There’s an old saying that “dog bites man” isn’t news, but “man bites dog” is. The problem with the news of the day is that it offers a perspective skewed not just to the unusual, but to the negative.
You have to do a “deep dive” to find evidence of more positive and encouraging events and discoveries, but that effort can be rewarding, both intellectually and emotionally. I was reminded of the importance of that effort by a newsletter from The Atlantic (can’t find a link) that highlighted three reasons to be optimistic about the remainder of the 2020s: progress in green energy, advances in understanding complex diseases, and–surprising, at least to me–developments in Artificial Intelligence.
With respect to green energy, the author wrote
In the past 10 years, the price of solar electricity has declined by 90 percent while the efficiency of lithium-ion batteries has increased by 90 percent. That’s a huge deal for creating and storing renewable energy. As the writer Noah Smith explains, “cheap solar, cheap wind, and cheap storage mean that we could see the first large sustained decrease in electricity costs in over half a century.”
Given the enormous–indeed, existential– threat posed by climate change, that is definitely good news.
The newsletter also explained the significant advances in medical research that are pointing to major progress in treating some of the most intractable diseases, and–in contrast to the hand-wringing that usually accompanies discussions of AI– focused on the multiple ways such assistance to human brainpower can move us forward. (Granted, in order to assist our human intellects, we humans need to exhibit such intellect ..but hey–I’m focusing on the positives here…)
The newsletter prompted me to engage in a Google search for “good news.” (The responses suggested thatI am not the only person begging Google for a good word…) Some of what I found:
- Something called the “Alliance for Innovation” has a raft of videos and research articles highlighting “good news” from local governments. This seems especially important in an era where trust in government at all levels is low, and local news sources are disappearing at a rapid rate.
- Speaking of local governments, a note from Gerald Stinson yesterday reminded me of an effort to remake local government and our approach to economic health that has begun in Amsterdam, and that I posted about earlier in the year. Even while the pandemic was raging, Amsterdam became the first city in the world to formally implement what is called “doughnut economics.” Brussels then followed, as did the Canadian city of Nanaimo. Scholars advocating for this new approach argue that the current economic system sacrifices both people and environments at a time when everything from shifting weather patterns to rising sea levels is global in scope and unprecedented in nature. The Amsterdam “doughnut approach” re-envisions economic health–defining it as a system that ensures that “nobody falls short of life’s essentials, from food and water to social equity and political voice, while ensuring humanity does not break down Earth’s life support systems, such as a stable climate and fertile soils.” Sounds good to me…
- At a time when many of us in the U.S. legal profession (okay, so I’m just a “recovering” lawyer) have been horrified by the Trump/McConnell assault on the federal courts and their placement of unqualified ideologues on the bench, it is important to recognize and salute the work of state-level juries composed of ordinary citizens. For the first time in my recollection, those juries have refused to automatically accept and endorse whatever justification a police officer offers for killing an unarmed person. Juries have genuinely weighed the evidence presented, and convicted people like Derek Chauvin and the officer who insisted that she’d mistaken her gun for her taser.
My Google search even uncovered something called the “Good News Network”–a site that focuses upon the kindness of everyday Americans.
Sometimes–when we’re overwhelmed by the “if it bleeds, it leads” emphasis of the daily news, it helps to remind ourselves that a significant majority of Americans rejected Trump’s pandering to hatred and fear, and that a majority of Americans are kind and generous people who more often than not go out of their way to help neighbors and even strangers in need.
If we can just get that majority to the polls in 2022, we can fix what’s wrong with America.