Teaspoon of Happy The Future Looks Bright Sarah May Bates

Ten Reasons to be Optimistic About Humanity

In the modern battle of good vs. evil, I’m betting on good. Why, because it’s easy to think the world is terrible when terrible things are being talked about everywhere, but perspective is everything and there have been amazing changes in our lifetime that make me proud to be a human. As a generation born of technology, we more often dispell the manipulations of power and deciding things collectively based on right or wrong. The access to each other has allowed us to say in a big loud voice how we feel about things, and unlike ancient Rome, our generation is voting for good. We are all the little guy and we can all continue to win. I see a victory in our future: Good 10, evil zip.

1. The Embrace of Same-Sex Couples

A cause for optimism has always been the capacity for people to change. Case in point, Dick Cheney, arguably one of the most conservative people on the planet is a supporter of gay rights thanks to his daughter Mary being openly gay, and most recently in New York, Republican senators not only voted in favor of gay marriage, a few admitted they were wrong for having opposed it before. I’m sorry, what? You said you were what? This deserves a national holiday with a commemorative speech so that we can celebrate this admission forever. Maybe more will follow. So a shout out to Senator Mark J. Grisanti and Republican State Senator Stephen Saland, two politicians that just got a lot more cred.

Another great sign of change, in mainstream media there are more portrayals of gay couples, and they are being portrayed as normal and happy. If you haven’t seen it, “The Kids Are Alright” is wonderful and amazing, a film focused on relationship issues, with kids that are happy and balanced. In short, it’s not a movie about being gay.

Annette Benning and Julianne Moore in "The Kids Are Alright"

Cameron and Mitchell in "Modern Family"

The first politician to ever admit he was wrong, Rep. Senator Stephen Saland

2. Diversity in Hotness

Leading talents come in all shapes and sizes more and more lately. Though everyone still looks the same on most magazine covers, we’re starting to get more ethnicities in the main stream, and more normal and diverse body-types. I think it’s a great sign when we see an actress that has chosen not to wear those chicken cutlet booby pads (Damn you, new choreographer for the Laker Girls). Because sorry, most girls are not a “big C”, and who the NcNugget decided that was the target to hit anyway? Color and diversity is so much more interesting, and it allows us all to stay more oriented to reality, not to mention, more comfortable in our lovely skin. Hopefully we will see more of it in the future!

Curvaceous Christina Hendricks of "Madmen"

Adorable Aziz Ansari of "Parks and Rec"

Hi-larious Maya Rudolf

Leggy Beyonce's "Put a Ring On It"

3. Plastic Bag Bans

Bans on single-use plastic bags in grocery stores are passing across the country thanks in part to organizations like Heal the Bay. Having worked on this cause, I know a lot of people don’t see the merit of these bans and are super annoyed by them. Even a few of my greenest friends have said, “Great, how am I supposed to pick up dog poo now?”  Well friends, you will figure out a way, and remember that this is a much bigger industrial waste issue. “Big Plastic” does a lot more than make a bag that you will responsibly reuse 4-5 times then fill with dog poo. You are quite the exception to the rule. Here are just a few stats about California from Heal the Bay:

  • Californians use more than 19 billion plastic grocery and merchandise bags each year, roughly 552 bags per person. This usage generates 147,038 tons of unnecessary waste — enough to stretch around the globe over 250 times.
  • Californians throw away over 600 plastic bags per second.

Not only are they overwhelmingly expensive and toxic to recycle, millions of plastic bags ends up in the ocean and inside the digestive systems of the fish you eat. Think of this ban as the preservation of your ability to eat sushi. And also to save the planet and stuff.

The California Supreme Court upheld the right of cities to ban plastic bags

Shout out to myself: Here’s a link to a film I wrote for Heal the Bay. So stoked that this has actually helped a good cause to create real change. One small change I’m proud I’ve influenced in my life: my parents stopped getting plastic bags from the grocery store, and they even quit plastic bottles. Yay mom and dad!

