Despite what we see in our daily newsfeeds, life on Earth is actually improving.
On a global level, we see significant drops in child mortality and increases in life expectancy. According to the World Health Organization, more than one billion people have gained access to safer drinking water since 1990.
We also see amazing innovations in the production of food and significant drops in the number of undernourished people in the world.
Beyond the world of health, we see drops in extreme poverty and increases in literacy rates.
Despite continued conflict in wartorn regions of the world, we’ve seen increased compliance to the Geneva Convention, as well as greater enforcement of these rules of engagement.
We obviously have a long way to go. We still live in a world where millions of children aren’t free to live, love, learn and grow to their greatest potential.
If we’re going to change this, however, we can’t wallow in despair. We need to look at what we’re doing right and emulate what works.
The world is changing because ordinary people want it to change. We find tremendous joy, satisfaction and profound meaning when we see that we are, in our own small ways, making the world a better place. Its also vital to note that none of us operate alone. We’re all part of a network of good and kind humans.
One very good example of this is University of Northern British Columbia Prof. Chris Opio. He grew up in poverty in the chaos of post-colonial Uganda. His family valued education and he proved himself to be an exceptional student. In 1982, he was given the opportunity to continue his studies in Canada and eventually earned a doctorate from the University of Alberta. Today he teaches ecosystem science management.
Opio is driven by a desire to make life better for people who live in conditions similar to those of his childhood. He organized the Northern Uganda Development Foundation, which not only drills wells for people of that region, it educates and empowers them to improve their farming practices and overall well-being. In addition, Opio has sensitized the people in his Canadian home to the needs of others in the world and has empowered them to make a significant difference.
As wonderful of a human being as Opio is, he’s not an exception. Millions of people like him lead development and research projects all over the world, and millions more work under these leaders.
Millions of medical researchers work to alleviate human suffering.
Millions of teachers draw out the giftedness in the children in front of them, teaching them to believe in themselves and their ability to make the world a better place in their own ways.
Millions of aid workers in developing countries, as well as amazing local people working with them, bring about positive change.
When things go awry, military and law enforcement personnel do exceptionally difficult work, while trying to respect the dignity of every person.
This is why the world is changing and why it will continue to improve.
There’s no doubt that the problems we see in the news can seem overwhelming. It’s heartbreaking to see our sisters and brothers suffer, especially when they are children.
But as we look honestly at the progress being made, we’re encouraged and empowered to continue the struggle.
The world is indeed getting better and we’re the ones who are making it happen.
Gerry Chidiac is an award-winning high school teacher specializing in languages, genocide studies and work with at-risk students.
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