Melinda Gates Explains Why, Counterintuitively, The World Is Actually Getting Better, Not Worse

It's not an attitude you usually hear.

The conventional wisdom in the media seems to be that the world is falling apart at the seams. But Melinda Gates has a different take.


Gates — a philanthropist and co-founder of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — said in a Vox interview this week that progress isn't just speeding up now — it's likely to keep accelerating. 

"If you look in the past 15 years, a billion people have been lifted out of poverty," Gates said. "More children are living past their 5th birthday — 3.5 million children. In terms of mom dying in childbirth, that number has almost halved in the past 15 years."

The statistics Gates presents are important and accurate, but they're also revealing. As we reported in April, many of the most encouraging statistics about global trends just don't seem to make good headlines. For instance, gun violence in the United States is actually on a massive downward trend. Speaking of violence, global violence has also decreased — there are far less deaths as the result of war now than at any other time in history.

Gates also spoke about the improved education around the world. 

"Women and girls are both going to school; at primary levels, we have parity for boys and girls," she said. "Now the world is starting to work more on secondary schooling."

And we can see the value of that schooling: literacy rates are skyrocketing. In 2014, 84.1 percent of global adults were literate. In the 1950s, that number was hovering around 56 percent. 

Gates isn't just talking the talk, though. Her and her foundation are walking the walk. They have spent upwards of $36 billion funding programs to combat malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis. They've also put that money into education and banking.

Another unexpected change we're seeing across the world is that people who are in poverty are getting access to banking, Gates said. With mobile phones finally showing up in more impoverished areas, mobile banking is becoming a tool for poor people across the world that they didn't have before. For them, finding ways to save a dollar or two a day be the difference between feeding their families or not.

"We have plans to scale up our investments in financial services for the poor," Gates said. "Using mobile phones to do that. We have put a quite a bit of money on those programs, and we're trying to get the digital rails and regulations changed around the world: India, Bangladesh, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Kenya."

At a time when politicians, the media and the American public seem to think things are falling apart, it's nice to hear someone actively involved in combatting these issues give a more optimistic outlook.

(H/t Vox)


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