5 Incredibly Positive Trends No One's Talking About
As we've mentioned once or twice before, the news media is hopelessly addicted to doom and gloom. And that's easy to understand, since the horrifying and grotesque parts of our world tend to also be the biggest attention grabbers (a fact that we here at Cracked happen to be well familiar with, because nothing says "comedy" quite like your imminent and inescapable demise). But if you take a moment to stop actively focusing on the negative, it's easy to see that, despite our collective insistence to the contrary, the world as a whole is chugging along towards a better place.
For evidence, look no further than the fact that ...
Violence In Schools Has Gone Down Dramatically (No Shit)
Back in 1999, two dick-brained, attention-seeking numbfucks decided to shoot up their high school, forever pushing school shootings to the forefront of the American news cycle. In the ensuing years, such incidents have grown to all-out epidemic proportions, transforming our schools into Stand And Deliver-esque murder factories in which no child is safe. You'd be better off sending little Johnny down to the classroom at the nearest federal prison than you would sending him to the den of iniquities that is your local public school.
At least they teach practical life skills, like how to shank a bitch.
That's why schools are staging live-action drills with fake guns, sometimes without letting anyone know in advance that it's actually a drill. Hey, there won't be any advance warning when the real shooting inevitably occurs!
The Good News:
The past 25 years have seen a significant and continuing drop in violent crimes perpetrated at schools. Not only are schools safer than they've ever been, but researchers argue that, statistically, schools are now the safest place for kids, period.
And they're not pulling this out of their asses: 1993 was the most violent school year in the U.S., with 42 homicides and 13 other serious crimes per 1,000 students. By 2010, those numbers had dropped to two and four, respectively.
Coincidentally, a graph of what SATs have done for our children's brainpower follows the exact same trajectory.
But how is that even possible, when it sometimes seems that every other week brings a new incident of school violence plastered all over our screens? Well, what you need to stop and realize is that we're all victims of a news media that's focused entirely on the small (if unquestionably tragic) picture. School shootings make headlines specifically because they're so rare, but the prevalence of those headlines gives the impression this shit is happening all the time. But if you pan your mind's camera out, you see that our schools are benefiting from a general downtick in violence that's taking place across all strata of our society.
We can also partially thank zero-tolerance policies for our safer schools ... that is, the abolition of dumbass zero-tolerance policies. Administrators are finally realizing that such strict enforcement only works in Iron Curtain states, and that kids only become more disruptive when the tiniest infraction is met with heavy punishments. Apparently, when afforded a modicum of freedom, kids possess an unanticipated ability to not turn into animals. Let's all take a lesson from them, shall we?
We'd also like to revisit out adult nap time suggestion.
Our Kids Are Getting Healthier
According to late-night cable ads, the news media at large, and every mom who's ever served Lima beans, hellscapes such as Africa or Burma are awash in malnourished and diseased children. While we're sitting on our asses tinkering with our iPads and complaining that our favorite author doesn't write books fast enough, in many areas of the world, kids are lucky to even see their fifth birthday.
Meanwhile, here at home, we're struggling to keep our kids healthy in the precise opposite manner, thanks to limitless access to fast food and Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. But there must be some good news buried somewhere between these two extremes, mustn't there?
What if we sent the Peanut Butter Cups to African kids who reach their fifth birthday?
The Good News:
First off, to be absolutely clear: All those images of suffering children are 100 percent for real, and you should definitely continue throwing boatloads of cash at whichever organization Bono tells you to. That being said, the progress that's been made over the last quarter century is nothing short of astounding: According to the latest UN report, the rate of children dying before their fifth birthday has dropped by almost half since 1990. To put that in more relatable terms: Our concerted efforts to charity the shit out of child mortality have saved the lives of 100 million children.
It's important to note that cutting the child mortality rate by half still falls well short of the two-thirds goal that UNICEF had hoped to reach by 2015. But still, the downward trend is full-on snowballing. It seems that the world really can unite for a common cause. At least, when said cause is fending off alien invasions or savin' our babies.
Always remember that children are our alien-invasion-fighting future.
