It can be all that bad...
December 21, 2005 3:25 PM   Subscribe

I'm an eternal optimist. But, tsunamis, hurricanes, terroism (and threats), numbskull president, fanatic religion and politics, bird flu, war...stand out more than anything positive in 2005. What happened for the common good of the world and what do we have to look forward to in 2006 and beyond? (Both as a nation and a world?)
posted by ieatwords to Society & Culture (26 answers total)
Horrorible deaths, starvation, misery and abject poverty is what humanity has always dealt with. Survival has never been pretty, and 2006 and every year after that promises more of the same. So I don't really understand why you think things were ever different.
posted by cmonkey at 3:38 PM on December 21, 2005

The rise of China and India is the real story of our times. Everything else will look insignificant in the long run. And that means improved living conditions for a huge proportion of the world's population. Yes, there will be side effects - China is still authoritarian, there will be environmental impacts - but the reduction in poverty will be huge.
posted by lbergstr at 3:41 PM on December 21, 2005

There are now 122 democracies, a new record. Up from last year's 119.
posted by Mick at 4:03 PM on December 21, 2005

The scary thing is, as others have implied, is it can, and I suspect it will get worse.
posted by _zed_ at 4:05 PM on December 21, 2005

The Dover, PA decision yesterday is one reason to be cheerful.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 4:06 PM on December 21, 2005

Increasing fundamentalism, both throughout the world and in the US.

More war over oil.

Dislocations due to global warming (New Orleans is only the first of many cities to be lost).

Greater and greater chasms in wealth between the richest and the poor.

Increasing attempts by governments to stay in control, leading to fear-mongering and pervasive surveillance.
posted by orthogonality at 4:11 PM on December 21, 2005

Yeah, the Dover decision yesterday is definitely reason for good cheer for those among us who live in the reality-based community. I'm also pretty cheered by the same-sex civil unions in Britain that have just started (Sir Elton and David Furnish being, of course, the most visible couple to get hitched); it's another solid step forward for gay rights in particular and human rights in general.
posted by scody at 4:17 PM on December 21, 2005

on lack of preview: yeah
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 4:19 PM on December 21, 2005

Off the top of my head -
How about the generous outpouring of support, both personal and financial, in response to world and US disasters.

Or the low interest rate allowing for many to buy a home for the first time.

And a few items pulled from the headlines -

Abbas and Sharon Declare a Truce (Feb. 8): In the highest-level summit in four years, Palestinian president and Israeli prime minister agree to end acts of violence against each other.

Kyoto Protocol Goes into Effect (Feb. 16): The international environmental treaty requires 35 industrialized nations to reduce heat-trapping gases such as carbon dioxide. Developing nations have promised to try to limit their emissions of such gases. The United States, which emits the largest amount of heat-trapping gases in the world, has refused to sign the treaty.

EPA Introduces Rules to Cut Pollution (March 10): Clean Air Interstate Rule, announced by the Environmental Protection Agency, aims to reduce emissions of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide in the eastern U.S. by 60% by 2015.

Women Win Right to Vote in Kuwait (May 16): Parliament votes, 35–23, with one abstention, to change the country's electoral laws to allow women to vote and run for office in local and parliamentary elections.

Bush Announces Aid for Africa (June 7): In a press conference with British prime minister Tony Blair, president says he will release $674 million. Blair had urged Bush to contribute $25 billion. (June 11): The Group of 8 industrialized nations agree to cancel $40 billion in debt owed by 18 poor countries to international lenders.

Nations Approve Gay Marriage (June 28): Canadian House of Commons votes to extend right to entire country. (June 30): Spain legalizes gay marriage.

Bush Pledges Aid for Africa (June 30): Commits $1.2 billion over five years to fight malaria in 15 African countries.

Musicians Urge World to Unite to End Poverty in Africa (July 2): Millions of people attend Live 8, free concerts in nine countries—South Africa and each of the Group of Eight nations—to promote increased aid to Africa.

Crew of Russian Sub Rescued (Aug. 7): British and American rescuers save seven sailors who were trapped in a submarine more than 600 feet deep in the Pacific Ocean.

