9 min read

Good News, 26th March 2021

Nine schoolgirls win a historic victory over Big Oil in the Amazon. Plus, good news on women's rights in Mexico, Pakistan and Lebanon, crime rates in US cities, clean energy in Europe, a ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin, and the return of cheetahs to India.

You're reading the free edition of Future Crunch, a fortnightly roundup of good news from around the world. For the full experience, you can upgrade to the premium edition, which also comes with mind-blowing science and the best bits of the internet, delivered every week. One third of the subscriber fee goes to charity.


People


Mexican women with disabilities will have equal access to protection from domestic violence, after the Senate amended the current law to include disability as one of the elements courts must assess when granting protection. The reform is a crucial step forward for women with disabilities who are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence. OWP

A court in Pakistan has abolished the outdated practice of virginity tests on rape victims after human rights activists filed a lawsuit in the eastern city of Lahore. Activists have called it “landmark judgment” against a “demeaning and absurd” practice that will help improve the investigative and judicial process for victims of sexual violence. NYT

Lebanon has criminalized sexual harassment with a landmark law that penalizes perpetrators with four years in prison and up to 50 times the minimum wage. The new law expands the definition of sexual harassment to any recurring bad behaviour that is out of the ordinary, unwanted by the victimand includes electronic harassment. It’s hoped the harsher penalties will serve as a deterrent and lead to broader cultural change. JPost

A court in Japan, the only G7 nation that still doesn't recognize gay marriage, has boosted the campaign to legalize it, after deciding it was ‘unconstitutional’ to deny same-sex couples the right to wed. Judges ruled the government's lack of recognition for three same-sex couples suing for psychological harm was in breach of a section of the constitution that requires equal laws for everyone. Guardian

Supporters hold a sign reading ‘unconstitutional decision’ as they celebrate Sapporo district court’s ruling on same-sex marriage. Photograph: JIJI Press/AFP/Getty Images

Data assembled from 25 of the biggest cities in the United States has shown that there was a significant drop in crime rates in 2020, with a 19% reduction in property & violent crimes and a staggering 65% drop in drug crimes. Researchers say that because many crimes depend on opportunity, fewer people on the streets meant less misconduct. Wired

The US state of Michigan is now offering free college tuition to people over the age of 25 without a degree. An estimated 4.1 million residents are eligible for the program, which will be coupled with Futures for Frontliners, which offers free college education to frontline workers who have provided essential services during the pandemic, and which already has 85,000 people enrolled. Detroit News

The African Development Bank has revealed that it has invested $6.3 billion into water supply and sanitation services across the continent in the last decade. As a result, an estimated 30 million people in urban areas and nearly 55 million people in rural areas have gained access to improved water and sanitation. AFDB

In Latin America and the Caribbean, new cases of rabies have been reduced by more than 95% in humans and 98% in dogs since the 1980s. It's thanks to a long-term, regionally coordinated strategy that's included mass dog vaccination, timely access to PEP, and epidemiological surveillance backed by laboratory support and health education. Emerging Infectious Diseases

Planet


Nine girls, aged between 7-14, have made legal history in Ecuador after suing the government over the pollution and climate impacts of oil industry flaring in the Ecuadorian Amazon. The court ruled in favour of the girls, who demanded an immediate end to all gas flares in their villages. The judges also noted that eliminating flaring would cut Ecuador’s greenhouse gas emissions by at least 24%. Mongabay

“I’m very happy because, finally, justice has been served. We’re going to restore nature, for all the sick children, for the people, for the parents who have fought to stay healthy, for the families that have also kept fighting if only to grow a few crops, for the families who live under the flares and have had to abandon their land.” 10-year-old Leonela Moncayo
girls protesting outside court
The nine girls standing outside The Multi-Principal Chamber of the Provincial Court of Justice of Sucumbíos. From left to right: Leonela Moncayo, Rosa Valladolid, Skarlett Naranjo, Jamileth Jurado, Denisse Nuñez, Dannya Bravo, Mishell Mora, Jeyner Tejena and Kerly Herrera

It's official. Renewable energy generated more electricity than fossil fuels in Europe in 2020. Investments into solar and wind resulted in renewables accounting for 38% of the continent's electricity, taking a narrow lead over fossil fuels which generated 37%. This is incredible progress; a decade ago, renewables accounted for just over 20% of electricity. Forbes

The UK is halfway to reaching its goal of zero-carbon by 2050 thanks to a record-breaking 11% drop in GHG emissions in 2020. The country is also taking the global lead on per capita emissions, registering two-thirds less than the US and 40% less than China. Even accounting for the fact that a significant chunk of those emissions have been exported, this is incredible progress. Yale 360

Four big financial blows to coal in the last fortnight. Swiss Re closed a major loophole in the reinsurance market, announcing the end of support for thermal coal by 2040; Citigroup became the first major US bank to rule out supporting plans for coal plant expansions by new clients; French insurance giant Axa will end its insurance policies with the German utility RWE; and HSBC will allow a resolution on exiting thermal coal to be put to shareholders at its forthcoming annual general meeting.

