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Factfulness – there is also lots of positive news

I recently attended a lecture by Ola Rosling of the Swedish-based Gapminder Foundation, organised by the University of NSW.

This was a refreshing event in a world of doom of gloom. In discussing what people know in relation to the developments in the world around us, it is frightening to hear how few people have a clear understanding of what is happening. It is not so much ignorance that is the cause of this – it is that people actually have the wrong knowledge. In many cases their knowledge is based on information that is many decades old.

This, of course, also has a massive effect on the decisions made by (uninformed) politicians.

Here are number of global facts that, according to a Gapminder survey of 12,000 people in 14 countries. Scaringly less than 13% got it right. This is less than if the interviewed people had simply guessed the answers – that would have resulted in approx. a 33% result – this confirms that the answers are based on incorrect knowledge.

  • A staggering 60% of girls in low income countries now finish primary school.
  • Most people in the world now live in the middle-income countries.
  • The proportion of the world population living in poverty has almost halved in the last 20 years.
  • Life expectation in the world is currently 70 years.
  • There are now 2 billion people aged 0-15. This number is not expected to be different in 2100.
  • The main reason the population will have grown by 4 billion to over 11 billion by that year is because of the increase in the number of adults (15-74 years).
  • The number of deaths per year as a result of natural disasters has halved over the last 100 years.
  • Where are people living? North and South America 1 billion, Europe 1 billion, Africa 1 billion, Asia 4 billion.
  • 80% of the world’s 1-year-old children have been vaccinated against some disease.
  • Worldwide 30-year-old women have spent 9 years in school (men 10 years).
  • In 1996 tigers, pandas and black rhinos were listed as endangered. They no longer appear on that list.
  • 80% of people have access to some electricity.

By the year 2100 the spread of the world population is estimated by the UN to be as follows:  Americas 1 billion, Europe I billion, Africa 4 billion, Asia 5 billion.

If we link population numbers to political and economic developments it is clear where the global power will lie at that time. Rather than staying ignorant about this it does make sense to think about what the position is of what we currently classify as the western democracies. Instead of creating divisions such as are promoted by the USA and Britain the West should work together in order to ensure they establish their own position in that emerging world picture.

This position should keep a new world picture in mind. In respect of economic power the West will shift towards the 20% and what we now call emerging economies will hold 80% of the power. It should make sense that we start working with these new upcoming powers, rather than dictating our values to them.

Based on income levels 1 billion people currently live on $2 or less a day, 3 billion between $2 and $8, 2 billion between $8 and $32 and 1 billion on more than $32. Currently the western countries make up 11% of the world’s population, but they account for 60%-plus of level 4 income.

If the world continues to grow along present lines that figure will already have dropped to 50% by 2027.  By 2040 60% of the people in level 4 will live outside the West.

This information fits in nicely with the information in my blog on the ongoing economic growth in Asia, based on different political and economic models that are used in the majority of these countries. The so-called Asian Model is spreading much faster than the western neoliberal model.

The west has extremely important values to offer the rest of the world but they can only be spread by example, by showing others the importance of them; not by bullying, trade wars, post-colonial and paternalistic behaviour. If the facts of global changes are taken seriously by the West then a dramatic change of attitude towards the rest of the world is essential.

Paul Budde

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