2016 – the Most Peaceful Year Ever?

“Quietly, amid the carnage and chaos in the daily news, 2016 is shaping up as a good year for peace in the world.” – Joshua S. Goldstein and Steven Pinker

“If you can tear your attention away from the 24 hour news cycle, you’ll be astonished to hear that we are experiencing one of the least discussed, yet most remarkable cultural shifts of all time: war, one of our species’ most abiding and defining social practices, is at its lowest ebb ever.” – Angus Hervey

The stories from which the above quote come from are the sort of stories I like to read.

Goldstein and Pinker note that for nearly two-thirds of a century, from 1945 to 2011, war had been in overall decline. The global death rate had fallen from 22 per 100,000 people to 0.3. But then because of the Syrian Civil War, by 2014 (the most recent year with complete data), the death rate had climbed to 1.4 per 100,000.

But then they go on to point out that because most of these wars have not yet ended, and because lurid terrorism continues in many parts of the world, almost nobody has noticed a happy development that wafted in during the first quarter of 2016: The level of war violence has fallen markedly.

In addition, they note the continuing absence of wars between the world’s uniformed national armies. These forces exceed 20 million soldiers and are armed to the teeth. Yet the last sustained war between these armies was in 2003, in Iraq.

In fact, virtually all the war in the world is now confined to an arc stretching from Nigeria to Pakistan, with the Americas, Western Europe, and East Asia as major regions of the globe that have moved from pervasive war to enduring peace.

Hervey, in the second article, states that the world was a far more dangerous place when you were born. Death tolls from wars in the 1970s and 1980s were 4–5 times higher than they are today. We are, despite reports of religious and political insurgencies, despite high-profile terrorist killings and unrest in various corners of the globe, living in the most peaceful era of our species’ existence. The world is getting less violent; we’re just more aware of the violence that happens, thanks to the mass availability of information. That’s a good thing, but the fear it engenders makes it look as though we’re doing much worse than we actually are.

Hervey suggests that it is the rise of democracy around the globe. In addition, as the world becomes more interconnected, political leaders have ever more incentives to avoid the catastrophic economic consequences of going to war too. Conflict isn’t good for business in a world of free trade, digital flows and technological interdependency.

He then closes with some uplifting thoughts.

War is not inevitable. Many brave people have fought for that belief (and we owe those people our gratitude). Our generation is starting to show that it’s possible. And the more people start understanding that, the sooner it becomes a reality.

So let me express my gratitude to all the veterans who helped get us to the peaceful state we are at now, and to the world leaders who are committed to keeping it that way.

I think it’s particularly relevant to share these two stories during the Olympics, an event that is meant to promote world unity and world peace. It’s been wonderful watching athletes from around the world congratulating each other after having competed against each other.

That’s a vision of the world that I believe in, and it seems like we are on our way there.

P.S. While putting together this post, I came across this great web site – Future Crunch, which states as its mission “to foster intelligent, optimistic thinking about the future, and to empower people to contribute to it.” I am sure it will be a source of future blogs…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

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