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Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think

Level 2 l Upper intermediate


1 Warmer
Is the glass half full or half empty?
What do you think this expression means?
Is there a similar expression in your language?

2 Key words
Match the key words with the definitions. Then, find them in the article to read them in context. The
paragraph numbers are given to help you.

corruption scarce drastic instincts crave misconceptions conflict

1. dishonest or illegal behaviour by officials or people in positions of power, especially when they accept money in
exchange for doing things for someone _____________________________ (para 1)

2. used to describe an action or change has a very big effect _____________________________ (para 1)

3. ways of behaving that people and animals are born with and that they obey without knowing why
_____________________________ (para 3)

4. want something very much and in a way that is very hard to control _____________________________
(para 3)

5. If something is _____________________________, there is not very much of it. (para 3)

6. wrong beliefs or opinions as a result of not understanding something _____________________________


(para 3)

7. fighting between countries or groups _____________________________ (para 5)

deterioration ridiculous tendency fragmented incubator devastating sceptics

8. the fact of becoming worse _____________________________ (para 5)

9. divided into many separate parts and pieces _____________________________ (para 5)

10. strong chance that something will happen in a particular way _____________________________ (para 6)

11. silly or unreasonable and deserving to be laughed at _____________________________ (para 8)

12. people who have doubts about things that other people think are true or right
_____________________________ (para 8)

13. very shocking or upsetting _____________________________ (para 8)

14. a piece of hospital equipment that ill or very small babies lie in to be kept warm and given treatment
_____________________________ (para 9)
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NEWS LESSONS / Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think / Upper intermediate
CA O
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Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think
Level 2 l Upper intermediate
Good news at last: the world isn’t as list of endangered species is getting longer. But
horrific as you think while it is easy to be aware of all the bad things
happening in the world, it’s harder to know about
Hans Rosling the good things. The silent miracle of human
11 April, 2018 progress is too slow and too fragmented to be in
1 Things are bad and it feels like they are getting the news. Over the past 20 years, the proportion
worse, right? War, violence, natural disasters, of people living in extreme poverty has almost
corruption. The rich are getting richer and the halved. But in online polls, in most countries,
poor are getting poorer; and we will soon run out fewer than 10% of people knew this.
of resources unless we do something drastic. 6 Our instinct to notice the bad more than the
That’s the picture most people in the West see in good is related to three things: we remember the
the media and have in their heads. past incorrectly; journalists and activists report
2 I call it the overdramatic worldview. It’s stressful the bad, not the good; and we feel that while
and misleading. In fact, the vast majority of things are bad, it’s heartless to say they are
getting better. For centuries, older people have
the world’s population live somewhere in the
romanticized their youths and insisted that things
middle of the income scale. Perhaps they are not
used to be better. But that’s not true. Most things
middle class but they are not living in extreme
used to be worse. This tendency to remember
poverty. Their girls go to school; their children get
incorrectly is made stronger by the never-ending
vaccinated. Perhaps not on every single measure
negative news from around the world.
or every single year but step by step, year by
year, the world is improving. In the past two 7 Stories about gradual improvements are not
centuries, life expectancy has more than doubled. usually big news stories even when they happen
Although the world faces huge challenges, we on a dramatic scale and affect millions of people.
have made tremendous progress. And thanks to improving technology, we hear
about more disasters than ever before. In the
3 The overdramatic worldview attracts people United States, the violent crime rate has been
to the most negative answers. It is not caused falling since 1990. But each time something
simply by out-of-date knowledge. My experience, horrific or shocking happened – pretty much
over decades of lecturing and testing, has every year – a crisis was reported. The majority
finally brought me to see that the overdramatic of people believe that violent crime is getting worse.
worldview comes from the way our brains work.
8 Probably you feel that me saying that the
The brain is a product of millions of years of
world is getting better feels ridiculous. I agree.
evolution and we still have instincts that helped
Everything is not fine. We should still be worried.
our ancestors to survive in small groups of
As long as there are plane crashes, child deaths,
hunters and gatherers. We crave sugar and fat,
endangered species, climate-change sceptics,
which used to be life-saving sources of energy
crazy dictators, toxic waste, journalists in prison
when food was scarce. But today, these cravings
and girls not getting an education, we cannot
make obesity one of the biggest global health
relax. But it is just as ridiculous to look away from
problems. In the same way, we are interested in
the progress that has been made. The loss of hope
gossip and dramatic stories, which used to be the
this creates can be devastating. When people
only source of news and useful information. This wrongly believe that nothing is improving, they may
craving for drama causes misconceptions and lose confidence in methods that actually work.
helps create an overdramatic worldview.
9 How can we help our brains to realize that
4 We still need these dramatic instincts to give things are getting better? Think of the world as
meaning to our world. But we need to learn to a very sick tiny baby in an incubator. After a
control our drama intake. week, she is improving but she has to stay in the
5 It is absolutely true that there are many bad incubator because her health is still critical. Does
things in this world. The number of deaths from it make sense to say that the baby’s situation
conflicts has been falling since the Second World is improving? Yes. Does it make sense to say
War but the Syrian war has reversed this trend. it is bad? Yes, absolutely. Does saying “things
Terrorism, too, is rising. Overfishing and the are improving” mean that everything is fine and
deterioration of the seas are truly worrying. The we should all not worry? Not at all: it’s both bad
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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2018


