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Which countries have the worst drinking cultures?1 month, 16 days ago
From savouring flavors in France to binge drinking in Australia readers talk about the alcohol culture where they live
How much alcohol is safe to drink? It is a question scientists have been trying to get to the bottom of for centuries, and now a survey exploring drinking advice around the world has found that the answer varies significantly depending on where you live.
In the US, for example, three or four drinkings a day( 42 g for women and 56 g for men) is thought to be safe, but in Sweden that is well over the amount health authorities recommend: 10 g for women and 20 g for men. Whats more, a standard drink in Iceland and the UK is 8g of alcohol, compared to 20 g in Austria.
Can these fluctuations be attributed to the fact that each place has its unique drinking culture? We asked readers to summarise their countrys stance towards alcohol and the unscientific, we should stress outcomes seem to suggest we might all be tip-off the scale when it is necessary to consuming a safe amount.
It is differed, but most people drink socially , not generally to excess, but responsible drinking( not drinking and driving for example) is rare. We should have tighter drinking and driving statutes. Dickon, 40
In the Spanish equivalent of a greasy spoon, workers stop for brunch with a beer followed by a big brandy then get into their autoes and go back to work. Its the drink-driving that I dont like. Anonymous, 45
Binge drinking is glorified in Australia, and the focus is not on drinking in moderation or for enjoyment. We should be encouraging alcohol-free days. I am likely not a true representative of the Australian drinking population as I am a very light drinker I drink maybe once a month. Anonymous, 44
There is a big binge-drinking culture among the youth in the country and a huge part of the health budget and policing budget is spent on dealing with drink-driving, collision and emergency services, and other long-term harmful effects of alcohol. We have a robust liquor industry that lobbies the government ferociously to prevent regulation of alcohol marketings. Advertising here has been grudgingly curtailed. Anonymous, 50
People often go to Izakayas[ Japanese-style pub] after work on Fridays or special occasions with their colleagues. However, alcohol is nearly always drunk here alongside snacks or food, entailing very few people get incredibly drunk. There are some cases of people with alcohol-related problems in this country, but people dont drink alcohol in order to get drunk, but rather to relax.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
How To Celebrate The Best Proportions Of The Holidays All Year Long2 months ago
After weeks of preparation, menu planning, decorating and addressing greet cards, just like that another holiday season has passed us by.
Although the tree decorations may not be packed away, and the leftover food may not have disappeared quite yet, it’s still possible to feel a little bit of yearning for the vacation happiness you simply experienced. It’s no wonder we’re sad to see the season go: Surveys show that holidays full of family boost emotional wellness.
The good news is it’s possible to construct that exuberance and pleasure “youre feeling” during the season last throughout the year. Below, find six ways to construct your holiday buzz carry into next year and beyond .
Be festive .
When was the last time you celebrated something, just because? Or had a festive gathering outside of the span of the season? Adopting a more festive posture, and ritualizing more events than simply the main holidays on the calendar, can actually help you cultivate more joy all year.
Celebrating good times and fun occasions can create a deeper sense of social connection and helps to build closer relationships. By being festive beyond the vacation season, you also open yourself up for more opportunities to log some time with your friends, which has been proven to help beat nervousnes. Celebrating the little things — no matter if it’s an accolade at work or simply because you’re happy it’s Friday night — is also associated with overall gladness. So next time this is necessary a little pick me up, schedule a little festival( the ugly Christmas sweater is optional ).
Send greeting cards and thank you notes .
Another way to carry the vacation spirit through the rest of the year is to express thanks to and keep in touch with loved ones more often than your once-a-year Christmas card. It’s no secret that gratitude is at its peak during the holidays, but practising it all year — even in small forms — can have a significant impact on your on your emotional and physical wellness. Writing down what — and more specifically, who — you’re thankful for can assist you focus on the present and cultivate gratitude for all the good in your life, according to gratitude researcher Robert Emmons. The result? An increased number of feelings of happiness and contentment.
In his volume 365 Thank Yous , writer John Kralik details how the simple act of writing one thank you note can have a positive impact on your psyche. After struggling with a series of challenges, Kralik attained it his mission to take the time to write a thank you note at the least once a day to person — and the findings are life changing.
