Progress against malaria in Central America and Africa, and hepatitis C in Egypt, declining cancer deaths in Europe, coal closures in Hungary, a huge market signal for plant-based meats, an important victory for climate activists in the UK, and an inspiring conservation story from Italy.
El Salvador has become the first country in Central America to be certified malaria-free. It's a major achievement, given the country's dense population and a geography that's especially hospitable to the disease. Globally, 38 countries have now reached this milestone, with El Salvador the third country in the Americas, following Argentina in 2019 and Paraguay in 2018. Global Fund
At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, public health experts warned that malaria deaths in Africa could double. They were wrong. Instead, around 160 million nets were distributed door-to-door in 2020, over 90% of planned distribution, and more children received antimalarial medicines than in any other year in history. Naturally, this incredible story has received blanket coverage from the world's media... Devex
... as has this one. Egypt used to have one of the highest hepatitis C burdens in the world - in 2015 it accounted for 40,000 deaths per year, 7.6% of all deaths - and depressed national GDP growth by 1.5%. Three years ago, the government started a huge public health effort, screening 67 million people, and providing free treatment for two million. It worked. This year the hepatitis C burden has fallen to 2%, and public health officials say they are on track to eliminate it altogether. Egypt Today
Australian researchers have found that the annual rates of new cases of adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is stable or falling in Australia, Europe, the United States, and a number of high income countries in Asia. The study is the first to focus on diabetes incidence, the number of people who develop type 2 diabetes each year rather than total number of people who suffer from the disease at any given time. Baker
Infant mortality rates in the Philippines have dropped by 80% since the 1950s and are continuing to decline thanks to new regulations that allow hospital births to include traditional birth practices crucial to Filipino culture. Women who give birth in hospital can choose to have a traditional birth attendant help with delivery while also having access to necessary medicine. Borgen
A new study has shown that cancer deaths in Europe have plummeted in the last three decades. Compared to the peak mortality rate, recorded in 1988, 4.9 million cancer deaths will have been averted in the EU and over one million in the UK by the end of 2021. Predicted death rate declines between 2015 and 2021 include:
7.8% decline for breast cancer
4.8% decline for colorectal cancer in men and a 9.6% decline in women
8.7% decline for prostate cancer
3.5% decline for uterine cancer
8.9% decline for ovarian cancer
14.1% decline for stomach cancer in men and a 16.3% decline in women.
China has banned schoolteachers from giving out any punishment that can result in physical or mental trauma, after a wave of complaints about student deaths linked to harsh discipline in schools. A new law prohibiting corporal punishment at home is also due to be taken up by China's top legislative body, the National People's Congress, as it meets this week. Channel News Asia
The Biden administration has racked up more wins for the LGBT community during its first month in office than any other has accomplished in an entire term. In addition to a series of historic executive orders and amendments to combat discrimination, 11% of the administration identify as LGBT, some in very senior positions. This is genuine progress - consider that 50 years ago, LGBT people were barred from serving in the federal government. Philadelphia Gay News
Morocco is on the cusp of legalizing medical marijuana, after the PJD party, the largest in parliament, dropped opposition in the wake of the UN's decision last year to remove cannabis from its most tightly controlled category of drugs. The move aims to improve farmers’ incomes, protect them from drug traffickers, and gain access to the booming legal international market for the drug. Reuters
Hungary will close its last coal plant in 2025, halving the time of its original plan to reach 90% carbon neutral electricity generation by 2030. The Matra power plant site will transition to a solar farm, replacing coal jobs with new opportunities for workers, who will also receive support from the EU’s transition fund. Seven European countries now have coal free 2025 targets. Euractiv
The Canadian government has committed $2.75 billion to help public transit and school buses transition to electric power over the next five years. It’s part of the government’s progressive plan to tackle climate change while creating new jobs in Canada’s growing electric van manufacturing industry. Funds will also be provided for the installation of new charging stations for zero-emission vehicles. Electrek
Climate activists have forced Drax, one of the UKs biggest coal plant operators, to ditch its plan to build Europe’s largest gas power plant. It comes after three years of fierce opposition from environmental groups who claimed the project was incompatible with the UK’s climate change laws. The company has also promised to end the commercial sales of coal-fired electricity from next month. Guardian
Beyond Meats has signed an agreement with McDonald’s, the largest fast food company in the world, to develop a plant-based burger, as well as options for chicken, pork and egg. This is by far the biggest market signal yet for plant-based meats. “When these restaurant chains move, the entire food industry takes notice." New Food Magazine
