… world is getting better is like me telling you that everything is fine, and that feels ridiculous. I agree. Everything is not fine. We should still be very concerned. As long as there are plane crashes, preventable child deaths, endangered species, climate change sceptics, male chauvinists, crazy dictators, toxic waste, journalists in prison, and girls not getting an education, we cannot relax. But it is just as ridiculous to look away from the progress that has been made. The consequent loss of hope can be devastating. When people wrongly believe that nothing is improving, they may lose confidence in measures that actually work.
This is absolutely true. What’s called for is realism rather than optimism or pessimism. I recently wrote that the conservation movement has been relying too much on fear and past failures in their communications, leaving people both ignorant of considerable progress on that front and feeling too glum to act constructively in response to certain environmental threats. Quoting from that piece:
“The good news is that as our understanding of the natural world has grown, our desire to protect it has generally increased as well. Just in the United States alone the Endangered Species Act, Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Antiquities Act, and the creation of the National Park Service all serve as prominent examples of legislation that reflect changes in values that can be directly linked to increases in our knowledge.
Globally efforts to protect habitat and conserve resources have also seen dramatic advances. According to the World Bank, between 1990 and 2016 the amount of land under some form of protected status rose from 8.2% to 14.4%. Terrestrial and marine areas combined receiving some form of protection increased from 6.2% to 12.8% between 1990 and 2014.”