6 good reasons to power up and keep on fighting

Your moment

More days than not feel as bleak as stale bread nowadays. The world is meltingburning down and drowning at the same time, species are disappearingfascism is still well and alive, and sexual assault is everywhere from our screens to our schools, to the highest court in the most influential nation in the world. 

Falling into despair and giving up might feel like a warm bath after a lo(oooooooo)ng day: soothing and a great way to escape from reality. But just like taking baths too often and for too long, it's neither good for you nor the future of the planet, plus you'll come out all wrinkly.

We need to keep fighting for ourselves, for the planet, for the future, and for the ones who don't have the power or the privilege to do so. Believe me, I get it: it's hard to feel hopeful and to keep on going sometimes, but we don't have another choice.

The world is not doing great at the moment, but arguably, it's also never been better. We tend to focus on the bad, and rightly so since it's often urgent, instead of the good; but lest we forget, we have come a long way when it comes to the state of the world.

Here are 6 facts that prove the efforts of people trying to do good is not for nought for those days that make you feel like soaking in a warm bath of despair

1) Child mortality rate has decreased exponentially in the past 30 years
We've made remarkable progress when it comes to decreasing the number of child deaths. In 1990, 1 in 11 children died before reaching the age of five; in 2017 the number decreased to 1 in 26. That's more than 50 percent.

Despite the drop in mortality rates, 5.4 million children under the age of five died in 2017 and about half of these deaths occurred in Sub-saharan Africa. We still have a long way to go, but we also have proof that we can indeed save more lives.

2) We haven't eliminated child labour yet but we're getting there
In 2000, Internation Labour Organisation (ILO) began monitoring child labour worldwide and in 2007 it set out to eliminate worst forms of child labour by 2016. Unfortunately even now, in 2018, this goal is not still completely met. But before you go back into the bath, in the 16 year period between 2000 and 2016 the world saw a net reduction of 94 million in child labour and more than 50 percent reduction of children in hazardous work. 

3) We have more girls in school than ever
Like many other things in life, girls need to overcome more hurdles compared to boys when it comes to access to education. According to the UN, there are still 131 million girls out of school worldwide. As unimaginably large as this number sounds (and is), the number of girls who are currently in school is much larger compared to what it used to be. According to data gathered by UNESCO, the net enrolment rate in primary education for girls has increased 25 percent in the past 40 years and is now almost at 90 percent.

4) Women's suffrage looking pretty good
In 1893, New Zealand was the first country (self-governing colony) in the world in which all women had the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In 2018, Vatican City is the only country women are not allowed to vote since only cardinals can vote in a papal conclave and women are not allowed to be cardinals.

However, let's not forget, just because women are technically — legally — allowed to vote doesn't mean they freely can everywhere in the world. In some countries, it is still quite difficult for women to exercise this civil right. 

Below, you can see a map showing what year women gained the right to vote by country.

5) Global extreme poverty is decreasing
Since 1987, there has been a large drop in global extreme poverty. Between 1987 and 2013 rates have dropped from 35 to 11 worldwide, from 54 percent to 41 percent in Sub-saharan Africa, from 15 percent to five percent in Latin America, and a whopping 54 percent (58 to four) in East Asia.

6) World hunger decrease
Along with global extreme poverty, world hunger is also decreasing. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute's Global Hunger Index (GHI), the share of the population that is undernourished went down 5.4 percent between 1999-2001 and 2014-2016. In 2017, there were only four countries facing famine: Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen.

The map below shows the increase and decrease in hunger in countries included in GHI. The prevalence of green and light orange and the lack of red is encouraging.

The numbers and graphs above are a testament to the importance of research and information in our fight for a better, fairer, and more livable planet.

Human Rights Watch is an organisation that conducts research about violation of human rights all over the world and shares the results with the public and with policymakers. If you want to support the organisation in their efforts to advocate for equality for all, you can donate to them below.

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  • Climate change is a matter of international security


    When we think of “global threats”, we usually imagine terrorist attacks, cyberwars, and weapons of mass destructions. Or maybe, trespassing into the realm of fiction, of James Bond’s Dr. No and other, similar, cats-owning villains.

    Obviously, these are all fearsome scenarios and risks (especially Dr.No). However, there’s another “global threat” that is looming above us, even though we probably wouldn’t think of calling it that way. Such a threat is climate change.

    Last Tuesday, the Office of the Director of US National Intelligence published its yearly Worldwide Threat Assessment, a hearing of the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee that has occurred since 2006.

