We Can Solve It (and Other Good News to Share with Kids)

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In many (perhaps most) ways, people's lives have gotten much, much better – often dramatically so. We've reduced suffering, extended life expectancy, and made the world safer than ever before. But instead of celebrating our progress, we're often oblivious to it. That's too bad, because if we believe that the challenges we face can be overcome (remembering how many have been overcome in the past), we are motivated to work harder. So even as we discuss the world's difficulties with our children, let's make an effort to share news of our progress, too. It will inspire kids to fight to make a difference for the planet and its people.

-Jenny Friedman, Executive Director


Make a Difference...

Health: The worldwide child mortality rate has dropped by almost half since 1990, saving the lives of 100 million children.

Who is helping? Tu Youyou, a Chinese pharmaceutical chemist and educator, won a Nobel Prize in 2015 for creating an anti-malaria drug that saved millions of lives in Asia and Africa.

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Poverty: We're witnessing a stunning decline in extreme poverty, which has fallen by an average of 137,000 people every day for the past 25 years.

Who is helping? Jamie Drummond is co-founder and CEO of ONE, an advocacy group with 9 million members. Its mission is to fight extreme poverty, which the ONE website states, "isn't about charity, but about justice and equality."

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Environment: Climate change is a continuing challenge, but many environmental indicators have improved. Greenhouse gas emissions in the United States are decliningour air is getting cleanerdeforestation in the Amazon is slowingcoal consumption is down, and chlorofluorocarbon consumption is at an all-time low.

Who is helping? Luis Jorge Rivera Herrera, an environmental scientist and grassroots activist, helped establish a 3,000-acre nature reserve on Puerto Rico's coastline, protecting the island's natural heritage from harmful development.

Basic services: Over a billion people have gotten electricity since 2000, and over 2.6 billion people gained access to improved drinking water between 1990 and 2015.

Who is helping? Rajendra Singh, who won the 2015 Stockholm Water prize, is popularly known as "The Water Man of India." For over 20 years, he has helped communities build 8,600 traditional mud dams, providing access to water for over 1,000 villages.


Human rights: One hundred years ago, homosexuality was illegal in almost every country in the world, including the United States. Gay marriage is now legal in 26 countries. In addition, women can now vote in all but one countryall but two countries have ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child; rates of domestic violence and sexual harassment are declining; and democracy is gaining over autocracy worldwide.

Who is helping? Despite facing violence and intimidation, Kasha Jacqueline Nabagesera, a Ugandan LGBT activist, founded and now directs Freedom and Roam Uganda, the first advocacy organization of its kind in her country.


Literacy: One hundred years ago, the worldwide literacy rate was 12%. Today it's 83%. Among young adults, it's 91%.

Who is helping? Malala Yousafzai, age 21 and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate, continues to speak out for the right of girls to have an education -- even after being shot in 2012 by Taliban gunmen intent on silencing her. Her activism has sparked an international movement.


Talk About It...

Here are some questions to get the whole family thinking about progress - and how each of us can help it continue.

  • Do you think one person can make the world a better place? Why or why not?
  • There's been a huge amount of progress in improving people's lives. (Provide some examples.) Why do you think that's happened? How can we ensure that it will continue?
  • If you could improve one thing in the world, what would it be? How can you start right now to help make that happen?
  • The French activist Simone Weil once said, "To be a hero or a heroine, one must give an order to oneself." What do you think she meant? What order would you give yourself?

    Learn About It...

    Want some fun ways to educate your family about our planet?

      Here We Are: Notes for Living on Planet Earth by Oliver Jeffers. This awe-inspiring book puts a positive spin on the role of humans in the world. A must-have.



      Westlandia by Paul Fleischman. A fun, kooky fantasy about a kid who builds his own civilization. It makes problem solving and progress come alive in creative ways.



      What Do you Do with an Idea by Kobi Yamada. This engaging picture book offers excellent inspiration for the next generation of change makers.


      Finally, be sure check out our fiction and nonfiction book recommendations to inspire all the change makers in your family.



        "We are fortunate to be living in the most peaceful, most prosperous, most progressive era in human history... More people live in democracies. We're wealthier and healthier and better educated, with a global economy that has lifted up more than a billion people from extreme poverty."

        - Barack Obama, former U.S. President