Although it seems to most people these days that the world is going a downward spiral of corruption, pollution, evil capitalism, and tyranny, it just might be the opposite; here are some evidence-based arguments that suggest the world is improving over the long term, which you can use to convince people who believe otherwise:
Health and Life expectancy
- In 1900, the average life expectancy worldwide was only 31 years. By 2021, the global average life expectancy had increased to 72 years. In addition, many diseases that were once fatal, such as smallpox and polio, have been largely eradicated thanks to vaccines and other medical advances.
- Child Mortality: In 1960, the global child mortality rate was 20%, meaning that 1 in 5 children died before their fifth birthday. By 2019, the child mortality rate had fallen to 3.8%, meaning that 96% of children now survive to their fifth birthday.
- Eradication of diseases: The world has seen the eradication of some major diseases. For example, smallpox was officially eradicated in 1980, and polio is on the brink of eradication.
- Improved treatment for diseases: Medical advances have led to improved treatment options for diseases, such as cancer and HIV/AIDS. In many cases, these treatments have led to significant improvements in survival rates.
- Improved maternal health: Maternal mortality has declined by 44% since 1990, due to improvements in healthcare access and quality.
- Improved nutrition: Worldwide, malnutrition has declined, with the number of undernourished people decreasing from 842 million in 2000 to 690 million in 2019.
- Improved access to healthcare: Access to healthcare has improved, with more people having access to essential health services and medicine. For example, in sub-Saharan Africa, access to antiretroviral therapy for HIV has increased from 1% in 2002 to 56% in 2020.
- Decline in smoking rates: The global smoking rate has declined from 25% in 1990 to 20% in 2020, which is expected to lead to a decline in smoking-related diseases such as lung cancer and heart disease.
Disease in the last 200 years
- Smallpox: Smallpox was a deadly disease that caused millions of deaths every year. In 1980, it was declared eradicated globally, thanks to a successful vaccination campaign. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), smallpox caused an estimated 300 million deaths in the 20th century alone.
- Polio: Polio is a disease that attacks the nervous system and can cause paralysis. In the mid-20th century, polio was a major public health threat, but a successful vaccination campaign has led to a significant reduction in cases. According to the WHO, global polio cases have decreased by over 99% since 1988.
- Measles: Measles is a highly contagious disease that can cause serious complications, including pneumonia and encephalitis. According to the WHO, vaccination has led to a 73% reduction in measles deaths between 2000 and 2018.
- Tuberculosis: Tuberculosis (TB) is a bacterial infection that primarily affects the lungs. While TB remains a major global health threat, efforts to reduce the number of cases have been successful. According to the WHO, the number of TB deaths fell by 42% between 2000 and 2019.
- Malaria: Malaria is a parasitic disease transmitted by mosquitoes. According to the WHO, the number of malaria deaths has decreased by 60% since 2000, thanks in part to increased use of insecticide-treated bed nets and effective treatment.
- Yellow fever: Yellow fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes. According to the WHO, vaccination campaigns have led to a 60% decrease in yellow fever deaths between 2000 and 2018.
- Diphtheria: Diphtheria is a bacterial infection that can cause severe respiratory and heart complications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), widespread vaccination has led to a 99% decrease in diphtheria cases in the United States since the 1920.
- Pertussis: Pertussis, or whooping cough, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can be fatal in infants. According to the CDC, vaccination has led to a 92% decrease in pertussis deaths in the United States since the 1940.
- Rubella: Rubella, also known as German measles, is a viral infection that can cause birth defects in pregnant women. According to the WHO, vaccination has led to a 97% reduction in rubella deaths worldwide between 2000 and 2018.
- Tetanus: Tetanus is a bacterial infection that can cause muscle stiffness and spasms, and can be fatal. According to the WHO, global deaths from tetanus decreased by 94% between 1990 and 2019, thanks to increased vaccination coverage
- Rinderpest: Rinderpest was a highly infectious viral disease in cattle that had devastating effects on livestock populations. However, in 2011, it became the second disease in history, after smallpox, to be eradicated globally.
- Cholera: Cholera is a bacterial infection that causes severe diarrhea and can be fatal. Since the 19th century, measures such as sanitation and clean water have helped to reduce the number of cholera cases. According to the WHO, global cholera cases decreased by 60% in 2018.
- Typhoid fever: Typhoid fever is a bacterial infection that spreads through contaminated food and water. Vaccination and improved sanitation have helped to reduce the number of typhoid fever cases globally. According to the WHO, the number of typhoid fever deaths fell by 41% between 2000 and 2019.
- Leprosy: Leprosy is a bacterial infection that can cause skin lesions and nerve damage. In the mid-20th century, leprosy was a major public health concern, but effective treatment and management have helped to reduce the number of cases. According to the WHO, the number of new cases of leprosy has decreased by 96% since 1985.