The Majestic Plastic Bag, narrated by Jeremy Irons

4. The Douche-bag Backlash

The Anthony Weiner hecklers were extremely juvenile yes, but for me an awesome reminder and testament to the growing intolerance we have for douche baggery. The main heckler was a writer for Howard Stern, but affiliations aside he heckled for the public.  Just because you’re a politician and you wear a suit, doesn’t mean that when you make your “heartfelt” apology to the public it will somehow magically undo months of flat-out lying. We do not feel bad for you, and for god’s sake learn how to use Twitter. If there’s one thing I’d like to stop hearing about it’s another cheating rich dude crying to a microphone about why he lied to everyone and screwed over a perfectly great lady. No more of this please, thank you.

Weiner and Heckler

5. Kids These Days Heart the Environment

Gen-Y, the latest of the age group labels, are decidedly more open to newness: in technology, lifestyle, and culture, and best of all they’re (we’re) also more environmentally conscious. They shop for things based on their function and economy, not for status. Gen-Y even buy less cars. Motorists aged 21 to 30 now account for 14% of miles driven, down from 21% in 1995. When the youngin’s do shop for cars they look for efficiency, economy, and gadgetry, in part because of a forward-looking perspective, but also because of a larger shift away from waste and excess. Just take a look back to the blinged out ’90′s when Puff-Daddy flossed ten Hummers and a couple jet-skis. Waste looks pretty trashy these days.

Take it from Bieber, riding your bike is the coolest

Puff-Daddy flinging bling

6. The Un-Coolness of Smoking

Smoking rates have dropped to an all-time low in CA, as have smoking scenes in movies targeted at kids. The tobacco industry is one of those weird anomalies in that they know and everyone else knows they kill people with their product, and yet they keep arguing against anyone stopping them from killing more people. Just like the prescription drug industry. Tres bizarre. Glad to see they are at least being phased out of fashion, and check out the new graphic and functional anti-smoking warnings on the packaging. (It’s pretty gross, warning you…)

Drew Barrymore making smoking cool

7. Openness with Issues

The open discussion of real issues and therefore the removal of their stigma/intolerance inducing power, (thanks Liz Taylor and Betty Ford) is an awesome progression of culture. One example is Cat Power, mainstream musical hit who is also casual and open about being part of an all-sober band. Not in a weird way, in a normal I like myself better like this way.

Cat Power

Also great is the much more open discussion and understanding of PTSD in returning war veterans. The Warrior Combat Stress Reset Program at Fort Hood is a place where returning vets are being treated for PTSD with yoga and meditation. The most important thing is that we hear about it and publicly it’s talked about as a condition that exists. Otherwise, as a culture we can’t give any much needed support for soldiers suffering from trauma. With that loud universal voice of support comes policy change and aid for those who need it.

Soldiers at the Warrior Combat Stress Reset Program at Fort Hood

8. Women are Winning for the Right Reasons

Women’s soccer right now is making headline news. Yes, there are major doping problems in male-dominated sports, but the main reason for the focus on women’s sports is that they are killing it, and they’re bringing sports-loving, beer-drinking dudes to the TV set with their athletic ability (fingers crossed for US vs. Japan).

Abby Wambach after scoring scored a ridic header goal, key to getting the US into the World Cup Final

8. The Popularity of Doing Good

Being good is much more popularly expected for businesses these days. They’re more publicly held accountable for environmental harm and sexual discrimination. But there are also a new crop of businesses that have come into existence just to benefit people. Two shout outs for Good Magazine and Hello Giggles and their commitment to contributing something positive to the world. 
Also a shout out to Trader Joe’s for their BYO-Bag raffle and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, a reality show dedicated to
getting better foods into public schools.

Good Magazine

Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution

9. Sharing our Happiness

Open-sourced code and sharing of information, photos, recipes, art, fonts, and of self is one of the best parts of technology. Shout out to all those who give their selves and their art to the world in any way.  I’m loving what the world has to offer on Flickr, Instagram, Dafont, Youtube, and even JT and MySpace.

Girl Talk album, a free mash-up of over 372 samples

Search on Flickr for "My Parents"

10. Power to the masses

This is a decidedly more serious topic as there is much more upheaval in and around Egypt happening now, but I am still optimistic. Though it’s a long fight, and one not yet won, Twitter helped Egypt tell the world what was happening even when their whole internet was shut down by the dictatorship. It’s pretty amazing when technology connects those trying to overcome a system of power, and that power can’t do anything to stop it. Good luck Egypt, we’ll be listening. And reading.

