Calgary ranked fourth among the world’s most livable cities by The Economist. Vancouver was sixth and Toronto ranked seventh. Photo from Wikipedia

Robert Brehl: Ringing in the New Year with optimism

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  • December 31, 2018

It’s easy to look around and be pessimistic. Public and household debt levels are alarmingly high in Canada. The Church is roiling from one abuse scandal to another. So many parts of the world seem in chaos with rampant corruption, wars and terrorism.

Then there’s the American president, holder of such a prestigious office and international leadership position, yet he’s a serial liar embroiled in one controversy after another, from paying hush money to a porn star and a Playboy bunny to resignations galore from the swamp that is his White House.

Tracking Donald Trump’s untruths has become a cottage industry. According to Daniel Dale, Toronto Star Washington bureau chief, Trump is approaching 4,000 false claims since becoming President. The Washington Post, which tracks both false and misleading claims, says Trump is up to 6,500.

There is a measure of humour in Trump’s hubris. In December, the owner of the National Enquirer — a former Trump ally and the archetypal purveyor of fake news — turned on him and is now working with prosecutors investigating the President. And with a Dickensian twist, the guy’s name happens to be David Pecker.

Yup, it’s easy to be a pessimist as 2019 begins. But that’s no fun. 

There are plenty of good things going on in the world, but too often we miss them because they’re blanketed by all the negative stuff we’re bombarded with 24/7 in traditional media and new digital platform channels. The axiom “if it bleeds, it leads” pushes negativity to new heights. 

So, let’s stay positive for a few moments. In a quest to find positive things in the world, I found many websites (like Singularity Hub, Optimistic Canadian and others) to glean these points of data. 

Just living in Canada is positive. In terms of happiest countries, Canada placed sixth on the World Economic Forum’s latest index of ranking happiness worldwide.

The Economist reports Canada having some of the most livable cities in the world. And if you feel entrepreneurial, we’re the second best country to start a business, behind only New Zealand and well ahead of the U.S., according to a World Bank report.

Of course, we have challenges in Canada such as mounting debt, aging infrastructure and lingering inequalities. But let’s stay positive and move beyond our borders.

First, people living in absolute poverty has fallen from half the world’s population in 1981 to about 15 per cent today.

“While there is still room for improvement (especially in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia), the quality of life in every region above has been steadily improving and will continue to do so,” writes Peter Diamandis, a medical doctor and co-author of Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think. “Over the next 20 years, we have the ability to extinguish absolute poverty on Earth.” 

Second, we’re protecting and educating children better than ever. Next year (2020), it is expected the international child labour rate will be more than cut in half since 2000. Over the past 200 years in North America, we’ve gone from an average length of education of only two years to 21 years today.

Third, we’re living a lot longer. In the past two centuries, life expectancy has more than doubled. 

“Although the world faces huge challenges, we have made tremendous progress,” writes Hans Rosling, a Swedish physician, academic and statistician who died in 2017. His posthumously published book Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the World — and Why Things Are Better Than You Think was co-written with his son and daughter-in-law. 

“The silent miracle of human progress is too slow and too fragmented to ever qualify as news,” Rosling wrote. 

I’m not trying to be a Pollyanna, arguing that the world is perfect. It isn’t and we have major challenges to address in Canada and elsewhere. I’m just suggesting  a bit of perspective on all the negativism we see and hear. 

Optimism can be good for your health, too, according to Psychology Today. “Optimists tend to live longer than their more pessimistic counterparts; they also are less susceptible to the negative effects of illness, fatigue and depression.”

Have a happy and more optimistic New Year!

(Brehl is a writer and author of many books.)

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