Back home, our own childhood epidemic -- that is, our chocolatey Ho Ho epidemic -- isn't exactly going as TLC's reality show lineup would have you believe. A federal health survey examining child tubbiness over the past decade showed a drastic 43 percent decrease in obesity rates. How is that even possible? Well, researchers fail to pinpoint a single cause, instead crediting a recent, sweeping wave of nutritional and physical reform, which includes such components as Michelle Obama's MyPlate initiative (which tossed out the old, bullshit-laden food pyramid) and the lucky break that millennials happen to be the first generation that fast food advertising just plain doesn't work on.
Fortunately for our future waistlines, we may be seeing the first wave of children too diet-conscious to fall prey to the lull of cheesy snacks and fast food fries. Unfortunately for said children's parents, that also means they're utterly unbribable with something as cheap as a Happy Meal.
"If you behave at the party, you'll get some organic kale!" doesn't have the same ring to it.
Commercial Aircraft Accidents Are At A Historic Low
If there's an airplane on the news, odds are it's either horrifically crashed, straight-up disappeared (horrifically), or there's some celebrity snapping selfies on it (horrific ones). These contraptions can't seem to keep themselves aloft (hell, even Han Solo has trouble with that). It's almost as if the entire industry decided to play history's biggest practical joke by switching back to the fragile, old-timey wood-and-cloth models while everyone was asleep.
"Now boarding Flight 402 to New York."
But if you take a closer look at the numbers, there's a whole lot better news than the fact that even big-shot celebrities occasionally have to wedge their high-dollar asses into coach seats.
The Good News:
This is a similar situation to school shootings. Plane crashes make for spectacular imagery, so you can be sure the cameras come running. And the sheer number of images flashing across our brains hides the fact that there are fewer airplane crashes today than ever before in the history of commercial aviation. And we're not doing some kind of "relative" mindfuck mumbo-jumbo, either; we're saying there are fewer total crashes now than there were at the end of World War II, even though there are approximately a gajillion more flights every single day. Here's a graph, in case you're the visual type:
This also doubles as every passenger's EKG reading during a landing.
In 2013, there were 36.4 million commercial flights worldwide. Compare that to the number of accidents that year: 29. We didn't miss any zeroes there. It's just 29. Take numbers like that from the past five years and toss them into some complicated math which thankfully has people smarter than us to work out, and it means there's an average of a single fatal crash for every 2,925,000 flights. In other words, you have about a 0.000034 percent chance of being involved in a plane crash. No, we didn't accidentally doze off on the zero key; you have a better chance of being struck by lightning while simultaneously winning the lotto and being attacked by the actual Gary Busey than you do of dying in a plane crash.
And that's with our current generation of equipment. The newer, "fourth generation" jets that are gradually becoming the norm are damn nigh undownable:
They're the yellow line, which also represents a severe drop in the number of passengers with pissy pants.
See, modern jets use a fly-by-wire system, which disappointingly doesn't mean that airlines are stringing long-ass wires across the country to fling people to their destinations like a kid's balloon rocket science experiment. Rather, all flight commands are transmitted electronically, eliminating any mechanical connection between the pilot's stupid butterfingers and the plane's inner workings. Because believe it or not, the cause of most accidents can be traced directly to a malfunction in the cockpit's meat-based equipment.
On a similar note ...
The World Is Surprisingly Good At Dealing With Nuclear Disasters
According to 98.7 percent of science fiction, the world will one day come to a fiery and mutated end as the result of widespread nuclear apocalypse. Since nuclear power plants also have the word "nuclear" in them, it seems logical to say that we're playing chicken with the apocalypse every time another plant comes online.
And sure enough, there are horrific nuclear disasters occurring often enough to keep anxiety levels high. Just as we started believing reassurances that the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was the result of shitty Soviet-era engineering, along comes 2011's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, in which a pissed-off Kaiju decided to tail-whip one of Japan's largest nuclear power facilities into a breeding ground for tentacled mutants. Twenty-five years isn't that long to go between disasters when irradiated areas remain uninhabitable for 20,000 fucking years. Our robot descendants will judge us harshly!
"And while they poisoned the Earth, these monsters listened to dubstep."
Oh, and have you heard that all that radioactive water flowed out into that Pacific, and is already poisoning America's shores?
