There Really Is Good News Out There

One of my New Year’s resolutions (okay, my only New Year’s resolution–I’m old and I’ve learned from past failures…) is to scan the media-verse for positive news, for evidence that not everything in the world is swirling the porcelain bowl.

And guess what? If you look closely, it’s out there, hiding among the predictions of doom, gloom and civil war.

For example, I found “The World in Cheer: 192 Ways the World Got Better in 2021.”

Obviously, I’m not going to list all 192, but I do want to highlight some items from the list, many of them focused on ameliorating climate change. For example, a 5,000 mile line of trees is being planted across the African continent to prevent the spread of the Sahara desert. A California law giving cash to non-car commuters helped increase transit ridership by 50%. The French have enacted a ban on single use plastics for many fruits and vegetables that is projected to reduce plastic packaging by one billion units each year. 

And a company in Vancouver has “upcycled” 33 million chopsticks into everything from cutting boards and shelves to dominos and furniture. 

There are all sorts of other “good news” items that had escaped my notice (and probably the notice of most others in a year dominated by coverage of things like the pandemic and Manchin’s intransigence on the filibuster…). A smattering:

The total number of incarcerated people in the U.S. fell by 13% between 2010 and 2020.

Up to 400 Spanish companies will reduce their employees’ working week to 32 hours while keeping salaries the same. 

El Paso Community College used its pandemic relief aid to forgive $3 million in student debt.

Forty-one women topped the new Fortune 500 list, more than at any other time in the six decades that the list has been published.

A town in Arizona converted a juvenile detention center into a youth hangout, and juvenile arrests in the county dropped by 55%.

In the past eight years, the number of worker-owned co-ops in the U.S. has increased 36%. The business model offers employees, on average, more than $7 more per hour than standard businesses.

There are valuable policy lessons to be learned from most of the items on the list–and there are many more such items. I encourage you to visit the site and review the list when the daily headlines make you want to hide under the bed.

The encouraging economic news isn’t confined to such lists. One of the thorniest problems of the American economy has been the substitution of “gig work” for the steady jobs that offered past generations of workers predictability and benefits. Start-ups like Uber and Lyft seemed likely to accelerate the trend. 

But maybe not. Axios reports that

Startups like Alto, Revel and Kaptyn are positioning themselves as Rideshare 2.0. — alternatives to Uber and Lyft that use employees rather than gig workers as drivers and put fleets of company-owned cars on the road.

Why it matters: These companies’ vertically integrated business models mean they can roll out electric fleets more quickly than the current market leaders, whose pledges to go electric depend on persuading gig drivers to upgrade their personal cars to EVs.

These services will be good for the environment and fair to the drivers.

By employing their own drivers and maintaining their own fleets, these companies aim to provide more consistent, reliable, safe transportation, while ensuring that drivers can earn a decent living — and the companies can make a profit…

Drivers can earn from $15.50 to $18.75 per hour, depending on demand, plus company-paid health insurance.

That we are in an era of massive social and technological change is probably the one thing everyone agrees on. So much of the anger and nastiness we are seeing is a knee-jerk reaction from frightened people rejecting the reality and implications of those changes.

Humanity has been here before. 

My search for “good news” isn’t just an effort to keep me from experiencing suicidal episodes. It is a search for evidence supporting an alternative explanation of our tumultuous times–an explanation that history suggests is as likely as the social disintegration that too many members of the Chattering Classes are predicting. 

Yes, it’s possible that the sheer strength of denial–refusal to see “others” as fully human, rejection of science that calls into question some supposedly “eternal” verities, insistence on the superiority of one’s tribal identity–will plunge the world into another dark age. But  it is equally possible that we are experiencing “birth pangs”–that the millions of people doggedly pursuing social progress and environmental health will ultimately emerge triumphant. 

Our job is to facilitate the trip down the birth canal and help midwife that brave new world….


  1. Thanks for your research. The media outputs cater more to the sensational than the practical. Front page headlines are there to tickle the primitive fancy of the fearful mind. That’s what sells. And news, like it or not, is a business. Always has been. Todd will confirm that today and tell us all how both parties are run by oligarchs and that the media gives not a single damn about anything but selling to advertisers.

    That said, perhaps your blog today should be an object lesson for all of us to look for and find the positive things that attack the problems that threaten our very existence. After all, most of us consider ourselves progressives, so why not be more examining of our progress as a species, as a nation and as the most populous mammal on earth. Heck, we might even discover that we like each other.

