Good News and Bad News: The World Is Better Off Than Ever Before but Still Too Many People Are Missing Out

Despite the horrors of conflicts like those in the Middle East and central Africa, or the outbreak of diseases like Ebola, we have made immense progress in building a safer, freer, more prosperous world. But it isn't yet a fair one, and not everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Do you want the good news, or the bad news?

Let's take the good news first. And there's plenty of it.

Overall, we're richer, healthier, safer than ever before. Globally, more children live long enough to reach primary school age and then have an affordable school nearby. Life expectancy and health indicators are higher; technology has helped us to develop more effective medicines and to adapt food production to changing climates. For example, since 2000, measles vaccines have prevented more than 14 million deaths.

In fact, poverty has halved in the last 25 years alone. That's something of which we should all be proud.

Every day, I meet or hear from people in some of the world's poorest communities who have inspiring stories to tell: of finding or creating jobs; of joining together with others to build a school, clinic or well for their community; of holding their local government officials to account for promises made and forgotten.

Despite the horrors of conflicts like those in the Middle East and central Africa, or the outbreak of diseases like Ebola, we have made immense progress in building a safer, freer, more prosperous world.

But it isn't yet a fair one, and not everyone has the opportunity to thrive.

Not least because the very activities which have made many of us rich - comparatively, at least - and which keep us prosperous are not sustainable.

Rapidly changing weather patterns, caused by our irresponsible emissions of carbon, make the fight for survival almost impossible for people who are already vulnerable.

Competition for land means food production is under threat in many countries, and fish stocks are already over-exploited. Ocean acidification and climate instability threaten the survival of many species, and current figures indicate that we are going through a mass extinction; we've lost over 50 per cent of the earth's wildlife in the last 40 years.

(That's the bad news.)

Of course we must continue to promote responsible economic development. But if we don't change the way we do so, we will be in danger of knocking people right back into poverty.

This year offers us a number of opportunities to choose to prioritise an economy that is fair, efficient and that gives everyone a chance to flourish. Our UK General Election in a few weeks' time, followed later this year by the global climate summit in Paris, present potentially defining moments.

They are moments which require us to use our individual power as voters and consumers as well as our collective power as campaigners to state clearly what we believe is important.

The triple challenges of poverty, environmental sustainability and inequality are the defining issues of our time and our response to them must be based both in campaigning for more effective policy and implementation, and also in the way we each - individually and as families and communities - choose to live our daily lives.

The problem is big and can feel overwhelming. It certainly won't be solved by single-issue campaigns; tempting though it is to try to fix one thing at a time, all we'll achieve is to tinker with the effects instead of tackling the cause.

If we're to be truly efficient with our resources, making sure there is enough to go around both for today and for tomorrow, we must think big and think differently about our economy.

In our new report Tearfund suggests that this would be a 'Restorative Economy'.

A restorative economy is one where resources are used and then ploughed back into the product life-cycle, rather than being manufactured, used and then thrown away. It's one where healthy economic activity does not come at the expense of the natural rhythms of life and the need to rest and enjoy family life.

It's one where time, energy and resources are shared and where there is room for everyone to work and to enjoy the fruits of their labour, whoever they are and wherever they're from.

For those of us with an active faith, it's one where we choose to live a full life reflecting the image of our Creator: one of productivity, creativity and relationship.

To achieve a restorative economy depends on restorative living. It means choosing to prioritise conservation and to resist the urge to consume indiscriminately. It needs a group of people who are prepared to rise to the challenge.

And they already are.

Our Ordinary Heroes campaign, launching this evening with the Bishop of London, calls on people who are already doing simple yet brave things to change their own economy.

Through everyday financial decisions, people are changing their household fuel supplier to make sure they're using renewable energy. They're choosing to take fewer flights and they're buying fairly sourced and traded food or clothes. These decisions in turn send a strong signal to both government and businesses, giving them a mandate to change the system.

Many of these ordinary heroes are churchgoers, standing with all of humanity around the world, whether or not those people share their faith. It's this sense of connection that's missing from many people's lives today, and which the church is well-placed to help us to foster. We must move from thinking only of 'people like us' to co-creating a better world for our children together with 'people - like us'.

This is too big a deal to leave to governments to deal with alone. Of course some structural changes will only come about with national legislation or multi-national agreement.

But if we want a world that will work for our children and grandchildren, we must be the ones who take responsibility for changing it. All of us.


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