    In the report, the US intelligence community lists a series of “global threats” that humanity is currently facing. Amidst transnational organized crime, the proliferation of weapons of mass destructions, and online operations to interfere with political elections, we find also — grouped in the section relating to “human security”  — the “negative effects of environmental degradation and climate change.”

    In particular, the assessment highlights how the increased magnitude of these phenomena is likely to “fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”

    Three are the main critical points raised by the report. First off, the intelligence community is concerned by extreme weather events and particularly by how they will affect urban coastal areas in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Western Hemisphere.

    Secondly, they link the increasing water and food insecurity around the world with the “changes in the frequency and variability” of heat waves, droughts, and floods.

    And, finally, the report zooms in on the issue of diminishing Arctic sea ice, highlighting how this problem paves the way for increased competition with Russia and China over access to sea routes and natural resources.

    En passant, the intelligence report reminds its readers that Arctic ice is shrinking constantly. “In 2018, the minimum sea ice extent in the Arctic was 25 percent below the 30-year average from 1980 to 2010,” the report warns.

    As environmental media outlet Inside Climate News reminds us, The Worldwide Threat Assessment included “climate change” as a global threat to human security also in the past years, so there’s “nothing new under the sun”: the ice is still melting.

    However,  while other global threats like terrorism are treated as such in the media, climate change is still too often debated not as an imminent threat but as something that, if at all, will strike far in the future.  At the opposite, as the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment denounces once  again, climate changes' effects are already underway.  

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  • The U.K. government should grant charitable status to public-interest news media


    A year ago, the UK government asked economist Frances Cairncross to conduct an independent review of the challenges high-quality journalism is facing in the country.

    Last Tuesday, the Cairncross Review was published, highlighting nine recommendations that the government and regulators ought to follow to help secure the sustainability of journalism in the future.

    The recommendations range from investigating the workings of online advertising (aka the Google-Facebook duopoly) to developing a media literacy strategy.

    However, the recommendation that attracted my attention the most, given my particular interest in the charitable sector, was number nine.

    It reads: “New forms of tax relief: The government should introduce new tax reliefs aimed at (i) improving how the online news market works and (ii) ensuring an adequate supply of public-interest journalism.”

    Cairncross is hinting at two tax changes here. The first one is the extension of zero-rating VAT to digital subscriptions and micropayments for online news (currently, the exemption is enjoyed just by print newspapers and periodicals) and the second is granting charitable status to particular types of high-quality, public-interest journalism.

    Last June, Cairncross issued a ‘call for evidence’ to gather material for the report and the review reveals that granting charitable status to select news outlets was one of the most frequently raised proposals.

    As known, charities benefit from several tax breaks in the United Kingdom so it would be much easier for a news organization with charitable status to attract philanthropic donations that could provide a much-needed additional revenue stream.

    However, this is easier said than done. As the report notes, UK’s current charity law is probably incompatible with the role of news organizations since it forbids charities “to undertake certain political activities such as securing or opposing a change in law, policy or decisions affecting the country”.

    A solution could then be to add public-interest journalism to the list of charitable causes the 2011 Charities Act set out to advance. But, again, this might take time and be deemed legally too complicated. That’s why the Cairncross report also highlights a “second-best option”: building a journalistic equivalent of the Creative Sector Tax Relief that grants support to creative industries ranging from video-games to film production.

    Legal feasibility aside, the indication expressed by Craincross is part of a larger trend that is taking hold in the news industry: non-profit journalism.

    Facing shrinking revenue opportunities, several news media startups across the world decide to opt for business models that rely solely on donations, from private individuals or larger foundations.

    One of the most notable examples is certainly ProPublica, a Pulitzer-Prize winning newsroom established in New York in 2007 to produce investigative journalism in the public interest.

    But media organizations that adopt mixed business models are also considering the idea of attracting philanthropic money to fund in-depth reporting with increasing interest.

    I’m thinking of Vox’s vertical Future Perfect or The Telegraph’s Global Health Security initiative, founded respectively by the Rockefeller and the Bill and Melinda Gates’ foundations.

    Just to give a number, Oxford University’s Reuters Institute for The Study of Journalism found that 12 percent of European publishers saw philanthropy as an “important” income stream in 2019.

    Obviously, “philanthrojournalism” is not immune to criticism. How can we make sure that the money comes with no strings attached? And even if we can guarantee that the media outlet retains total editorial control - as in the examples I mentioned above - how could we envision a system where the funding doesn’t necessarily reflect the funder’s interest areas?

    These are complex challenges that require bold and imaginative solutions.

