THE GOOD NEWS ABOUT BAD NEWS
There might be a silver lining behind all the depressing headlines.
There seems to be a surfeit of bad news these days. Turn on the TV, scroll down the computer or run through the newspapers, and it feels like an endless litany of woe and doom. This “steady drumbeat of bad news”, as the American economist and politician Phil Gramm memorably describes it, can be despairing, making us wonder at the destructive ingenuity of human behaviour. Just in the week prior to publishing this magazine, UNICEF reported that one in every 200 children around the world is a refugee, while a recent study, published in the journal Current Biology, revealed that humans have destroyed 10 per cent of the Earth’s remaining wilderness within the last 25 years, a decline it described as “catastrophic”. Then, there’s the story of industrial pollution turning the Daldykan River in Siberia, literally, blood red, before discovering why four of man’s closest evolutionary relatives are now critically endangered and how poaching has devastated the numbers of elephants in the wild.
Scientists believe that we are in a new geological epoch, the Anthropocene, where human impact on the Earth is so profound that our legacy will last for millennia. This means what we do today matters and, based on our record so far, we aren’t doing a terribly good job – here, the phrase sic erat scriptum (the Latin for ‘thus was it written’) has never been more accurate – if the depressing headlines are anything to go by. Good news, of course, still can be found but here’s a thought: if anything, we should encourage more reporting of bad news and make greater effort at disseminating it. More information, after all, leads to a more educated society, one that realises there are better choices and how to pick the right ones. This, perhaps, will help us leave a more positive impression on the Earth. So, maybe it’s not all bad news, then.