This is the time of the year when we look forward and ask – what might the New Year bring?

It is easy to be gloomy, with headlines about chaos on the international stage and the effects of austerity affecting even our prosperous part of the UK. And CrossRail to Reading delayed until a new date to be announced. And – we all have our own lists.

What good news might we hope for in 2019? Might some of the advances made in 2018 be continued? Some of these were globally:

Electricity access is essential to health, education, and economic stability, and all of those measures also improved in the past year. And, for the first time, in 2017 the number of people without electricity fell below 1 billion.

One of the simplest ways to assess global poverty is to compare the difference between what the average person makes a day, and a predetermined global poverty line. The difference was about $0.25 in 1990, and is now nearing $0.05; every year the gap closes a little more.

Meanwhile, literacy rates have been steadily climbing for decades, and even a small change can make a huge difference: The 0.23 percentage-point increase from 2015 to 2016 means about 11.5 million more people can read. Another positive trend that can fly under the radar, especially in wealthier countries, is how the global gender gap in education continues to close. New data published this year show that, in 2016, there were 99.7 girls enrolled in primary and secondary school for every 100 boys. For comparison, in 1986 that number was 85.1. Again, it might seem incremental, but given the size of the global population, those tiny increases have outsized impact.

Probably the biggest invisible improvements the world sees year to year are essential indicators of overall global public health, like rates of infant mortality, maternal mortality, childhood stunting, and teen pregnancy. These are important, because they represent access the average person alive has to health-care professionals, facilities, medicine, and more. All of these rates have been falling in the past few decades, in some cases dramatically, and every single one fell again in 2018.

But there’s a lot to do for the environment, For example, one of the worst pieces of news was that carbon emissions are set to rise this year over last. But the share of global energy that came from renewables finally passed 10%, (Throughout, figures were published in 2018 and reflect the latest data available.)

What about technology advances in 2018 and 2019?

Gill Ringland, January 2019, gill@ethicalreading.org.uk