  2. I have rarely self-promoted on here but this has been culminating for nearly a decade. I’ve been asking pertinent questions at meetings and getting gaveled down by public officials and lawyers not wanting to hear my questions.

    It’s all basically proven my deconstruction of oligarchic power in what was once heralded as the microcosm of the USA. We are still that microcosm and the levers of power here influence all over the USA to Indy and Washington. The hegemony of the American empire is built upon oligarchic power structures which is not quite the vision of our Founders. Or was it?

    Anyway, give it a read and poke holes in it. I know Patrick will relate to it:

  3. Many years back, I made a New Years resolution that I have kept to this day: Never make another New Years resolution!

    I find my relief from the doom and gloom in humor and in books that take a different approach to life (I highly recommend, “A Man Called Ove” by Fredrik Backman), but I always look for the little tidbits of good news that are out there. It’s good to know that there is a list now where I can find 192 moments of joy. Thanks, Professor.

  4. Well all I can say, as the Titanic creaked and groaned while taking on water and listing, the band continued to play some beautiful music. But the inevitable happened, and the ship slipped below the surface to become another blip in history. I think it’s probably an appropriate metaphor to what’s happening now, but, that’s just me.

    Todd, interesting article, but really nothing new. I noticed that the advertisers had quite a right-wing bent though.

    With a lack of water, a 5, 000 mile band of trees will not prevent the Sahara from expanding. Water, water, water! When you chop down the forests for firewood, or to raise cattle, reversing what’s been said in motion for centuries is going to be quite difficult, and that includes supplying the water for those trees to survive. When you can’t supply water for the people, how are they going to supply water for the trees?

    There are things that could be done, of course things that would make a big impact. Infrastructure construction could divert so much of the Mississippi River water being discharged into the Gulf, it could refill the reservoirs out west, it could irrigate the desert out west, it can do a lot of things, and it would definitely change the weather patterns for the better in the United states. Will it happen? I doubt it. I’ve been writing about this in journals and websites for over 20 years. I’ve even had people ask me if I heard anything from those in government that could make it happen, and I always have to say absolutely not. Anyway you look at it, big problems just get bigger because of procrastination caused by political in fighting and ethnic strife. Individual efforts by small groups is always a nice thing to see, but in the end, it’s like taking a whiz in the ocean.

    The trillions of dollars spent on equipment for war, the technology being used to send giant telescopes into space or building space stations, all the while people starving, or not having medical care, or not having decent shelter, people dying of thirst for lack of water. Not to mention, any sort of cohesive structure in secular society, one that would actually bind people together. There are so many things that have to happen before anything gets better, I doubt if there’s even the will to attempt it.

    This species called humanity, has reached the tipping point on the planet it calls home. And, it’s not tipping for the good, it’s sliding off the precipice.

    Greed is a powerful factor in a lot of this, and, greed usually, no, actually always ends up a disaster. A goodly portion of the people in this country are really completely insane. Can anyone see that the proliferation of weapons to kill your fellow man, and, allowed by the authorities for that matter, it’s going to turn out well? That’s just one, I could take off a whole lot more!

    And the band continues to play.

  5. The last line made my day: “Our job is to facilitate the trip down the birth canal and help midwife that brave new world.” Yes! We put way too much energy focused on the problems and thereby neglect the much more urgent work of finding, shining lights on, and promoting the solutions!

  6. I have learned to focus on the assets of a community beset by crime and blighted residential/commercial early in my career to set the stage for youth development. The primary question is how do youth make it to productive lives without getting into serious trouble despite negative surroundings. We know 40 assets of youth development that bridge to adult citizenship and economically desirable roles. If you carefully select twelve of the 40 assets and collaborate with other kindred community assets who cover some of the other developmental assets, more youth have an outstanding opportunity. But dwell in the house of “ain’t it awful” to waller in the toxic slurry gets you no where but more of the same rant right back to you.

    Thank you, Sheila, for a glimmer of hope.

  7. Now is a good time and this blog gives me the opening to remind all who are blaming President Biden for the current situation regarding not passing bills which were promises made during his presidential campaign. We currently have two Democrats who are blocking hearings, voting on and passing those bills; their inaction and pissing contest are much of the cause of President Biden’s 33% approval in the polls.

