Environmentalism

The World Is Doing Better Than Ever. Here's Why You Never Hear About It.

Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know documents progress and explains why it happens.

|

HD Download

"A huge amount of progress has taken place that a lot of people just don't take into account, especially smart people who are attending to the real problems of the world," says Ronald Bailey, Reason's science correspondent and the coauthor, with Marian Tupy of HumanProgress.org, of Ten Global Trends Every Smart Person Should Know: And Many Others You Will Find Interesting.

For instance: In 1990, the World Bank estimated that about 1.9 billion people lived in "absolute poverty," defined as surviving on the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $1.90 a day. By 2018, the number had dropped to 650 million, even as global population increased. If current trends continue, less than 5 percent of the planet's population will be in absolute poverty by 2030.

Despite ongoing problems in the Amazon and elsewhere, forests are expanding on net across the planet. "If you look broadly across the entire globe," says Bailey, "what you find is forests have expanded since the 1980s to an area that's about the size of Alaska and Montana combined, basically 800,000 square miles of land." And the world is getting safer, too, especially for poor people. "The chance of a person dying from a natural catastrophe—earthquake, flood, drought, storm, wildfire, landslide, or epidemic—has declined by nearly 99 percent since the 1920s and 1930s," write Bailey and Tupy.

Other positive trends include continuing economic growth and rising living standards around the globe, far fewer food shortages and famines, a decline in the number of autocratic regimes, and a reduction in major armed conflicts.

Bailey tells Reason that this massive ongoing progress is largely ignored because politicians and the media have an interest in foregrounding bad news—and because human beings, at least in the past 200 years, tend to take progress for granted. He says that's a mistake. Progress is the result of implementing better ideas for organizing society. "Basically," he says, "the Enlightenment happened." With that came the rise of representative government, property rights and markets, and especially the free speech and open inquiry that are essential for technological and social innovation.

Ten Global Trends functions as both a counter-argument to doomsayers and a warning to the complacent. Progress, says Bailey, doesn't just happen. "What we're trying to do with this book is to not let people take it for granted," he says. "If we keep the same institutions that enabled this, then much more of it will happen in the future."

Edited by Isaac Reese and John Osterhoudt. Graphics by Lex Villena and Reese. Feature Image by Villena.

Photos: Erik McGregor/Sipa USA/Newscom; Unknown/Heritage Art/Heritage Images AiWire/Newscom; Fernando Souza/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Fernando Souza/ZUMA Press/Newscom; Wayne Hutchinson Universal Images Group/Newscom; Andrew Woodley/Newscom; Caro/Trappe/Newscom

NEXT: Why Violent Protests Backfire

HD Download

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. If Bailey is going to do this much pimping, a
    shouldn’t ENB do the interview?

    1. [FOR USA ] Making money online more than $15k just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info on this page Open The Link…….Click here

      1. I make up to $90 an hour on-line from my home. My story is that I give up operating at walmart to paintings on-line and with a bit strive I with out problem supply in spherical $40h to $86h… someone turned into top to me by way of manner of sharing this hyperlink with me, so now i’m hoping i ought to help a person else accessible through sharing this hyperlink… strive it, you HERE? Read More

    2. [FOR USA ] Making money online more than $15k just by doing simple work from home. I have received $18376 last month. Its an easy and simple job to do and its earnings are much better than regular office job and even a little child can do this and earns money. Everybody must try this job by just use the info on this page Open The Link…….Read More

  2. The World Is Doing Better Than Ever. Here’s Why You Never Hear About It.

    Because it would be bad for media ratings.

    1. Don’t forget that Swedish potato would have to go back to school.

      1. How DARE YOU!

        1. I make up to $90 an hour on-line from my home. My story is that I give up operating at walmart to paintings on-line and with a bit strive I with out problem supply in spherical $40h to $86h… someone turned into top to me by way of manner of sharing this hyperlink with me, so now i’m hoping i ought to help a person else accessible through sharing this hyperlink… CashApp

    2. So…… everything is not so terrible and unfair?

      Kinda fucks up my acronym, but ok.

    3. ¦A¦M¦A¦Z¦I¦N¦G¦ ¦J¦O¦B¦S¦
      Start your work at home right now. Spend more time with your family and earn. Start bringing 85$/hr just on a laptop. Very easy way to make your life happy and earning continuously.last week my check was 24551$.pop over here this site…….COPY HERE====Flysalary

  3. “Bailey tells Reason that this massive ongoing progress is largely ignored because politicians and the media have an interest in foregrounding bad news—and because human beings, at least in the past 200 years, tend to take progress for granted.”