- River blindness: River blindness is a parasitic infection that can cause blindness. A mass treatment campaign led to a 63% reduction in cases between 1995 and 2015, and the disease is now close to elimination.
- Syphilis: Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can cause serious health problems if left untreated. The introduction of antibiotics in the mid-20th century has led to a significant reduction in syphilis cases.
- Whooping cough: Whooping cough, or pertussis, is a highly contagious respiratory disease that can be fatal in infants. Vaccination has led to a significant reduction in the number of whooping cough cases. According to the WHO, the number of deaths due to whooping cough fell by 70% between 2000 and 2018.
- Haemophilus influenza type b (Hib): Hib is a bacterial infection that can cause serious complications in young children. Vaccination has led to a significant reduction in the number of Hib cases. According to the WHO, the number of deaths due to Hib fell by 90% between 2000 and 2018.
- Trachoma: Trachoma is a bacterial infection that can cause blindness. A mass treatment campaign led to a 91% reduction in cases between 2002 and 2020, and the disease is now close to elimination.
- Guinea worm disease: Guinea worm disease is a parasitic infection that can cause painful blisters and ulcers. A global eradication campaign has reduced the number of cases from 3.5 million in 1986 to just 27 in 2020.
The number of people living in extreme poverty has fallen significantly in recent decades, and global inequality has decreased as well.
- In 1990, over 1.9 billion people lived in extreme poverty (defined as living on less than $1.90 a day), but by 2019, that number had fallen to just over 700 million. This means that the percentage of people living in extreme poverty has fallen from 36% to less than 10% in less than 30 years.
- Poverty has declined in China: China has made significant progress in reducing poverty. In 1981, 88% of the Chinese population lived in extreme poverty. By 2015, this number had decreased to less than 1%.
- Extreme poverty has declined in India: India has also made progress in reducing extreme poverty. In 1993, 45% of the population lived in extreme poverty. By 2015, this number had decreased to 13.4%.
- Poverty has decreased in Sub-Saharan Africa: Although the region still has the highest poverty rate in the world, the percentage of people living in extreme poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa has decreased from 56% in 1990 to 41% in 2015.
- More children are attending school: Globally, the number of children who are out of school has decreased by nearly half since 2000.
- Access to electricity has improved: In 1990, 73% of the world's population had access to electricity. By 2018, this number had increased to 89%.
- The proportion of people living in slums is decreasing: Globally, the proportion of people living in slums has declined from 43% in 1990 to 24% in 2018.
- There has been progress in reducing income inequality: Between 1990 and 2019, income inequality has declined in many countries, including Brazil, Mexico, and Turkey.
- The global middle class is growing: In 2019, the global middle class numbered 3.8 billion people, or 50% of the world's population.
- More people have access to clean water: In 1990, 76% of the world's population had access to clean water. By 2015, this number had increased to 91%.
Vaccines and Antibiotics
- Vaccines have prevented millions of deaths: According to the WHO, vaccines prevent between 2-3 million deaths every year from diseases such as measles, rubella, and hepatitis B.
- Vaccines have nearly eradicated some diseases: Smallpox was eradicated in 1980 thanks to widespread vaccination efforts, and polio is close to being eradicated, with only a few hundred cases reported worldwide in 2020.
- Antibiotics have saved countless lives: Antibiotics have been used to treat bacterial infections for almost a century, and have saved countless lives in that time.
- Antibiotics have reduced mortality rates: In the UK, the introduction of antibiotics in the 1940s led to a significant reduction in mortality rates from infectious diseases.
- Antibiotics have reduced morbidity rates: Antibiotics have also reduced the rates of hospitalization and serious complications from bacterial infections.
- Vaccines are cost-effective: Vaccination programs are often cost-effective, with a return on investment of up to 44 times the initial cost of the program, according to a study by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
- Vaccines protect vulnerable populations: Vaccination programs protect those who are unable to receive vaccines, such as infants and people with weakened immune systems, by reducing the spread of diseases.
- Antibiotics are necessary for modern medicine: Many modern medical procedures, such as chemotherapy and organ transplants, would not be possible without antibiotics to prevent and treat infections.
- Antibiotic resistance is a growing problem: While antibiotics have been a lifesaver for many, overuse and misuse have led to the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which pose a serious threat to global health.
- Vaccines and antibiotics are essential for public health: The World Health Organization has identified vaccines and antibiotics as two of the most important tools for promoting public health and combating infectious diseases.
The proportion of people who are literate and have access to education has increased globally.
- Education: In 1960, less than 20% of the world's population had completed primary education. By 2019, this had risen to over 80%. In addition, the gender gap in education has narrowed significantly, with more girls now attending school and completing their education.
