It’s been a stressful and disorienting 9 months of COVID, and a stressful week of watching the U.S. election results unfold, whether you’re American or not. Sorry, Americans, but the past 4 years have been pretty unsettling for most people in your historically allied countries. Let’s just say it hasn’t felt too friendly to anyone on the other side of the border, except maybe to Russians. Multinationalism and multinational institutions have been under threat, just when working cooperatively together is more important than ever. There is no doubt that it hasn’t just been Americans who’ve been glued to their news streams this past week. And your allies are rejoicing with those of you who are rejoicing. Welcome back, America!
So instead of sharing maps that could possibly introduce yet more stress into our lives, I thought I’d share some positive maps. Marginally uplifting maps. These maps are taken from an article entitled “Maps that show life is slowly getting better”, by Robert Muggah.
As you look at them, keep in mind what we always have to remember when looking at maps showing data averaged by country. In most of these countries there will be regions that exceed the displayed average and regions that fall short of that average value. But the fact is that in nearly every case the value has improved over time, and that is a good thing. [You can click on any map to try to see more details.]
More educated than ever.
These two maps show the mean numbers of years of schooling in each country, first in 1950 and then in 2020. As you can see, in 1950 most children outside of North America, western Europe and Australia/New Zealand had fewer than 4-6 years of schooling. This has changed dramatically in the past 70 years. Sure, there is room for further improvement, but it’s still a good-news story.
Huge inroads in reducing child mortality.
In early societies, it is thought that as many as 70% of children died before their 5th birthday. This has improved astronomically since the advent of vaccines, improved sanitation and access to clean water, and of course antibiotics, but the rates vary across the globe. These two maps show the improvements from 1950 to 2020.
Life expectancy is on the rise. How high can we go?!
Life expectancy has increased dramatically in the past several decades. After all, the reason that the retirement age was established as 65 so long ago was because employers and insurance companies didn’t expect many people to live that long! These maps show the difference in life expectancy (at birth) in 1960 and then at 2020.
Bridging the digital divide.
We’re all very aware of the importance of access to reliable, high-speed Internet. That’s been important for some time now, but the pandemic has made it clear just how important it is. Suddenly – and I mean suddenly, like in a few days – everything moved from having a physical presence to being done online. Schooling, working, banking, shopping, entertainment, staying connected to friends and family – everything. Of course we hope that the pandemic will recede ASAP and we can go back to a physical presence. For most/many activities, in-person is preferable. However, I think most of us have come to accept that some things will never go back to physical presence, at least not completely. Our economies will depend on strong, ubiquitous Internet connections. And those people who don’t have reliable Internet access will be left behind.
Costa Rica had it right when they determined many years ago that Internet access was just as much a basic need as access to electricity, health, and education. It is one of their government pledges to its citizens. I think you will find that Costa Rica is a good role model in many areas of responsible governing.
These two maps show the changes in the share of the population with Internet access from 2000 to 2020.
I’m sure there are more good news stories about improvements in our world that can be described through maps. Maps of diseases that have been eradicated by vaccines and antibiotics, for example. Some of the improvements in education and life expectancy displayed in the maps above will have come about with the assistance of some of the multinational organizations that have been under threat recently, employing advances in public health.
I wonder if I can find any maps showing improvements in man’s kindness to strangers, or improvements in sharing what we have with those in need. I’ll keep looking!