Australia Day has been and gone and once agaIn much of the joy has been sucked out of it. The debate ramps up annually as to whether the date is right or wrong, and the parade of the naysayers is gettIng bigger than any celebration of our mighty nation. That’s sad and unnecessary right now.

Whether there is justification for changing the date, I reckon there are some major issues we must resolve with our brothers and sisters amongst our First Peoples before we try handling this one. 

As we have said in these pages previously, we must gain a greater understanding of each other and our shared humanity in this place before we move down some of these fraught alleyways. Let’s just recognise how lucky we are that we share this continent, at this time. The Power of Now.  

Let’s just recognise how lucky we are that we share this continent, at this time. The Power of Now.  

I say this having recently read an article by Matt Ridley in the UK Spectator of 21st December 2019. He states that we in the second decade of the 21st Century are living through THE GREATEST IMPROVEMENT IN HUMAN LIVING STANDARDS IN THE WORLD. A quick Google of Mr Ridley shows that he is The Viscount Ridley! He is a Conservative Hereditary Peer and appears to be a bit of a polymath. But there’s nothing wrong with being a “Rational Optimist,” which is part of the title of one of his books.

I note without delving too deeply into some of his reckoning and analysis, the following:

Extreme poverty has fallen below 10% of the world’s population for the first time. It was 60% when he was born, 61 years ago;

  • Child mortality has fallen to record low levels;Famine virtually went extinct;
  • Malaria, polio, and heart disease are all in decline;
  • Some nations are beginning to use less stuff: less metal, less water, less land. ie less stuff overall.
  • Mobile phones have the computing power of room-sized computers of the 1970s and totally replace cameras, radios, torches, maps, calendars, watches etc;
  • LED bulbs consume consume about a quarter as much electricity as incandescent bulbs;
  • Modern buildings contain less steel and more of it is recycled;
  • Water usage is half as much as forecast in the 1970s because of human inventiveness allowing more efficient irrigation for agriculture, the biggest user of water;
  • Efficiencies in agriculture as the world approaches peak farmland, meaning productivity of agriculture is rising so fast human needs can be supplied by a shrinking amount of land;
  • The world has discovered that its resources of metals, minerals, and fuels are not finite. We will not run out of them. They haven’t even become scarce. Ridley believes technology has put us on a path to a cleaner, greener planet.

When People ask Ridley about the bad stuff – recessions, Syria, Ukraine, euro crisis, (and I’d better throw in Coronavirus) – his come back is that bad things happen while the world still gets better. 

So there we have it. Some will say but this is not Australia and I agree. We have our own major issues such as droughts, and fires and overriding this around the world is the question of Climate Change. All of them rightfully consume our thinking. 

But on reflection I wanted to look at the positive side of life (as the Monty Python crew so aptly did and the memory this week of Terry Jones reminded us). Man intuitively has an ability to overcome massive setbacks caused mainly by the “bad guys.” The good guys are just out there doing good things and finding a way. 

Man intuitively has an ability to overcome massive set backs caused mainly by the “ bad guys.” The good guys are just out there doing good things and finding a way. 

And fortunately over and above all of this, we live in Australia. It’s beauty, it’s clean air, it’s breadth and depth, it’s stunning fauna and flora, it’s relatively small population, our democratic institutions,  our beaches, our people. Imagine if Viscount Ridley lived here. He’d be off the Richter with praise.

Not every person is equally lucky and I acknowledge that. But I heard something very special at a breakfast this morning from a fellow who works with disadvantaged kids. I loved it and we can all do it. “Do you know what the best exercise is? Bend down and pick someone up.” Simple philosophy, as many of the best ideas are.