The Good News You Might Have Missed | Angus Hervey | TED

90,428 views ・ 2024-05-23

TED


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The world feels scary right now.
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The planet heats.
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The clock ticks.
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The red lines climb.
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Death stalks the fields of Ukraine and the streets of Gaza.
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Famine looms in Sudan.
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And in the Middle East, the drums of war sound louder by the day.
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Habitats shrink,
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democracy's flame sputters,
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authoritarianism and intolerance rear their ugly heads.
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Millions flee disaster and persecution.
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The debts mount.
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International cooperation falters.
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Everywhere we look, there are reports of decline.
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Are we headed for disaster?
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Well, your answer to that question
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probably depends on where you've been getting your news,
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because here are some other stories from the last 12 months.
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Some other reports of decline
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that you may not have heard about.
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Last year,
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extreme poverty declined to its lowest level in human history,
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an estimated 8.4 percent.
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Deforestation across the entire Amazon basin declined by 55 percent
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and violent crime in the United States declined to its lowest level
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since the 1960s.
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In the last 12 months,
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a record number of countries have eliminated a disease,
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including, for the first time ever,
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Hepatitis C by Egypt
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and black fever by Bangladesh.
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And global AIDS deaths have declined to their lowest level since the 1990s,
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down by more than two thirds since their peak.
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When I was in high school,
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that was the world's deadliest infectious disease.
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And now we have the power to end it.
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So maybe you've been feeling despair over climate change
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or the fear of fascism rising like Dracula from the coffin,
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of resource overshoots and political decay.
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But last year,
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carbon emissions in advanced economies declined back to the same level
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as 50 years ago.
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Cancer death rates in America and Europe declined again.
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And air pollution is now falling in 21 of the world's 25 biggest cities.
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Alongside those declines,
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other things have been on the rise.
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There are 50 million more girls in school today
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than there were just under a decade ago.
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(Cheers and applause)
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And last year, 418 million of the world's children got fed at school.
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That is almost one in five.
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This year, it's going to be even more.
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Since we were last all gathered here,
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millions of people have gained access to water.
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Tens of millions of people have gained access to electricity.
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Estonia and Greece have legalized same-sex marriage.
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It looks like Thailand and Japan are going to be the next two on that list.
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And at least ten countries in the last 12 months
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have passed laws expanding the rights of women,
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including France,
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which recently became the first country
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to enshrine reproductive rights into its constitution.
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(Applause)
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In 2023, we installed so much wind and solar
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that it changed the trajectory of our climate future,
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with China’s carbon emissions now predicted to start falling
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as early as this year.
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In 2024,
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we are going to install enough global solar manufacturing capacity
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to reach our net-zero targets by the end of this decade.
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A car powered by electrons
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was the world's best-selling vehicle last year,
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and batteries are now the fastest-growing technology
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since human beings made aircraft in World War II.
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We have crossed the threshold.
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There is too much momentum now
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to stop the transition to clean energy from happening.
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I have two little girls, Lola and Cleo.
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Lola is four years old,
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Cleo turned three the other day.
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And the International Energy Agency says that based on current trends,
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by the time my girls are my age,
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the world's electricity and transportation systems
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are on track to be almost entirely fossil-fuel-free.
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(Applause)
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We are not doomed.
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Did you know that 2023 was arguably the greatest year ever
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for conservation?
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We protected huge tracts of land in Alaska, the Amazon,
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southern Africa, and the entire Tibetan Plateau,
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which is an area larger than all of Western Europe.
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We created new marine protected areas off the coasts of Mexico, Chile, Panama,
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Dominica, South Georgia, Spain, Ireland, the Congo,
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Australia, Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia.
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In the last 12 months,
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there have been hundreds of stories of cities being regreened,
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of farmland being rewilded,
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of rivers being cleaned up, islands being restored.
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And the populations of every single one of these species
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is now either recovering or on the rise.
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(Applause)
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Look, I know that a lot of stuff is going wrong.
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You know that a lot of stuff is going wrong.
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This is not some weird attempt to cancel or balance out the bad news.
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But here's an idea.
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If we want more people to devote themselves
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to the task of making progress,
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then maybe we should be telling more people
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that it's possible to make progress.
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(Applause)
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If you're halfway up the mountain,
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you don't just stare at the top and say, "Oh my gosh, it looks so steep."
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You look back and you remind yourselves how far we've already come.
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In the last 12 months, despite all of the challenges,
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we have climbed a little further.
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So don't bet against humanity.
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In Nevada, they're using geothermal techniques
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to tap into the clean energy of our planet.
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On the border of Belgium and France,
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they're using bacteria to break down plastic.
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In Shenzhen, they're delivering blood via drones.
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And in space, new satellites mean polluters no longer have anywhere to hide.
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We are launching 5,000-ton starships.
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We are making seven-billion- kilometer round trips
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to collect stardust from asteroids.
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We can perform miracles,
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enabling paralyzed people to walk by reading their brainwaves
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and sending the signals to their spine.
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We've mapped a quarter of the entire ocean floor,
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and NVIDIA’s new Blackwell chip has as many transistors in it
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as there are stars in the entire Milky Way.
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In the last year, we started using CRISPR, genetic editing,
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to treat diseases like beta thalassemia
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and sickle cell disease.
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And we created the largest-ever atlas of human brain cells.
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We are using artificial intelligence
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to identify new drugs to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria,
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something that kills over a million people every year.
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Two years ago,
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I almost lost my life to a bacterial infection.
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I got lucky.
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In the future, many more people will be able to say the same.
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I mean, we just used artificial intelligence
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to decipher the contents, the charred remains
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of the 2,000-year-old Herculaneum scrolls.
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And, I don't know, maybe this is all boring to some of you,
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but to me, it really is indistinguishable from magic.
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Our scientific instruments are sensitive enough now
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to see plants speaking to each other.
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And to detect the gravitational waves
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from the collisions of supermassive black holes.
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All of a sudden,
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we know that we are humming in tune with the entire universe,
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that each of us contains the signature of everything that has ever been.
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Progress is possible.
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Not all declines spell destruction.
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Not all rising levels result in loss.
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And sometimes there really are new things under the sun.
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These are the stories of the brave and the brilliant,
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and they also deserve our attention.
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(Applause)
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