We have no shortage of anxiety-inducing headlines vying for our attention, do we? It’s driven some of us to tune out certain outlets and to severely curb our news consumption. What is it about the negative news marketplace that makes the 1890 adage from William Randolph Hearst – “if it bleeds, it leads”– seem intractable? Academics have asked this question for decades.
A comprehensive 2019 study with over 1,100 participants from 17 countries measured how consumers reacted to positive- or negative-seeming news. Researchers found that “negative news provoked stronger physiological reactions and garnered more attention than positive or neutral news on average – though individual people’s reactions varied quite a bit, with a minority of people responding more to positive news.”
In “Why the news is so negative — and what we can do about it,” Vox’s Dylan Matthews analyzed the study’s findings: “This speaks to the demand side of the bad news dilemma. People who watch and consume news seem to be drawn to negative, dour stories more than positive ones.”
He claims that “news consumers, then, are caught between two competing forces. On the one hand, they enjoy a vastly larger and more diverse news ecosystem than has ever existed before in history, as well as social media networks that serve them up exactly the news they demonstrate they want through their posts, likes, and other interactions. This should in principle make it easier for people who want good news to access it. But it also places consumers at the mercy of their own impulses. While at a higher level they may want to want news that makes them less miserable, in the moment they might prefer doomy news – and the media and the platforms they depend on are only too happy to serve up the bad.”
Last week’s blog invited you to turn toward the quiet. Today, you’re invited to turn toward the positive. We all have access to a rich array of sources that can round out the headlines and give us a more complete view of what’s newsworthy of our attention. Here is a sampling from the team at Future Crunch. Click the links for full stories.
> The UN-supported Principles for Responsible Investment group has surveyed all the climate policies expected to be put in place in major economies between now and 2050, and they have concluded that global warming will peak below 1.8°C around 2050. “This is a more optimistic future than many anticipate.”
> After extreme floods put a third of Pakistan under water in 2022, architect Yasmeen Lari vowed to build one million flood-resilient homes. Her foundation just revealed it is a third of the way towards that target and on track to build all one million by 2024.
> Rwanda is on track to become the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to eliminate malaria. In 2016, the country saw 17,941 cases of severe malaria, but in 2022-23, that number had fallen to 1,316, a decline of 85%, and only 51 deaths have been recorded this year.
> In the past 16 months, voters in the United States have protected reproductive rights on ballot questions six times in a row, in Kansas, Montana, Vermont, California, Michigan, and Kentucky. Now they’ve permanently enshrined the right to abortion in Ohio and protected it in Virginia.
> The number of kids in foster care in America is lower than it’s been in decades.
How are you feeling? Are you – like me – surprised that most of these stories didn’t make their way into your most-frequented feeds? Let’s look at a few more:
> Women in the United States are gaining ground in the highest-paid occupations.
> High school completion rates have increased markedly for both on- and off-reserve First Nations people in Canada.
> The United States is more flood-resilient today than at any other point in living memory.
> In Paris, the number of people using bike paths has doubled in the last year, and during rush hour, bicycles now outnumber cars on some of the capital’s main roads. There has been a significant uptick in cycling across the United States in the last few years. Nationally, annual average daily bicycle trips per year climbed by 37% between 2019 and 2022, and more than half of all states have seen annual average daily bicycle trips increase by at least 25%.
Again, notice how this news hits your head… and your heart. Isn’t it powerful to know that you may have more influence on your outlook than you thought? Go ahead and give yourself the gift of good news. Here are some starters:
“There’s really good news around, so why do we feel like the world is ending?” Take a listen to this interview with Dr Angus Hervey, who explains why solutions-focused stories of progress need to be told.
Read this recent piece from The Sydney Telegraph’s David Leser: “An Austrian survivor, an Aussie newsletter, an Irish poet: How I found hope in 2023.”
Every week, the Future Crunch team finds stories about progress for people and the planet and sends them to over 48,000 readers from 180 countries. Subscribe to Future Crunch’s weekly newsletter here.
Visit and subscribe to Probable Futures, a site that “aims to increase our chances that the future is good.” They offer tools to visualize climate change along with stories and insights to help people understand what those changes mean.
Become familiar with the magazine, website, and newsletters of YES! Media. “Through rigorous reporting on the positive ways communities are responding to social problems and insightful commentary that sparks constructive discourse, YES! Media inspires people to build a more just, sustainable, and compassionate world.”
Enjoy the beautifully-curated (and free) film offerings of WaterBear, “the home of captivating films and thought-provoking series that empower you to lead a meaningful life.”
We’re days away from wishing each other a happy new year. Preserve and expand your happiness in 2024 by breaking away from the status quo of negative news offerings. Let this poem by the Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh inspire you:
“The Good News”
They don’t publish
the good news.
The good news is published
We have a special edition every moment,
and we need you to read it.
The good news is that you are alive,
and the linden tree is still there,
standing firm in the harsh winter.
The good news is that you have wonderful eyes
to touch the blue sky.
The good news is that your child is there before you,
and your arms are available:
hugging is possible.
They only print what is wrong.
Look at each of our special editions.
We always offer the things that are not wrong.
We want you to benefit from them
and help protect them.
The dandelion is there by the sidewalk,
smiling its wondrous smile,
singing the song of eternity.
Listen! You have ears that can hear it.
Bow your head.
Listen to it.
Leave behind the world of sorrow
and get free.
The latest good news
is that you can do it.
• • •
JOURNEY WITH US: The Climate Action Team is for you. Yes, you. Because you want to act on your love for the planet and because you need caring companions as you navigate these changing times. Learn all about the group here, and check out our lending library and Carbon Offset Fund. Contact Nicole Haines to connect to the CAT and join us for our in-person winter mini-retreat at UUCA on Jan. 20 at 3 PM.