12 min read

Good News on Guinea Worm, Divorce, Ivory and Tigers

Plus, cancer declines in the EU, teen pregnancy falling in India, conservation wins in Costa Rica, a fur ban by Dolce & Gabbana, and 752 miles on a single charge.
Good News on Guinea Worm, Divorce, Ivory and Tigers

A fortnightly roundup of good news from around the world. This is the free edition. For the full experience, you can upgrade to the weekly premium edition, which also comes with mind-blowing science and the best bits of the internet. One third of the subscriber fee goes to charity.

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We recently discovered an wonderful charity in Nigeria called Safe Child Africa. They provide refuge for children in the Niger Delta accused of witchcraft; children who would otherwise have nowhere else to go. Their Emergency Accommodation Centre provides a place for children to stay for seven nights, while alternative secure care or longer term foster care is sought.

We're sending them $5,000, which they're going to spend on kitchen equipment, computers, bedding and clothing, and other supplies. These people are doing amazing work, and hopefully this donation will make their lives, and the lives of the kids they're helping, a little easier. Thank you so much to all of our paying subscribers for making this possible.


Also, in October 2020 our paid subscribers helped us buy a drone for the Uru-eu-wau-wau people in the Amazon. Since then it's become a crucial tool in their protection of the forest. Sundance Festival recently screened a documentary called The Territory, which follows Bitaté, a young leader of the Uru-eu-wau-wau who uses technology to protect his culture and territory. During the first part of the film you can see Bitaté using the drone donated by Future Crunch to monitor invasions and deforestation, and later on, teaching his people how to fly it. If you get a chance check it out the doco!

Good news you probably didn't hear about


Jimmy Carter's dream of making Guinea Worm the third ever disease to be fully eradicated is within reach. Only 14 cases were recorded in 2021. Decades of health campaigns to improve access to safe drinking water in Africa have dramatically decreased the disease, which, 35 years ago was infecting 3.5 million people in 21 countries. Al Jazeera

To say that we only have 14 human beings on a planet of almost eight billion people is a phenomenal track record.
Adam Weiss, Director of The Carter Center’s Guinea Worm Eradication Program

New research has shown that nearly 5.4 million cancer deaths have been avoided in the EU between 1989 and 2022. Since 2017 alone, the cancer death rate has fallen by 6% in men and 4% in women, and in 2022 it's estimated there will be 369,000 fewer deaths compared to the peak back in 1988. Medical.net

The WHO just published new data on global access to cooking fuels. In 1990, 53% of humanity used wood, charcoal, kerosene or dung to cook their food. By last year, that proportion dropped to 36%. In actual numbers, that means that in a single generation, an extra 2.48 billion people are now cooking with electricity or clean stoves.

India just completed its fifth National Family Health Survey, and hidden deep inside some impenetrable PDFs is a whole lot of truly extraordinary data (keep in mind this is a country of 1.38 billion people). Between 2015 and 2020:

  • The proportion of women with ten or more years of education increased from 35.7% to 41%.
  • Contraceptive use increased from 54% to 67%.
  • Teen pregnancy declined from 51 to 43 per 1,000 women.
  • The neonatal mortality rate declined from 29.5 to 24.9 per 1,000 live births.
  • Under-five mortality rate declined from 49.7 to 41.9 per 1,000 live births.
  • The fertility rate decreased from 2.2 to 2.0, and is now below replacement levels in 23 of India's 28 states.
  • Access to improved sanitation skyrocketed from 48.5% to 70.2%.
  • Access to electricity increased from 88% to 96.8%.
  • Households using clean fuel or electricity for cooking increased from 43.8% to 58.6%
  • Households with at least one person covered on a health insurance scheme increased from 28.7% to 41%.

Seems like an appropriate place to leave this tweet:

New legislation in Pakistan has significantly strengthened protections for women in the workplace. The law expands the definition of harassment to include “discrimination on the basis of gender, which may or may not be sexual in nature” and will protect domestic workers and students, as neither group were covered previously by law. HRW

A landmark court ruling in India will give sex workers identity documents, allowing them to access social welfare, bank accounts and voting. Although prostitution is legal, the lack of identification papers within the sex industry has left many workers vulnerable to trafficking and poverty. The reform comes after a decade of petitioning by a collective of sex workers in Kolkata. NYT

Papua New Guinea has abolished the death penalty because "it’s not an effective deterrent to serious crime.” The country abolished capital punishment in 1970 but reintroduced it in 1991. Amnesty says 144 countries have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, and last year saw the lowest number of executions globally in more than a decade. SBS

Divorce is getting less nasty in wealthy countries. Legal reform and access to mediation have made the process cheaper, faster, and less traumatic for children, and cultural shifts have helped too - with more mothers in the workforce and fathers actively involved in child-raising, shared custody agreements are on the rise. Economist

