top of page
  • Writer's pictureOpine

Reasons to be optimistic for the 21st century

Positive changes have been taking place in the past years and things can still improve

By Sebastian Vanhoonacker

Photo courtesy of PxHere

The idea of this article is to counter the all to classic nature of news and to focus on all the negative or dramatic things happening in the world. When one looks at the news now it is mainly dominated by the energy bills crisis, the war in Ukraine and the Queen’s death. Now, all of these topics have something in common; they carry that all too often sombre and depressing news the media loves – bad news sells. So, in order to combat the never ending stream of negativity, I have decided to write a piece on how actually there is a lot of good going on in the world!

Reason number 1: global unity and multiculturalism. This a great first point to make, and perhaps the most important because, despite there being many troubling issues regarding society, when it comes to politics and religious views I believe overall there is more unity. We need to understand that through secularism we have allowed churches/mosques/ synagogues all side by side. Something like this would have been deemed impossible less than 100 years ago, and I think generally speaking nowadays people have a greater understanding of things like people’s faith and respect them. Although, politics has reached a toxic point right now with right and left both being more radical by the day, I think we need to understand that in reality most people believe in democracy, believe in freedom of speech and human rights. So, I believe fully with my heart that most political divides can be overcome easily when we realise that we have more in common and it is important to note that far right or far left ideology is actual very marginal, but again the media makes it into a mass hysteria for views and clout. Generally speaking, in most western nations we live in a society where people can be who they want . We have legalised things like same-sex marriage, allowed bills and laws against hatred of minority groups and have greater understandings for things like mental health. I realise that a lot of countries still have issues regarding many of these things, but at least other nations have paved the way for a better future regarding all people not just a select few.

Reason number 2: access to resources such as education, healthcare and employment is at high. From an educational point of view, it is such a great time to be alive. Whilst there is still some progress to be made, in terms having a more egalitarian education for all and not just those with gender, status and economic means there are good signs. The global literacy rates are around 90% for men worldwide and 82.7% for women, there are almost 1 billion pupils in primary education and a further 700 million in secondary education. Also, let’s not forget the amount of accessible resources opened up by the internet and the possibilities of free textbooks, YouTube videos and other educational tools ,that allow us to have access to information which was not possible before without significant wealth. This will grant more people to have opportunities to compete in job markets that would have not been deemed possible before, and the competition should allow for more qualified candidates. On the medical front, the world has been able make significant progress in allowing us to live longer and combat diseases, viruses and other illnesses. For example, one of the best successes is in controlling in HIV something which was a major epidemic in the 1980s. According to thanks to new treatments and better sexual health education the spread of HIV and AIDS has been reduced by about 31% since 2010. The number of people living with HIV but receiving antiretroviral therapy increased from 800,000 in 2003 to 28.2 million in 2020. Additionally, another great step in the right direction is that childhood survival rates are higher than ever before. UNICEF reports that the worldwide mortality rate of children under five years old has been cut to less than half its 1990 total, dropping from 93 deaths per 1,000 live births, to 37 in 2020.

Reason number 3: human innovation to combat global warming. Despite the fact that global warming is a serious and real threat, we also need to realise that humans will find solutions. It may not be so simple and it may take time, but believe me, we have the resources to take all these problems head on. The geographer Ester Boserup said ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’ and so for something like global warming it is a necessity and we will find inventions to solve the issues. You have to have faith in humans because no one else will solve these issues. On problems like global warming, we have found multiple solutions, such as tree planting with drones. This may sound like some utopian ideal but it is actually happening. A company called DroneSeed is using drones to plant trees and can plant up to 800 tree seeds per hour (for a human this would take an entire day). Drones have also helped to massively reduce costs that would have been used for old systems, and have cut up to 85% of the original cost. Moreover, we have become more efficient and have started to use energy more effectively and sustainably. We have switched to LED lighting (LED uses 75 percent less energy and last 25 times longer than incandescent bulbs) which has resulted in great victories; in the US alone the Department of Energy stated that through switching to LED lighting will save up to $30 billion and 348 terawatt- hours!

All in all, let’s not produce toxic positivity to the point where we believe everything is sunny and rosy when it’s not. But in reality, despite all the negativity of the world with climate change, energy crises, war and discrimination we also need to realise that we have the power to change these things. We can improve these situations and without letting the news or media putting us down with a constant stream of negativity. We can change and we must, but we must also realise that right now is probably the best time to live with opportunities, scientific innovation and a more global and inclusive world.


bottom of page