Nicholas Kristof, graduate of Yamhill-Carlton (Oregon) High School, has for the past two decades been reporting for the New York Times from what a certain U.S. leader has referred to as “shithole countries.” Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn in 1991 earned a Pulitzer Prize for their reporting on Tienanmen Square student protests. They became the first husband-wife team gain the honor. Kristof won the Pulitzer again in 2006 for his reporting from Darfur on the genocide there.
Mr. Kristof’s dispatches focus on subjects such as poverty, famine, human trafficking and ethnic cleansing from outposts in Myanmar, Yemen, Bangladesh and other sites of human misery. He has also made known his contrarian views on the anti-sweatshop movement and the social structure of the U.S. military.
In contrast to his regular reporting and general public perception, Kristof in his year-end summing up makes the case that, overall, 2018 was the best year on record for general improvement of the human condition. Without disregarding all the bad news, he reports that fewer people live in poverty than ever before, that more people have access to clean drinking water and electricity, that literacy is at an all-time high and infant mortality is at its all-time low. (Unlike most other countries, life expectancy in the United States has gotten worse.)
In his book Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress, Harvard professor Steven Pinker presents evidence in text and seventy-five graphs the betterment of the human condition over time.
We may be past the tipping point on climate change and over-population proceeds unchecked. Still Nicholas Kristof takes a break from his usual topics to give us some perspective.