Good News on Global Teen Pregnancy, a Climate Bill for the United States, and Wolves in the Alps

Plus, cervival cancer in Rwanda, menstrual products in Scotland, steel emissions in China, battery investments in Hungary, conservation in Cuba, and the return of saiga antelope in Kazakhstan

Good News on Global Teen Pregnancy, a Climate Bill for the United States, and Wolves in the Alps
President Joe Biden hands the pen he used to sign the Inflation Reduction Act to Senator Joe Manchin in the White House on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. Guess which one of these men has been dyeing his hair? Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh.

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Six months ago, our paid subscribers helped us send $5,000 to a charity in Nigeria called Safe Child Africa. They used the funds to create a play space at their emergency children's centre in Calabar. Here's a letter and a video from the organization that runs the centre. Thank you to all our members for making this possible.

Good news you probably didn't hear about


World population growth has fallen to 1%, its slowest rate since 1950. The main cause? A decline in fertility. The latest projections suggests a peak around 10.4 billion in the 2080s. That means we have 78 years to figure out how to provide 11 billion people with a good standard of sustainable living. The Week

The WHO says the global child mortality rate has dropped by 60% over the past three decades, with the number of annual under-5 deaths plummeting from 12.6 million in 1990 to five million in 2020. The leading causes of death are birth complications, pneumonia, diarrhoea, and malaria, all of which are now being treated with affordable interventions in health and sanitation.

Children are leading the fight against dengue in Rio de Janeiro by breeding mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia - a bacteria that blocks the transmission of dengue to humans. Cases have fallen by 95% since 2015. Similar efforts in Indonesia and Colombia have reduced cases by up to 89%, and programs are now being rolled out across Mexico, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Fiji, Kiribati, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu.

Cervical cancer is the most common cancer affecting women in Rwanda. Thanks to rapidly expanding testing facilities, the deployment of tens of thousands of community health workers, and a successful HPV vaccination programme for 12 year old girls, officials believe it is on track to become the first country in the world to eliminate the disease. Guardian

Here's one of the least celebrated stories of human progress. Teenage pregnancies are declining across the world, with only a third of all women bearing children in adolescence compared to 50% sixty years ago. The decline is contributing to a positive change in girls' education, and infant and maternal mortality rates. ORF

Healthy life expectancy (the number of years spent in a good state of health) increased in Africa by an average of ten years per person over the last two decades, from 46 years in 2000 to 56 years in 2019. Improved access to health services and progress in the fight against infectious diseases have played a big role. Relief Web

The sharp rise in healthy life expectancy during the past two decades is a testament to the region’s drive for improved health and it means that more people are living healthier, longer lives, with fewer threats of infectious diseases and with better access to care and disease prevention services.
Dr Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Regional Director for Africa

Global leaders and African heads of state have managed to rally over $4 billion of funding towards the global effort to end malaria and neglected tropical diseases. It's welcome news after years of warnings about a slowdown in funding. Relief Web

Zambia has become the latest country to commit to abolishing the death penalty. While a moratorium has been in place since 1997, this is the first time the measure has been approved by its legislature. It joins a growing list of African nations to have abolished the practice - Guinea in 2016, followed by Chad in 2020, Sierra Leone in 2021, and the Central African Republic earlier this year. UN

A non-profit group, RIP Medical Debts, has relieved 3.6 million low-income patients in the United States of their healthcare debts. The initiative, developed by two former debt collectors, involves the company buying bundles of delinquent hospital bills but instead of profiting from customers, clearing their debt. NPR

Scotland has become the first country to offer tampons and pads for free nationally. Thanks to legislation approved in 2020, free menstrual products will be available in pharmacies and community centres for anyone who needs them. New Zealand, Kenya and the states of New York, Virginia and Oregon currently distribute products for free in public schools. NPR

New legislation in Colorado will stop sales tax on all diapers and menstrual products, saving consumers around $9.1 million annually. Nationally, one in four American teenagers report missing school due to no access to period products and one in three American families can’t afford diapers. Gazette

An epic 18-day health campaign carried out in Somalia in May 2022 distributed preventative worm medicine to around 2.48 million school-aged children and adults. Officials say that country is on track to eliminate schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminth infections as public health problems by 2025. WHO

School-aged children receive essential medicines to tackle schistosomiasis and soil-transmitted helminth infections. It's the fourth mass drug administration campaign for NTDs in Somalia since 2017. WHO Somalia/Khurram Sajjad.

