Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Good Things Happening Despite Focus on the Negative

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, June 12 / 17

Zack Gross

It is true that our world is, for many people, not an easy place in which to live.  Mind you, to use the old cliché, we have few alternatives!  The news has become a daily litany of violence with senseless damage done to innocent lives.  I have an app on my phone from the BBC World Service that “goes off” when something important (almost always bad) happens.  I would delete it but the thought of that makes me feel guilty.

Thus, I thought that a service which I could render to readers of “Small World” was to list some of the really positive things that happened in 2016 (the 2017 lists aren’t out yet).  Gleaning good news headlines from Internet web sites helps me to fulfill my aim to give people hope, yet I know that hope isn’t always enough.  As we’ve learned with regime changes in many countries over the past year, good things once initiated can be “un-initiated” soon afterwards.

Strides were made environmentally in 2016.  For instance, British Columbia protected 85% of the world’s largest temperate rain forest, home of the “Spirit Bear
.”  Meanwhile, 2016 research has shown that a joint project by the United States and Mexico has made significant headway in cleaning up the Colorado River.  Who says that this cross-border relationship is all bad??

 In global health, the UN’s World Health Organization announced in 2016 that since the year 2000, malaria deaths have declined by 60%.  In the same time period, life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years.  Meanwhile, since 1990, the number of women dying worldwide annually in pregnancy and childbirth has been cut in half.

Politically, democracy took a step forward with Myanmar (Burma) electing its first civilian leader in 50 years.  Aung San Suu Kyi won the Nobel Peace Prize back in 1991 for her efforts to lead her country in that direction, only to be put under house arrest for many years.

In 2016, many political jurisdictions took steps to address issues that have impacted negatively on indigenous women, black populations, the gay community and other minorities.  Yet there is much to be done as active pockets of intolerance exist in every country.  Changing cultures and people’s minds can be tougher than writing policy.

In Climate Change, while the Paris Agreement of 2016 was a great victory for the United Nations, doubt is already being cast on it, not only as it may not go far enough, but because Donald Trump has announced that the U.S. will pull out of it.  Global carbon emissions have flatlined the past three years so that’s good news, but they need to be reversed. 

The Chinese government has banned new coal mines, but now they need to find ways to close existing ones.  The same is true of India which says it doesn’t need any news ones, as it is meeting its energy needs. Twenty-five per cent of European countries have now banned the use of coal.  A number of smaller-population countries, including Portugal and Costa Rica, have actually operated totally on renewables for days or even months at a time.

In one day in July 2016, 800,000 Indian citizens planted 50 million trees as part of a plan to reforest 12% of their country.  In Mumbai, Indian citizens conducted the world’s largest beach clean-up, removing 4,000 tonnes of rubbish.  Meanwhile, four of the world’s largest cities – Paris, Madrid, Athens and Mexico City, agreed to ban diesel cars from their centres.

You wouldn’t know it watching the news, but the world is apparently getting less violent.  Some would say that it’s good news that only 1/6 of the world is currently involved in war, but others would say that this is 1/6 of 7.5 billion people!

Colombia signed a peace agreement with its FARC rebels, earning their President the latest Nobel Peace Prize.  The Netherlands, with its crime rate down 25% in the past eight years, has 1/3 of its jail cells empty!

And we are more generous!  In 2016, there was a 7% increase in global spending on aid and development and support for refugees doubled.  Chinese charitable giving, from the world’s largest population, has increased in a ten-year period by 1000% to $15 billion.  Warren Buffett gave $2.9 billion to charity in 2016 and the Gates Foundation spent $5 billion on charity in Africa alone.

These are numerous stories that together pose a strong argument that good things are happening in this world, at the community level right up to the global.  Alongside the good things, bad things take place – from a single incident to a major problem that is never solved.  Maybe that is the nature of life on Earth, but it is frustrating.  We must keep the good steps in mind so we have the energy to fight the missteps.

Zack Gross is a former Executive Director of Brandon’s
The Marquis Project.

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