Aceh Peace Accord Signed (Aug. 15): Indonesian government and the Free Aceh Movement (GAM) agree to end their nearly 30-year-long civil war

Shuttle Lands Safely (Aug. 9): Discovery returns to Earth after a 14-day mission. Landing moved to Edwards Air Force Base in California because of bad weather in Florida. Mission included the first-ever spacewalk to remove a piece of material sticking out of the shuttle's skin

IRA Has Destroyed Weapons (Sept. 26): Canadian general John De Chastelain confirms that the Irish Republican Army has dismantled its entire arsenal.

Iraq Holds Parliamentary Elections (Dec. 15): As many as 11 million Iraqis turn out to select their first permanent Parliament since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. More than 7,000 Parliamentary candidates from 300 parties are seeking to fill the 275 seats in Parliament. Violence is minimal. (Dec. 19): Religious Shiites take early lead, according to preliminary figures released by election officials.

Oldest-Known Mayan Mural Discovered (Dec. 13): Dated at around 100 B.C., the plaster mural portrays the Mayan creation myth. The sophistication and quality of the painting suggests that the Mayan civilization was highly developed much earlier that archeologists had previously believed.
posted by LadyBonita at 4:20 PM on December 21, 2005

Yeah, I think it's all about perspective. During the times you thought things were going great, it was pretty bad for someone, somewhere else. I think the current situation, for the US anyway, is a good whack to the head about thinking more globally and less locally. USians now see a lot more of what the rest of the world sees constantly.

Still, good things happen too. I find myself more upset about the political situation in the US because I feel like it isn't just things going badly, it's a huge step backwards. My personal goal for a greater world relied on the US building on it's successes. Seems like all that was built when to hell in a hand basket PDQ.

So, to me at least, it is more a problem with hope for the future because I don't want to have to go back through the last 30 years of US politics to get where we were 5 years ago. Makes me want to give up (which technically, I have, as I live in Australia now). I would also hesitate to guess that now is the time for a great change in US history, when all the nutters are thrown out of office and crazy religious activism (as opposed to healthy and helping religious activisim) is given it rightful place in the dust bin.

'Course that means people have to start making that happen...
posted by qwip at 4:21 PM on December 21, 2005

Basically, in the west and developing world, as monbiot puts it
"But in almost every nation, a new contract has now been struck between the main political parties: they have chosen to agree on almost all significant areas of economic policy. This leaves the people disenfranchised: they can vote out the monkeys but not the organ grinder."*

Even radicals in Latin america are beholden to big capital.

Ditto orthogonality. Add water to the wars list. Look for plutocracies increasing their grip. My guess: within 60 years, serious non-reversible environemntal degredation and resource scarcity will cause radical destabilization of our industrial societies.

But cmonkey's right: we all check out sooner or later and it aint pretty.

Drink 'em while you got em.

*Note: this doesn't mean that there are serious social issues that can't be changed by voting leftward/rightward.

However, capital is still king. And as long as resources aren't sold for their actual costs, we're all basically FUCKED.

posted by lalochezia at 4:24 PM on December 21, 2005

There are always new reasons to hope.
posted by bac at 4:30 PM on December 21, 2005

there is a wonderful website called HappNews which, as you may guess, publishes only upbeat stories from around the world. Great for when you are feeling the average sensationalist news coverage is just too depressing to bear.
posted by JokingClown at 4:40 PM on December 21, 2005

Everything is cyclical.
posted by jasondigitized at 4:47 PM on December 21, 2005

Whether it's the Black Plague, American Civil War, the Influenze Pandemic of 1918, World War II, or whatever, every generation has had its major challenges. Overall, on the grand scheme of things across the centuries, nothing is particularly any better or any worse than before, just different. And, hopefully, we will continue to prosper as we overcome these challenges.
posted by stst399 at 4:49 PM on December 21, 2005

Or the low interest rate allowing for many to buy a home for the first time

Wait, what? By all measures, houses are less affordable now than in 1991, the last time the housing market peaked. Loose lending is what made home ownership possible.

