Côte d'Ivoire has become the second African country to successfully eliminate sleeping sickness. The public health milestone comes after 20 years of targeted screening and treatment programs in remote rural communities. Annual cases have decreased by more than 90% since the 1990s and the country will now shift focus to maintenance and keeping the disease out. WHO
There was a 50% decline in global cases of Guinea Worm in 2020, and a 20% decrease in animal infections. It's thanks to local communities who have monitored infections and protected water sources from contamination. 199 countries have now been certified as completely free of the disease. Carter Centre
Liberia has become the first African country to introduce the typhoid conjugate vaccine. More than 1.9 million children will receive the vaccine over the next few weeks, and once the campaign is done, the country will begin regular immunizations for all children at the age of 9 months. Coalition Against Typhoid
Kazakhstan is officially nuclear free, after scientists ground down the last 2.9 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, rendering it useless for bomb-making. The historic moment comes after 30 years of denuclearization, and remains one of the least celebrated, yet most successful examples of post-Cold War diplomacy. Atlantic
Suicides in the United States decreased by 5.6% in 2020, easing fears that lockdowns would drive the rate up. It's the third consecutive year that suicide rates have declined, amidst growing awareness of mental health problems, and an expanding range of support and crisis intervention services. Washington Post
France has taken a major step forward in protecting children against sexual abuse by setting the minimum age of sexual consent at 15. The new legislation follows years of campaigning by abuse survivors to bring France’s consent laws in line with most other western countries. Sex with minors under 15 will now be punishable by up to 20 years in prison. France24
Low-level, non-violent crimes will no longer be prosecuted in Baltimore. The city temporarily suspended prosecution of drug possession, prostitution and misdemeanours to limit the spread of COVID-19 in jail, but after recording a 36% drop in property crimes, a 20% decline in violent crimes and a 39% decrease in the people entering the criminal justice system, officials have made the measures permanent. NBC
New York has become the 15th US state to legalize recreational marijuana. The state will immediately start expunging the criminal records of individuals with past marijuana-related convictions, and law enforcement in the state won’t be able to arrest or prosecute individuals for possession of marijuana up to three ounces. NBC
A year after passing its historic law to decriminalize abortion, New Zealand has passed legislation for paid bereavement for miscarriage. The new bill gives women and their partners time to come to terms with their loss without having to tap into sick leave and will also apply to parents planning to have a child through adoption or surrogacy. ABC
Canada is on track to halve domestic poverty by 2030. Thanks to strong public policy, rates of both poverty and income inequality have fallen consistently since 2015, and the number of children below the poverty line has plummeted from 1.1 million to 680,000. Although the pandemic caused major economic disruption, government interventions have helped continue the downward trend. The Tyee
Economic growth and fossil fuels go hand in hand right? Maybe not. Since 2005, 32 countries with populations of over one million people have decoupled emissions from GDP, both for terrestrial emissions (within national borders) and consumption emissions (goods consumed in a country). Breakthrough
In a massive turnaround, Saudi Arabia, one of the world's leading oil producers, has pledged to reduce carbon emissions by 60%, increase the percentage of protected land to more than 30%, and plant 50 billion trees as part of the world’s biggest afforestation project. Arab News
The Biden Administration has designated a vast swathe of ocean between Long Island and the New Jersey coast as an offshore wind energy zone, in a move that will create over 6,000 permanent jobs. The government has set a target to create 30 GW of wind turbines along both coasts, capable of powering enough electricity for 10 million American homes for a year. NPR
Massachusetts has passed one of America’s most ambitious climate bills, outlining a clear path to net-zero by 2050. The Bay State will add gigawatts of offshore wind power, require cities and towns to adopt a net-zero building code, and set targets for electric vehicles, charging stations, and energy storage. The new law also codifies environmental justice policy, which to this point has been limited to executive orders and other regulatory decisions. Ars Technica
Thanks to progressive policies over the past 24 years, California has clocked up a 78% reduction in diesel particulate pollution, the toxic black stuff from car exhausts. Cleaner air has benefited public health, with 82% fewer deaths from heart and lung disease. Amazing progress, especially considering that California has more cars than any other state as well as the USA's two largest ports. Gizmodo
The US EPA is taking a tough new stance on approving new chemicals, bringing requirements into line with the Toxic Substances Control Act. Environmental groups have welcomed the changes. “By taking this step, EPA will reverse the illegal and unprotective approach the prior administration applied to hundreds of new chemicals over the last several years.”
The Mi’kmaq First Nations people of Nova Scotia have reclaimed their native fishing rights after becoming majority owners in one of the largest seafood businesses in North America. The landmark deal is part of a growing movement of indigenous people regaining control of their traditional food ways to restore the crucial marine and land habitats that have nourished their tribes for centuries.
A federal court in Alaska has rejected approval for offshore oil and gas activities due to potential noise pollution that would cause harm to the critically endangered Cook Inlet beluga whales. The court ruled that National Marine Fisheries Service failed to consider the direct impact when it approved activity in the area. WAN
In a quiet victory for animal welfare, 70 million hens have been raised cage-free in America over the past six years, as the use of battery cages rapidly declines. For over 15 years advocates have tirelessly campaigned against the inhumane practice, successfully shifting legislation and consumer trends. Progress continues, with Utah recently becoming the eighth state to ban battery cages. Vox
Animal rights activists are celebrating four wins in 48 hours with US federal rulings against trophy hunting, state-funded wildlife killing experiments, cage confinement, and a historic ban on fur. The victories come after decades of advocacy and reflect a turning tide against animal cruelty. Humane Society
The endangered Californian condor is returning to its home skies after nearly a century thanks to the efforts of the Yurok Tribe. After a decade of petitioning, the tribe has commenced building an approved captive breeding facility, with the first condors expected to arrive later this year. It follows the success of reintroduction programs in south and central California that have seen the free flying population increase to over 300 in the past 40 years. Guardian
The bald eagle has quadrupled its population in the past decade with more than 300,000 birds soaring across American skies. The recovery is a testament to the relentless work of scientists and conservationists who fought to ban pesticides and put the eagle on the endangered species list in 40 states. AP
In response to a decade of work by conservationists, the US Fish and Wildlife Service has set aside 593 km of rivers in Virgina and West Virgina as protected habitat for the candy darter (a small, brightly colored fish) and 510 km in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland for the yellow lance freshwater mussel.
The coronavirus pandemic has been great for whales. Not only did it help end commercial hunting, it also reduced underwater noise pollution, leaving whales free to communicate with one another and locate food without interruption. Ocean scientists are racing to collect data and hope this rare silence gives whales a chance to return to their natural behaviours and have more complex conversations. NBC
Why Is This Interesting is the most consistently interesting and eclectic newsletter hitting our inboxes right now. It's put together by Colin Nagy, a marketing nerd, and Noah Brier, a technology nerd, and each edition explores topics and ideas that have very little to do with the 'publicity industrial complex'.
The best thing we can say about it is that we never know what's coming next. The last edition was on the skater's gaze (the way a skater moves through the city seeing possibilities), before that we learned about dekopons (seedless, easy-to-peel mandarin oranges). We love it.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch...
We're delighted to unveil the new Future Crunch showreel, put together over 12 months of pandemic craziness. When we weren't digging through the forgotten corners of the internet, or cleaning up flour explosions, we were in our makeshift studio, learning our way around virtual presentations and quoting Douglas Adams. After making all the technical mistakes it's possible to make, here's what we came up with. Youtube
This house is clear, we're all done, thanks for reading everyone. We'll see you in a fortnight (no baby yet).