Writing a thank you note or a message merely to check in doesn’t have to follow training materials gift. Just letting person know you care will also affect your happiness levels — but according to Kralik, make sure you say it in print. “Things we write in cyberspace are so easily deleted and forgotten … buried by the next 30 e-mails we receive, ” Kralik told NPR in 2010. “In this day and age, a handwritten note is something that people actually feel is special.”
Spread a little generosity.
Part of the joy that fills the season includes devoting gifts to loved ones — but that thoughtfulness and generosity doesn’t have to come to an end once that last gift has been unwrapped.
Adopting a giving mentality all year round can build the jolliness of the season thrive — along with your happiness levels. According to a study published in the International Journal of Happiness and Development, extending any bit of kindness or generosity to others can increase social connection and feelings of positivity for the donor.
The study examined how social devoting affected emotional wellness, concluding that giving to worthy causes through friends and family attained participants feel the happiest. “Our findings suggest that putting the social in pro-social[ spending] is one way to transform good deeds into good feelings, ” the researchers wrote in the report.
Spend time with loved ones .
Surrounding ourselves with those who build us the happiest doesn’t have to be a once-a-year treat. In fact, spending time with people rather than your vacation gifts can have a positive impact on our emotional well-being. According to a study conducted by the University of Missouri, happiness levels were greater when family events were more prominent during the season. Connection with friends and family also has a major reduction on stress, resulting in more pleasant, helpful and sociable attitudes.
Instead of the empty promise to get together as you head to your autoes after the Christmas party, try making a regular date and sticking to it. A busy social calendar, along with some quality time with those who lift you up, can help transcend the holiday happiness into the springtime, summer and beyond.
Let yourself indulge a little .
Admit it: You wholly feed that second piece of tart even though you were already full — and even more so, at the time, you didn’t regret it. It turns out your desire to pander isn’t wrong; in fact, allowing yourself a little leniency more often was in fact be good for you in the long run.
Research has shown that those who didn’t deprive themselves when it came to cravings managed to stay on track with dieting a lot better than the individuals who limited themselves wholly — and that vacation buffet is no exception. In other words,( mindfully) adopt that “cheating” attitude and grab a cookie at the next book club or treat yourself to that bowl of ice cream — a little indulgence is going to help you more than hurt you, and will help your jolly spirit live their lives beyond the end of December.
Take time off .
Perhaps one of the most thrilling parts of the holidays is the mental infringe and day away from our work responsibilities — and rightfully so. A 2010 study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life found that the anticipation of planning and taking a vacation resulted in higher overall happiness levels — not a bad thing to have on your side when you’re navigating your way through a hectic day at the office.
And that’s not the only benefit of a little vacation. Study have shown that taking a vacation can help stave off a heart attack, alleviate stress and help you be a healthier employee. So instead of just using the time allotted to you at the end of the year, take a little more time off for yourself during the other 11 months — you’ll be much jollier for it.
A previous version of such articles appeared in December 2013.
Read more: www.huffingtonpost.com
The 100 best nonfiction volumes: No 41- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie( 1936)2 months, 21 days ago
The original self-help manual on American life with its influence stretching from the Great Depression to Donald Trump has a lot to answer for
The selling of the American self, and its dream of a better future, began with the Declaration of Independence and founding father Benjamin Franklin, who once observed that God helps them that help themselves. Selling and salesmanship pervade American life and literature: Sister Carrie ( Theodore Dreiser ), Babbitt ( Sinclair Lewis ), The Iceman Cometh ( Eugene ONeill ), Death of a Salesman ( Arthur Miller ), and Glengarry Glen Ross ( David Mamet ).
Exactly 80 years after How to Win Friends first appeared, it comes as no surprise to find a distorted, and sickeningly corrupted, version of Dale Carnegies homespun and inspirational self-help manual prosper in the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, bestselling author of The Art of the Deal . Trump, indeed, continues actively to extol a later Carnegie fan( Norman Vincent Peale, writer of The Power of Positive Thinking ) for his contribution to the American way of life. Whatever the outcome of Tuesday 8 November, theres no doubt that the ecstatic selling of American greatness will remain part of “the member states national” psychodrama for years to come.