M W P
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NEWS LESSONS / Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think / Upper intermediate
CA O
H
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Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think
Level 2 l Upper intermediate
and better. That is how we must think about the people’s daily lives. Start to practise it and you
current state of the world. will make better decisions and avoid being
10 Remember that the media and activists rely on constantly stressed about the wrong things.
drama to get your attention, and that negative
Hans Rosling was a Swedish physician, academic and
stories are more dramatic than positive ones. statistician, who died in 2017. This is an edited extract from
When you hear about something terrible, calm his book, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the
yourself by asking: if there had been a positive World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think,
improvement, would I have heard about that? co-written by Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Rönnlund.
11 This is “factfulness”: understanding as a source
of mental peace. Like a healthy diet and regular © Guardian News and Media 2018
exercise, it can and should become part of First published in The Guardian, 11/04/18

3 Comprehension check
Answer the questions using information from the article.
1. What is ‘factfulness’?
2. How will it help you?
3. What negative effects do the media have on us? And what negative effects do our own brains have on us?

4 Dramatic adjectives


a. Read these excerpts from paragraph 2 and circle four adjectives that make the text more dramatic.


In fact, the vast majority of the world’s population live somewhere in the middle of the income scale.
… they are not living in extreme poverty.
Although the world faces huge challenges, we have made tremendous progress.

b. Read the excerpts out loud, first without the adjectives, then with them. Discuss how the text sounds
different with and without them.

5 Discussion
Do you read or listen to news stories every day?
• If so, which newspapers or news reports do you prefer to read, watch or listen to? Why?
• If not, why not?
• How would you describe the style of news reports and stories you usually read, watch or listen to? Are
they, for example, overdramatic, (un)biased, realistic, depressing, optimistic …?

6 ‘Factfulness’
a. Think about a news report you have read or heard recently, one that was particularly negative. Give
your partner a short summary of the report in the style of the original.
b. Use ‘factfulness’ to try to put the report into perspective.

7 Webquest
Watch one of these talks and explain it to a partner who has watched the other talk.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vr6Q77lUHE
www.ted.com/talks/hans_rosling_on_global_population_growth?referrer=playlist-the_best_hans_rosling_
talks_yo
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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2018


M W P
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NEWS LESSONS / Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think / Upper intermediate
CA O
H
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Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think
Level 2 l Upper intermediate
KEY

1 Warmer 4 Dramatic adjectives

used for saying that someone has a tendency to look at vast; extreme; huge; tremendous
things in a positive or a negative way

6 ‘Factfulness’
2 Key words
Teacher’s tip: You might like to use this task as an
1. corruption opportunity to get students to read and discuss local
2. drastic news stories that could affect them.
3. instincts
4. crave 7 Webquest
5. scarce
6. misconceptions Teacher’s note: The videos are between 9 and 10
7. conflict minutes long.
8. deterioration
9. fragmented
10. tendency
11. ridiculous
12. sceptics
13. devastating
14. incubator

3 Comprehension check

1. Factfulness is the act of training yourself to put


news into perspective.
2. It can bring you mental peace. It will help you to
make better decisions and stop you from constantly
feeling stressed about things that you don’t really
need to be worried about.
3. Today’s media usually provides an overdramatic
worldview as this is what sells newspapers and
gets our attention. We generally have a craving for
drama and an interest in gossip and our general
instinct is to pay more attention to bad news than
good news. We also tend to romanticize the past
and have the false belief that things used to be
much better in the past.
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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2018


M W P
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NEWS LESSONS / Good news at last: the world isn’t as horrific as you think / Upper intermediate
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