“I am a person from Tahrir”

Protesters in Tahrir this past Friday are chanting "I don't feel any change."

What will the future look like? What’s really possible? All I know is it’s getting better and has gotten better in every generation. The truth is we have no idea how awesome things can be. Imagine if we could all focus on making things, and fulfilling potential. Though flip in contrast to Egypt, I’ll quote Whitney Houston because I feel it’s true, “I believe the children are our future“, and the future looks bright.

Whitney Houston, "The Greatest Love of All"

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  4. I like this. You’re right, it is all about perspective. I personally don’t watch or read the news much because it can be so depressing, but it they’d just sprinkle good items in with the bad, it might not suck quite as much.

  5. Thank you! Although it seems lately that the bad stuff going on outweighs the good, it’s nice to acknowledge that the good hasn’t gone away.

  6. A smile a day keeps the bad mood at bay. I actually stopped following the news because – apparently- the world run out of happy events.

  7. It is really hard to focus on the good things when there can be so many bad things going on in the world today. As a young woman who recently came out to my parents and who lives in Iowa (a state that only began accepting same-sex marriages a few years ago) the first part of this article really resonates with me. Thanks so much for posting this!

  8. i love this and agree with everything! although i feel there are a million other things that could be on this list- harry potter, shoes, ice cream, composting, french fries, etc.- what you’ve chosen are probably the biggest and most serious. thanks so much for sharing your opinions in a non-obnoxious or argumentative way. :)

  9. I don’t know what’s goin on with the heart and arrow here. I meant to tick the heart Liz.

  10. And, YES< In this age of technology we do have a chance. We can be the voice of the little guy rising the tide towards the mainstream offenders. Saying how we feel and how angry and upsetting it is when they just walk over the common people, thinking we are stupid and ignorant beings< just because we may not be in a place to make that difference most of the time. 1st world countries are fortunate to have been spoilt enough to have the necessary means to voice themselves. Where other countries do not have the means as well or at all. We need to be responsible for our actions, whether in personal daily lives or especially when it comes to the decisions made for our entire countries. Peace and love always.

  11. I’m reALLY glad that this is being said and done. I do believe that the negativity we have breathed in through society over the years has been extremely detremental to our growth as a society and towards human dignity. I actually never knew better back in da day’.!
    Let’s just remember why there is so much dark negative influence. The lies we were told while growing through the 80′s and the 90′s. The enormous lengths people went to , to hide the truth. Whether fear of being seen or just because we hadn’t seen the future yet. I don’t know. Even simply put, some people just couldn’t care. Even our own parents were sucked in to believe in the mainstream thought of , gee, well, lets see’, Do what I say not what I do mentality. So forth and so forth. There are many more. I live in South Africa and here there are many challenges too. Too much to mention here. I hope we can learn more about true love and truth abounding from serious thought process towards this disease we live with called NEGATIVITY. It is a serious condition in the world today, like you say , we need to change the perception! I have struggled with NEGATIVITY most of my life. I now do my best to live with kindness and structured ability towards helping others to think of a different perspective towards the troubles we face daily.
    Not easy at times, but so necessary. Thank you for your birth of blessing a conversation geared towards faith and hope.

  12. So I’ve been lurking around this site for a while, now, but I had to let you know that this was a really great and positive article. It’s brightened my day and me back in the mood to work towards some goals! Thank you :)

  13. Great write!

  14. Thank you! The power of positivity is infectious, and reading this article has put a smile on my face that will last a long time.

  15. This article really brightened up my day – and really resonates with me as a person that tries to always be positive and see the brighter side. It’s nice to know that someone else does too! :)

  16. It’s nice to read positive words! This is why I encourage my daughter to visit this site!

  17. This is awesome! There are lots of problems in the world but it’s so nice to be reminded of the positive things that are happening and will hopefully keep happening…good post:)

  18. It really is so nice to see something positive. It’s hard for me to read the news at times because it really hurts to hear about all the negative. And, while I know I can’t escape that, putting into this kind of perspective is really good, and also allows you to think about things in a different way. Yes, things are bad and times are tough, but look at the good side. Thanks Sarah!