Trumps diehard supporters are an apt reminder that, for many Americans, the pursuit of happiness is unsatisfying, success painfully elusive, and failing shameful and/ or infuriate. The hunger for a better future remains a constant feature of the American sociopolitical scenery. In the depths of the Great Depression, it was this desperate need that Carnegie addressed in How to Win Friends and Influence People . Carnegies message was to inspire go-getting Americans to look on the bright side, and sell themselves better. By the time of Carnegies demise in 1955, more than 5m transcripts had been sold, the book had been translated into more than 30 speeches, and its title had passed into the language. Today, my paperback reprint from Vermilion( an imprint of Random House UK) boasts over 16 m transcripts sold. As Jay Parini, a devout student of Carnegies work, has noted: between 1989, when Soviet communism failed and 1997, How to Win Friends went through no fewer than 68 editions in a Russian translation. Notions of success usually make for a bestseller.
Carnegie himself, born in 1888, the same year as TS Eliot, represented the American idea of self- or re-invention. He grew up the son of a failed Missouri farmer named Carnagey. Ambitious young Dale changed the spelling of his name more closely to associate himself with the great steel baron, Andrew Carnegie, a late 19 th-century household name, and embarked on a career as a salesman while also attempting to make a future in the theatre as an actor, auditioning successfully for the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. Theatre life was hard. It was at this stage, he wrote, that the dreams I had nourished back in my college days turned into nightmares.
But he didnt give up, and it was from this cavity of despair and letdown that he conceived the idea of devoting courses in public speaking. Paraphrasing RW Emerson, a deeply influential American we shall meet later, he would say, Do the thing that you fear to do, and the death of fear is absolutely certain. By 1916, he was in a position to rent Carnegie Hall and lecture to full houses about his self-help techniques. His first book, Public Speaking: A Practical Course for Business Men , are still in 1926, and led inexorably through his growing stateswide audience to How to Win Friends .
The key to this new iteration of his optimistic message was its 12 principles( which ranged from No 1, The only route to get the best of an debate is to avoid it, to No 12, Throw down a challenge, via No 6, Let the other person do a great deal of the talking ). Each principle was deftly illustrated by Carnegies well-chosen examples of influential and successful Americans in action.
Carnegie left nothing to opportunity. To persuade his readers of his wisdom, he went to the top of American society in the 1930 s. I personally interviewed ratings of successful people, he writes, some of them world- famous inventors like Marconi and Edison; political leaders like Franklin D Roosevelt movie stars like Clark Gable and Mary Pickford and tried to discover the techniques they used in human relations. He ensure himself as an enabler, quoting Herbert Spencer: The great objective of education is not knowledge but action. This, he declared, was an action book.
As Donald Trump knows only too well, to hook the uncommitted, any good salesmans pitch must subtly invite the buyer to risk leaving his or her convenience zone, and take a chance. Carnegie was not afraid to connect his message to new ideas. Early on in his pitch for a mass audience, Carnegie mixed a simple American credo with revolutionary European suppose. He writes: Sigmund Freud said that everything you and I do springs from two motives: the sex exhort and the desire to be great.
Carnegie also traded in folksy wisdom, in the manner of his idol, Abraham Lincoln. His first chapter, If You Want to Gather Honey, Dont Kick Over the Beehive, fosters a positive, warm and optimistic posture in dealings with others. He argues against assaulting or criticising people. That they are able to merely induce them aggressive towards you. After that, successive chapters enter into negotiations with: how to get people to act as you want them to; how to build people like you; how to convince people of your arguments; and finally, how to be a Leader( Constructing People Glad to Do What You Want ). All this was packaged into Carnegies systematic technique, an important key to his popular success.
The measure of Carnegies extraordinary achievement can be seen in his many imitators. The most immediate was Norman Vincent Peale whose keynote sentence could have been written by Carnegie: If you feel that you are defeated and have lost confidence in your ability to win, sit down, take a piece of paper and make a list , not of the factors that are against you, but of those that are for you.
Unlike Carnegie, Peale was that now familiar American figure: a charismatic evangelist trading in a petroleum, faith-based optimism. The officiating priest at the Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan for more than half a century, Peale first began to promote positive thinking on the radio with a programme entitled The Art of Living . The latest edition of The Power of Positive Thinking proclaims: This Book Could Change Your Life, and specifically offers to enable everyone to enjoy confidence, success and exhilaration. Here, in about 300 pages, is a succinct expres of the American Dream in its purest form. From the outset, like Carnegie, Peale identifies squarely with the Common Man. His book, he proclaims, was written for the plain people of this world, of whom certainly I am one. With a sly allusion to Abraham Lincolns origins a straight lift from Carnegie he then makes a classic assertion of white American solidarity: I was born and reared in humble midwestern situations in a dedicated Christian home. The everyday people of this land are my own kind whom I know and love and believe in with great faith. Then follows Peales kicker: When any one of them lets God have charge of his life the power and glory are amazingly demonstrated.
