Reasons For Optimism

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.


  1. I wish voting in elections really fixed “what’s wrong with America.” However, that’s not the case today, and probably won’t be the case for some time.

    The problem in the USA is power is located in the hands of a few people I call oligarchy. Blackrock and Vanguard own 90% of the media and darn near everything else.

    Sheer logic then enters when it comes to economic professors and ‘think tanks’ who talk about democracy and ‘free market capitalism’ as if our world exists in their textbooks.

    They don’t. As Thomas Piketty exposed, their economic assumptions are faulty and so are their science. Why?

    Because they serve the oligarchy.

    As does the media, and our politicians. Whether knowingly, or not.

    The fourth branch of government in Indiana has long been owned by the oligarchy and serves oligarchy. It’s even more blatant now because vulture capitalists now own the “free press” in Indiana. So, while the vultures pick the remaining meat from the bone, what does that imply about our local and state governments? What does that imply about our federal government?

    None of the government officials are being held accountable to the people. Do you think they know that? LOL

    Do you honestly think we have elected the most honest and ethical people to local, state, and federal government? LOL

    The power is not only entrenched, it has nothing watching it or holding it accountable. Do you think they are doing the admirable thing while nobody is watching? LOL

    If you believe the best people are rising to the occasion to our political bodies, then I have some extra farmland along Florida’s gulf shores available for sale. Flood insurance is included.

    I know many of you believe if we just elect democrats to office, everything will be grand, but we are sending good people into a corrupted and captivated system with no watchdogs looking over their shoulders. Their intent or motives might be grand, but once they set down in the chair and try to navigate things, they will be overcome.

  2. Thank you, Ms. Kennedy, for the positivity. Much appreciated.
    Mr. Smekens, please re-read the title of today’s piece. Could not one day, one column, deserve a pass from not being addressed w/ listing the problems of our government, elected officials, economy, university system, et al)? We are in fact inundated with the negative, ‘bleeding’ news. I am a very random Comments reader, but I will say that you certainly seem to be extremely, overwhelmingly consistent.

  3. I heard CNN has a new owner, his comments were that CNN doesnt really staff journalists. So what are they at CNN? Todd is correct in many ways that Oligarchs have taken over in the press. And its regardless of Which party you belong to. The fact that Obama criticized Bush for not being fiscally conservative won him the White House handily, but then he abused the system with a $10 trillion debt (and lied to the public about his healthcare system- that was already planned for him.). What was his comment, “ Its Congresses fault.”
    No one is taking responsibility because those that are being elected dont have the mind set to advance new social programs within the scope of the economy. It can be done slowly.
    In regards to AI Professor Kennedy is correct, there is vast amounts of improvements to be made with it. But in each category it is used it must be well regulated for the sake of the public, the jobs it will replace, safety on the roads. Look at companies that use AI to make purchases like Zillow, not so good.
    Real intelligence, the human kind, has to watch carefully over AI, because AI in itself will make more Oligarchs. Then Todd Smekens comments about Oligarchs controlling everything will be an understatement of what is to be even more prevalent in the future.

  4. What I appreciate about the consistency of NBC Nightly News is the final segment is always focused on evidence of the goodness of humanity. Well done.

  5. “I know many of you believe if we just elect democrats to office, everything will be grand,”

    Todd; I believe most of us believed, and continue to believe, that electing Democrats to office at any level would be a return to hope and trust in this government. How many out there would agree with me that even electing different Republicans would/could be “Reasons For Optimism”. Your continuing disdain for both parties maintains pessimism for the weak among voters who believe their vote does not count. Exactly WHO and WHAT do you support; other than seeing your own words in print?

    I wake each morning hoping for improvement enough in our continuing Pandemic and Climate Change destruction and loss of lives to see a glimmer of a reason for optimism.

    “If we can just get that majority to the polls in 2022, we can fix what’s wrong with America.”

    Unless and until we have our full right and ability to vote reinstated; we can’t count on voters to get to the polls or avail themselves of Absentee Ballots to mail-in votes.

  6. Good news.

    *The Rise of Telecommuting: Fewer cars on the road, less commuting time, less pollution, more time at home. Of course, this trend will likely dramatically reshape cities (many people won’t choose to live in a city if they don’t have to be close to work) as well as decrease the need for public transportation.

    *Rising Wages: If you are new to employment, unskilled or moderately skilled, your employment opportunities have soared this past year or so. Employers have substantially increased pay and are offering bonuses for new workers. They are also offering benefits. I’ve never seen a job market where employees, instead of their corporate bosses, are the ones with all the power. The increasing pay has obliterated the notion that we need an artificial floor, i.e. minimum wage, on what people are paid by employers. A reporter went out to find people who are working for $7.25 an hour (the federal minimum) and couldn’t find anyone working for that wage. The reporter had to settle for a few people she found working at $9 or $10 an hour.

