It’s Friday afternoon on Ecocentric, which means it’s time for videos. And there’s no better place to find them than TED, the summit of smart people and the wealthy who’d like to be near them that just concluded last week. I picked out a strong one: Peter Diamandis, the tech veteran and chairman of the X Prize Foundation, talking about why the future is going to be better than you think. (Diamandis just co-wrote the book Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think with the journalist Steven Kotler.) That might be hard to believe given the constant stream of dread that is the daily news—and the endless well of fear that seems to be the future—but a close look at the numbers indicates that things are better than we believe.
The report shows that for the first time the proportion of people living in extreme poverty — on less than $1.25 a day — fell in every developing region from 2005 to 2008. And the biggest recession since the Great Depressionseems not to have thrown that trend off course, preliminary data from 2010 indicate.
The progress is so drastic that the world has met the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals to cut extreme poverty in half five years before its 2015 deadline.
While it’s still sad that 1.29 billion people live below even that $1.25 a day poverty target, things are getting better for the bulk of humanity at a pace this planet has never before seen. Even in Africa, the continent that has remained the most entrenched in poverty—and one that usually only makes the news because of famine or civil war—the story is one of surprising success, with extreme poverty in the sub-Saharan region falling from 55.7% to 47.5%. We still have a long way to go, and no shortage of problems to overcome in the future, from growing population to climate change. But the optimism Diamandis urges may be more realistic than you think.