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This discussion paper summarises the evidence and debates for a ‘cup half full’ interpretation of development, which argues that poverty can be abolished within a matter of years. This abolition can be achieved while global health and education indicators are on a seemingly inexorable upward curve, along with human rights and political inclusion. In contrast, new thinking about development, exploring topics such as global climate change, inequality, well-being and human vulnerability to shocks, as well as the importance of systems thinking, suggests that any celebration of achievements is premature and much remains to be done. Readers are invited to consider how geographical research and education might contribute to these debates.

This paper was first published as an article in Geography, Volume 100 Part 2 (Summer 2015).

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