Good News on Global Stunting, Ocean Protection in Australia, and Wind and Solar in Europe

Plus, a new charity partner, declining murder rates and falling teen pregnancy in the United States, malaria in Tanzania, electric trucks, conservation in China, and old men yelling at clouds.

Good News on Global Stunting, Ocean Protection in Australia, and Wind and Solar in Europe
Another bumper whale-watching season. Photograph: Whale Watching Sydney
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Give a damn


We are very pleased to announce a new charity partner, Sustain Myanmar, who run maternal care clinics in rural, war-torn regions of Myanmar. We've teamed up with the amazing people at the Taylor Foundation to make this one go further: they're trebling our donation of A$7,500, to get to a total of around A$30,000, which will be used for a birthing unit in a rural jungle clinic in Karen, Myanmar.

This money will be used to support the build and fit out of the new unit, from the bricks and mortar to equipment such as ultrasound machines, solar fridges, medicine, surgical equipment and more! Up until now, the clinic, which sees more than 200 patients a month, has been doing basic primary care but due to the military junta ramping up activities, women cannot travel to established hospitals and require more expert care in local areas.

Thank you so much to all our paying subscribers for making this possible.

Good news you probably didn't hear about


According to a new report by the Ifakara Health Institute, Tanzania has made significant progress against malaria, with cases dropping by 55% in the last seven years, from 7.7 million in 2015 to 3.5 million in 2022. Zanzibar has been at the forefront of the effort, reducing transmission to less than 1% in the last decade. Daily News

Successful trials of a new meningitis vaccine in Africa have raised hopes for the elimination of a disease that kills about 250,000 people a year. The NmCV-5 vaccine, which will become available in coming months, will protect against the five main meningococcal strains, including the emerging X strain, for which there is no protection. Guardian

It should be game changing for epidemic meningitis control in the meningitis belt. We look forward to seeing the vaccine rolled out in the region as soon as possible.
Ed Clarke, co-author of the study, New England Journal of Medicine

Africa's largest polio vaccination campaign since 2020 will immunise 21 million children under five in Cameroon, Chad, and Niger. The multi-country initiative will also extend to the Central African Republic, and with support from the WHO, administer vaccines in homes as well as religious centres, markets, and schools.

UNICEF just released its latest data on child malnutrition. The prevalence of stunting amongst the world's children fell from 33% in 2000 to 22.3% in 2022, and severe wasting declined from 8.7% to 6.8 %. In actual numbers, that means 56.1 million fewer children suffer from stunting than at the turn of this century.

An amendment to a law in Switzerland that recognises that any sex without consent is rape has been heralded as a “historic victory for human rights.” It marks the end of the outdated definition that considered only women as victims and required the use of physical force or coercion. Amnesty

France plans to increase its 50,000 km of bike lanes to 80,000 km by 2027, and 100,000 km by 2030. The plan includes €500 million towards helping more people purchase and maintain bikes, and additional funds to create spaces for bike parking as well as training for 850,000 school children. Forbes

US crime researcher Jeff Asher in The Atlantic: "This spring, I’ve found something that I’ve never seen before and that probably has not happened in decades: strong evidence of a sharp and broad decline in the nation’s murder rate. The United States may be experiencing one of the largest annual changes in murder ever recorded."

More on the story about improved reading levels in southern American states: Mississippi is climbing to the top of the class, despite high rates of child poverty. It’s thanks to a decade of efforts that have also lifted high school graduation rates from 75% in 2011 to 87% by 2020. NYT

Teen birth rates have declined again in the United States, falling by 3% in 2022 to 13.5 births per 1,000 females. The rate has declined by an average of 8% every year since 2007, and by 78% overall since 1991, the most recent peak. CDC

South Sudan has made secondary education free, following the recent lead of Ghana, Madagascar, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Togo, and Zambia. Over the past decade, similar reforms have spread across the continent with almost half of all African countries now offering free education at the lower secondary level and almost one in three at the upper primary school level. Conversation

The Hunger Project has established communal food centres across Uganda that push past traditional 'food aid' models and empower communities to feed themselves. The 12 centres serve up to 15,000 people each, and the approach seems to be working–over the past two decades, the number of Ugandans suffering from hunger has fallen by 58%. RTBC

The best way of solving world hunger is not a relief model that creates dependency and so actually worsens the problem. Communities have to be at the forefront of anything that will work in the long term.
Irene Naikaali, Direct for Uganda, The Hunger Project

To commemorate Pride Month, the IPPF just did a roundup of all the progress achieved for LGBTQI+ people around the world in the last 12 months. There have been setbacks, most notably the appalling law just passed by Uganda, but 20 countries have also strengthened rights on everything from gender identity and same-sex marriage to protection from discrimination.

The 44th Pride March on June 25, 2022 in Mexico City, Mexico.

Even more good news...