    During the first few months of his administration, which struggled with no transition assistance from the previous administration, he managed to:

    +provide millions of Covid vaccines
    +rejoin the Paris Accord
    +reengaged with W.H.O.
    +reversed Trump’s Muslim ban
    +Introduced immigration reform (which continues to be ignored)
    +reopened Obamacare enrollment
    +ended Trump’s transgender military ban
    +unveiled America’s Jobs Plan to create thousands of jobs
    +sent stimulus checks to millions of Americans

    He is not using his presidency as a “Bully Pulpit” as Trump did; he is fighting to protect and save our ability to vote which is the backbone of democracy as provided by the Constitution and Amendments to establish this country as a republic.

    “There Really Are Good Things Out There” But they won’t last or progress when you forget who is trying to work with lawmakers at all levels, in both parties, who are not maintaining their Oath of Office to protect democracy, Rule of Law and support the Constitution of the United States of America.

  8. Good things are happening, but they need to be sustained, like the Sahara trees. Nonetheless, it is nice to see the trend,
    may it grow exponentially! It appears, and I write “appears” with caution, that there there might be a bit of a groundswell,
    a birthing, as Sheila puts it, of progressive momentum.

  9. Well, Jon, if the correct kinds of trees are planted, they will at least hold the topsoil. THAT is the most important factor in stopping desertification. Yes, water is a close second, but just south of the new tree line is plenty of water. Yes, the trees need to be tended to for a few years until their root systems find the water tables that the first trees there used. BTW, in the book “The Sixth Extinction”, it is noted that all failed societies/cultures resulted when the trees were all cut down. Easter Island is the most recent and obvious example. Humans are RAPACIOUS. Humans evolved their cultures by using up resources in the tribal areas, dumping their trash and moving on to repeat the process. Conservation of resources is a relatively new human phenomenon. The trick will be to husband that concept before we make ourselves extinct.

  10. More good news. The Republican vaccine, omicron, is working well for most people and is self spreading and administering. It auto-magically seeks out Republicans, doesn’t kill most of them, sends a few to the hospital as reminders that it could kill them if it wanted to, and renders the survivors immune at least for awhile.

  11. From CNBC:
    “The economy, and this is an important point, hasn’t added one single job from the 2019 high-water mark. Not one. All the jobs that we have seen gained are recovered jobs that were lost,” Richardson said. “We’re not yet producing new jobs, in fact, we’re still about nearly 4 million jobs short, so these wage gains are coming on top of a shrinking workforce, and it’s not being fueled by productivity enhancements.”

  12. Humans dominate the planet, and in fact have overrun it.
    Too many birth canals being used too often.
    How to fix it?
    Maybe a turn away from sex, more ways to be sexual without reproduction?
    Maybe sterile transgenders, gays, covid-induced sterility, incels, etc?
    I’ve always wondered if the honchos of religious anti-sex rules have considered
    this aspect.
    Of course, the “quiver-full” movement, and others work for over-population now.

  13. I’m late to comment on this. Sorry.

    Treating gig workers, like those who drive for Lyft and Uber, as employees is not necessarily good. Most Lyft/Uber drivers are doing the work as a second job. Critical to their being able to do the work is having the flexibility associated with being an independent contractor. The minute they become an employee, their employer controls what hours they work, where they drive, what rides they pick up, etc. Even if classified as employees, they’re not going to get benefits anyway because most are part-time employees. So, most shouldn’t want to be employees. I get the electric car angle, but that seems to be a stretch.

  14. You said, “My search for ‘good news’ … is a search for evidence supporting an alternative explanation of our tumultuous times.”

    Allow me to suggest two ideas in the search for an explanation:

    1. There really is a coherent Enemy and Adversary to realizing human potential, and we need to speak up and correct every effort to normalize Evil or to create false equivaliencies. They don’t just express a different opinion, but a historical practice of asserting superiority of a few over the majority by dehumanizing people. They do this with disinformation and misinformation, which are euphemisms for lies, and have legislated these lies into control of our election system. We must collectively stop softening the impact of these Evil forces by normalizing or euphemizing them and their Evil ideas.

    2. Let’s put ‘good news’ into action. Make good news by sponsoring an event or activity in your community. Amplify good news by participating and talking it up, and by contrasting it directly with the emotional pricks of Evil.


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