It's better than it looks : reasons for optimism in an age of fear / Gregg Easterbrook.

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    • Publication Information:
      First edition.
    • Abstract:
      Summary: Is civilization teetering on the edge of a cliff? Or are we just climbing higher than ever? Most people who read the news would tell you that 2017 is one of the worst years in recent memory. We're facing a series of deeply troubling, even existential problems: fascism, terrorism, environmental collapse, racial and economic inequality, and more. Yet this narrative misses something important: by almost every meaningful measure, the modern world is better than it ever has been. In the United States, disease, crime, discrimination, and most forms of pollution are in long-term decline, while longevity and education keep rising and economic indicators are better than in any past generation. Worldwide, malnutrition and extreme poverty are at historic lows, and the risk of dying by war or violence is the lowest in human history.
    • Abstract:
      It's not a coincidence that we're confused--our perspectives on the world are blurred by the rise of social media, the machinations of politicians, and our own biases. Meanwhile, political reforms like the Clean Air Act and technological innovations like the hybridization of wheat have saved huge numbers of lives. In that optimistic spirit, Easterbrook offers specific policy reforms to address climate change, inequality, and other problems, and reminds us that there is real hope in conquering such challenges. In an age of discord and fear-mongering, It's Better Than It Looks will profoundly change your perspective on who we are, where we're headed, and what we're capable of.
    • Content Notes:
      Why don't we starve? -- Why, despite all our bad habits, do we keep living longer? -- Will nature collapse? -- Will the economy collapse? -- Why is violence in decline? -- Why does technology become safer instead of more dangerous? -- Why don't the dictators win? -- How declinism became chic -- The "impossible" challenge of climate change -- The "impossible" challenge of inequality -- We'll never run out of challenges -- And it will never be too late.
    • Notes:
      Includes bibliographical references (pages 289-317) and index.
    • ISBN:
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LJ Reviews 2018 February #2

In assessing the state of current society, Easterbrook (The Progress Paradox) doesn't predict disaster, but he isn't overly optimistic either. The author maintains that human civilization faces real problems and that threats can surface unexpectedly. While bald eagles are no longer endangered and forests are advancing, not retreating, we are producing more food on less land and obesity has replaced starvation as the most common health risk across the globe. Easterbrook challenges politicians promising a return to the "good old days," and politician Bernie Sanders's statement that Americans are being "poisoned" by pollutants caused by corporate greed. The author continues that, compared to a century ago, Western societies have the benefit of better access to education, food resources, and health care; an increased life expectancy; end even improved air and water quality. Despite threats to political stability, he concludes, we are still making progress. But on political balance, Easterbrook argues that we have reason to feel hopeful, not least because of our resourcefulness in solving past problems. VERDICT A well-written account of a pertinent topic; readers will flock to this book.—David Keymer, Cleveland

Copyright 2018 Library Journal.