Good News

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20th May 2023 - 26th May 2023

Global poverty reduction efforts are back on track. After the severe setbacks of 2020, a majority of low and middle income countries have seen poverty decline again, and more than half are now on course to reach a lower poverty rate in 2023 than in 2019. World Bank

The world is getting safer. The World Bank has released its latest data on homicides, updated to 2021. Every region of the world, except the USA and Latin America, has seen murder rates decline in the last decade. Among OECD members, 20 countries now have rates below one per 100,000, compared with 15 countries ten years ago.

Dengue cases have fallen to their lowest level in 20 years after mosquitoes infected with virus-blocking bacteria were released across Colombia’s Aburrá Valley. It's the largest release of Wolbachia mosquitos ever, causing incidence to fall by 94% across the cities of Medellín, Bello and Itagüí, home to more than three million people. Telegraph

Did you know that Rwanda has one of the most successful public health programs in the world? Life expectancy increased from 49.7 years in 2001 to 69.6 in 2022, over 90% of the population has health insurance, thousands of new clinics have been built in the last two years, and it's on track to meet all the MDGs on maternal mortality, malaria, tuberculosis, and AIDS.

Yes, everything in America is awful, apart from the fact that it's recovered from the pandemic faster than any major economy, GDP has grown three times faster than during the previous administration, real incomes are rising, manufacturing is booming, inflation has eased for ten straight months, unemployment is at record lows and workers are the happiest they've been since the 1980s, it's on the verge of one of the most important public health victories of the 21st century, Rhode Island just became the sixth state to make lunch free for all students, reading scores in the Deep South are soaring, Vermont is spending hundreds of millions of dollars on making childcare more affordable, and Minnesota just concluded one of the most progressive and transformative legislative sessions in US history.

The Ivory Coast has made substantial progress on sanitation. Access has increased from 22% in 2011 to 56% in 2021, and the government just announced plans to spend nearly €840 million on sanitation and drainage projects over the next seven years, about five times as much as it did between 2013 and 2022. Afrik21

Canada's poverty rate fell to 7.4% in 2021, despite pandemic benefits ending. This is down from 10.3% in 2019, and nearly half the rate in 2015. In 2021, there were almost 2.3 million fewer Canadians living in poverty compared to 2015, including 653,000 fewer children, 11,000 fewer seniors, and 556,000 fewer persons with a disability. Statistics Canada

In 2018, Sierra Leone made school free for all students, outlawed corporal punishment, and dedicated a fifth of the national budget to teacher pay, school renovation and other education expenses. Although there are still problems, the result has been a 50% increase in enrolment and a dramatic improvement in the quality of education, with impoverished children benefiting the most. NYT

Uzbekistan recently concluded a massive vaccination drive against measles, reaching 98.4% of the country's 3.3 million children; the Philippines has vaccinated eight million children against measles and polio this year; and last week, Malawi kicked off a campaign to vaccinate nine million children against typhoid, measles, rubella, and polio.

A big win for human rights in Romania, after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the government has violated the right to family life by not giving same-sex couples legal recognition. After a three-month period for appeals, the ruling will stand, leading to Romania being required to legalise same-sex civil unions. France24

Earlier this week, Cambodia began its largest-ever canine rabies vaccination drive, with over 100 volunteers, officials and animal welfare workers aiming to vaccinate 100,000 dogs in Phnom Penh in just ten days. It's going to make a big difference–Cambodia has one of the world's highest death rates from the disease. Dogs Today

The EU's highest decision making body just gave the final go-ahead for a new rule designed to stop the import of any products that destroy forests. The cut-off date has been backdated, meaning that only products produced on land that has not been deforested or degraded after 31st December 2020 will be allowed to be imported to or exported from the EU.

China's Hebei province now has 278 protected areas covering 14,034 km2, equalling 7.43% of its total land mass. Those reserves are home to 40 species of wild animals under China's first- or second-class national protection, including the North China Leopard, whose numbers are steadily increasing. China Daily

The United Kingdom has closed two loopholes in its conservation and animal rights laws. No new licences will be issued for animal testing of chemicals used exclusively as cosmetics ingredients, after exceptions were granted between 2019 and 2022, and a ban on ivory from hippopotamuses, orcas and walruses has been added to the 2018 Ivory Act.