    I suspect a big part of it is the law of declining returns.

    For the hundreds of millions of former subsistence farmers in China, who found themselves joining the middle class within 15 or 20 years of China joining the WTO, the benefits have been obvious and extreme. They have things now that they never even knew they wanted before.

    For people in the developed world, the qualitative gains have been more marginal. We didn’t go from subsistence farming to enjoying plumbing, electricity, and a TV for the first time. We went from having a nice TV to having a gigantic TV. We experience improvements as enhancements to things we already had, which isn’t as dramatic.

    1. In our part of the world the incrementally higher standard of living = more time to bitch.

      1. Good times create weak men…

    2. Interesting analysis.

    3. Yeah! More cash to buy more plastic goodies! Bigger TV sets! More money to purchase sugar-laden, processed foods that will kill them, just as it is killing Americans!

      If we continue to conflate the size of our TV set with the quality of our life, and it certainly appears we are, then we will continue sliding down our current, unhealthy path, and will become ever more obese, unhealthy, and unable to enjoy any real quality of life beyond the age of about 40.

      Today’s 42% Obese Adult Americans will be looked back at as “The Good Old Days”.

      1. Brings up an interesting question:
        Who’s more materialistic – communists or libertarians?

      2. Obesity for average people, and more so among the poor, was an unimaginable luxury 100 years ago.

        An economy where the poor people are fat! Do you really have no idea how amazing that is?

        It was an unimaginable luxury 20 years ago for hundreds of millions of Chinese people.

  4. Libertarians keep making this argument, but no one’s buying it. The factory worker in Pennsylvania isn’t buying it, and the twenty-something college graduate with an OnlyFans account isn’t buying it. None of this rhetoric will stop people from turning to socialism or right-wing populist authoritarianism.

    Libertarian populism is the only strand of libertarian thought that has something positive to offer. Less DopeHat and more Ron Paul. Less chatter about the virtues of “sex work” and more talk about how free trade agreements hurt the economic freedoms of your average American. Less Beltway nonsense and more red meat for flyover country.

    1. We need the right people in charge.

      1. Who said anything about putting the right people in charge? But if libertarians don’t provide a viable alternative, you’re gonna keep getting authoritarians.

        1. I don’t think libertarians can both remain recognizably libertarian and provide a viable alternative. In the kind of electoral system we have you get two basic choices that are each a not-terribly-consistent hodge-podge of issues tuned to appeal to roughly half of the voters.

    2. free trade agreements improve living standards, for the most part. things we need become cheaper and more plentiful. more high paying jobs are available than ever, but you have to train for them, and college costs more than ever.

      1. This sounds like some Econ 101 nonsense that Peter Schiff would right.

        Free trade agreements are corporate giveaways that export American jobs overseas and diminish American sovereignty.

        1. *would write

        2. What, as opposed to the kind of corporate giveaways that keep jobs “at home” subsidize inefficient and incompetent management?

          1. ^

            Tariffs = taxes.

      2. But you’re pitting Americans against workers in foreign countries who will accept a $3/hr. wage. I get it that everyone benefits from cheaper prices, but, what are we? Consumers or workers? Not everyone can train for a high-paying job. We need jobs for everyone. And, if that means we have to pay 5 cents more a carrot or $100 more for a TV, it’s worth it to keep our people employed. You should have more loyalty to your fellow countrymen.

    1. Interesting.

      Here’s another space-related link:

      https://spaceflightnow.com/2020/09/11/nasa-challenges-companies-to-mine-lunar-soil/

      NASA to buy lunar regolith from private companies. Might be the start of Hong Kong Luna… forget seasteading.

    2. What about Uranus, Eddy? Any signs of life there?

      1. That joke is so old I was going to search the obits to see if it was still alive. Glad to see it’s still hobbling along.

        1. It isnt. Chipper just is so unfunny that he finds corpse desecration humorous.

            1. I make up to $90 an hour on-line from my home. My story is that I give up operating at walmart to paintings on-line and with a bit strive I with out problem supply in spherical $40h to $86h… someone turned into top to me by way of manner of sharing this hyperlink with me, so now i’m hoping i ought to help a person else accessible through sharing this hyperlink… CashApp

          1. The only ones around here guilty of corpse desecration are Hihn and Tulpa, when they show up to fuck a week-old thread.

