With all the daily news of problems and issues, it’s easy to lose sight of the longer, more progressive trends that continue to drive change. How have things changed over the past 30 or 50 years? There are setbacks and reversals that seem dreadful at the time, and potentially changes in direction, but if one looks overall, there are many optimistic things to note. Taking a STEEP approach, we can see some of the many good things.
(Eric Idle © BMG Rights Management, Universal Music Publishing Group)
Women’s rights continue to improve:
- Abortion: Some pushback in US Supreme Court, but 50% of voters say Roe v. Wade should not be overturned — more than the 28% who say it should be overturned. 22% are undecided, according to a recent poll.
- #MeToo leading to less tolerance of abuse and greater levels of reporting
Racism remains an issue, but #BLM is a marker and English footballers are still “taking the knee”. Openly racist remarks are now few and far between.
LGBTQ+ becoming normalised:
- gays and lesbians are to be found in all parts of society – even now an openly gay professional footballer
- trans issues as yet remain contentious but the fact that it is the subject of discussion is progress in itself
Americans’ attitudes and behaviours have become more liberal overall in the past 50 years and have taken a decidedly liberal tilt since the 1990s, according to an analysis of public opinion data. Americans are substantially more liberal on gender, sexuality, race, and personal liberty than in the 1970s.
Advances in technology are too numerous to list – absolutely immense improvements to our lives have been enabled by remarkable developments, from the day-to-day effectiveness of smartphones to AI-supported surgical operations. Renewable energy, improved batteries and better grid storage support the Net Zero challenge. Personalised treatments, health wearables and managed release drug systems are transforming our health care. Biotech will take this to another level. AI is popping up everywhere.
- The share of the world’s population living in extreme poverty declined from 15.7 per cent in 2010 to 10.0 per cent in 2015. However, the pace of global poverty reduction has been decelerating. Nowcast estimates put the global poverty rate in 2019 at 8.2 per cent.
- The Office for National Statistics is responding to pleas for more relevant measures than just GDP. The concept of “inclusive wealth”, described in the Dasgupta Review of the Economics of Biodiversity, is beginning to be taken seriously. Inflation effects on different groups are also being presented.
- New Zealand is measuring “Gross National Happiness.”
- Climate change denial has almost wholly disappeared. Governments across the world are making net Zero commitments.
- Australian PM Scott Morrison has been voted out by an electorate fed up with inaction on emissions and eager for change.
- Re-wilding projects are emerging.
Sadly, this vital area is showing the least positive development, with Russia and China becoming ever more ominous. The Economist Intelligence Unit’s “Global Democracy Index” continues to show a decline in the number of democratic countries. The US has been a “flawed democracy” since 2016; the UK still makes it into the “full democracy” category, though its score has been steadily falling (at 8.1, only just above the 8.0 threshold).
Taking the really long-term perspective, we can look to Stephen Pinker’s book The Better Angels of our Nature which suggests we may be living in the most peaceful moment in our species’ existence.
These positive thoughts are not to detract from the need to address the very real challenges we face today, but to provide some underlying optimism that with enough effort they can be overcome.
Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.
Achieve more by understanding what the future may bring. We bring skills developed over thirty years of international and national projects to create actionable, transformative strategy. Futures, foresight and scenario planning to make robust decisions in uncertain times. Find out more at www.samiconsulting.co.uk