Progress Amidst The Noise

Untitled-1It’s the end of another year. It was a pretty decent year for our extended family.

Many of us, I am as guilty as any other, wasted time with swirling, divisive and conflicting sentiments about Obamacare, Duck Dynasty, Miley Cyrus and a myriad of other short attention span events. Pervasive social media and lack of mental filters helped us spin these things up into shattering controversies.

Despite the horrors mentioned above, we continue to improve our condition.

And by “we”, I mean ALL of us that inhabit our planet.

Global Economy

Global Poverty

Global Poverty

It would be hard to argue that abject poverty is not the root of myriad problems. We’re making real strides for the first time in modern history.

Forty percent of the developing world made do with the equivalent of less than $2 a day, and 42 percent with less than $1. Today, only 14 percent remain below $1 although the “less than $2” number remains roughly the same at 43 percent.

According to World Bank data (visualized here), global poverty has been reduced significantly since 1981, with the largest reduction happening in East Asia and the Pacific. Of course that makes sense, with the booming economies of China and India being the largest contributors to the reduction.

The only region in the data with an essentially flat line is Sub-Saharan Africa.

The US poverty line, despite a “war on poverty” being declared nearly 50 years ago, also hasn’t budged much once the line bottomed out north of ten percent. Despite a brief drop below the 12% line at the end of the Clinton administration, the poverty rate has since climbed to hover in the 15% range in the US. Canada does better, other than with their indigenous population, going below 10% in 2007 and staying there.

One of the reasons for the lack of progress in US (and other developed nations) poverty is jobs and their associated paychecks moving to China, India and the developing nations. What’s good for the global human condition is often not so great for others. We’ll adapt, though.

Drinking Water

The most basic human need is clean water.

Untitled-2Nearly ninety percent of the world’s population have access (as of 2010), according to UNICEF (click here), to an improved water source. That’s a thirteen percent improvement since 1990.

UNICEF projects the trend will continue upwards.

Again, supporting the above economic indicators, Asia was the largest winner in the clean water war, corresponding to newfound wealth in China and India. Unfortunately, Sub-Saharan Africa also offers the same proof of theory with the least progress.

Consider the following quote from Margaret Catley-Carlson, a Vice-Chair of the World Economic Forum:

“Water is an astonishingly complex and subtle force in an economy. It is the single constraint on the expansion of every city, and bankers and corporate executives have cited it as the only natural limit to economic growth.”

While most of us can’t individually have much impact on the global economy, water is something many of us can afford to help with.

For what it’s worth I like CharityWater.org because they build sustainable, community-owned water projects. The also use 100% of all public donations to fund these projects and they’re willing to prove it with photos and GPS coordinates. Lots of bang for your buck.

Hunger

Once you have water, you need food. There’s still plenty of people that don’t have enough to eat, including an embarrassing number within the most prosperous nations. But, there has been progress in the past decade, enough that we should have comfort the problem has never been closer to a resolution. Never.

Once again, it’s the Sub-Saharan region that’s the most hungry. Solving the water problem in that area will help with the hunger problem if people have enough water to grow their own food.

Statistically and frustratingly, there is enough food on the planet to feed everybody. There are probably enough generous people in the world to distribute enough of that food to the people that need it, but delivery issues including interception by the nefarious won’t let that option be fully realized.

The trend is positive, fewer people are going to sleep hungry every day.

Disease

The UN reports that new HIV infections globally were down in 2012, down 33 percent since 2001. AIDS-related deaths also dropped by nearly the same amount since peaking in 2005. Even more encouraging, new infections among children dropped 52 percent in the same period (to 260,000).

Since 2000, malaria incidence rates have been reduced 29%. Once again, it’s Sub-Saharan Africa where the malaria problem is the worst, accounting for 90% of malaria deaths. Sadly, 77% of malaria deaths occur among our weakest people, children under five. According to the World Health Organization (click here), the global malaria mortality rate has been reduced by 45% during the same period.

Other diseases are responding to similar attacks. In my opinion, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (@gatesfoundation) is doing it right, looking on the big picture yet working at the local level.

Generosity

As a species, we’re pretty good sharing what we have. Despite a slowdown in the global economy, people continue to give more of their money, time and assistance to strangers than the year before.

While the US is the most generous (according to the “World Giving Index“), we’re not alone. Cynics would point to the ability to deduct donations from taxes as the driving force behind generosity. Yet, it’s not the case. Volunteering time has no effect on one’s financial bottom line, nor do most random acts of kindness that benefit strangers.

Anyway…

Despite rumors to the contrary, we’re doing a LOT of things right.

We’ll never be perfect, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t give it our best shot.

I’m happy to have my family, I imagine most of us feel the same. Sure, there’s remote control hoggers, snorers and people that leave 1/4 inch of milk in the carton. There’s even LA Kings fans.

But we’ve got each other’s back regardless, right?

Keep it up, people, we got this thing.

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