        2. That joke will never die, Eddy, like the joke about how to get a Catholic nun pregnant.

  5. Ronald, this is what YOU said about climate change:

    “As the planet has warmed, mountain glaciers around the world have been shrinking, Arctic sea ice has been declining, rainstorms have become somewhat fiercer, the area affected by extreme droughts has been expanding, the amount of heat being absorbed by the world’s oceans has been increasing, and the global sea level has been rising… I have unhappily concluded, based on the balance of the evidence, that climate change is proceeding faster and is worse than I had earlier judged it to be… Still, most of the evidence points toward a significantly warmer world by the end of the century—probably more than 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial level. Such a temperature increase will definitely have substantial impacts on human beings… Will climate change be apocalyptic? Probably not, but the possibility is not zero. So just how lucky do you feel? Frankly, after reviewing the scientific evidence, I’m not feeling nearly as lucky as I once did.”

    So the article on this page is just your latest example in an attempt to say no, wait a minute…I am in fact feeling very lucky! Some miracle from technology and economics will surely come, it must. Your previous article on climate change (over a month ago) was about Shellenberger, who clearly would not agree with your above quotes. He says the whole issue is overstated. In fact in it, you say the fires that happen in the west are NOT unprecedented. Of course, that was before this week. They are unprecedented.

    My question is this…when do you post an article here on all the studies that have been prevalent in the last 10 years that have in fact led to your above stated conclusions? Rather than articles that in essence say ignore my conclusions on climate change, believe the opposite.

    1. My question is this: Were you born this stupid, or did your brains leak out after birth?

    2. It is possible to do well in a changing environment.

  6. “surviving on the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $1.90 ”
    Highly doubtful that anyone is surviving on just $1.90 equivalent, even the homeless.

    1. You need to travel more.

    2. There is no doubt. It is well documented.

      With that said, raw per capita data is not as useful as it appears. First, you need to adjust for what’s often called Purchasing Power Parity. The idea is that $1.90 in the US buys a lot less bread than the same amount of cash in Mali. Second, you need to remember that the measure does not account well for subsistence farmers or gatherers. You can’t survive on $1.90 in the concrete jungle of New York City but you can eat quite well in a real jungle.

      On the other hand, you do need cash in either location to buy modern healthcare. Income-per-day isn’t a perfect proxy for overall welfare but it’s a decent indicator. Just remember that if you plot the two on a graph, the line will not go through the origin.

      1. Concur.

        You can’t buy a bag of chips for $1.90 in the US.

        In Brazil, the equivalent of $1.90 will get you a feast at a Comida por Kilo.

      2. Yeah, well said. I don’t think the income metric accounts for subsistence farming, hunting, gathering, scavenging, or charitable receipts. People with incomes that low are quite literally just trying to scratch for the basics of survival.

    3. Yeah, I also giggled at that little stat also.

      Never mind that 150 years ago 90% of us were farmers, and raised our own food, and lived outside a cash economy.

      I lived in rural Panama for several years, in a very small village. The average cash wage was $5 a day for a family of four. Sounds bad huh? But every family had a large field and grew massive amounts of rice, corn, vegetables, and raised beef cattle, pork, and chickens were everywhere.

      The guy Gillespie interviews here really, really needs to travel more.

      1. Assuming one goes off in the jungle and picks six mangoes, goes back to his village and trades five of the mangoes for three eggs and a chicken wing, then the value of the transaction needs to be put into what it would cost/buy in U.S. dollars, if you want to say what that person lives on in terms of U.S. dollars. Same if Mrs. One goes to the well and pulls up 5 gal. of water and sews two dress shifts to barter with the rice farmer’s wife.

        1. You are welcome to go and do that analysis. If you are successful, you will be the first. Dollarizing barter economies is far harder than it sounds. Take your mango example. Do you value that at the cost of production (zero)? At the time-value of the cost of harvesting (pennies)? At the retail cost of mangoes in a US grocery? At the retail cost in a US grocery of the 3 eggs and a chicken wing? But retail in a US grocery includes all sorts of cost components that don’t apply here (such as transportation, safety inspection, advertising, store overhead). So value at something in between? There is simply no principled way to pick a valuation rule.

          Note, by the way, that even your approach misses all the work I do for myself. Say I go into the jungle, pick the six mangoes and eat them. There was no transaction. How should that be valued? And how will you compare it to the fact that I, a rich American, also pick and eat fruit from the apple tree in my yard?

          1. Value it the way we put a value on housewives work at home

            1. In other words, at zero.

              Yes, there have been a few attempts to dollarize housework. They have all suffered from serious methodological failures. None are considered reliable for economic analysis.

            2. Housewives’ work is valued at around half her husband’s salary. That’s about how much he ‘pays’ her. Of course, that’s for more than just the housework. It includes the ‘companionship’ too. It’s a misconception that housewives don’t get paid. Actually, women spend most of the household income, so I’m being conservative in my estimate.