What Peale offered was not merely spiritual counselling( over the years, plenty of other evangelists had already done that ), but a system of simple procedures that would generate untold peace of mind, improved health and a never-ceasing flow of energy. Extolling the common sense of his system, he goes on:[ This volume] induces no pretence to literary excellence , nor does it seek to demonstrate any unusual scholarship on my part. This is simply a practical, direct-action, personal improvement manual.
After Peale, the other American titles that owe a huge indebtednes to Carnegie include: The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson( 1982 ); The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R Covey( 1989 ); and Become a Better You: 7 Keys to Improving Your Life Every Day by Joel Osteen( 2007 ). From these popular bestsellers, bought by people who likely possess almost no other books, it is only a short step to Trumps Make America Great Again.
Dale Carnegie has something to answer for.
A signature sentence
Charles Schwabs personality, his charm, his ability to stimulate people like him, were almost wholly responsible for his extraordinary success; and one of the most delightful factors in his personality was his captivating smile.
Three to compare
How to Win Friends and Influence People is published by Vermilion ( 8.99 ). Click here to buy it for 7.37
Read more: www.theguardian.com
Scottish food standards agency criticised over E coli poisoning suit2 months, 22 days ago
FSS told newspaper it had no direct proof connecting outbreak that killed three-year-old girl with artisan cheese-maker
Scotlands food criteria bureau has come under attack after it confirmed it had no samples or test evidence connecting a cheese-maker with a food poisoning outbreak that killed a three-year-old girl.
Prof Sir Hugh Pennington, a world authority on the glitch blamed for the outbreak, E coli O157, said the information issued by Food Standards Scotland( FSS) on its investigation had been a mess, and had failed to answer basis the issue of the case.
The whole thing is a mess in terms of the public datum coming out said Pennington, emeritus prof for bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen and a former adviser to the UK Food Standards Agency. From my point of view, I just dont understand whats going on.
He said he was puzzled by the agencys delay in releasing its report in the outbreak, which objective several weeks ago. The sooner we find all the data which has been collated which allows the FSS to point the finger, the better it will be for everybody, he added.
The agency issued an alert in July after it connected an E coli outbreak that had affected 20 people with two batches of Dunsyre Blue, one of the best known brands from South Lanarkshire-based Errington Cheese, which has pioneered the use of unpasteurised milk.
The firm receded the cheeses from sale in July, but the frighten intensified last week after the FSS revealed that a three-year-old girl in Dunbartonshire had died and 11 people were hospitalised after contracting the E coli O157 bug. Prosecutors at the Crown Office are analyzing a file on the case.
Errington Cheese insisted its repeated testing had seen no traces of E coli in any of the cheeses involved, but the FSS said last week that two batches of Dunsyre cheese were implicated based on epidemiological evidence.
Two days later, the company said that withdrawing the cheeses from sale was in the best interests of consumers to protect them from potential risks to public health.
However, the agency told the Sunday Herald at the weekend it had no direct proof the cheeses it had named and had banned from sale were to blame. Tests carried out to date from samples taken by South Lanarkshire council as part of this investigation have not seen the same stres connected with the outbreak, it said.
It is understood the FSS did not test any samples of the cheese eaten, had no swabs from any restaurant or home or supplier, and was relying instead on a questionnaire of those affected by the outbreak. The FSS would not comment on those elements of its investigation.
The agency said on Saturday its testing of Erringtons cheese led to a positive finding of E coli O157 on a different product, the firms Lanark White brand; although it had not yet is proved that that cheese had the shiga toxin that stimulates the bug so dangerous.
The company withdrew its Lanark White from marketing, too, on the agencys instructions but again tried to defend its food hygiene and production standards. In a statement on its website, Errington Cheese said its advisers were unhappy about the testing used by the FSS: those batches of Lanark White had been on sale for three weeks with no reports of ill-health.
