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English Detective #99 Global violence: the bad news and the good
February 06, 2018

Global violence is never good. However, some researchers are finding reasons for hope: in an overall reduction in the extent of violence, in people who are finding better ways to resolve conflict, and in the resilience of survivors.

It’s a very big and grim subject—maybe too big for a newsletter teaching English. Unfortunately, anyone who wants to read English (beyond the most elementary level) will need to learn words related to violence. These articles and talks look at violence from several very different perspectives. I hope they are helpful and not just grim!

For an overall, statistical picture of violence around the world, see this World Economic Forum article. It’s long—you might just want to skim it—or focus on the map and tables showing the areas where violence is concentrated. Halfway through the article, they offer “the most surprising finding of all… In fact, about nine in every 10 violent deaths occurring around the world over the past decade were due to murder; just a fraction can be attributed to either war or terrorism.”

NPR has a four-minute audio recording of an interview on reasons for optimism about violence. (There’s also a transcript if you want to check what you heard.) Professor Steven Pinker points out that the rate of violence—though still high-- has gone down over the course of history, and specifically in the last half century. He gives some reasons why he believes it will continue to decline.

I also want to mention a TED talk and a TED playlist that offer hope and inspiration. The TED talk is about working with young people who are attracted by violent extremist groups and showing them alternatives. The playlist is 9 mostly short talks, 8 of them from survivors of some of the worst recent conflicts. They describe what they experienced, how they survived, and what they are trying to do now to make things better.


Much of the vocabulary used in these articles and talks is explained on the EnglishHints’ page Vocabulary for Violence. There’s a quiz to practice some of the words at the bottom of the page.

P.S. In the next issue we’ll look at a lighter, less serious topic-- finally!

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