This is our regular round up of stories of progress from around the world. If you'd like to join the 51,000 people who get this in their inbox every week, you can subscribe for free below.
Good news you probably didn't hear about
Europe is slowly winning the war on cancer. New research shows a decline in cancer mortality rates of 6.5% among men and 4.3% among women between 2018 and 2024 (estimated). An estimated 6.2 million cancer deaths have now been avoided in the EU and 1.3 million in the United Kingdom since 1988. Annals of Oncology
Zambia’s parliament has passed landmark legislation setting the marriageable age at 18, without exception, for all marriages, including customary marriages, representing a significant step in the nation’s commitment to eradicating child marriage. This is a big deal for a country that is home to a staggering 1.7 million child brides, 400,000 of whom were married before age 15. Equality Now
Zimbabwe has raised the age of consent from 16 to 18 years, with violators now liable to spend up to ten years in jail. Data suggest that over a third of girls experience sexual violence before the age of 18.'This will contribute to a reduction of sexual abuse of children, which continues to be a concern in Zimbabwe.' Herald
Senegal just installed a new water pipeline that will bring clean drinking water to 100,000 households on the outskirts of Mbacké, the country's most populous city, and in Mozambique, aid agencies just provided funding for an expansion of water and sanitation services to at least 325,000 people, as well as 90 schools and clinics.
Mexico is getting a handle on crime after some of the most violent years in its history. Homicides dropped by 4.18% in 2023, marking the third consecutive year of decline; rates of femicide have dropped by 38.6% under the current government; and the last 12 months have also seen declines in human trafficking (39.3%), financial crimes (25.9%), and organized crime (16.8%). La Prensa Latina
In India, the number of women enrolling in higher education increased by 32% between 2015 and 2022, from 15.7 million to over 20 million. There has also been a notable increase in enrolment across all levels of education for female students from scheduled castes, increasing from 21 million in 2015 to 31 million in 2022. Economic Times
Parisians voted in a referendum last Sunday in favour of subjecting large SUVs to a threefold increase in parking charges as the French capital presses on with long-term plans to become a fully bikeable city. The new measure will triple parking fees for cars of 1.6 tonnes and more to 18 euros an hour in order to discourage 'bulky, polluting' cars. Reuters
Parking reform is only partly about parking. Over the past decade, US cities like Minneapolis, San Francisco, and Austin have eliminated parking space mandates in order to reduce car dependency, create public and green spaces, and lower housing costs. Reducing cars delivers big benefits for cities—parking occupies a double-digit share of land in most metro areas. Yale360
Older Americans are now significantly less lonely than they were three years ago; a recent peer-reviewed study reports that middle-aged Americans describe themselves as less lonely than 20 years ago, and while loneliness is more pervasive among younger Americans, there too, the rates have also plummeted since 2020.
In a landmark ruling that could significantly impact reproductive rights in Pennsylvania, the state's Supreme Court has declared the 1982 Abortion Control Act, which barred Medicaid from covering most abortions, as unconstitutional. The court’s decision, issued last week, underscores the fundamental right to reproductive autonomy and serves as a victory for advocates of abortion rights.
Poland's new ruling coalition is looking to undo the restrictive measures on the morning-after pill that the previous government introduced in 2017; in El Salvador, a victory for women who were jailed under the country’s draconian anti-abortion laws, the result of the tireless work of Salvadoran feminist movements.
New research has shown that the FDA's approval of over-the-counter emergency contraception had an unintended but positive side effect for America’s hospitals. Emergency rooms saw 96% fewer visits from women seeking emergency contraception after the morning-after pill became easily available to adults in 2006. JAMA
More good news you didn't hear about
Gun violence experienced the largest decline on record in the United States last year (why is this not a bigger story?). Starting this month, 45 companies in Germany are testing a four-day workweek. Madagascar is starting to take serious steps towards controlling a parasitic disease called porcine cysticercosis. Lebanon's parliament has agreed to consider a landmark law to prevent child marriage. New York is buying up millions of dollars of medical debt in an effort to help as many as half a million people. Austin gave poor families a basic income for a year and it changed their lives. Cambodia just completed its largest-ever government-led mass dog vaccination campaign. All major sectors of the US economy have now seen employment fully recover from the pandemic. Cameroon used to have 12 students for every textbook in 2016; it had three textbooks for every two students in 2023. The South American nation of Guyana is getting close to eliminating filaria, leprosy, and other 'neglected diseases.' The number of teens in America who have tried smoking has decreased fourfold since the 1990s (rebellion just ain't what it used to be).