The company said in August there had been no E coli detected at all at its mill or in its cheeses since 21 March, either by its own laboratory, the local council or by its clients.
Its six samples of the Dunsyre Blue that was targeted by the FSS had all been clear. From the limited information given to it by the FSS, all the cases occurred in the first two weeks of July, even though the cheese had been on sale for up to nine weeks.
The FSS said on Monday: Public health is and is still being FSSs priority and specific actions will continue to be determined by what is necessary to protect public health and the interests of consumers. As there is an ongoing food safety investigation, we will publish more information when this is necessary to protect public health and provide information to consumers.
Pennington said it was often difficult to immediately connects a suspect batch of cheese to a poisoning outbreak because an E coli bug may merely affect part of each block, and consumers may have eaten the only evidence available.
In some instances, people could pick up the bug from an infected knife without feeing the cheese involved. However, without very detailed analysis, such as DNA testing, of each bug identified in every patient to prove a direct connection, there could more than one source of the outbreak.
Pennington has not been contacted by the Errington family in this case but gave expert evidence in the companys defence in 1994 when it was unsuccessfully prosecuted after traces of listeria were found it its Lanark Blue cheese. He said in this case the Erringtons had a right to see the FSSs report as soon as is practicable, so it could understand why its brands had been identified as the source of this outbreak.
But he said the FSS attitude in this case underlined long-standing hostility in Scotlands public health and food safety sectors towards cheese make use of unpasteurised milk, including the Errington brands. English regulators were more relaxed about unpasteurised milk; Scottish agencies became far more hardline after two major salmonella outbreaks in the 1970 s caused a number of fatalities.
Read more: www.theguardian.com
What Trump’s executive order on climate change means for the world2 months, 25 days ago
What impacts will it have?
Obama’s Energy Secretary on Trump’s climate plans
Menstrual pads could be getting a long overdue make-over3 months, 2 days ago
A scientist has developed a menstrual pad that could be the beginning of a whole new world for women in India, and perhaps everywhere.
The new pad material, attained employing nanotechnology, claims to be more absorptive and cheaper to build. But perhaps most notably, it’s free of toxic chemicals that can cause the deadly condition known as Toxic Shock Syndrome( TSS ). That’s according to the findings of a study published in the September issue of Applied Materials Today .
The new pad could be a game-changer everywhere, but it was developed specifically for the rural women of India. Simply 7 percentage use sanitary pads and the vast majority 89 percent utilize cloth, according to data from the international charity WaterAid.
Indian researcher Chandra Shekhar Sharma is looking to change this reality with the new pad. He and other researchers at the Indian Institute of Technology in Hyderabad created the new material use nanofibers, hoping to make a cheaper and safer material.
These fibers which are much thinner and developed through a process called electrospinning give the new pad a higher level of absorbency, such studies reports.
The study compared these fibers to those in various commercial pads, and could see they were significantly thinner.
With higher absorbency, the pad can be rid of SAPs, or superabsorbent polymers, and other absorbency-offering chemicals that research has linked to TSS. The FDA says that products are regulated enough now to keep these chemicals out, but toxic shock disorder still happens in the U.S . due to tampon or pad use while such regulations don’t exist in some other parts of the world.
One of the best known recent cases of the disease is that of L.A. model Lauren Wasser, who reportedly contracted the illness four years ago after employing a tampon and lost her leg as a result.
“Forget about discussing it in public, even girls do not discuss it at home totheirclose family members.”
Meanwhile, in India, pads of any kind are not very available and some females use materials like wool and ash, WaterAid data shows. In some rural areas, cultural practises like the banishing of women and girls to huts during menstruation can make the very natural experience a very stigmatized one. But even more urban Indian consider the monthly experience as a social and cultural taboo.
“In Indian society, it is considered asunhygienicand women are ritually unpure in this period, ” Sharma wrote in an email to Mashable . “They are not allowed in kitchen and[ are] various kinds of isolated. Even in so-called modern families, women do not enter into temple during menstruation cycle even now.These days are treated as an embarrassment.”
He said almost two thirds of Indian women are in rural areas where pads are not really utilized. And it’s hard to even talk about. “Forget about discussing it in public, even girls do not discuss it at home totheirclose family members, ” he wrote.
Last year, a campaign called #HappyToBleed brought Indian females together in calling out discrimination against menstruation and its disapproval by some religious beliefs.
