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Small steps

I found the article ‘Progress and its discontents’ by Jason Hickel (NI 520) very informative in its discussion of global poverty and inequality. Although Hickel references Hans Rosling and Steven Pinker, neither of them are primarily concerned with income distribution and he does not give a fair representation of their main points.

Hans Rosling was all about having accurate data and highlights various facts that he has found that most educated people do not appreciate. Here are a few examples:

In all low-income countries worldwide, 60 per cent of girls finish primary school.

Over the past 100 years the number of deaths from natural disasters has halved.

Eighty per cent of the world’s one-year-olds have been vaccinated against some disease.

Eighty per cent of the world’s population has some access to electricity.

The point is that even 30 or 40 years ago, all of these would have been much worse. It is obvious there is still a way to go, but his point is we shouldn’t therefore deny the improvements that have been made.

In the case of Stephen Pinker, his main work has been on the reduction of all kinds of violence over the past 600 years when looked at as a proportion of total population. This can be clearly seen in the decline in war deaths. There are still peaks and troughs but the trend has been downward. The fact that people still die needless deaths in war should not obscure us from seeing the overall improving long-term trend. Pinker also makes clear there is no guarantee the decreases in violence will continue and that the decrease is not smooth.

Small improvements are still improvements.


Myths bust

Re: Jason Hickel’s excellent article ‘Progress and its discontents’ (NI 520). The issues were really well explained and myth bust with great clarity. I felt the same excitement and realization reading this article as I did when I was studying Human Geography at A-level 20 years ago!


Ultimate irony

Re: ‘First-class lifeboats’, (NI 519). That will be the irony [of the rich trying to escape climate apocalypse]. To have used their wealth to be left alive upon a barren Earth. Good luck to them. The ultimate in ignorance and greed-driven stupidity.


Act now

Thanks for the How to avoid climate breakdown edition (NI 519). It’s wonderful to get the idea that it isn’t too late, that we can act for change.



Unfortunately the following errors, which we regret, crept into our July-August edition (NI 520):