In our last edition we said that Lao's maternal mortality rate fell by 250% between 2000 and 2020. This is obviously impossible and we feel silly for making such an obvious mistake, even if the original error was the UNFPA's. We should do better at double-checking. Lao's maternal mortality did drop from 579 per 100,000 births to 126 per 100,000 during that period, which is incredible, but not an impossibility. Thanks to readers Gé van Gasteren, Einfach Tom and Dieter Suter for keeping us honest.
If it bleeds, it leads
Ten people died from unprovoked shark attacks globally in 2023, a slight uptick over the five-year average. This makes sharks less dangerous than lawn mowers, ladders, champagne corks, jet skis, and lightning strikes.
Guess which one of those things got an entire article in ABC News?
Good news for the planet
Over the past 25 years, small towns across Bolivia have protected over 100,000 km2 of the Amazon, creating a 'conservation mosaic' almost the size of Iceland. Recently, the community of Sena has added another piece to the puzzle with the Gran Manupare Integrated Management Natural Area, 4526 km2 of lowland rainforest that is home to the endangered giant otter. Conservation International
Piece by piece, we are knitting together the fabric of conservation in the Amazon. Local communities have kept their eyes on the prize. They are having a big impact on the Amazon, for the benefit of us all.
Eduardo Forno, Vice President, Conservation International - Bolivia
Spain has designated seven new marine protected areas across the country’s three marine regions: the Mediterranean, Macaronesia, and the Atlantic. The designation will increase Spain’s area of ocean protection from 12% to 21%, safeguarding the habitat for threatened species, including deep seamounts and a large migratory corridor for birds. Oceana
Canada will provide federal funding to 42 Indigenous-led conservation projects across Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, and Saskatchewan, adding to the $202 million already allocated to Indigenous communities. In Bangladesh, Indigenous communities have reversed the decline of the endangered putitor mahseer fish by protecting the headwater forests that support breeding and population growth.
A great example of how saving one species can have a domino effect on the restoration of a whole ecosystem. In California’s Monterey Bay, efforts to bolster sea otter populations are saving local salt marshes because the otters feast on the burrowing crabs that cause erosion. The sea otters have consumed enough of the crabs to slow the erosion almost to a halt. ABC
The first-ever snow leopard survey in India has confirmed the country is home to 718 big cats, roughly 10-15% of the global population. The survey reported that understanding the precise population is important because as the apex predator, the leopard indicates the health of—and challenges facing—the entire Himalayan ecosystem. BBC
Ecosia, the German-based search engine that uses advertising revenue to fight climate change, has reached an impressive milestone of 200 million trees planted. The organisation has also invested in climate tech solutions, set up an incubator for regenerative agriculture, and has created enough solar plants since 2020 to power all Ecosia searches twice over.
California’s landmark plastic reduction law, SB 54, will dramatically alter how plastic and packaging waste is managed. All single-use packaging and plastic food service-ware will have to be recyclable or compostable by 2032, with a 65% recycling rate for these materials. Companies that don’t comply will face steep fines up to $50,000 per day for each violation—and it's already working. EHN
In 2022, Yvon Chouinard, the founder of outdoor apparel brand Patagonia, declared that all future profits of the company would be used to protect the environment. Since that date, $71 million of earnings have funded the protection of 658 km2, and there are plans to protect another 13,000 km2, much of it in Australia and Indonesia. NYT
More music for those who will listen
Chile and Palau have become the first two of 80 countries required to ratify the UN’s landmark High Seas Treaty. New Zealand will be the first country to ban the use of forever chemicals in cosmetics from 2026. After a 30-year absence, the endangered Guam Kingfisher will soon return to the wild. The Pench Tiger Reserve has become India’s first Dark Sky Reserve (the lack of light pollution makes it ideal for astronomy enthusiasts). Against all odds, it looks like jaguars are making a return to the United States. Turtle nests have been found off the coast of Cambodia, sparking hopes for endangered hawksbill and green turtles. The UK is delivering on measures to protect its oceans with a permanent closure of the sandeel fisheries and a targeted ban on bottom trawling in an additional 13 MPAs. An enzyme used in laundry detergent has been found to break down single-use plastics within 24 hours, 84 times faster than the 12-week-long industrial composting process. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park in the DRC just marked its first year without any elephant poaching.
That's it for this edition, thanks for reading! We'll see you next week.
Gus and Amy