Is The World More Dangerous Than Ever?

I have a question for you, when was the last time you watched the news and didn't see bad news. When did you least read a headline that read "Sorry folks, no news today because all is fine and dandy in the world". Apart from that one day, on 18th April 1930 when there was no news, so they simply played piano music for 15 minutes instead of the usual news bulletin. Yes that actually happened. It's easy to believe that we're all doomed. With the Gaza Strip, ISIS, Ebola, countless civil wars, school shootings, killer cops and a handful of highly questionable world leaders. It seems that every year the world is falling deeper and deeper into a pit of hatred, deceit, murder, war, terrorism and despair. One could easily believe that the world is more dangerous than it has ever been and only getting more so. But what's the truth? Are things getting better or worse? What does the outlook look like for the future of mankind? To find out we need to do one very important thing, completely ignore every news source in the world. You see, there is an intrinsic problem with news, they only report the bad news and the worse the news is the higher billing it receives. Front page headlines are reserved for only the most miserable events that unfold around the world each day. Whether it be TV news, tabloids or even social media, news outlets need to attract large numbers of viewers or they will inevitably fail. So naturally the most compelling stories are chosen to make headlines. Well, it makes sense doesn't it? By its very definition news would not be news if it was not something out of the ordinary. Although it's nice to hear, reporting that millions of cars arrived safely at their destinations this week is not news, but reporting a fatal collision is. And because news only reports the bad events it gives the majority of people the impression that these awful events are far more likely to occur than they actually do. Headlines would have us believe that terrorists are waiting for us, planning their next attack around every corner, at every airport or transportation system. A data scientist recently calculated the odds of a person dying in a terrorist attack. He concluded that your chances are 1 in 25 million. Let me put that into perspective, your chance of dying in the bathtub is 1 in 680,000, so you're 36 times more likely to die in the tub than at the hands of a terrorist. Also, you're 2.5 times more likely to become a president and 2 times more likely to become an astronaut, than to die in a terrorist attack. Of course this is no solace to the unfortunate victims of such attacks but it just goes to demonstrate how news headlines can artificially inflate our worries and negative expectations of the World. But the reality is really rather different. What if, despite everything you've heard and everything you've read, I told you, that the world is more peaceful right now than ever before. Many experts, including German economist Max Roser have said that we are currently living in the most peaceful period of our species' existence. Max Roser of Oxford University runs the website Our World in Data and this astonishing chart shows the global deaths in conflicts per 100,000 people, every year since 1400. The past 15 years have seen a rapid and substantial drop in conflict deaths worldwide. But that's just in war, what about on our streets, what about theft, murder and rape? Well, this graph shows the homicide rates per 100,000 people in various European regions between the year 1300 and today, that's quite a decline. But that goes all the way back to the middle ages when your best friend would bash your head in for a leg of lamb. How about over the past couple of decades? This graph shows the rates of robbery, homicide and vehicle theft across the G7 countries between 1995 and 2010, all three crimes have reduced significantly. But hold on, what about terrorism? Surely that's becoming more prevalent each year, not a month goes by when we don't hear about an awful attack somewhere around the World. Yes, it's true that jihadist terrorism has increased over the past two decades. But overall, if we take every event of terrorism from the past 50 years, the frequency of attacks has dropped significantly, especially over the past decade, according Our World in Data in 2006 there were 6,660 counts of terrorism worldwide, by 2009 that had dropped to just 560. And the number of deaths from terrorism has dropped also. When we take all these factors and put them together it creates an interesting picture as to what is happening with World peace and that's exactly what the institute for economics and peace has done. Every year the Sydney-based research firm analyses thousands of bits of data from every country and produces a peace score and a ranking for every country on Earth, called the Global Peace Index. In their latest, 2017 index the five most peaceful countries on Earth are Iceland, New Zealand, Portugal, Austria and Denmark. And the least peaceful are Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, South Sudan and Yemen. But if you look at the change in each country's peace index over the past 10 years something strange has happened which explains why overall the world is becoming less violent whilst the newspapers are doing the opposite and only filling up with more violence. The peace gap is widening. The authors of the Global Peace Index have stated that over the past ten years 81 countries that were already peaceful, have only become more peaceful, yet 79 countries that were already un-peaceful have become even less peaceful. According to the Global Peace Index Europe is the most peaceful region in the World, and every year since the index began, European countries have only got more and more peaceful each year, except for France which has seen a slight drop in its rankings due to the recent terrorist attacks in the country. However, the publishers of the study have said that today most European countries are now more peaceful than they have ever been in recorded history. Conversely, the world's least peaceful regions, the Middle East and North Africa, have only got less peaceful each and every year and are now less peaceful than ever. But as always, there is one developed country that has bucked the trend of increased peace amongst its peers. Not only has the United States of America dropped its ranking every year but its peace index has also fallen faster than any other major developed country. In 2015 the US was ranked 94 out of 163 countries, in 2016 it was ranked 103 and this year it fell again to 114 out of 163 countries, a rapid drop which the researchers attribute in part to increased political instability and divide in recent years. But how did Iceland get to be number one on the list? Not only that, Iceland has always been number one, for as long as the Global Peace Index has existed, Iceland has been ranked the most peaceful country on Earth. And the reason behind it is fascinating. Iceland isn't the world's most peaceful place because of the country's remoteness and its beautiful scenery, although it certainly helps. Iceland is so peaceful because it has to be. Iceland is one of the harshest environments on the planet and for hundreds of years the natives have had to take unusual steps to survive the bitterly cold, unforgiving tundra. If they spent all their time fighting one another they would have perished to the elements, so instead they had to work together to survive mother nature. Throughout the ages it has been perfectly acceptable and quite common in Icelandic culture to enter someone's house, even if you have never met them and even if they're not home, and make yourself a cup of tea in their kitchen, to warm yourself up. That's a level of trust and community that would be completely unfathomable for citizens of most other countries. But it was born out of necessity from living in such a cold, inhospitable country. And although the terrain is inhospitable, the people are not and their respect and trust of one-another is what makes Iceland the most peaceful country in the world. The average homicides per year in the US is 15,000, the average homicides per year in Iceland is one, just one and that truly is something to be proud of.

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