Thailand is on track to decriminalize marijuana, with a proposal to remove the plant from the list of controlled drugs. Currently, the plant is a category-5 narcotic drug and possession can lead to hefty fines and up to 15 years jailtime. Medical cannabis is already legal and can be used in foods and cosmetics. SCMP

A worker inspects marijuana leaves at a farm in Thailand. Photo: Reuters

The only home we've ever known *


The world’s largest oyster restoration has been achieved on the Piankatank and Great Wicomico rivers in Virginia with over 1,000 acres improving water quality and habitat for other wildlife. The initiative is part of the 2014 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Agreement which aimed to fully restore oyster populations in the bay's tributaries by 2025. So far, four of the six targeted tributaries have met their restoration goals. Nature Conservancy

💡
We’re recognizing that natural resources are infrastructure, and they need to be taken care of just like we would roads or buildings.
Ralph Northam, former Governor of Virginia

Indigenous farming practices are starting to gain serious momentum across western America. In Arizona, there were 291 farms with a Native American farm operator in 2002; today that number has expanded to more than 11,729 farms. Indigenous practices focus on “trying to reconnect with place by developing sustainable, organic produce for community members.” Civil Eats

The US federal government has committed over $1 billion to the restoration of Florida’s Everglades. The mammoth project will increase protection for hundreds of endangered plant and animal species and maintain the crucial source of drinking water for Florida’s eight million residents. Miami Herald

The EU has taken its first steps towards banning live animal exports, and enforcing stricter rules to ensure humane transportation for slaughter, fattening or breeding. New rules will target overcrowding, food and water supplies and cap journey times at eight hours for domestic animals, and four hours for pregnant ones. World Animal News

A forestry company in Finland is at the helm of a huge new rewilding project to restore ecosystems impacted by decades of logging. Although 77% of Finland is forested, commercial plantations have destroyed almost all of the old growth. The restoration work will involve nine river basins and focus on recreating old spawning grounds for fish and rebuilding sustainable ecosystems. Guardian

Africa’s Great Green Wall is the world’s most ambitious reforestation project, with funding to match. 15 years in, has the project lived up to its hype? In Niger at least, the answer is yes. As of 2020, nearly 400,000 ha of desert has been restored, with the improved soil supporting an abundance of crops. Hundreds of communities are now working together to create economic opportunities from their thriving landscape. NYT

Nomao Alkali, a standing on near his farm in the Great Green Wall.

A big win for mangrove conservation in Mumbai, with 53% of mangrove cover legally declared a forest by the end of 2021, a 30% increase from the beginning of the year. Mangroves play an important role in mitigating the impact of climate change, and a further 3,000 ha will be protected in 2022. Hindustan Times

After decades of conservation efforts, the Channel Islands, off the coast of Southern California, have been successfully restored. The islands are now home to a healthy population of bald eagles and other formerly threatened species including the island fox, peregrine falcons and the island scrub jay are thriving. The islands also now host the largest seal and sea lion rookery in the world. HCN

Conservation efforts on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula are working. In the 1990s, populations of pumas, tapirs, and peccaries fell to almost zero, but protected reserves gave many species a chance to recover completely. Conservationists are now focused on creating and protecting wildlife corridors, for jaguars and other roving species to roam and grow. Mongabay

Speaking of wildlife corridors, they're gaining momentum around the world. Wildlife bridges and crossing structures are allowing animals to safely cross highways, reducing the risk of vehicle collisions. Banff National Park in Canada boasts the most wildlife crossings in the world, with 38 underpasses and 6 overpasses. Now Toronto

A record 247,000 Western Monarch butterflies overwintered in California last year, a dramatic increase from just 2,000 in 2020. The boom has been linked to an increase in native plants and reduced pesticide use. Efforts to protect the butterfly’s habitat are also underway with transportation and energy companies agreeing to 'rights-of-way' corridors and wintering sites across the US. Mongabay

Also.... enough with all the drawings of dead butterflies!

