This article appeared in the December 28, 2018 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Choosing progress over pessimism

Fachrul Reza/NurPhoto/Sipa/AP
Students worked wth mangrove trees – which reduce coastal erosion – in Aceh, Indonesia, last year. Despite a bad year globally for tropical forests in 2017, Indonesia saw a 60 percent drop in tree-cover loss in primary forests compared with 2016, according to the World Resources Institute.
Clayton Collins
Director, editorial innovation

Seldom has pessimism been an easier sell.

News seeps in that is objectively bad. Some 4 million US schoolchildren reportedly were subjected to lockdowns in 2018, for example. (Many were precautionary.) Intolerance of “the other” gives rise to episodes of inhumanity.

News seeps in that is subjectively disastrous to some and defended by others as progress. The current US administration, for example, has rolled back nearly 80 environmental regulations set forth by the one that preceded it.

So where – if anywhere – is there unity around optimism?

Followers of the Monitor’s recent Perception Gaps series stay open to hopeful counternarratives. So do thinkers like Steven Pinker, the explorer of social relations and serial puncturer of pessimism.

As former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels writes in The Washington Post, pointing to work by Dr. Pinker and others: “Pick your favorite worry and it’s likely to be getting better, not worse.”

There’s a hazard associated with using that as a reason to stop working for change. But a worthwhile set of charts from Quartz also uses data to show indisputable progress: The share of global energy generated from renewables, for instance, passed 10 percent in 2018. Literacy is growing worldwide. More women are in government. More species keep moving out of the endangered column.

More reasons, as the old year passes, for looking forward.

Now to our five stories for your Friday, including an exploration of farmers’ faith in their ability to be better stewards of their lands and a reflection on Americans’ faith in democracy.

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This article appeared in the December 28, 2018 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 12/28 edition