Getting Better


By Mel West

I am an optimist by nature, and have always thought that the world is, day by day, becoming better. At age 90 I would rather be alive on Earth today than at any time prior. Tomorrow promises to be even better. But when I have spoken this in sermon or conversation I have found at least some disagreement, especially among today’s youth.
It was a gift to me to find support in this excellent and factual book, Getting Better. My copy is ink-marked from front to end. I urge the reading and sharing of this book by the Church – an excellent group discussion book. We are called to proclaim the “Good News” and Charles Kenny gives us reliable data and examples of how this century is “ushering in the best of times in terms of health care, education, political freedoms and access to infrastructure and new technologies, benefitting even the poorest of the world.” I lift up a few basic insights. I might call these the “vital signs” of the health of Earth and those of us upon it.
Worldwide poverty is dramatically decreasing. The global poverty rate has been cut in half in the last 20 years. Fifty years ago 50% of the world’s population was undernourished. Today it is 10%.
Average global fertility fell from 5.3 births per woman in 1960 to 3.0 today.

Newborn babies are living longer. In 1900 one child in five died in the first year. In 2005 it was one in twenty.

Health care has dramatically improved. Smallpox is gone. Guinea worm and polio are almost gone. Malaria is in decline. There is a 50% drop in AIDS cases. Four-fifths of the world’s children are now vaccinated against major diseases. In the last 100 years the physical well-being of the world’s population has improved more than it did in all prior centuries.

Wars are taking the lives of many fewer soldiers. The USA Civil War, 498,322; WWI, 115,516; WWII, 485,399; Korean, 36,568; Viet Nam, 58,199; Afghanistan, 13 years, 3,000+. We are also having fewer nation to nation wars. Treatment of war’s wounded has dramatically improved.

More of the world’s children are being educated. Today 90% of the world’s children are enrolled in primary school, as compared to 60% in 1960. More girls are being educated.

Quality of life is increasing. The general picture is of rapid progress in quality of life.

USA alcohol related auto deaths have gone down. 1983, 21,113; 2011, 9,878.
USA firearm deaths have gone down.

Firearm deaths per 100,000 people -1981, 6.6; 1992, 7.0; 2001, 3.8; 2010, 3.6. 
Getting Better should be required reading for every pastor and church, for it says that what we have been doing is working. Across the years with our mission outreach and with our “joining of hands with those of like mind and heart” (John Wesley) we have slowly, steadily and lovingly helped our sisters and brothers, and ourselves, find new life and new ways in this global village of 7.4 million souls. Buy it. Read it. Share it. It is the good news.