  7. >>smart people who are attending to the real problems of the world

    hurl.

    1. Top Men, listening to Experts, and worshipping Science.

  8. the alarmist Gaia cult is about feelings, not data.
    those of us who are old enough to have lived through the 1970s remember the world was more polluted then, and pretty hot, with plenty of severe storms. no one thought the world was ending though.
    and wildlife is coming back, in the USA at least, thanks to better wildlife management and less toxic chemicals going into the environment.
    apparently forest management has gotten a lot worse though.

    1. It hasn’t gotten worse.

      It’s been terrible since before 1900, with their complete fire suppression policy.

      1. That policy was recognized as poor, and has been adjusted. Fire suppression in and around the built environment is still practiced, of course, but many fires are left to burn naturally, unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.

        1. re: “That policy … has been adjusted”

          Citation, please. Because rather a lot of articles (including one published right here at Reason about the same time as your comment) present evidence that the same, bad policies continue unabated.

  9. A writer at Scientific American argues that science doesn’t need to falsify theories that are disproven by data, lobbying instead for “consensus judgments” and a “preponderance of evidence”, i.e., fitting the data to the theory and normalizing away any discrepancies.

    “…the field known as science studies (comprising the history, philosophy and sociology of science) has shown that falsification cannot work even in principle. This is because an experimental result is not a simple fact obtained directly from nature.”

    The writer even invokes Einstein’s warning against conformity of thought, to argue for conformity of thought:

    “As Einstein said: ‘So many people today—and even professional scientists—seem to me like somebody who has seen thousands of trees but has never seen a forest. A knowledge of the historic and philosophical background gives that kind of independence from prejudices of his generation from which most scientists are suffering.'”

    https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-idea-that-a-scientific-theory-can-be-falsified-is-a-myth/

    1. And this is their closing argument, apparently missing the irony:

      “But if you propagate a ‘myth-story’ enough times and it gets passed on from generation to generation, it can congeal into a fact, and falsification is one such myth-story.”

    2. Scientific American used to be a great magazine filled with interesting articles written by authors who actually understood science. I still mourn for it.

    3. Isn’t that just sort of saying that science is hard, so we shouldn’t bother?

  10. I tried listening to the podcast interview.

    It was painful.

    When mentioning the benefits of a healthy “outdoors” (as if, you know, it is a place where we can go into, breath some nice fresh air, and then recede back into our pods), there was no mention of the importance of healthy air, water, and soil to sustain us.

    I heard “sure, it’s nice to ‘swim with dolphins’ as a benefit”.

    Then came the “there are more trees now…so all is great!” as if trees alone are what make a forest and ecosystem healthy.

    No mention of soil, which is the very foundation of that forest.

    Free markets, I get it. But Hoo Lee Fook broaden your field of vision a bit and recognize what it is that sustains us.

    I give this guy a D- (and that’s a gift) for his interview. He made no case, was shallow and narrow-minded in his premise, and any 3rd grader could see how absolutely shallow his understanding of what makes a healthy biosphere is.

  11. Quick question folks:

    How much value do you all place on clean, healthy air, water, and soil?

    More important than Free Markets? Less important?

    Thanks for playing!

    1. That’s a stupid question because it presupposes that we have to make a choice between competing priorities. On the contrary, free markets are how we can afford clean, healthy air, water and soil.

      The historical evidence is clear that environmentalism is possible only in societies with excess capital. People who are desperate to find food for their children do not waste time or energy on trees. The historical evidence is also clear that, of all the economic systems we’ve tried, free markets are best at generating excess capital.

      If you want a stark example, look at satellite images of the border between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

      I want free markets because they make clean air and water possible.

      1. “I want free markets because they make clean air and water possible.”

        This. The environment is a luxury good. Free markets enable a society prosperous enough to be conservationists.

        1. ““I want free markets because they make clean air and water possible.”

          Clean air and water occur naturally, in abundance. They have existed long before the appearance of free markets.

          1. And when did they last “occur naturally, in abundance”? What was the world population and quality of life at the time?

            I’m sorry but any “solution” that depends on the extermination of the human race is unacceptable in my book. Once that’s off the table, free markets are our best option.

            1. “And when did they last “occur naturally, in abundance”?”

              There are places with clean air and water today. No need to search the past.

              “I’m sorry but any “solution” that depends on the extermination of the human race is unacceptable in my book.”

              We’ll be lucky if we are given the choice.

      2. You could also look at East Germany vs. West Germany, from 1945 to 1995. The Soviet system so admired by those who condemn free enterprise was much more destructive to the environment.

