The number of people in extreme poverty fell by 137,000 since yesterday

By: Lykke E. Andersen*

Max Roser, who created and maintains Our World In Data at the University of Oxford, complains that we never see such a headline in the newspapers, although, on average, this would have been an accurate title every single day during the last 25 years.

The impressive improvements the World has seen during the last several decades in many dimensions of development have escaped most people, probably because the developments are slow and steady and only show up as long term trends in the statistics. In contrast, natural and man-made disasters, conflicts, violence, and stupid presidents make for much better news material, which is why most people are under the impression that the World is going to hell in a handbasket.

Even the people who concede that development indicators have improved, usually think it is at the expense of the environment. However, many key environmental indicators have also improved lately. For example, sulphur dioxide (SO2) contamination peaked in 1980 (see figure below). This is a major air pollutant, arising mainly from the burning of coal, which causes smog and acid rain and has significant impacts on human health, as well as animal and plant life. Worldwide emissions have been falling since 1980, mainly because of impressive emissions reductions in Europe. Emissions in Asia keep increasing, but as most of the Chinese population has escaped poverty, they have also become motivated to start doing something about air pollution, so their emissions will likely reach a peak soon as well.

Our World In Data has impressive interactive graphics, which can be freely used and shared and embedded within your own blogs. See for example this one on changes in women’s education and fertility rates over the last 60 years.

Max Roser is beginning to look a lot like a new Hans Rosling. I recommend following him on Twitter. It might help convince you that our World is still worth fighting for.


* Senior Researcher at INESAD. The viewpoints expressed in this blog are the responsibility of the author and may not reflect the viewpoints of all members of Fundación INESAD.



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