Give us this day our daily disaster? Thanks, but no thanks! For 2019, DW’s Astrid Prange is hoping to read a bit more good news. Goodness knows, we need it.
It can feel as if there has never been as much bad news as there is right now. War, climate change, disease, famine — every day, a new disaster. The world we live in is fragile. In times of disaster, empathy and solidarity are important. Humans not only create destruction: They are also capable of overcoming it.
In October, for example, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrean President Isaias Afewerki signed a peace treaty after 30 years of war. It was a historic accord that ended decades of bloodshed and has given the people of their countries cause for optimism.
Tentative steps have also been taken toward reconciliation on the Korean Peninsula. Three summit meetings took place between North and South Korea in 2018. The countries have agreed to withdraw all soldiers and weapons from the Joint Security Area of Panmunjom, and the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, plans to travel to South Korea for the first time in 2019.
Delicate, but enduring
The positive stories can be overlooked in the daily avalanche of of fake news, storms of outrage online and hate-filled tirades.
Amid the general Brexit chaos, it went practically unnoticed that Greece had met all of the terms of the European Union’s credit program after eight long years — making it the third country to do so, after Ireland and Portugal.
The millions of people in Hungary, Poland and Romania who took to the streets in 2018 to demonstrate for democracy and against corruption also deserved more of our attention. Instead, the news focused on disillusionment with democracy and the rise of the far right.
Good news stories have stamina. In the long term, they’re what change the world. They don’t vanish into the digital ether, as tweets by US President Donald Trump, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and the leader of the AfD in the Bundestag, Alice Weidel, do.
Take renewable energy, for just one example. Even if the United States has withdrawn from the Paris climate agreement agreed to be nearly 200 nations in 2015, more and more global electricity production comes from renewable energy. According to the International Energy Agency, green sources account for 25 percent of production internationally; in Germany that figure is as high as 38 percent.
Refugees are also being integrated into German society, even though the press continues to report a “refugee crisis.” Ingo Kramer, the president of the Confederation of German Employers’ Associations, recently said Angela Merkel was right when she told the country in 2015 that “We can do this,” meaning that the nation was, in fact, capable of assisting large numbers of displaced people. More than 400,000 of the approximately 1 million refugees who have arrived to Germany in recent years now have job training or employment contracts, Kramer said.
People can overcome crises, survive diseases, protect lives, reduce poverty and make efforts to minimize damage to the environment. They represent the triumph of common sense and empathy over hate speech and conspiracy theories.
A good year
This may sound strange in view of all the ongoing wars and conflicts, but 2018 was overall a good year for most people. According to the World Bank and the World Health Organization, global poverty is decreasing, more and more households (almost 90 percent) have access to electricity, and transmissions of diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis are declining, as are the maternal and childhood mortality rates.
This has not been brought about by midnight tweets or angry demonstrations. Rather, it is the result of initiatives by people who believe in change, and who have contributed to its gradual implementation, one step at a time.
It shows us that good news was never as important as it is today. Without it, we lose our faith in the possibility of a better world; if we lose that faith, we also lose our motivation to fight for rights and peace.
Good news endures, even as new disasters great and small flit across the screens of our devices nonstop. This will remain the case in 2019. Happy New Year!