The Good News:
Now, we're not saying that when the plant cracked open, it spilled out rainbows and gumdrops -- it's still going to take 40 years to decommission the plant, and tens of thousands of people are still unable to return to their homes (and lots of them don't want to). Japan has kept all of its nuclear plants offline ever since, and has talked about giving up on nuclear power permanently.
They're looking at renewable options to pick up the slack, like hydroelectricity or schoolgirls who are secretly magical witch aliens.
So what can possibly be the bright side here? Well, aside from the fact that it took a spectacular natural disaster to break the power plant (and even that should have been prevented), there's the fact that no one died. There is some higher cancer risk for the few people who did get doses of radiation, but the risks are considered to be very low overall. This is because the government did a great job of getting everyone the hell out of there -- the biggest health effects have been on evacuees having to deal with the stress of abruptly moving in the middle of a disaster.
In the years since, meticulous recovery efforts mean the food produced from the land around Fukushima is as safe as ever (the region is home to a lot of rice paddies and orchards). And that's saying a lot, since Japanese foodstuffs are among the safest in the world. No piece of food that hasn't met stringent requirements ever makes contact with a single public cake hole. It's a level of over-cautiousness that can only come from having been twice-nuked.
Your local Japanese restaurant's kitchen is probably still an unspeakable horror show, though.
It helps that the radioactivity was unable to penetrate very deep into the soil or the trees. But even if it had, its hopes of giving birth to three-tailed squirrels would've been short-lived, because the well-prepared Japanese punctiliously scraped the trees clean and removed the top layer of soil.
Oh, and as for the radiation in the ocean water lapping up on California's beaches? Yeah, we're talking about levels lower than the naturally occurring radiation you get from the environment. Eating a "contaminated" fish that's been swimming in those waters will expose you to the same amount of radiation as you get from eating nine bananas. Not radioactive bananas; regular ones.
Science Has Found A Cure For One Of The World's Most Prevalent Infectious Diseases
Even though it takes a journalistic backseat to such diseases as HIV, hepatitis C infects an astonishing 2.7 million Americans and as many as 150 million people worldwide. And this ain't no case of the sniffles -- for the majority of sufferers, this chronic infection leads to a slow, agonizing death by way of a thoroughly shit-out liver. And common treatments for the condition, while life-extending, are only marginally less harrowing. In addition to killing hundreds of thousands of people each and every year, hep C holds the dual distinction of being the world's leading cause of both liver cancer and liver transplants.
And inappropriate Hannibal Lecter jokes from transplant surgeons.
Man, if only science could discover a way to tackle such a viral asshole. Surely, we'd hear all about a historic feat like that, right?
The Good News:
There's a whole new class of wonder drugs called direct-acting antivirals, which, as the name implies, directly kick the asses of the viruses roving throughout a patient's bloodstream. This isn't a treatment; it's a full-fledged cure. And that's incredible news in and of itself, because haven't we always been told that, while we had antibiotics to fight against bacterial infections, we were pretty much fucked against viruses? Not so in this case. And best of all, the treatment is largely free of adverse side effects. So while you shouldn't take this news as indication that you're free to run out and have an unprotected sex 'n' shared-heroin-needle hooker party, if you do end up infected, Big Pharma's got your back.
"So you went to bat without a helmet, huh? No worries, we got this."
"But wait," you interject on cue. "There's no way those bastards are going to cure us all for free." Right you are, and that's kind of a sore point at the moment. It costs about $100,000 to cure one patient, and if you multiply that by the aforementioned 2.7 million patients in America alone, you end up with a number trailing so many zeroes that it would look like we fell asleep on the keyboard.
Still, it's important to look at things in context: Even at its pants-shitting price point, the cure only costs about a third of what it would cost to treat someone with an advanced hepatitis C infection. And there's indication that it's entirely possible to make the treatment more affordable, because the first manufacturer, Gilead, has already committed to dropping the price dramatically in developing countries, while the wonders of capitalism are bound to bring prices down here at home. Maybe Big Pharma isn't as villainous as the media's made it out to be.
OK, let's not go that far. But hey, cure for hepatitis C! Yay!