The UN says the world's health systems are showing their first major signs of post-COVID-19 recovery. Member countries of the WHO have agreed to a 20% funding boost next year. The HPV vaccine is being rolled out in countries around the world, and it's going to save millions of lives. The amazing story behind the pregnancy bill that goes into effect in the United States at the end of this month, "one of the most significant civil rights victories our country has seen in decades." Mexico experienced the largest decline in its murder rate in eight years last year. Sweden is close to becoming the first smoke-free country in Europe (defined as having fewer than 5% daily smokers in the population). Somalia says it will introduce universal suffrage–one person, one vote–by 2024. Psychedelics are really, really, really good at curing depression.

What is the world coming to?

The social fabric appears to be unravelling, civility seems like an old-fashioned habit, honesty like an optional exercise, and trust like the relic of another time. Except, that's always been true. A new study in Nature has shown that the perception of moral decline is a psychological illusion to which people throughout history have been susceptible. Our belief that people were better behaved in the old days (they weren't) is caused by a tendency to forget about the bad things that happened in the past, and by an overexposure to bad news in the present.

If it bleeds it leads

Case in point. Dog bites man. Thanks for that, BBC.

The only home we've ever known


China has passed the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau Ecosystem Protection Act, a comprehensive law protecting the Tibetan plateau and its surroundings, an area of 2.6 million km2, larger than all of Western Europe. It's a seminal moment in the story of conservation in China–not perfect, but a huge turnaround from the country's historical approach to nature. Mongabay

Zimbabwe and Zambia have agreed to protect the lower Zambezi-Mana River basins as a transboundary conservation area. Spread over 18,515 km2, it's the last piece of a project that started in 2019 to conserve one million hectares of biodiversity-rich habitats and improve the living conditions of 30,000 people across Botswana, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Afrik21

Australia will triple the size of its Macquarie Island Marine Park and close off an area larger than Germany to fishing and mining. Located between Tasmania and Antarctica, the park will expand to 475,465 km2, protecting millions of seabirds and wildlife including elephant and fur seals, whales, and the royal penguin, which is found nowhere else on earth. CNN

Up to 50,000 humpback whales are expected to pass Australia’s east coast during this year's annual migration from Antartica to the Great Barrier Reef. That's up from just a few hundred in the 1960s. Guardian

Commercial gillnet fishing will be phased out along the Great Barrier Reef. Most of the nets will be gone by the end of 2023, with a complete ban by the middle of 2027. WWF Australia has campaigned for seven years to end net fishing along the reef and has called the announcement 'a globally significant moment for ocean conservation.' Guardian

A green sea turtle swims among corals at Lady Elliot island in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. Jonas Gratzer / LightRocket via Getty Images

Peru has passed a new law banning industrial fleets from the first five kilometres off its coast. The law requires science-based fishing quotas to help recover overfished species and will establish a new system to categorise vessels, allowing only for artisanal and small-scale fishing along the coastline. Oceana

Some more specifics on the new Las Lajas Park in Ecuador that we first reported on in Issue 205. It will cover 5,756 hectares of forests and waterways in Southern Ecuador, protect water sources for nearby towns, and preserve important ecosystems that are home to endangered bird species like the El Oro parakeet, Amazonian motmot and spectacled owl. Andes Amazon Fund

The Biden administration has safeguarded the Chaco Culture National Park in New Mexico, protecting land within a 10-mile radius from gas and oil leases and mining. Although the park currently conserves around 33,000 acres, an estimated 5,000 sacred cultural and historical sites are located in the newly protected area. NPCA

According to Best Friends, a nonprofit that operates America’s largest sanctuary for homeless animals, the number of no-kill shelters is at an all-time high with Vermont, New Hampshire and Delaware now operating as 'no-kill' states. In 2022 nearly 57% of US shelters achieved no-kill status, which is amazing progress considering that number was 24% in 2016.

Malawi is on track to reach its goal of restoring 4.5 million hectares of degraded lands by 2030. Since 2015, it has put about 1.7 million hectares of land and forest under restoration, almost 40% of the goal. "This tree is magic. It is pure magic. It has rehabilitated the soils here so rapidly and I like how it coexists with other crops while also fertilizing the soils for their growth." Mongabay

A field of lush, flourishing Gliricidia sepium offshoots rising from decade-old stumps and prospering among dry stalks of harvested maize and other plants. Charles Mpaka/Mongabay

UNESCO has added 18 new sites to its global geopark network: areas of land with outstanding geological and geomorphological features that also have cultural and historical significance. There are now 195 geoparks around the world, covering a total surface area of 486,709 km2–twice the size of the United Kingdom.

