With all the headlines of doom and gloom, you could be forgiven for thinking that the world is getting worse day.
But in truth, there’s never been a better time to be alive. Diseases that once wiped out millions of people are being eradicated. Tens of millions of people are being lifted out of poverty each year. Child mortality has roughly halved since 1990. And a staggering 300,000 people around the world are switching on electricity for the first time each day.
China is set to surpass its record set in 2016 for installations of solar energy, Kenya has banned plastic bags, and Chile has just set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks in Patagonia. Vietnam has agreed to end bear farming, tobacco use by young people in India has fallen by a third since 2010, Pakistan is recognising transgender citizens on passports, and 17 per cent of newlyweds in the United States now marry someone of a different race or ethnicity.
These are just some of the positive stories that Future Crunch, a duo of scientists committed to “evidence-based optimism”, say are leading to a world that is more peaceful, transparent and abundant.
When you start looking for good news stories, they are everywhere. And if you live in Canberra, there are a lot of things to feel optimistic about.
Canberra routinely features highly on indices for the most liveable cities in the world. In 2014, the OECD ranked the ACT the best of 362 regions across 34 countries – with the Bush Capital coming out on top in terms of access to broadband, education, income, jobs, environment, health, safety, housing and civic engagement. And numbeo.com, the world’s largest database of user-generated content, currently ranks Canberra second after Wellington across a range of liveability factors, from safety and healthcare, to purchasing power, pollution and commute times.
Canberrans are the most educated people in the country, and are twice as likely to hold postgraduate qualifications than Australians outside the capital. This makes us open to new ideas, perspectives and ways of looking at the world.
We have world-class universities. The latest international ranking has placed the Australian National University among the top 20 institutions in the world, alongside Harvard, Yale, Cambridge and Oxford. The University’s Vice-Chancellor, Brian Schmidt AC, is a winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics. With these educational credentials behind us, it’s unsurprising that we have a growing reputation for science, innovation and information technology.
Our fresh air and big blue skies are spirit-boosters on even the frostiest day, and the great outdoors is on our doorstep. We have an average of 246 sunny days in Canberra every year (which surpasses Melbourne’s 185, Hobart’s 193 and even Sydney’s 239 days). We are making the most of this sun in new ways, with three solar farms now powering 35 per cent of the ACT’s energy needs.
We have the highest rate of cultural participation in the country, with 39 per cent of us actively engaged in cultural activities. This is good news for our thriving arts and festival scene. The National Multicultural Festival in February, Art Not Apart, Enlighten and the National Folk Festival in March, Floriade in Spring, not to mention the bi-annual Contour 556 festival which will be held again in October 2018, all celebrate our city and the creative people within it – and many are posting year-on-year growth in attendance.
We have great restaurants, bars and cafes – and with the highest median incomes in the land ($998 per week compared with the average of $662) many of us have money to splurge on more than the special occasion night out.
The changing shape of our city is also a reason for optimism. People with imagination and who are prepared to take risks are transforming our urban streetscape. This is bringing with it new housing choices, encouraging more people to stay in Canberra and fostering pride in our city.
We are growing our own sense of identity – and as we do, we are growing faster than the national average. The 2016 census has found the ACT grew by 11 per cent in the last five years – compared with 8.8 per cent around Australia. People are voting with their feet.
Canberrans are more active than the average Australian too. Around 93 per cent of us participated in sport or some form of physical activity in the last 12 months, compared with the national average of 87 per cent.
And we are committed to serving our local communities. All those people who sit on community boards, who run sausage sizzles at Bunnings, coach kids’ soccer teams, host school fetes or rattle the tin for their local sports teams are sources of optimism for us all.
Canberra is growing, and that brings with it opportunity. In spite of this, however, we shouldn’t be smug or complacent. Many people in our community are doing it tough. Canberra is not immune to the housing affordability crisis, there are areas where our education standards are slipping and the cost of living is rising rapidly. We need a range of social services to support vulnerable people in our community. But I think on the whole that we are a caring and compassionate community, and I believe that working together we can find solutions and ways to give a helping hand to those who need it.
Future Crunch argues that we are drowning in “manufactured drama” because the media knows that bad news is great for business. “There’s no incentive to report good news in the modern-day attention economy because it doesn’t get traction,” they say.
But the good news is abundant. So, let’s spread some positivity around. What makes you cheerful about Canberra?