Stop press: the world is a wonderful place!
Should there be correspondents for good news? Traditionally most events that make the headlines are bad – wars, disasters, deaths – while much that is praiseworthy goes unreported.
It is the most amazing thing – just wait till you hear! Green technology is on the point of taking off “explosively”, according to the BBC. It is becoming much cheaper, and much more effective. The EU is investing more than one trillion euros in it; by 2030, half of Britain’s electricity could come from wind. Soon, it could power machines to take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.
Many believe reports of such breakthroughs should be splashed across every newspaper. TV presenters should be discussing them with broad smiles. Instead, we are weighed down by reports about climate change, political skulduggery and economic disaster.
But there is so much good news out there. New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, has just appointed the most diverse cabinet in the country’s history. Five of the 20 ministers are indigenous Maoris, eight are women, and the prospective deputy prime minister is gay. The foreign minister, Nanaia Mahuta, is both the first woman and first Maori to hold the post.
Then there is the pandemic. At last we may have a proper vaccine – perhaps even two. British doctors, reports say, are about to be put on standby to administer them. They are expected to be given to people over 85 and front-line NHS workers from the beginning of next month. In October the chances of this were put at 50-50; now they are looking even better.
Another medical breakthrough is in breast cancer treatment. A new test has been developed to identify which women are most in danger of a relapse after therapy, so that they can be closely monitored, while those less at risk can be spared chemotherapy. At £60 it costs less than a twentieth of previous tests.
All around us, things are looking up. The charity Concern Worldwide reports “a strong groundswell of optimism” that it will be possible to end extreme poverty in the world by 2030. Not only that, but the poorest 40% in every country could enjoy a higher standard of living, according to economist Victoria Kwakwa.
In the natural world, we are used to sad reports about whales dying when they become stranded on beaches. But more than 100 of them have just been rescued in Sri Lanka, thanks to the country’s navy and local villagers, who pushed them back out to sea.
And the good news is not confined to this planet. NASA announced last week that there is definite evidence of water on the Moon. This means that establishing a base there would be much easier than expected; it could also be used as a refuelling point for exploring deeper space.
Should there be good news correspondents?
Sunny side up
Some say, no: the world is a dangerous place, and what we need above all is information that will help keep us safe. It is therefore in our interest that the media should focus their resources on subjects like war and disease, so that we can take precautions to avoid them. We can collect any amount of good news simply by following our friends on social media.
Others argue that the news media are profoundly unbalanced. What they primarily aim to do is grab your attention, which they do by creating drama – and negative stories are almost always more dramatic than positive ones. The world is improving, but because the change is gradual, it does not make the news. We need more journalists to draw attention to it.
- Does life become better as you grow older?
- Is it better to approach a situation expecting the best or the worst?
- Design and write the front page of a newspaper consisting of positive stories about you, your family and your friends.
- Imagine you are a TV newsreader. Write a report on one of the cheering stories in this article and ask a friend to make a video of you reading it.
Some People Say...
“The good leader repeats the good news and keeps the worst to himself.”Sophocles (c496-406 BC), Greek playwright
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- It is generally agreed that statistically our lives look better than they did in the past. Over the past 200 years, life expectancy has doubled. Since 1995, the proportion of people living in extreme poverty has dropped from 36% to 9%. Education has become more widely available, so that 90% of girls and 92% of boys of primary school age now attend school. The rate of violent crime in the US has been falling for three decades.
- What do we not know?
- One main area of debate is around why we notice bad things more than good things. The Swedish author Hand Rosling argued that there were three factors. First, people tend to be nostalgic about the past, and wrongly insist that things were better then. Secondly, journalists and activists mislead us by emphasising events they want us to worry about. And thirdly, it seems heartless to talk about how wonderful the world is when there is still a great deal of suffering.
- Unscrupulous behaviour. It was originally a Scottish word for promiscuity.
- Jacinda Ardern
- Prime Minister since 2017, she has just been re-elected. Her handling of the pandemic has earned her particular praise.
- Thought to have arrived in New Zealand by canoe from Polynesia in the 14th Century, they make up 16% of the population.
- Nanaia Mahuta
- An MP since 1996, she was the first woman to appear in parliament with a Maori facial tattoo.
- Concern Worldwide
- An Irish charity founded to help provide food to starving people in Biafra in 1968. It now operates in 26 countries around the world.
- Sri Lanka
- An island nation in the Indian Ocean. Formerly part of the British Empire, it became independent in 1948.
- Short for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the organisation which runs the US space programme.