A new technology called 'recirculating aquaculture systems' (RAS) can grow fish on land in a far more sustainable manner and is being used in Norway to farm eight million Atlantic salmon a year. This matters–global consumption of fish will reach 180m tonnes by the end of the decade, and the ocean is already struggling. Economist

Guinea-Bissau is home to the world’s largest populations of hooded vultures. In the last few decades, their numbers have plummeted, culminating in a mass poisoning in 2019. Since then, authorities have taken action, reining in illicit trade, stabilising populations, and reversing long-held beliefs. "People now realise that instead of using vultures, we should be saving them." CSM

India's 54 tiger reserves, which protect over 75,000 km2, haven't just helped tiger populations recover–between 2007 and 2020, they may have contributed to over a million tonnes of avoided carbon emissions. That doesn't sound like a lot, but it opens the door to more funding for tiger conservation through carbon offsets. WEF

Indigenous-led bison repopulation projects in Alberta, Canada, are working. The projects began around a decade ago, led by Indigenous peoples like the Tsuut'ina Nation, and populations are now on the rise. The animals have moved into the Banff National Park in what's known as the 'bison zone,' a 1,200 km2 area in which they have free range. CBC

Bison at Banff National Park. The number of wild bison in the Great Plains dropped from tens of millions to just a few hundred by the late 1800s. Due to several bison reintroduction projects, often led by Indigenous peoples, wild bison are making a comeback.(Karsten Heuer/Parks Canada)

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it


A new IEA report shows that global renewable power capacity is expected to increase by around a third this year. With solar and wind leading the way, this will be the biggest annual jump ever. The global clean energy transition is entering a new phase–and we'll be here every step of the way, bringing you the stories that matter.

The main reason for the increased projections is the tripling of new solar installations in China in the first four months of this year. Big coal exporters like Indonesia, Australia and Russia are already seeing thermal coal prices slide, and the boom is also going to drive the costs of solar to even lower levels.

In winter last year, Russian media released a propaganda film showing freezing Europeans huddling together for warmth and cooking their pets. Six months later, the continent has more or less kicked its addiction to Moscow's gas, is entering next winter with healthy reserves, nobody's had to eat a hamster, and gas prices have reached a two-year low. Politico

Europe raced to secure coal supplies during the energy crisis of 2022. Now it's getting rid of them. "In the end, the EU actually burned 11% less coal compared to the previous winter." Meanwhile, European consumers saved an estimated €100 billion between 2021 and 2023 thanks to newly installed solar and wind. Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it.

Wind and solar produced more electricity in the EU than fossil fuels in May, for the first full month on record. Almost a third of EU electricity was generated from wind and solar, while fossil fuels generated a record low of 27%. 'Europe’s electricity transition has hit hyperdrive. Clean power keeps smashing record after record.' Ember

One of the world's largest energy developers has signed a deal to create Africa's largest onshore wind farm: a 10GW monster in Egypt. The wind farm will help Egypt meet its target of 42% of energy from renewables by 2030 and save an estimated US$5 billion in fossil gas costs every year. Energy Global

Coal-fired electricity generation in the United States collapsed in the first three months of this year, falling by 28%, and pushing the share of black rocks in the power market below 17%, versus more than 22% in the same quarter last year. IEEFA

The United States is experiencing a once-in-a-generation manufacturing boom, reversing decades of decline. New factories are springing up across the country, building clean energy products that have never been made in America at this scale. The scale and speed of the shift has been stunning–clean energy is no niche industry anymore; it’s now a pillar of the national economy. Canary Media

It's working. Since the IRA was passed, 31 new battery manufacturing projects have been announced, and the pipeline now amounts to 1,000 GWh annually by 2030, enough to support the manufacture of 10-13 million electric vehicles per year. Over 96 GW of new clean power has been announced, more than the total investment between 2017 and 2021, and enough to power nearly 20 million homes.

Two workers on the F-150 Lightning assembly line at a Ford factory in Dearborn, Michigan. Source: Ford

Legislators in Taiwan passed an amendment at the end of last month that will require all newly built, expanded, or altered structures over a certain size to have rooftop solar panels incorporated into the building's design and installed. F0cus Taiwan

Germany has announced a plan to provide up to €50 billion in subsidies over the next 15 years for energy-intensive industries to lower emissions. The plan includes support for the coal-intensive steel industry, which accounts for about 30% of industrial greenhouse gas emissions, to transition to green steel. Bloomberg

European electric truck sales grew fourfold in the first quarter of 2023. This confirms a recent IEA outlook showing electric truck sales are starting take off. Buses are going electric too - the latest estimates are that by 2032, about half of the world’s buses will be entirely battery-powered.

Berlin, for instance, is in the process of swapping its 1,600 diesel buses for 1,700 electric versions by 2030. New York City aims to transition its 5,800-bus fleet to all electric vehicles by 2040.

Bloomberg is now projecting that half of all new cars sold in China will be electric by 2026. Oh, and guess what the best-selling model of car in the world right now is? Not the best-selling electric car, the best-selling car, overall. Clue: it's not a Toyota (although they do occupy positions two to five).

In other EV news...

Old man yells at cloud.
Energy researcher corrects him.


That's it for this week, we'll see you in the next edition with the podcast.

With love,

FC HQ


Future Crunch

Future Crunch

We're a team of science communicators. Our mission is to foster intelligent, optimistic thinking about the future, and create a 21st century that works for people and the planet.

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