2017 the best year in human history

Most world news and a lot of international political news we hear is bad or negative. Nicholas Kristof annually looks at the better side of modern life.

Why 2017 Was the Best Year in Human History

2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity.

A smaller share of the world’s people were hungry, impoverished or illiterate than at any time before. A smaller proportion of children died than ever before.

The proportion disfigured by leprosy, blinded by diseases like trachoma or suffering from other ailments also fell.

Every day, the number of people around the world living in extreme poverty (less than about $2 a day) goes down by 217,000, according to calculations by Max Roser, an Oxford University economist who runs a website called Our World in Data.

Every day, 325,000 more people gain access to electricity. And 300,000 more gain access to clean drinking water.

As recently as the 1960s, a majority of humans had always been illiterate and lived in extreme poverty. Now fewer than 15 percent are illiterate, and fewer than 10 percent live in extreme poverty. In another 15 years, illiteracy and extreme poverty will be mostly gone. After thousands of generations, they are pretty much disappearing on our watch.

Just since 1990, the lives of more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, diarrhoea treatment, breast-feeding promotion and other simple steps.

The ‘good old days’ were decidedly worse for many people.

If that was, say, the 1950s, the U.S. also had segregation, polio and bans on interracial marriage, gay sex and birth control. Most of the world lived under dictatorships, two-thirds of parents had a child die before age 5, and it was a time of nuclear standoffs, of pea soup smog, of frequent wars, of stifling limits on women and of the worst famine in history.

What moment in history would you prefer to live in?

My lifetime for sure.

So, sure, the world is a dangerous mess; I worry in particular about the risk of a war with North Korea. But I also believe in stepping back once a year or so to take note of genuine progress — just as, a year ago, I wrote that 2016 had been the best year in the history of the world, and a year from now I hope to offer similar good news about 2018.

The most important thing happening right now is not a Trump tweet, but children’s lives saved and major gains in health, education and human welfare.

There’s a lot of bad in the world, and a lot of potential risks, and unlike any time in history humans are easily capable of wiping everyone out and destroying much of the planet.

But generally things have never been better for most people and continue to improve.