- Literacy: In 1820, only around 12% of the world's population was literate, but by 2016, the global literacy rate had risen to over 86%. In some regions, such as East Asia and the Pacific, the literacy rate is now over 95%.
- Access to education: More children around the world are now able to attend school than ever before. In 1970, only 65% of children worldwide were enrolled in primary school, while in 2018, the figure was 91%.
- Gender equality in education: There has been progress in achieving gender equality in education, with more girls now attending school than ever before. In 1990, only 60% of girls worldwide were enrolled in primary school, while in 2018, the figure was 90%.
- Higher education: More people are now able to access higher education than ever before. In 1970, only 7% of adults worldwide had a college degree, while in 2017, the figure was 35%.
- Online education: The spread of technology has enabled more people to access education online. In 2015, there were an estimated 58 million people enrolled in online courses.
- Open access to knowledge: The open access movement has made more knowledge freely available online. In 2020, there were over 22,000 open access journals available online.
- Literacy for all ages: The number of adults who are learning to read and write has also been increasing. In 2019, an estimated 773 million adults worldwide lacked basic literacy skills, down from 880 million in 2015.
- Education spending: Many countries have increased their spending on education in recent years. In 2018, the United States spent $706 billion on education, up from $472 billion in 2000.
- Quality of education: While there is still work to be done to improve the quality of education, there have been some positive developments. For example, the United Nations has set a goal of providing "quality education" for all children by 2030.
- Technological innovations in education: Technology is being used to develop innovative educational tools and approaches, such as virtual reality and gamification, which can enhance the learning experience.
- Homicide rates have decreased over the centuries, as well as the number of deaths from war and conflict.
- In the 20th century, the number of deaths from war and genocide was higher than in any other century in history. However, since the end of the Cold War, there has been a significant decrease in the number of wars and conflict-related deaths. For example, in 2019, there were 89 armed conflicts worldwide, compared to 123 in 1989.
- Homicide rates: The global homicide rate has been declining in recent years. In 1992, the global homicide rate was 10.7 per 100,000 people, while in 2019, it was 6.1 per 100,000 people.
- War and armed conflict: The number of armed conflicts and the number of people killed in armed conflicts have both decreased in recent years. In 2019, there were 35 armed conflicts worldwide, compared to 52 in 2010.
- Terrorism: While terrorism remains a concern in many parts of the world, the number of deaths caused by terrorism has decreased in recent years. In 2014, there were 32,658 deaths caused by terrorism worldwide, while in 2019, there were 13,826 deaths.
- Domestic violence: Many countries have taken steps to address domestic violence, with laws being enacted to protect victims and provide support services. For example, in the United States, the Violence Against Women Act was passed in 1994 to provide support to victims of domestic violence.
- Sexual violence: While sexual violence remains a problem in many parts of the world, there have been some positive developments. For example, in 2018, the government of India passed a law criminalizing certain types of sexual violence, such as rape and sexual assault.
- Police violence: While police violence remains a concern in many countries, there have been some positive developments. For example, in the United States, many cities and states have passed laws to reform policing practices and increase accountability for police officers.
- Gun violence: Many countries have implemented gun control measures in recent years to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by firearms. For example, in Australia, a gun buyback program was implemented in 1996 after a mass shooting, and the country has not had a mass shooting since.
- Child abuse: The number of reported cases of child abuse has increased in recent years, but this may be due in part to increased awareness and reporting of these crimes. Many countries have also taken steps to address child abuse, with laws being enacted to protect children and provide support services.
- Bullying: Many schools and communities have implemented anti-bullying programs in recent years to address the problem of bullying among children and teens.
- Hate crimes: While hate crimes remain a concern in many parts of the world, there have been some positive developments. For example, in 2020, the government of France passed a law criminalizing hate speech targeting people based on their race, religion, sexual orientation, or other characteristics.
- Despite ongoing environmental challenges, efforts to protect the environment have improved in recent decades, with initiatives such as renewable energy and reforestation.
- Renewable energy: Renewable energy has been one of the fastest-growing energy sources in recent years, with the capacity of wind and solar power increasing exponentially. In 2020, renewable energy accounted for 72% of new power capacity additions globally.
- Air quality: Air pollution is a major problem in many parts of the world, but there has been progressing in reducing it. For example, in the United States, air pollution levels have fallen by around 70% since 1970, despite significant population growth and economic expansion.
- Forest cover: Global forest cover has been decreasing for many years, but in some regions, it has started to increase again. For example, in Europe, forest cover has increased by 90,000 square kilometers since 1990, while in China, forest cover has increased by around 16,000 square kilometers per year since the early 2000s.
- Biodiversity: While there are many threats to global biodiversity, there have also been some positive developments in recent years. For example, the number of marine protected areas has increased from 1,077 in 2000 to 7,175 in 2020, protecting around 7.1% of the world's oceans.