Speaking of market signals... this week it's Volvo joining the growing list of manufacturers racing to switch to zero-emission models, with an announcement that its entire car line-up will be fully electric by 2030. After previously committing to half of sales becoming electric by 2025, Volvo has now accelerated its strategy to line up with the UK’s 2030 ban on internal combustion engine sales. Reuters
One more signal, just for luck. Petaluma, California has become the first city in the United States to ban all new petrol stations in an effort to curb carbon emissions. The city council voted unanimously this week to prohibit the creation, expansion, reconstruction and relocation of gas stations, encouraging owners to transition to electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles instead. San Francisco Chronicle
China has doubled the number of wild animals protected under its conservation rules, imposing hefty fines on the trading and consumption of 500 species, including many birds and wolves. It comes after 30 years of Chinese environmental groups fighting for animals to be added to the protected list. It’s hoped the ban will also help combat global trafficking of wild animals. Eco Business
An undercover investigation by a non-profit media organization has forced South Korea's largest dog meat auction house to close. The closure follows a wider crackdown on dog meat farming across the country, with advocates now calling for an amendment to the country’s Animal Protection Act that would permanently ban all slaughtering and processing of dogs for food. World Animal News
An Alaskan archipelago dubbed the "Rat Islands" have become a shining example of how quickly nature can bounce back. 18th century shipwrecks introduced rats to the islands, almost destroying their fauna and flora, but in 2008 conservationists started a removal program on one of them, Hawadax Island, and within 11 years the ecosystem had fully recovered. "We were surprised that the level of recovery unfolded so quickly -- we thought it would be longer." Science Daily
The Maldives has kicked off the first phase of an ambitious plan to completely eliminate single-use plastics by 2023, with an import ban on plastic bags, straws, foam lunch boxes, cotton swabs, and small toiletry bottles coming into effect this June. It’s hoped the measure will negate plastic's harmful and unnecessary impact on the Maldives’ vulnerable marine environment. Raajje
A federal judge has banned future oil and gas development in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest. It’s a big win for conservation groups who fought a three year legal battle to protect the 40,000 acres of Ohio’s only national park. It’s a trend that looks set to continue after President Biden’s recent moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal public lands. Biological Diversity
Nothing restores a river or a local economy like removing a dam. River restoration practitioners in America worked around challenging COVID restrictions to remove 69 dams across 23 states in 2020, reconnecting over a 1,000 km of river for fish and wildlife and revitalizing local economies. American Rivers
Off the coast of Puglia, Italy, a marine reserve called Torre Guaceto has achieved such spectacular success in restoring degraded fish populations that fishermen in nearby towns have started pleading with authorities to enlarge its borders. This amazing story, of how one small stretch of coastline went from a hotbed of drug smuggling to a model of ecological restoration, shows what's possible when nature is given just a tiny bit of space to breathe. Do yourself a favour and read it. Yes
Give a damn
Talk is nice, but action is way, way better, which is why we're so pleased to introduce you to Fondo Guadalupe Musalem. They're a small charity from Oaxaca, Mexico that provides financial support, counseling and tutoring to 25 young women from rural or indigenous communities each year. It's a great program - most of the participants complete high school and become leaders in their communities, with many going on to study at university.
Unfortunately, they've been hit hard by the pandemic and the switch to online learning. Schools in Mexico have been closed since April last year, and look set to remain that way until well into 2022. Most of the young women don't have internet at home, and only two or three have access to a computer, with the rest having to borrow mobile phones. FGM are helping with data and phone cards, but that still doesn't solve the problem of computers.
We're sending them US$4,350 to buy 25 tablets, one for each young woman. They'll be able to use them to attend school, and also participate in the extra workshops on topics such as dating violence, sexual and reproductive health, leadership, gender equality, community engagement and human rights. A huge thank you to all of our paying subscribers, who made this possible, and in particular to Sandra Thomson, one of the readers of this newsletter, who came to us with the idea in the first place. You can find out more about Fondo Guadalupe Musalem over here.
The Progress Network are relative newcomers to our inbox, but they've quickly become an essential resource. Their weekly newsletter covers constructive approaches to building a better future, collects progress news and updates, and amplifies voices pointing the world in a more positive direction. Not dissimilar to the kind of stuff you read about here. "Our contributors come from diverse fields of business, tech, journalism, politics, and more, but are united in their conviction that humanity’s ingenuity and willingness to cooperate for the common good is ultimately more potent than forces pulling in the other direction." What Could Go Right?
We're all done here folks, thanks as always for your time and attention. Shout out again to Sandra and her gang over at the Canadian Friends of Oaxaca for shining a spotlight onto the wonderful FGM program, and another big thank you to all of our paying subscribers, for making the donation of those tablets possible.
We'll see you all in two weeks.