A blog by Luke Akehurst about politics, elections, and the Labour Party - With subtitles for the Hard of Left. Just for the record: all the views expressed here are entirely personal and do not necessarily represent the positions of any organisations I am a member of.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Cheer up everyone!

I regularly fill in a survey for YouGov which asks you how optimistic you feel about a range of things from your own life through to the state of the world. Everything gets an optimism tick from me except for the "state of the world" box where I have been predicting gloom and doom ever since 9/11 (and as an unreconstructed Cold Warrior I was worrying about China even before then).

I may have to revise that with the publication of the 2007 State of The Future report. The Executive Summary is here:


It gets described by Ban Ki-moon, Secretary-General of the UN, as "an informative publication that gives invaluable insights into the future for the United Nations, its Member States, and civil society" so it must be good.

Anyway, the report says it ain't all disease, famine, pestilence, terrorism, war and global warming:

  • "People around the world are becoming healthier, wealthier, better educated, more peaceful, and increasingly connected and they are living longer"
  • "The global economy grew at 5.4% in 2006 to $66 trillion (PPP). The population grew 1.1%, increasing the average world per capita income by 4.3%. At this rate world poverty will be cut by more than half between 2000 and 2015, meeting the UN Millennium Development Goal for poverty reduction except in sub-Saharan Africa."
  • "Although great human tragedies like Iraq and Darfur dominate the news, the vast majority of the world is living in peace, conflicts actually decreased over the past decade, dialogues among differing worldviews are growing, intra-state conflicts are increasingly being settled by international interventions, and the number of refugees is falling. The number of African conflicts fell from a peak of 16 in 2002 to 5 in 2005."
  • "The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in Africa has begun to level off and could begin to actually decrease over the next few years."
  • "According to WHO, the world’s average life expectancy is increasing from 48 years for those born in 1955 to 73 years for those who will be born in 2025."
  • "According to UNESCO, in 1970 about 37% of all people over the age of 15 were illiterate. That has fallen to less than 18% today. Between 1999 and 2004 the number of children without primary education fell by around 21 million to 77 million."
  • "According to Freedom House, the number of free countries grew from 46 to 90 over the
    past 30 years, accounting for 46% of the world's population, and for the past several years 64% of countries have been electoral democracies. Since democracies tend not to fight each other and since humanitarian crises are far more likely under authoritarian than democratic regimes, the trend toward democracy should lead to a more peaceful future among nation states."
  • "As the world moves toward ubiquitous computing with collective intelligence for just-in-time knowledge, decisions should improve."
  • "World trade grew 15% in 2006, according to the WTO. Higher oil and commodity prices contributed to the 30% trade growth for the least-developed countries—a world record—and their economies continued to exceed 6% for the third year in a row. The debt-to-GDP ratios decreased in all developing regions, partly due to debt forgiveness."
  • "unethical decisions are increasingly exposed via news media, blogs, mobile phone cameras, ethics commissions, and organizations like Transparency International."
The message isn't that everything is perfect (I've not quoted all the bad stuff as it is better known than the good stuff), but that most key indicators are getting better.

The section about climate change manages to be sobering whilst also suggesting positive solutions.

The bits socialists need to be concerned about though include this:

"Although the majority of the world is improving economically, income disparities are still enormous: 2% of the world’s richest people own more than 50% of the world’s wealth, while the poorest 50% of people own 1%. And the income of the 225 richest people in the world is equal to that of the poorest 2.7 billion, 40% of the world."

The report concludes:
"It has been considered ridiculous to try and achieve health and security for all people. Equally
ridiculous today is thinking that one day an individual acting alone will not be able to create and
use a weapon of mass destruction or that there will not be serious pandemics as we crowd more
people and animal habitats into urban concentrations while easy transborder travel exists and
biodiversity is diminishing. The idealism of the welfare of one being the welfare of all could
become a pragmatic long-range approach to countering terrorism, keeping airports open, and
preventing destructive mass migrations and other potential threats to human security. Ridiculing idealism is shortsighted, but idealism without the rigors of pessimism is misleading. We need very hardheaded idealists who can look into the worse and best of humanity and can create and implement strategies of success."


Blogger Hughes Views said...

Humankind seems to have a need to be gloomy. I really can't understand why so many people seem to be so miserable; sometimes I think they aren't really but feel that it is à la mode to appear to be. Anyone living in Western Europe really has no excuse to be particularly downbeat aside from some personal tragedy.

I've heard it suggested that our species obtained an evolutionary advantage by being mildly pessimistic. Potential ancestors who were too optimistic took unacceptable risks and were eaten by lions or some such, those too pessimistic stayed in their caves all day and died of starvation.

Perhaps these inherited characteristics explain why, since we've been able to speak it seems, we've always delighted each other with doom laden stories. The only times this doesn't happen are when there's something really worth worrying about like WWII for example - then everyone becomes strangely upbeat.

It's a funny old thing is life; doesn't do to take it too seriously imho...

8:36 am, September 11, 2007

Anonymous Ravi said...

Yes the unions always seem to be gloomy. Maybe Gordon could give the public sector workers an inflationary increase of wages instead of trying to create tax breaks for the rich, just a thought!

9:37 am, September 11, 2007

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I've heard that theory too about the pessimistic surviving. The frightening, logical conclusion would appear to be that in a couple of thousand years time, the human race will be made up of decendants of Daily Mail and Socialist Worker readers. I feel that there is a duty on optimists everywhere to procreate.

8:39 pm, September 11, 2007


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