In the past seven years, India’s digital revolution has increased the number of people connected to the internet from 19% to 60% of its 1.3 billion population. The government launched Digital India in 2015 with a mission to make India a trillion-dollar digital economy by 2025. BBC

After a decade of efforts to reform the juvenile system in Hawaii, for the first time ever, there are no girls at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility in Kailua. Incarceration rates for girls dropped 42% from 2018 to 2022 due to significant reforms including the decriminalization of prostitution for minors and the addition of trauma-informed care. Hawaii News Now

It’s about how can systems collaborate and work together to position interventions earlier, and to make sure that we’re responding with healing and support instead of punishment.
Hannah Green, Vera Institute of Justice’s Initiative to End Girls’ Incarceration

A victory for LGBTQ+ rights, with Pennsylvania banning conversion therapy. Steady progress has been made across America with 20 states completely banning the practice and five others enforcing partial bans. LGBTQ+ youth who experience conversion therapy are more than twice as likely to attempt suicide than youth who don’t. NBC

Schoolchildren across California will be eligible for free breakfast and lunch when they return to class in September, regardless of their family’s immigration status or income level. It's the first state in the US to implement the program for any student requesting a meal. Several cities including New York, Boston, and Chicago, also have free meal initiatives in place. USA Today

Leuven, a city of 150,000 people in Belgium, has officially banned cars from its centre. Cycling is now the preferred mode of transit, with public transport coming in second and cars third. Similar trends are accelerating across the continent, and across the Channel too - cycling in London is up by 25% from pre-pandemic levels.

Credit: Oh Leuven

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it


A month ago, we were lamenting the state of US climate politics in this newsletter. Negotiations over Build Back Better were dead in the water, Joe Manchin was the man who'd sold the world for a few pieces of silver, and technology offered our only hope of salvation.

We've never been so delighted to be wrong. Earlier this week, after three decades of inaction, the United States passed the Inflation Reduction Act, containing $369 billion in climate and energy spending, the country's first ever economy-wide emissions-reduction bill. It's the most significant climate news since China announced its net zero target in 2020, and maybe since the adoption of the Paris Agreement in 2015.

Politics, it turns out, can give us hope too (and sometimes when we least expect it). As Robinson Meyer says, "history's greatest obstacle to climate progress has finally fallen," and the US stands poised to take up its mantle once again as 'the indispensable nation' when it comes to solving the world's biggest challenges. That might sound a little grandiose, until you consider that not only does the IRA get the US to within striking distance of its 2030 climate target, it also makes renewables everywhere cheaper, giving China, India and every other country an incentive to decarbonize that has nothing to do with saving the world, and everything to do with saving money.

There's been a ton of coverage, so we're not going to repeat it all here. Instead, here's some news you might not have come across yet. Firstly, a bit of context. While it's a lot of money, don't forget that China and Europe are spending even more. China is already spending almost the same as that every year, and Europe will spend almost twice as much by 2027. Bloomberg

Here's the NYT's resident climate doomsayer David Wallace-Wells, sounding surprisingly upbeat. "Not that long ago, the upfront cost of a green transition looked almost incalculably large. Today it seems plausible that quite dramatic emissions gains can be achieved for just $369 billion — with an estimated payoff of nine million new American jobs, to boot."

Although it’s attracted little attention, the bipartisan CHIPS Act, signed into law just a few days before the IRA, contains an estimated $67 billion for clean energy R&D and climate resilience. On its own, that makes it one of the largest climate bills ever passed by Congress. Vibe shift anyone? Atlantic

Since we are all apparently incapable of feeling good about things, you've probably heard that Joe Manchin shoved in some clauses about oil and gas leases. Thing is, they negate less than 2% of the bill's carbon effectiveness, and even if the government does auction those leases, it doesn't look like the fossil fuel companies want to buy them. Grist

Thanks to a lawsuit brought by environmental activists, a US federal judge has revived a nationwide Obama-era ban on new coal leases that was tossed during the Trump administration, saying a thorough environmental assessment is needed before the moratorium can be lifted. Reuters

Under new regulations, China's steel industry will be required to reach peak CO2 emissions by 2025. Difficult to understate the importance of this (and baffling it hasn't been picked up by global news organizations). China produces more than half of the world's steel, and over 60% of the industry's global carbon emissions. Yicai Global

India has officially updated its climate change pledges. In 2015 it committed to 40% of electricity from non-fossil sources by 2030, and to reducing emissions intensity by 35% compared to 2005. Those targets have now been increased to 50% clean electricity and a 45% reduction in emissions intensity by 2030. Reuters

The Phillipines has confirmed that the moratorium on new coal power plants announced in October 2020 by the Duterte administration will remain in place under the new Marcos administration. Apparently insurers do not want to support new coal projects, and investors are “finding it difficult.” Indeed. Manila Bulletin

Transmission, transmission, transmission. The three sexiest words in energy. State Grid Corp. of China, the world's largest utility, just announced $22 billion in funding for new power lines for clean energy, and MISO, the operator of the US Midwest's electrical grid, has approved a $10.3 billion upgrade across nine states.