Dolce & Gabbana has banned fur and angora from all future collections. It's a huge win for campaigners who fought for this for decades. The announcement follows other luxury brands like Moncler, Gucci, Alexander McQueen and Balenciaga who have also recently gone fur free. Vogue Business

After more than 150 years, the legal ivory trade in Hong Kong has come to an end. Landmark legislation has banned the sale of ivory products. The new rules ban the 'import, re-export, and commercial possession of elephant ivory' but exclude antique pieces dated before 1925. Wild Aid

New Zealand’s fur seal population has bounced back from near extinction, with 200,000 seals now thriving along the coastline. The victory has led conservationists to an unexpected problem, as they now face questions around how to manage the interactions between the seals and their human neighbours. Guardian

As we enter the Year of the Tiger, the WWF has released a report showing the century-long trend of wild tiger decline has finally been reversed. Highlights from the report include the creation of the world’s largest tiger protected area in China, a national park in Russia, and the transformation of a transboundary corridor between India and Nepal from 115 hectares to 3,800 hectares of forest, encompassing over 6,000 community members and stewards of the land. WWF

Wild tigers have made remarkable progress over the past 12 years. The species had been in continual decline for about a century until the historic reversal of that trend in 2016.
Ginette Hemley, Senior Vice President, WWF-US

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it


The 27 countries of the European Union installed 25.9 GW of new solar capacity last year, an increase of 34% over 2020. That makes 2021 the best year for solar in Europe's history. All EU states are now on track to reach their 2030 solar goals, with Latvia and Estonia already across the line, and Poland, Ireland, and Sweden expected to reach their targets next year. Yale360

Germany is ramping up its decarbonisation plans. The new government of Europe's powerhouse economy is proposing 2% of total land area for wind power, will oblige all new commercial buildings to install solar, is targeting 50% of all building heating to be carbon neutral by 2030, and aims to cover 80% of total power demand with renewables by that date. PV Magazine

China built more offshore wind capacity in 2021 than the rest of the world managed in the last five years put together. Just to put that in context, the UK previously had the most offshore wind, with 10GW. China has just built 1.5x that in a single year, and twice as much as the IEA forecast in… December 2021. CCTV

Source: @DrSimonEvans

China is also reforming its national electricity market, with new regulations that will force all of the country's coal-fired generation to compete with renewables by 2025. This comes on top of news that non-fossil fuel energy sources such as wind, nuclear, solar and hydro are on track to make up more than half of China's total power generation capacity by the end of 2022. Reuters

Eastern Pacific, one of the largest privately-owned ship management companies in the world, has just announced it will no longer carry coal. "This is intended to be a message to the maritime industry that decarbonisation isn’t exclusive to how we move ships - what we move also matters." Marine Log

In the home of cheap fracked gas, gas is proving to be not so cheap after all. Clean energy in the United States is now definitively less expensive - which is why gas powered generation is being replaced by wind and solar. Solar capacity is now 20 times greater in the US than it was in 2011, and wind capacity has more than doubled. Economics, not ideology, is driving the transition. EIA

A federal judge just invalidated the biggest offshore oil and gas lease sale in US history - 80 million acres of drilling leases issued by the Biden administration — stating that it acted “arbitrarily and capriciously”. Instead of updating an environmental study performed during the Trump administration, the Biden administration simply repurposed the study without any changes. Reuters

White flag time at Southern Company's Georgia Power, one of the United States' biggest utilities, and once one of the most adamant coal-burning utilities/lobbying forces. It plans to close its entire coal fleet by 2028, replacing it with renewables and fossil gas. The Hill

The world spent $755 billion on low carbon solutions last year, up from 27% in 2020, and 14% of all venture capital now goes into climate tech, 2.5x pre-pandemic investment levels. While it's exciting to see the money finally pouring in, we’ve still got a way to go - McKinsey estimates it's going to take $9 trillion a year to get to net zero by 2050, or 12 times as much as the world is spending today.

We're still in the early days of the energy transition...


Fossil-free steel is coming sooner than anyone thought. Sweden’s SSAB, a pioneer in making steel from hydrogen, is bringing forward the closure of its coal-fired furnaces from 2045 to 2030. This will eliminate eight million tonnes of carbon a year, reducing Sweden’s carbon emissions by 10%, Finland’s by 7%, and with the European carbon price at around €90 a ton, looks like a clever financial decision too.

Last year, an electric car sold more units in Switzerland than any other car (gasoline, diesel, hybrid, etc.). The Tesla Model 3 didn’t just rule all electric sales, but all types of cars. Comparing November 2021 to November 2020, new car registrations for electric vehicles grew by +63%. Clean Technica

Tesla’s factory in California is now the most productive auto plant in North America. Last year it produced an average of 8,550 cars a week, more than Toyota's juggernaut in Kentucky (8,427 cars a week), BMW's Spartanburg hub in South Carolina (8,343) or Ford's iconic truck plant in Michigan (5,564). Bloomberg

The electric equivalents of the Ford F150, the Honda CRV, Lexus RX and the Toyota Corolla - some of the most popular cars in the United States - are now officially cheaper than their petrol-powered counterparts. Also... 1,200 km on a single charge? Better move those goalposts, range anxiety-ists.


That's it for this edition, thanks for reading, we hope it's provided a little respite. A special thank you to all our paying subscribers who made this week's donation possible, we are so grateful.

We'll see you in a fortnight.

With love,

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