Can we shape the future positively with doomsday thinking? Fear is the tool of all totalitarians. History clearly shows that negative thinking leads to fear, hasty actions and polarising aggressiveness. It creates tunnel vision, distracts from other important issues and demotivates citizens.
Optimism is therefore a duty.
There are many good examples throughout history. Who expected the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the end of the Cold War and freedom in Eastern Europe? Or peace in the Balkans after the murderous wars in the 1990s?
The Swedish doctor Hans Rosling criticised: “Reports of slow, gradual improvements rarely make it to the front pages. We are exposed to a barrage of negative news from all parts of the world”. His bestseller “Factfulness. How we learn to see the world as it really is” (Berlin 2018) lists the positive developments compared to 2016: War deaths decreased from 210 people per 100 000 in 1942 to one person in 2016. Nuclear weapons from 64 000 (1986) to 15 000. Forced labour in 193 countries (1800) and now only three. Education of girls in 1970 only 65 percent, now 90 percent. In 1893, women had the right to vote in only one country, now in all countries. While 28 percent were still starving in 1970, today the figure is 11 percent. In 1850, smallpox was registered in 148 countries, not in a single one today. Infant mortality fell from 44 per cent in 1800 to 4 per cent today. Child labour decreased from 28 percent (1950) to 10 percent. (2012). While in 1800 only 10 per cent were well versed in arithmetic and writing, the figure currently lies at 86 per cent. The grain yield per hectare rose from 1.4 (1961) to 4 tonnes. 88 percent of people have access to water, compared with only 58 percent in 1980. In 1863, 193 countries still had the death penalty, but today only 89. CO2 fine dust (emitted per person) fell from 38 kilograms in 1970 to 14. In 1970, 1663 thousand tonnes of ozone-depleting substances were released, compared with only 22 thousand today. In 1900, only 0.03 percent of the earth was a nature reserve, today 14.7 percent. 65 percent now have a mobile phone (1980 only 0.0003) and 48 percent have Internet access com- pared to zero in 2017.
These numbers provide ample proof: Progress is feasible.
People need less fearmongering and more hope for im- provement, and they also need lightness and humor in poli- tics.
We can, indeed we must be optimistic.
- Do not embrace doomsday scenarios. Optimism is a duty for all politicians and citizens.
- There is no alternative to creative progress. With op- timism and creative, sustainable development and reform, anything is possible.
- As a basic attitude, we should be open and positive towards technological innovations instead of always empha- sising their risks.