    *Rethinking Life/Work Balance: Closely related to the former is that employees are rethinking work/life balance and making demands that employers change labor practices to give them more freedom, more flexibility, more time off. The days when people worked 40 hour jobs for nearly 50 years and then, hopefully, have a few years left at the end of their lives (when they may not be healthy) to do what they want to do, may be coming to an end. I have to hand it to millennials and Gen Zers in the workforce who have led this movement. We Baby Boomers missed the boat on this one.

    *Medical Advancements: They are getting close to a cure on neurological and other diseases. CRISPR, if you haven’t read about it, is truly fascinating. Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Huntingtons, etc. maybe within 10 years will be curable.

  7. JoAnn,

    Who is being denied the right to vote? I missed that one.

    I’m reminded of the magician trick. In one hand, the magician has voter suppression. In the other hand, the magician has election subversion. Democrats are looking at the hand with voter suppression, when the real threat – election subversion – is in the other hand.

    The problem is not the right to vote. The problem is that your vote may not matter. Trumpers are trying to control the people who count and certify the votes. I would encourage everyone to read:

    That’s what the real threat is.

  8. Paul; watch the news. The Republicans, and Manchin off and on. are blocking passage of John Lewis’ bill to protect all voter’s right to vote in all states. When Manchin decides if he is a Democrat or a Republican, we may get answers to questions on a number of issues stagnating before the Senate. Answers we do not want. States are shutting down polling locations and availability of early voting and we are still not assured of receiving Absentee Ballots due to Trump’s favorite donor still sitting in the Postmaster General seat. Did gerrymandering in Marion County effect my district? I have no idea any more than I know where I will have to go to vote if we are denied mail-in ballots. Just who our candidates might be is still in question. You upholding the belief that many voters votes will not matter is why too many people sit home on election days.

    People commenting on this blog are well aware of election subversion and who is doing the subverting. We are also well aware of the real threat of January 6th, the past version, and are waiting to see Trump’s insurrection repeat attempt at a coup. I am supporting Democratic candidates in Georgia and Texas in hopes of strengthening the party at state and federal levels; Indiana is a lost cause. The Indiana Republican Senate has cut their own party’s retirees monthly checks; can’t even be loyal to their own party members who are keeping them in office.

  9. If we tricked the masses to all vote for the Democratic Party from all local offices to the federal offices, what do you think would happen?

    For one, that would never happen. But secondly, they would completely lose it since they would have nobody to blame for not being able to accomplish the will of the people. It would expose the entire socio-political-economic system as a giant farce.

    Which it is.

    When Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden both said we needed a strong GOP as an excuse for not arresting the whole bunch for an attempted coup under Trump on 1/6, the Truth was finally revealed but the media quickly covered it up. They’ve stretched it out for over a year with the help of the FBI and Justice Department. LOL

    It’s about as obvious as it gets, but when you’ve been indoctrinated for years with massive amounts of propaganda believing in this crazy farce, well…

  10. JoAnn: you’re right; Paul: election subversion vs voter suppression–two sides of the same GOP oligarch coin. Voters lose either way, rights are lost.

  11. I get an email from the “Good News Network” daily. It’s wonderful and refreshing to see human kindness and new inventions that address global warming.

    I heard on NPR that people raised over $70,000 for a woman who mentored them while they were in college. It is a home built for seniors with ready access to bath tub etc. Thet also reported that a woman with sickle cell was treated with CRISPR. 2 years later she has no signs of the illness. YIPEEE!!!! These stories make me want to jump for joy!

    I am lucky to have a cat with really soft fur. Petting her soothes me when the news is so horrific.

    I also find that practicing gratitude makes me aware of the abundance in my life.

  12. Energy storage is the crux of making solar the dominate form of energy. I hope we can accomplish it without creating new problems, like mining for lithium, or polluting the environment with dead batteries.

    I am hoping for viable nuclear fusion. This is the process that powers the sun and has the potential for nearly unlimited energy without radioactivity. I keep reading about incremental steps, but nothing so far.

    I also have hope of fuel cell technology, where solar is used to create hydrogen from water, and then fuel cells directly convert hydrogen to electricity.

  13. We have a hard time not referring to other animal species collectively, like elephants or bears or dogs, but we rarely talk about humans collectively though we do sometimes refer to groups of humans like Republicans or Caucasians or Muslims.

    We know that at one end of a spectrum of humans there are those who, typically by what they were born into, have had a hard time keeping up with the explosion in human knowledge over the last century. The other end of the spectrum are the experts who pick a very narrow field to dive very deeply into. Between are the vast majority of us. As a result, nobody individually knows anywhere near what humans know, though the internet helps those of us who have lived longer than our education was relevant to, to somewhat keep up.