    Maybe we should think beyond large foundations. In a recent article for The Guardian, journalist Owen Jones contemplates a sort of democratized public subsidy for the whole media industry. His idea, firstly proposed by US media scholar Robert McChesney, consists of the state giving every citizen a yearly allowance of $200 to donate to one or more publications. In Jones’s hypothesis, the allowance would be funded by an annual tax on the advertising industry.

    The idea lends itself to an array of criticism. There’s the evident risk, for example, that the funding will just mirror the electorate’s political preferences of the moment resulting in a pro-government press with more money than its competitors.

    Regardless, the idea has the merit of being radical and out-of-the-box and that’s the kind of thinking we need in this ongoing brainstorming on the future of journalism.

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  • Go vegan because of mass exploitation, not because eating animals is wrong


    With veganism on the rise and entire supermarket aisles now dedicated to veggie and vegan food ranges, it’s a good time to consider what motivates people to go vegan.

    There are many reasons why people decide to cut animal products from their diet, but the negative health effects of excessive meat and dairy consumption and the enormous environmental impacts of industrial agriculture are popular ones.

    However, the suffering of billions of animals each year in factory farming, referred to in a 2015 Guardian article as one of the “worst crimes in history”, is the most powerful motivation for many, including myself.

    Refraining from something that causes so much harm and suffering is laudable, but there’s one argument occasionally used in vegan and animal rights campaigns that warrants closer attention – the idea that consuming other creatures is morally wrong in its own right.

    Such views are often bolstered by powerful moral arguments framing animals as subjects of a life, able to experience pain, and as leaders of complex emotional lives.

    Opposing meat eating on ontological grounds – meaning, simply because animals are sentient beings, we shouldn’t eat them – separates humans from nature and prevents truly ethical relationships between humans, animals and the natural world. The late environmental philosopher Val Plumwood coined “ontological veganism” to describe this absolute opposition.

    Ontological veganism asserts that beings that count as ethical subjects should not be eaten, in the same way that there’s a widespread taboo about eating humans. While this thinking erects another unhelpful boundary between animals and other life forms, it’s also ironic that the rationale underlying taboos against eating humans is the desire to radically separate humans from other animals.

    By framing the consumption of other living beings as an inherent moral wrong, ontological veganism also risks demonising predation. In order to avoid this, a common approach is to “excuse” animal predation by arguing that the latter is part of “nature” while humans, as cultural beings, should be exempt.

    Some of us – especially those living in wealthy countries – can indeed choose to opt for vegan products, but this argument reproduces another false dichotomy: nature vs. culture. Life is entanglement, with no clear boundaries between “humans” and other species, or between “nature” and “society”.

    Ecological Animalism

    "Come among the deer on the hill, the fish in the river, the quail in the meadows. You can take them, you can eat them, like you they are food. They are with you, not for you."

    This quote is from the late utopian author Ursula Le Guin, in her novel Always Coming Home. Her idea is akin to Plumwood’s theory of ecological animalism, which seeks to replace human supremacy over nature with mutual and respectful use between humans and other species.

    Ontological veganism would frame using or consuming animals itself as inherently exploitative. But consider forms of mutual use seen in symbiotic relationships, such as those between pollinating insects and plants. In such scenarios, use isn’t oppressive or exploitative. It’s the form of use seen within industrial capitalism, where humans and non-humans alike are treated only as a means to an end, that prevents ethical relationships.

    Ecosystems and all living beings depend upon mutual use and consumption. Orcas consume fish and other marine mammals, we must consume living vegetable matter at least, and when we die, we become food for a host of microorganisms, nourishing them in turn.

    If humans are indeed animals who differ from other species only by degrees rather than kind, then like them, we are food. To deny this is to deny that humans are embedded within the ecosystems they originate from and are sustained by.

    The horrific cruelty involved in industrial factory farming reduces living beings to mere profitable commodities. This is why I am a vegan, and it is here where calls for eradicating or at least reforming animal agriculture find firmer ground.

    The ways in which animals are currently treated in agriculture represent the exact opposite of respect and mutuality. No wonder Aldous Huxley observed in his poignant ecotopian work, Island, that

    "For animals… Satan, quite obviously, is Homo sapiens."

    Ecological animalism offers a powerful basis for truly ethical and egalitarian ways of relating to other species. We are all food, and crucially, so much more. We are with and not for one another, and we are all worthy of respect. Go vegan whenever and wherever possible, but be mindful of the underlying rationales involved, lest we reproduce the same harmful dualisms we want to dismantle.

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. It's written by Heather Alberro, Associate Lecturer/PhD Candidate in Political Ecology in Nottingham Trent University. Read the original article here.

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