- Electric vehicles: The adoption of electric vehicles has been increasing rapidly in recent years, with sales growing by over 40% each year. In 2020, electric vehicles accounted for 4.6% of new car sales globally.
- Climate policies: Despite ongoing challenges, there has been progressing in the development and implementation of policies to address climate change. For example, as of 2021, 191 countries had ratified the Paris Agreement, which aims to limit global warming to well below 2°C.
- The widespread adoption of technology has greatly improved many aspects of life, from medical treatments to communication and transportation.
- Increasing internet access: The number of people with access to the internet has increased significantly. In 1995, only 0.4% of the world population had internet access, while in 2021, it was estimated to be 59.5%.
- Mobile phone ownership: Mobile phones have become increasingly affordable and widespread. In 2000, only 12% of the world's population owned a mobile phone, while in 2020, it was estimated to be 61%.
- Improvements in computing power: The computing power of computers has increased dramatically. In 1990, the fastest supercomputer was capable of 1 gigaflop, while in 2020, the fastest supercomputer was capable of 442 petaflops, an increase of over 400,000 times.
- Artificial intelligence: Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) are leading to new applications that can help solve important problems. For example, AI is being used to develop new drugs, diagnose diseases, and enhance agricultural productivity.
- Biotechnology: Developments in biotechnology are leading to new treatments for diseases and innovations in food production. For example, gene editing technology is being used to create crops that are more resistant to pests and disease.
- Renewable energy: Advancements in technology are making renewable energy sources more affordable and accessible. In 2019, 72% of new power generation capacity globally was from renewable sources.
- Smart homes and cities: The Internet of Things (IoT) is enabling the development of smart homes and cities, which can improve energy efficiency, reduce traffic congestion, and enhance public safety.
- Transportation: Developments in transportation are leading to more efficient and environmentally friendly vehicles. For example, electric vehicles are becoming more affordable and widespread, with sales growing at a rate of over 50% per year.
- Robotics: Advances in robotics are leading to new applications in manufacturing, healthcare, and other fields. For example, robots are being used to perform surgeries and assist in disaster response.
- Space exploration: Advances in technology are enabling us to explore space in ways that were once impossible. For example, the Mars Rover is conducting experiments on the surface of Mars, and private companies are developing plans for space tourism.
- Progress has been made in the fight against discrimination, including the abolition of slavery, the advancement of women's rights, and the recognition of LGBTQ+ rights in many countries.
- Women's rights: Women's rights have made significant progress in recent years, with many countries enacting laws to protect women from violence and discrimination. For example, in 2020, 38 countries had laws that guaranteed equal pay for equal work.
- LGBT rights: LGBT rights have also made progress in many countries, with laws being enacted to protect people from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. As of 2021, 29 countries had legalized same-sex marriage.
- Child labor: The number of child laborers worldwide has declined from 246 million in 2000 to 152 million in 2016, a decrease of nearly 40%.
- Racial and ethnic discrimination: While racial and ethnic discrimination remains a problem in many parts of the world, progress has been made in some areas. For example, in the United States, the percentage of people who believe that there is a lot of discrimination against black people has decreased from 64% in 2016 to 51% in 2020.
- Refugees: The number of refugees worldwide has been increasing in recent years, but many countries have also taken steps to support refugees and asylum seekers. As of 2021, 85 countries had developed national laws and policies related to refugees and asylum seekers.
- Child marriage: The percentage of women worldwide who were married before the age of 18 has decreased from 34% in the 1980s to 25% in 2020.
- Freedom of expression: While freedom of expression remains a concern in many countries, there have been some positive developments. For example, in 2020, the government of Sudan repealed laws that restricted freedom of speech and the press.
- Access to healthcare: Many countries have made progress in expanding access to healthcare for their citizens, with the percentage of people worldwide who have access to basic healthcare increasing from 62% in 2000 to 74% in 2017.
- Humanitarian aid: The amount of humanitarian aid provided by governments and non-governmental organizations has increased significantly in recent years, from $6.1 billion in 2000 to $28.9 billion in 2019.
- Death penalty: The number of countries that have abolished the death penalty has been increasing, with 108 countries having abolished it for all crimes as of 2021.
Based on the evidence and data available, it is more accurate to say that the world is improving in many ways. While there are certainly challenges and areas of concern, such as climate change, political instability, and ongoing poverty in certain regions, the overall trend across a range of indicators suggests that life is getting better for people around the world.
Of course, it's important to acknowledge that progress is not uniform and that there are still many people who face significant challenges and struggles. However, looking at the big picture, the data shows that humanity has made tremendous strides in areas like health, education, technology, human rights, and more over the past several decades.