Reasons for Optimism in 2023

Monday, 18 December 2023
By Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland

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2023 has been rough.

People continue to feel uncertain and threatened. So, in what is becoming an annual tradition: we’d like to brighten up your thoughts, and to share a few things that make us optimistic and give us hope for the New Year.

A Thaw In Relations


Recently there was a meeting between Presidents Biden and Xi Jinping in San Francisco, in November 2023.

The relationship between China and the USA has been dysfunctional over the past few years. High level contacts had been suspended. At the meeting in San Francisco, there were signals of change and a thawing of relations.

This is a possible change in direction for a Fractured Backbone (one of our threats). An important and previously crumbling backbone might be being repaired, maintained and strengthened. The meeting between Xi and Biden could be a positive, weak signal.

In addition to the softened tone after the meeting, Xi and Biden agreed to resume military-to-military communications and to restart cooperation between law-enforcement agencies to curb the export of chemicals used to make fentanyl.

Fixing the backbone of relations between the two largest military and economic powers will need their joint understanding of where they disagree, where they agree, and joint plans to work towards solving the worlds’ biggest challenges. The meeting in San Francisco could be an indication that they are taking the first steps towards solving the challenges between them and working on the challenges facing the world. We will keep watching!

A Reduction In Poverty


We have always argued that an important aspect of a decline in poverty is that people have increased choices. An unremarked success in tackling poverty is reflected in the MPI index collated across India. This measures income and other indicators such as nutrition, schooling, sanitation, and cooking fuel. 135 million people exited poverty between 2015-16 and 2019-2021. While rural areas have more poverty than urban areas, even in rural areas there was a significant decrease – from 33% to 19% - in the number of people living in poverty.

A Narrow Path To Safety

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The fact that Electricity generated from renewables is cheaper than that from fossil fuels is now well established. While greenhouse gas emissions keep rising, the IEA finds that there’s still a path to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and limit global warming to 1.5oC. That’s what’s needed to avoid the worst effects of climate change, such as catastrophic flooding and deadly heatwaves. “The pathway to 1.5oC has narrowed in the past two years, but clean energy technologies are keeping it open,” said Fatih Birol, IEA executive director, in a statement. “The good news is we know what we need to do – and how to do it.”

Two Vaccines Against Malaria

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Finally, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General WHO said in October 2023 “I used to dream of the day we would have a safe and effective vaccine against malaria, now we have two.” The world finally has a public health tool it has been seeking for more than a century: a reliable vaccine against malaria that can protect at least two thirds of children from developing the deadly disease. The WHO just approved the cheap, effective R21 vaccine, and the world's largest vaccine maker says it's already working to make 100 million doses a year.

We wish you all the very best. We anticipate that 2024 will provide yet more hopeful signs and weak signals.

Patricia Lustig and Gill Ringland.
December 2023

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