Milwaukee Biz Blog: Positive trends

We seem battered down by information about the world either corroding and or blowing up around us

If on any given day no plane crashes anywhere in the world, is this fact reported on news programs? Of course not. The smallest single engine set down on a major highway will bring reporters running. Here’s my point; we seem battered down by information about the world either corroding and or blowing up around us. Rarely is there anything to balance this terrible news.

I want to provide a report that offers a different point of view. Yes, there may be a lot of violence and change, but it is counterbalanced by many life-affirming, hopeful events as well. I hope you find comfort in these facts. Then read my recommendations for what you can do to make our world even better; you need not feel helpless.


We are far from solving all environmental problems but we are improving. Surplus food is a new development. Rarely do we hear of mass famines. Our streams, lakes and the air we breathe are a much better quality especially in the United States.  Some resources cite that worldwide an additional billion people have clean(er) drinking water than ten years ago.

Between 1980 and 2014, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even though our Gross Domestic Product increased by 145 percent , vehicle miles traveled increased by 97 percent, energy consumption increased by 26 percent  and the U.S. population grew by 41 percent, the total emissions of six principal air pollutants dropped  by 63 percent.


Gender equity is working. The Yale Global Institute reports that in 1970 the global university enrollment ratio was 160 men to 100 women. Now that ratio is 93 men to 100 women. In the U.S., women are almost 60 percent of annual university graduates. At the high school level, more than 70 percent of valedictorians are women.

In Africa, heretofore one of the more undereducated countries for boys and girls, in some countries 83 percent of the young girls are getting educated compared to ten years ago. Many of these girls will grow up to be like the wise Sibyls of antiquity. Our world will be much improved when they do.


Our horror at what we see on TV is understandable, but, hear are what Harvard Professor Steven Pinker’s research shows. In the 21st century, “the documented deaths for war, terrorism, genocide and militaries are at an unprecedented few hundredths of a percentage point.”

Despots like Stalin, Hitler, Mussolini and Hirohito, who created havoc on a global scale, are still creating devastation, but on a vastly lower scale.

The World Court in the Netherlands and the United Nations in New York may not be perfect but they do provide agreed upon global recourse to punish extreme aggression in countries and talk about things all peoples can agree upon.


In many parts of the world overall life expectancy in places like Japan and New Zealand is way over 80 years. In the U.S. it is nearly 79 years. Good news in the U.S. is that both Hispanics and non-Hispanic black mortality rates have dropped. Even the horrors of cancer are abated and research continues at a furious pace.

In Africa, Guinea Worm, a terrible water borne disease, has been almost eliminated. This scourge afflicted over 3.5 million people in 1986; by 2014, only 126 cases were reported. Along this line, the World Bank also reports that abject poverty was reduced from 35 percent to 14 percent during the years between 1993 and 2011.

Soul sickness

This is the problem we need to work on both personally and in our communities. Our current declines are concerned with virtue, moral issues and economic literacy. Interestingly, the media rarely covers these issues.

Servant Leadership is a no-cost, effective way to cure the divisiveness amongst us. Servant Leadership is a kind of applied ethics. The goal of Servant Leadership is to raise the capacity of communities and individuals as well as to foster stewardship in our world. Everyone can be a Servant Leader. The media will not come flocking because it isn’t dramatic; it is quiet but intense effort. Just as glaciers melt slowly, kindness and bringing up our fellow humans in the home, neighborhood, local communities, country and the world will be incremental, but it will work.

Servant Leaders are not people playing ostrich with their heads in the sand. We have tremendous problems all over the globe. Many people are suffering. Many do not follow the Golden Rule. But, like many others before us who took a stand and did the right thing, we can and will show that caring and stewardship work.

Richard R. Pieper Sr. is the non-executive chairman of Milwaukee-based PPC Partners Inc.

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