Columnist Nicholas Kristof looks back on the state of the world in the year that just ended and arrives at a conclusion likely to surprise many: "2017 was probably the very best year in the long history of humanity," he writes in the New York Times. It's all about perspective, Kristof explains. Yes, American politics are a "circus," North Korea poses a scary threat, and wars and related atrocities continue to plague Syria, Yemen, Myanmar, and elsewhere. But it's important to look past the drumbeat of bad news and not lose sight of bigger-picture advancements, including: "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."
Kristof is talking about "transformational" changes taking place over years, even decades, that get lost in daily headlines, including advances in health care in third-world nations and the increasing availability of clean water and electricity. Kristof writes that he isn't blind to the very real threats the world is facing, but he suggests looking at this way: "The world is registering important progress, but it also faces mortal threats. The first belief should empower us to act on the second." Click for the full column, in which Kristof promises to return to tearing his hair out and expressing outrage at the world's troubles for the rest of the year. "But today, let's not miss what's going right." (Read more Nicholas Kristof stories.)