Konbini (@ konbini) November 25, 2015
The tide could be changing, and Sharma hopes the development of a new pad, without chemicals, could be a refreshing and even life-changing invention in India. With a safer make-up in general, it could also help women beyond the Asian nation. He said the stigmatization of menstruation is not confined to India.
“There is no major breakthrough in this product since its inception, ” Sharma said. “The first[ reason ]… may be as it is still a subject of social taboo in general that deters even a researcher to think about it.”
Why did you become a mother? The answer could help you be a better one3 months, 8 days ago
( CNN) Have you ever asked yourself why you wanted( or want) to have children?
Is the world truly better than ever?3 months, 18 days ago
The long read: The headlines have never been worse. But an increasingly influential group of thinkers insists that humankind has never had it so good and merely our pessimism is holding us back
By the end of last year, anyone who had been paying even passing attention to the news headlines was highly likely to conclude that everything was terrible, and that the only attitude that attained sense was one of profound cynicism tempered, perhaps, by cynical humor, on the principle that if the world is going to hell in a handbasket, one may as well try to enjoy the ride. Naturally, Brexit and the election of Donald Trump loomed largest for many. But you didnt need to be a remainer or a critic of Trumps to feel depressed by the carnage in Syria; by the deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean; by North Korean missile exams, the spread of the zika virus, or terror attacks in Nice, Belgium, Florida, Pakistan and elsewhere nor by the spectre of catastrophic climate change, lurking behind everything else.( And all thats before even considering the string of deaths of beloved celebrities that seemed like a calculated attempt, on 2016 s part, to rub salt in the wound: in the space of a few months, David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Muhammad Ali, Carrie Fisher and George Michael, to name only a handful, were all gone .) And few of the headlines so far in 2017 Grenfell tower, the Manchester and London attacks, Brexit chaos, and 24/7 Trump provide any reason to take a sunnier view.
Yet one group of increasingly prominent commentators has seemed uniquely immune to the gloomines. In December, in an article headlined Never be borne in mind that we live in the best of days, the Times columnist Philip Collins an end-of-year summary of reasons to be cheerful: during 2016, he noted, the proportion of the worlds population living in extreme poverty had fallen below 10% for the first time; global carbon emissions from fossil fuel had failed to rise for the third year running; the death penalty had been ruled illegal in more than half of all countries and giant pandas had been removed from the endangered species list.
In the New York Times, Nicholas Kristof proclaimed that by many measures, 2016 was the best year in the history of humanity, with falling global inequality, child mortality roughly half what it had been as recently as 1990, and 300,000 more people gaining access to electricity each day. Throughout 2016 and into 2017, alongside Collins at the Times, the author and former Northern Rock chairperson Matt Ridley the title of whose book The Rational Optimist constructs his inclinations plain kept up his weekly output of ebullient columns celebrating the promise of artificial intelligence, free trade and fracking. By the time the professional contrarian Brendan ONeill delivered his own version of the debate, in the Spectator( Nothing better sums up the aloofness of the chattering class than their blathering about 2016 being the worst year ever) the standpoint was becoming sufficiently well-entrenched that ONeill seemed in danger of forfeiting his contrarianism.
The loose but growing collection of pundits, academics and thinktank operatives who endorse this obstinately cheerful, handbasket-free account of our situation have occasionally been labelled the New Optimists, a name are aiming to elicited the rebellious scepticism of the New Atheists led by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. And from their perspective, our persisting mood of despair is irrational, and frankly a bit self-indulgent. They argue that it says more about us than it does about how things genuinely are exemplifying a certain tendency toward collective self-flagellation, and an unwillingness to believe in the power of human ingenuity. And “that its better” explained as the result of various psychological biases that served special purposes on the prehistoric savannah but now, in a media-saturated era, constantly mislead us.
Once upon a period, it was of great survival value to be worried about everything that could go wrong, says Johan Norberg, a Swedish historian and self-declared New Optimist whose volume Progress: Ten Reasons to Appear Forward to the Future was published just before Trump won the presidency last year. This is what attains bad news especially compelling: in our evolutionary past, it was a very good thing that your attention could be easily confiscated by negative info, since it are most likely indicate an imminent danger to your own survival.( The cave-dweller who always assumed there was a lion behind the next stone would usually be wrong but hed be much more likely to survive and reproduce than one who always presumed the opposite .) But that was all before newspapers, television and the internet: in these hyper-connected times, our addiction to bad news just leads us to vacuum up depressing or enraging stories from across the globe, whether they threaten us or not, and therefore to conclude that things are much worse than they are.
