Reasons to be cheerful (part 99)

New Scientist is currently running a four-week campaign exploring ways to make the world a better place. Going by the introductory editorial published in the 12 September issue of the magazine, and the articles I’ve read so far, I must say how impressed I am with the thinking behind and execution of a project which comes across as both idealistic and realistic, combining faith in human nature with scientific reason and human humility*.

“[T]alk of making the world a better place is not starry-eyed idealism,” says New Scientist. “It is about survival – the long-term survival of the civilisation we have built and the lifestyles we have come to enjoy… When confronted by genuine existential threats, we have the ability to face them down.”

In the articles presented by New Scientist, the problems of the world are laid bare, but various writers also point out where things are better today than they have ever been before.

In some ways our world is improving through the power of human industry and ingenuity. For example, infant and maternal mortality are down, as are hunger, malnutrition and extreme poverty. Improvements have also been made to food supply, access to clean water and education. Some age-old problems persist, however, and new ones are being created. Infectious diseases are on the rise, climate change threatens millions, ecological footprints, deforestation, natural disasters and the number of violent conflicts are escalating, and, in the regions affected, individuals and communities are becoming increasingly fragile.

If you have access to New Scientist through either the print magazine or website, I recommend this series of articles. What we have here is science journalism of quality and relevance.

New Scientist is optimistic that we can succeed: our boundless doomsaying is more than matched by our boundless creativity and our ability to, eventually, do the right thing.”

I couldn’t agree more. Read on…

* There is a small turd in the ointment, however, and to my mind the editors of New Scientist have left it there for good reason. I shall comment on this shortly.