Julia Belluz in Vox:
So 2016 has been an incredibly stressful and violent year from a news standpoint for many people. Do you have any advice for putting it in context?
Look at history and data, not headlines. The world continues to improve in just about every way. Extreme poverty, child mortality, illiteracy, and global inequality are at historic lows; vaccinations, basic education, including girls, and democracy are at all-time highs.
War deaths have risen since 2011 because of the Syrian civil war, but are a fraction of the levels of the 1950s through the early 1990s, when megadeath wars and genocides raged all over the world. Colombia’s peace deal marks the end of the last war in the Western Hemisphere, and the last remnant of the Cold War. Homicide rates in the world are falling, and the rate in United States is lower than at any time between 1966 and 2009. Outside of war zones, terrorist deaths are far lower than they were in the heyday of the Weathermen, IRA, and Red Brigades.
One big thing that’s changed since we last spoke is the election of Donald Trump. We now have a president coming in who has said he wouldn’t defend America’s allies in NATO if we were attacked by a foreign power and who has strong links to Russia. His election came after Brexit. These really seem like threats to the global institutions that have likely helped sustain peace in recent years.
Several awful things happened in the world’s democracies in 2016, and the election of a mercurial and ignorant president injects a troubling degree of uncertainty into international relations.
But it’s vital to keep cool and identify specific dangers rather than being overcome by a vague apocalyptic gloom.