Nicholas Kristof recently took to The New York Times to deliver some good news: for “humanity overall,” 2019 was the “best year ever.”

Kristof’s assessment, while correct, is no reason for fireworks and fanfare. Many people suffered in 2019. So much was lost. To deny the prevalence of such adversity is to look back on human progress with a congratulatory and uncritical eye.

If last year was our best yet, let it serve instead as a hopeful reminder of how far we’ve come—and how capable we are, when put to the test, of changing the world for the better. In the face of collective tragedy, hope is a catalyst for change far more potent than complacency or despair. After decades of witnessing and responding to global health crises, this is something I know to be true.

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Originally published on Forbes (January 2, 2020)