Tag Archives: social chaos

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….