        Those who assume we can go back to a pre-industrial world of living in harmony with nature are either not considering that human life would be far less numerous and far shorter lived, or they’re okay with that, and they aren’t really familiar with the efficacy of pre-industrial human hunters on large game, unconstrained by modern concern for the environment.

        1. There’s a country called Africa. There are elephants and lions everywhere. Always have been.

          1. Don’t let us stop you from moving there; I hear their standard of living is just unbelievable. And the governments are really something. But hey, they’ve got elephants and lions, right?

            1. “But hey, they’ve got elephants and lions, right?”

              They’ve always had them. They’ve done quite well, unconstrained by modern concern for the environment. I suppose though, it is down to the animals themselves, and how they’ve learned over the millennia, to accommodate themselves to humans in their midst rather than human attitudes towards environment.

              It’s good to hear that you won’t stop me from moving to the country should I decide to move there. I will reciprocate.

      3. “That’s a stupid question ”

        It’s not a stupid question because you have to know the value of something if it’s to be subjected to a cost benefit analysis. Many business decisions are based on this where the value of the benefits are weighed against the value of the costs. If we don’t know the value of say, clean air in a certain area, any cost benefit analysis would be nothing but guesswork.

        1. Yes, it was a stupid question and it’s no surprise you found it otherwise.
          It assumes a false dichotomy.

          1. It’s not a stupid question because you have to know the value of something if it’s to be subjected to a cost benefit analysis. Many business decisions are based on this where the value of the benefits are weighed against the value of the costs. If we don’t know the value of say, clean air in a certain area, any cost benefit analysis would be nothing but guesswork.

            1. There’s no cost-benefit analysis in this scenario. It’s a causation analysis. You and Colorado Jim are presenting it as if we have to choose between A and B. That’s simply not applicable in scenarios where A is a necessary step to get to B.

              1. “There’s no cost-benefit analysis in this scenario.”

                The scenario is unimportant. If you want to do a cost benefit analysis, you need to know the value. How can you do it otherwise? It’s not a stupid question. It’s stupid to think you can do a cost benefit analysis if you don’t know the value.

                1. It’s a stupid question because WE ARE NOT DOING A COST-BENEFIT ANALYSIS.

  12. do wanna know about this post every one says and i ask..READ MORE

  13. I think I figured out the discrepancy in the claim here that forests are increasing while the UN authority on the issue of deforestration, the FAO says that we lose 10 million hectares a year. It turns out that the FAO looks upon monocultural forests as agricultural crops and not as forests.

    If we are losing diverse old growth forests to monocultural forests, that is no step forward. Less diversity, more fragile, less resilient. This is not a good direction to be heading for.

    1. Except that distinction is not true. Or more precisely, that is how the FAO makes its count but it does not rebut the evidence of net greening of the globe. In aggregate, grasslands are encroaching on what were formerly desert edges and forests are expanding into former savannas and other grasslands.

      Within the developed world, suboptimal farmland is being returned to forest. While some is being converted to wood-product agriculture, more is being sold to conservancy councils or simply abandoned.

      The big exception to the general trend of reforestation is the land newly cleared for biofuels because of misguided and counterproductive ethanol mandates.

      1. “Except that distinction is not true. ”

        What is true is the loss of diversity which the gains in greening of the globe don’t make up for. You’re fooling yourself if you think we’re doing better than ever by supplanting 10 million hectares of old growth forests with somewhat more extensive monoculture palm tree plantations, sorry forests.

        1. “What is true is the loss of diversity which the gains in greening of the globe don’t make up for…”

          Your cite went missing.

          1. You don’t need a cite to understand there’s a loss of diversity when monocultural planting replaces old growth forests. You are only fooling yourself if you think otherwise.

  14. “It will start getting cooler. You just watch,” Trump fired back at Crowfoot, adding, “I don’t think science knows actually.”

    That was Trump yesterday. He has so much in common with libertarians. No wonder you all support him.

    1. “You can keep your doctor”
      He had so much in common with brain-dead proggies. No wonder you supported him.

  15. this is great post i told about this post..READ MORE

  16. Matt Ridley and Steven Pinker have been writing about this for quite a while.

  17. Great and informative ContentFind the right solution for Echo Setup issues. We will ensure you can do the most out of Echo, by performing the setup and reset process perfectly! Help section of alexa app | Download alexa app for windows pc | Free download alexa app for pc

  18. Je suis complètement d’accord. Je suis heureux que le massage érotique soit devenu encore plus accessible – https://erotiquemassageparis.fr/

Please to post comments