Need an antidote to the doom-and-gloom stories about, well, pretty much everything? Nicholas Kristof delivers one in the New York Times, with his first paragraph asserting that 2017 "is likely to be the best year in the history of humanity." He acknowledges this might sound a little crazy. "You’re alarmed by President Trump (or Nancy Pelosi), terrorism and the risk of rising seas, if we’re not first incinerated by North Korean nukes." So why the optimism? Kristof pulls back for a big-picture look at progress around the world against poverty, disease, and illiteracy. "So let’s pause from our pessimism for a nanosecond of celebration about a world that is actually getting better," he writes.
Take the drop in extreme poverty, defined as less than $2 per person a day, adjusting for inflation. For much of history, 90% or more of the world's people were in this group, a figure that is below 10% today. He also uses the fight against leprosy as an example. The disease has plagued humanity for thousands of years, but it's now easily treatable, and by 2020, the goal is to eliminate all disfiguring cases among kids. "The most important historical force in the world today is not President Trump, and it’s not terrorists," writes Kristof. It's all these "stunning gains" in the world's most basic fights—"all those 12-year-olds out there who never catch leprosy and instead go to school." Read the full column. (Read more Nicholas Kristof stories.)