Massachusetts has a major new climate law boosting offshore wind and solar, and - in a first for the state - allowing cities and towns to ban fossil fuels in new buildings and renovations. “It really bolsters the offshore wind industry. It sends a signal to the world that Massachusetts will be a significant player in the space.” Boston Globe

The world's biggest battery maker, CATL, is investing $7.6 billion into building a factory in Hungary. It's the single largest investment in Hungary's history. As we've said many times: if you thought the digital revolution was a big deal, wait until the clean energy revolution gets going. Bloomberg

Business time

The only home we've ever known


Conservation goals in Cuba! Almost 19% of the country’s wilderness is now officially protected. The country had a huge boom in the number of protected areas in 2021 with the addition of 26 new sites, bringing the national tally to 144. Cuba News

A landmark legal battle has saved Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest from the construction of a dam to store toxic mining waste. Forest defenders fought against the proposal, blocking the road to the site for 550 days - and for good reason. The forest is crucial habitat for 60 rare and endangered species including the Tasmanian devil and the masked owl. Euro News

Ten years after an ambitious pest eradication project Macquarie Island, off the coast of Tasmania, has become a shining beacon of grand-scale environmental recovery. Once on the brink of collapse, the island has sprung back to life with giant tussock grass, mega herbs, and orchards and the return of birds like blue and grey petrelsand Antarctic prions. Guardian

A landmark conservation agreement between Indigenous communities, NGOs, and governments in Pastaza, Ecuador, will protect the country’s largest and most biodiverse forest from mining. The agreement recognises the integral role Indigenous communities play in the fight against climate change  Pastaza’s forests capture a whopping 858 million tonnes of carbon annually. Euro News

The Gitxsan Nation of northwest British Columbia has just declared the entirety of its 1,700 square km2 territory in the upper Skeena River watershed as protected. It's vital habitat for the likes of mountain goats, wolverines, grizzlies and wild salmon."What Gwininitxw did was based on laws that are way older than Canada.” Narwhal

Pakistan has increased mangrove coverage in the past three decades from 476 km2 in 1990 to an impressive 1,463 km2 in 2020. What began as a series of small,
piecemeal efforts has grown into one of the most ambitious reforestation campaigns in the world. The success is credited to a scientific approach, government commitment, and strong support from local communities. RTBC

“It surely represents a blueprint for how other degraded mangroves around the world could be revived.” 

Conservation efforts in Scotland are turning the tide on land ownership, with a group of villagers in Langholm fundraising enough to buy 2,100 hectares to add to an existing nature reserve the same size they purchased last year. The grassroots effort aims to restore local wildlife and peatland while creating a flourishing nature-based economy. Euro News

Australia is phasing out battery eggs, after a lengthy battle between the egg industry and animal welfare groups. The reforms, announced yesterday, state that egg producers must phase out the use of conventional layer hen cages over the next 10 to 15 years, and by 2036 at the latest, depending on the age of their current infrastructure. Guardian

Single-use plastic bag use in England has fallen by 20% after an increase in price from 5p to 10p last year. The average person now buys around three single-use carrier bags a year compared with 140 bags in 2014. Since charges were first introduced in 2015, total usage in England has decreased by 97%. BBC

The population of saiga antelope in Kazakhstan has rebounded 10-fold after a fatal disease killed half the population seven years ago. 1.3 million saiga now roam the grasslands, a huge leap from the 130,000 left in 2015. The huge success is thanks to government protection of nearly 5 million ha to support wildlife rehabilitation. New Scientist

Georgia's endangered loggerhead sea turtles are multiplying in record numbers, with conservationists counting 3,966 nests this year, a new record. Biologists and volunteers have worked since the 1990s to boost the population, which has increased by 4% every year. CNN

The number of wolf packs in the Alps has jumped more than 25% in just one year, from 250 in 2021 to over 300. Wolves were nearly eradicated in Europe in the 19th and 20th centuries and activists have worked for decades to revive populations. "The wolf is here to stay." DW

A female wolf and her cubs in the Dolomites. Source: BBC

That's it for this edition, thank you for reading.

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