*Soapbox* In the future, forclosures will allow many to buy a home for the first time.
posted by malp at 5:15 PM on December 21, 2005

Or the low interest rate allowing for many to buy a home for the first time by LadyBonita

Wait, what? By all measures, houses are less affordable now than in 1991, the last time the housing market peaked. Loose lending is what made home ownership possible. by malp

Not everyone lives in an over-inflated housing market. I've known several people who have taken advantage of the low interest rates to buy or refinance - saving them lots of money. It's all in the prespective, as others have said.
posted by LadyBonita at 6:18 PM on December 21, 2005

I'm looking forward to the World Cup. Any year in which everything will stop for a few weeks while the world watches a few sporting matches is a pretty good year.
posted by oddman at 7:35 PM on December 21, 2005

Yeah, agree with oddman :-)

On top of that, the perspective tend to be very negative because our exposure to news everyday is pretty much the bad stuff.
posted by arrowhead at 8:46 PM on December 21, 2005

Well, science marches on regardless of anything else:
There are now over 330 species with complete genome sequences, notable eukaryotes this year include the dog, chimpanzee, and the silkworm. The human genome was also given its final version.

The human genome diversity project finished, giving a great insight into human variation and disease, the dog genome had a similar effort, hopefully eventually pinning down disease differences between breeds.

Two new methods of DNA sequencing were published, offering a chance to sequence a bacterial genome for $4-10k, about a thousand fold reduction in price.

Several new cancer drugs were made, most notably Iressa, which has dramatically increased lung cancer survival. A vaccine for HPV has been developed, promising a complete disappearance of cervical cancer.

There are lots more examples,
promises it will be updated in a day or so with the top 10 breakthroughs of the year.
posted by scodger at 8:55 PM on December 21, 2005

william strauss and neal howe have written some books upon the cycles of history, which they say are driven by differing generation's experiences ... according to them, we are rapidly approaching a new crisis period like the great depression/ww2 or the american civil war ... one reason for this is that the older people who lived through the last crisis and realized they'd better try very hard to avoid another one are passing away in favor of those who don't realize what kind of trouble division and lack of certain experiences can cause ...

30 years ago, wall street was full of people who remembered the stock market crash of 1929 and knew that careless investing or over-speculation was a real possibility ... now wall street is being run by those who have no experience of such a thing

another example - the palestinian and israeli leadership had been full of people who remembered the savagery of the late 40s and were careful not to play their hands to the point where another great disrupting conflict could happen ... now they're going away and those who replace them are not going to be as careful

here's another extensive page by someone who's been influenced by these ideas and has some thoughts of his own
posted by pyramid termite at 9:08 PM on December 21, 2005

The vast majority of human history has been different from what we experience now. There are problems-- immense ones, to be sure-- but you live in a society where food is so plentiful that, for the vast majority of people, getting a meal just means driving down the street and exercising choice. Thanks to technology, you can talk to virtually anyone in the world You want to, anytime. You can post questions and have them answered by large groups of caring strangers. You have machines that make your home as warm or as cool as you want it, no matter what it's like outside.

What I'm trying (and not really succeeding, I think) to say is that your life happened to fall into a blip of techno-utopia that's a total aberration from the vast majority of human existence. That's something to be pretty happy about. It sucks to be bored by an office job and see bad things on TV news, but it sure as hell beats being a peasant or a hunter-gatherer.
posted by COBRA! at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2005

The Olympics start in February 2006. That's usually pretty good.
posted by smackfu at 8:25 AM on December 22, 2005

We're on the verge of eradicating polio.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 9:15 AM on December 22, 2005

I tend to think if you look at history you will see it lurches in the direction of a bettering of the world. It never goes smoothly and is often ugly but if you chart the average quality of life on the planet it does consistently trend upward. It may have years that are slower than others but I would say in general every year is better than the previous one if you consider the global average quality of life. Year over year it may not be dramatic or obvious but decade to decade it is I think.
posted by UMDirector at 2:11 PM on December 22, 2005

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