Really good news, on the other hand, can be a lot harder to place partly because it tends to occur gradually. Max Roser, an Oxford economist who spreads the New Optimist gospel via his Twitter feed, pointed out recently that a newspaper could legitimately have operated the headline NUMBER OF PEOPLE IN EXTREME POVERTY FELL BY 137,000 SINCE YESTERDAY every day for the last 25 years. But none would have done so, because predictable daily events, by definition, arent newsworthy. And youll rarely watch a headline about a bad event that failed to occur. But surely any judicious assessment of our situation ought to take into account all the wars, pandemics and natural disasters that might hypothetically have happened but didnt?
I used to be a pessimist myself, says Norberg, an urbane 43 -year-old raised in Stockholm who is now a fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington DC. I used to long for the good old days. But then I started reading history, and asking myself, well, where would I have been in those good old days, in my ancestors northern Sweden? I probably wouldnt have been anywhere. Life expectancy was too short. They mixed tree bark in the bread, to make it last longer!
In his volume, Norberg canters through 10 of the most important point basic indicators of human flourishing food, sanitation, life expectancy, poverty, violence, the state of the environment, literacy, freedom, equality and the conditions of childhood. And he takes special pleasure in squelching the fantasies of anyone inclined to wish they had been born a couple of centuries back: it wasnt so long ago, he find, that puppies gnawed at the abandoned corpses of beset victims in the street of European cities. As lately as 1882, only 2% of homes in New York had running water; in 1900, worldwide life expectancy was a paltry 31, thanks both to early adult death and rampant child mortality. Today, by contrast, its 71 and those extra decades involve much less agony, too. If it takes you 20 minutes to read this chapter, Norberg writes at one point, in his own fluctuation on the New Optimists favourite refrain, almost another 2,000 people will have risen out of[ extreme] poverty currently defined as living on less than $1.90 per day.
These onslaughts of upbeat statistics seem intended to have the effect of demolishing the usual intractable political disagreements about the state of the planet. The New Optimists invite us to forget our partisan biases and tribal allegiances; to dispense with our cherished theories about what is wrong with the world and what should be done about it, and breathe, instead, the refreshing air of objective fact. The data doesnt lie. Just look at the numbers!
But numbers, it turns out, can be as political as anything else.
The New Optimists are surely right on the nostalgia front: nobody in their right mind should wish to have lived in a previous century. In a 2015 survey for YouGov, 65% of British people( and 81% of the French) said they supposed the world was getting worse but judged according to numerous sensible metrics, theyre simply incorrect. People are indeed rising out of extreme poverty at an extraordinary rate; child mortality really has plummeted; standards of literacy, sanitation and life expectancy have never been higher. The median European or American enjoys luxuries medieval potentates literally couldnt have imagined. The essential finding of Steven Pinkers 2011 volume The Better Angels of Our Nature, a key reference text for the New Optimists, seems also to have been largely accepted: that we are living in historys most peaceful era, with violence of all kinds from deaths in war to schoolyard bullying in steep decline.
But the New Optimists arent primarily interested in persuading us that human life involves a lot less suffering than it did a few hundred years ago.( Even if youre a card-carrying pessimist, “youre supposed to” didnt require convincing of that fact .) Nestled inside that essentially indisputable assert, there are several more controversial implications. For instance: that since things have so clearly been improving, we have good reason to assume they will continue to improve. And farther though this is a claim merely sometimes made explicit in the work of the New Optimists that whatever weve been doing these past decades, its clearly run, and so the political and economic arrangements that have brought us here are the ones we ought to stick with. Optimism, after all, means more than merely expressed his belief that things arent even worse as you imagined: it entails having justified confidence that they will be getting even better soon. Rational optimism holds that the world will pull out of the current crisis, Ridley wrote after the financial crisis of 2007 -8, because of the route that marketplaces in goods, services and notions allow human being to exchange and specialise honestly for the betterment of all I am a rational optimist: rational, because I have arrived at optimism not through temperament or instinct, but by looking at the evidence.
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