    This has created behavioral problems among humans that can be and are exploited by entertainment media advertising and propaganda, paid for by individuals and groups who happily cause it in order to redistribute wealth up and away from workers. We label some of that politics and some of it business and some of it religion. While both of those two causes can be for good, either can also be for nefarious purposes, some massively so.

    One perhaps unintended consequence of that reality and the technology that empowers it, is the downfall of our ability to live socially on this planet absolutely overcrowded with humans.

    What will that lead to?

  14. Good to look for good news – better to “be” the good news through your actions.

  15. Perfection is an unattainable concept to be nonetheless strived for but those who are unhappy that it cannot be attained should not use such shortcoming to justify their own version of the strife. Thus Todd’s version of what Biden and Pelosi had to say about “a strong Republican Party” fails to consider the environment in which such statements were made.

    They were made not as a surrender to Republican views but rather as statements of support for a two-party system, one in which one party can put a damper on the extreme activities of the other via debate and compromise to the benefit of all. Indeed much of the current political free for all can be traced to the absence of the Republican Party’s involvement in governing issues in favor of power grabbing and propaganda which, if continued and not resulting in reform of that party via adoption of a platform and set of governing principles, will lead to its demise as a party into the oblivious mists of the Whig Party from which it arose in 1854.

    Thus understood, I stand with Biden and Pelosi. Any monopoly whether political (Trumpian dictatorship) or economic (oligarchic) is in need of a social science damper to such authority in an application of what I think was the physicist Newton’s observation “that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction,” an expanded idea of which can be applied to the two-party system with its debate and compromise. We need not subvert this principle with factual disinformation to make a point in current debates.

    As to 2022, I am cautiously optimistic that with the prospect for justice, rising wages, an expanding economy and improvements in how to blunt the effects of the pandemic that we may begin to move ahead as cooler heads prevail.

  16. Thank you, Patmcc, the lady makes some really good points.
    I will buy into optimism after Biden, et al, gets the voting rights legislation approved.
    The BBB program is on hold, and so is not going to take up the energy needed for the voting rights bills.
    I am hoping that the House Special Committee, going public, some time soon, will bring actual evidence of malfeasance and criminality on the
    part of the Orange empty, and cronies, to those who are still capable of acknowledging that truth is not defined by those who yell the loudest.

  17. There’s no shortage of good news. Todd’s Tin Drum can’t drown it out.
    Neuralink, Starlink, EV’s, SpaceX,etc. Guess who?

  18. Quirky as I am, I get my good new from reading Science –
    New battery technology
    New polymers that can be completely recycled, even from “dirty” mixtures
    New materials that replace polymers and are biodegradable
    Exa computers – one billion, billion “flops” per second, compared to 100 billion in the ’90s
    — these will make individualized medicine more of a reality
    Routine use of single cell sequencing
    and, as mentioned CRISPR

    Sorry for the negative aside, but if Andrew Yang draws support, he will be like Nader and ensure President for life, Donald Trump.

    On the other hand, resuming my narrative
    Good things coming our way

    Climate good news note – new study suggests that melting permafrost won’t contribute to global warming like was feared.

  19. How does a society stand It’s dogma is based on lies?

    Going to heaven? Or maybe burning in hell? The white man’s burden? Did Rudyard Kipling lie? melatonin enhanced humans Are somehow inferior to the white race? the Christian slave traders used the Bible to claim trading humans or selling them for money Is biblically authorized because The darker skin races were cursed. Of course we now know that this was used to alleviate a bad conscience being involved in this sort of activity. For the dark skinned races to be cursed, the white Christians Sure Didn’t mind having relations with those dark-skinned women and had a bunch of dark-skinned babies with them. Santa Claus? The Easter Bunny? The tooth fairy?And you wonder why children Have taken up lying in force. Humankind has taken many millennia to construct a society built on lies. Then somehow mankind can rise to the occasion and magically fix all of his problems? Can’t happen, won’t happen? never will!

    A well-known author W. Durant stated that No great civilization Has ever been conquered until it has destroyed itself. (The story of civilization)

    A blurb in the world book encyclopedia, states emphatically, The family is the most necessary and oldest human institution and concerning it’s importance, it’s society’s most basic unit. Entire civilizations have survived or disappeared depending on whether family life was strong or weak.

    Another historian A.J. Toynbee, writes that human history has repeated itself over 20 times producing western type societies. Then he asked the question, Is this history going to repeat itself in our time? And then He answers his own question, In the writers opinion , the answer to this question is emphatically in the negative, there is nothing to prevent our Western Civilization from following historical president, if it chooses, by committing social suicide.

    Dr P. Popenoe commented at the Institute of Family Relations; “No society has ever survived after its family life deteriorated.”

    Let’s just say the prospects are not good!

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