Thanks to an update by the EPA, coal plants in 12 US states will be required to reduce their nitrogen oxide emissions, a major component of smog. It’s a big win for millions of people in downwind states exposed to dangerous air pollution blowing across their boundaries from upwind coal-fired power plants. The ruling is effective immediately. EDF

The International Energy Agency, arguably the most conservative energy body in  the world, says that the global demand for gasoline has peaked, and is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels as efficiency gains and electric vehicles eclipse mobility growth in the developing world. Their forecast predicts that 60 million electric vehicles will be on roads by 2026, compared with 7.2 million in 2019. WSJ

Electric shockwaves continue to roil automakers around the world. Both Audi and Daimler-Mercedes have announced they will cease development of new combustion engines and adapt their existing engines to meet the EU’s strict emission guidelines. “In terms of products, there is no longer any rational reason to opt for a combustion engine in the near future”.

Paris will spend the next ten years transforming the Champs-Élysées into a green space for pedestrians after a community-based proposal was greenlit by the government. Under the new plans, vehicle traffic will be reduced by half, while pedestrians will be able to enjoy wider sidewalks and more greenery in what the architects call "planted 'living rooms." CNN

An image from the architectural firm PCA-Stream showing the planned changes to the Champs-Élysées area. 

The Magpie River in Canada has been declared a living entity and granted legal rights after local environmental groups campaigned for permanent protection. 14 countries now have rivers and ecosystems have won protection with 'nature rights.' The growing global movement challenges the way western legal systems treat nature as property and is being implemented through laws, judicial decisions, constitutional amendments and United Nations resolutions. Reuters

A group of farmers in the Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the Philippines, have banded together to successfully reforest over 229 hectares of land, improving not only regional biodiversity but creating additional sources of income for their communities. The farmers played a crucial role by planting the seedlings and maintaining every tree they planted, often under arduous conditions. Their hard work paid off, with survival rates of 85% across the sites. “If it’s a greening program, if it’s a 'bringing back your forests' program, it’s not just planting. It has to take into consideration maintenance and nurturing.”

Virginia has become the fourth state in America to ban cosmetic animal testing and the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. California, Nevada and Illinois have also signed the Humane Cosmetics Act and hope to reintroduce federal legislation to make the ban standard across the country. 40 countries have now passed laws prohibiting or limiting cosmetic animal testing. Totally Vegan Buzz

70 years after been declared extinct, cheetahs are returning to India. The world-first relocation program from Africa, which has been in the works since 2009, has finally been given the green light after the Kuno National Park met official requirements. The homecoming of the cheetah, the only mammal hunted to extinction in modern India, will help the country amend its past by “restoring its lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.” Indian Express

A species of wild gazelle, once thought to be extinct, is thriving in the mountains of the Turkish-Syrian border thanks to the efforts of one Turkish scientist. After spotting his first mountain gazelle in 1998, Professor Yasar Ergun worked with local communities to set up a breeding sanctuary to protect the gazelles from hunting. The population has increased by 865 in the past nine years. NYT

In a historic win for environmental activists, fracking in the Delaware River Basin has been permanently banned to protect wildlife and the drinking water supply for 17 million people. The basin, which spans New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania is a critical habitat for countless species, including native trout, American eels, and bald eagles and the ban has been heralded an important step in the country’s transition toward a more sustainable future. NRDC

A bridge over the Delaware river connects New Hope, Pennsylvania with Lambertville, New Jersey. Richard T. Nowitz / Getty Images

Electronic Mail


McKinley Valentine's fortnightly newsletter has consistently been one of the best things in our inbox for years. She describes it as "Science, history, weirdness and 0% contemporary politics because oh my god sometimes you need a break" and who can argue with that? In addition to being beautifully written and gloriously diverse, you'll find the kind of esoterica here that doesn't seem to appear anywhere else on the internet.

If you're a curious person that needs a break from the grind, we cannot recommend this enough. The Whippet


Meanwhile, back at the ranch...


Hello folks, this is Gus, breaking into the first person like an over-enthusiastic writing student, and leaving muddy footprints all over the normally pristine carpet of your inbox. For the last few months, I've been putting this newsletter together with the help of the newest member of the Future Crunch family, Amy Rose. If you've been reading closely, you may have already picked up her tracks, she's been an excellent sounding board and an invaluable co-conspirator.

Sammy and I are due to have our second baby any day now, which means I'm going to be handing over the reins to Amy for a few weeks. I wanted to introduce you to her now, before I disappear. You'll still be getting the same kinds of stories and content, but with a very different voice. It's not happening yet, but when it does I'm sure you'll enjoy the change of tone. I'll let her take it from here.

...

Hi everyone, Amy here! For over 15 years I worked in media as a producer across TV, radio and podcasting until I finally got around to finishing a full draft of my novel last year. Working with Future Crunch has not only expanded my view of the world (and at times exploded my brain), it’s also made me feel much more excited about what’s ahead. My grandad was an incurable optimist who waaaay back in the 80s questioned why newspapers didn’t focus on all the great stuff happening in the world and how cool it would be to have a ‘good news’ publication … and now, a few decades later, here I am.


Alright that's it for this edition. Thank you as always for reading. If you know anyone that could do with a solid dose of good news in their inbox, they can subscribe over here. We promise to do our best to chip away at their cynicism.

Stay safe out there, and we'll see you in a fortnight, at which point there's a very good chance we'll have welcomed another new, tiny human to the extraordinary rollercoaster ride of life on Planet Earth.

Much love,

Gus, Tane, Amy and the rest of the gang.

Intelligent optimism, down under. You're receiving the free edition. If you'd like to get the premium edition you can upgrade here (one third of your subscriber fee goes to charity). If you need to unsubscribe, you'll break our hearts but we understand that it's us, not you. There's a button for that below. We're also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

Enjoying these posts? Subscribe for more