnancy every year. Almost one million more women would die each year.
But we also see how far we could go. If all regions achieved the healthcare and living standards of the EU very few women would die. Almost 300,000 fewer deaths ; a reduction of over 95%. If we think of it in this way, almost all of the world’s maternal deaths are preventable with adequate maternal care, safe deliveries, good nutrition and hygiene and sanitation.
MORE PEOPLE ARE IN SCHOOL FOR LONGER
The share of children who are out-of-school has declined in all world regions. Globally, this share has halved. A generation ago, it was girls in particular who did not have access to schools. This inequality has declined, and today, the absolute number and the share of boys and girls who are out of primary school is similar.
This recent change is part of a much larger development that spans the last few generations.
Until then, no matter where a child was born, its chances of getting even the most basic education were very small. Everywhere in the world, education was restricted to a small elite population
Reading is the single most important educational skill a young child can learn. How did literacy change as more and more children gained access to a basic education?
The GLOBAL REVOLUTION IN LITERACY chart shows that two centuries ago, only 1 out of every 10 adults knew how to read and write. This ratio has flipped since then: today, about 9 in 10 adults do have this basic skill.
Talent is everywhere, opportunity is not. The majority of children that have ever lived did not have the opportunity to fulfill their potential. In the extreme poverty of the pre-growth economies, children with great potential ended up living a life in poverty. Even very basic educational skills – like reading and writing – were a privilege of a small elite.
It is hard to imagine what all these girls and boys could have become. Perhaps it is easier to see the importance of at least basic education by looking at those around us today and ask what their chances would have been without it. What would have become of Marie Curie, Jane Austen, Steve Jobs, or Einstein if they were born into a society in which children didn’t have access to basic education?
The world has made a lot of progress in recent generations, but a lot of work is left for our generation today.