A big win from our own backyard! The state of Victoria has announced that the logging of native forests will stop at the end of this year. This one's personal–we've been to some of the protests. Even the most optimistic activists weren't expecting this victory. The announcement includes significant funding for a just transition for forestry workers. ABC

The only home we've ever known. Credit: ABC/Brendan Esposito

The US government has announced a $62.5 million plan to hire biologists to help 32 threatened and endangered species currently listed under the Endangered Species Act. This comes on top of more than $2 billion that has been set aside under the IRA to restore the country's lands and waters. US Fish & Wildlife Service

First Nations tribes in Minnesota have made a first-of-its-kind agreement giving them a greater voice in managing more than three million acres of land ceded to the federal government in 1854. 'This is really us standing shoulder to shoulder with the bands, knowing we're going to face issues and making sure we're having the right conversations early and together.' Star Tribune

Minnesota has banned the commercial collection of wild turtles, meaning tens of thousands of the animals will now be saved from becoming food, traditional medicines or pets. 'This ban is a big victory for all of us who care about the health of our state’s wildlife and waterways.' US Centre for Biological Diversity

Another week, another river restoration. This time, it's Toronto's Don River, which was pronounced dead in 1969. Half a century later, it's roaring back to life. Beavers, mink, eagles, deer and coyote are returning, its waters are becoming cleaner, and billions are being spent to restore a body of water that was despised and feared for decades. Guardian

The Don Valley park and lower Don River trail in Toronto. Credit: Jim Feng

Brazil’s environmental regulator is beginning to flex its muscle, suggesting a new direction under the Lula government. It just rejected a licence for an offshore oil drilling project near the mouth of the Amazon, proposed by state-run oil company Petrobras, after a nearly nine-year campaign by activists. AP

Oregon has became the 10th state in the US to ban polystyrene. Starting in 2025, the new law prohibits the production, sale, and distribution of polystyrene cups, takeout containers, and even coolers and packing peanuts. The state government has also banned PFAS, 'forever chemicals,' from being added to plates, bowls, cups, and other foodware. One Green Planet

Jamaica's plastic ban, implemented three years ago, has largely eliminated plastic straws and bags, as well as styrofoam boxes and cups, and reduced plastic waste by several million tonnes. "It has been a huge victory, it triggered a lot of consciousness, it triggered a lot of action." A new round of fines is now being planned to address leakage and shut down loopholes. Radio Jamaica

The southern river terrapin, a critically endangered species from south-east Asia, is recovering thanks to a breeding program in Cambodia that's been running for three years. This year, 122 turtles were successfully hatched, and officials say they expect an increase to 200 next year. Phnom Penh Post

Last year, Panama passed a law guaranteeing the rights of nature. That law is now being used to protect sea turtles in some of the world's most important nesting spots, giving them the right to an environment free of pollution and other detrimental human impacts, and with enough specificity that those rights can be enforced. AP

A Panamanian border officer stands guard as members of The Leatherback Project study the contents of a nest on a beach near in Armila, Panama, on Sunday, 21 May 2023. Sea turtles in Panama now have legal rights, a change that represents a different way of thinking about how to protect wildlife. (AP Photo/Arnulfo Franco)

14th May 2023 - 19th May 2023

Bangladesh has just pulled off one of the most successful disease elimination efforts of all time. In 2001, lymphatic filariasis, a crippling and disfiguring neglected tropical disease, was endemic in 19 of the country's 64 districts, with an estimated 70 million people at risk. Earlier this week, the WHO confirmed that the disease has been completely eliminated.

Good news on malaria–Ghana has reduced its prevalence in children by more than a third in the last eight years, from 26.7% in 2014 to 8.6% in 2022, and health officials in India are reporting an 85.1% decline in malaria cases and an 83.36% decline in deaths between 2015 and 2022.

"While it may feel like the world is crumbling into a war-torn, authoritarian shit show ravaged by rising temperatures and politicians who stand idly by, we can take solace in knowing that we’ve become better at preventing suicides." Specifically, did you know that in the past two decades, global suicide prevention efforts have reduced deaths by a third? Wired

Nepal has achieved remarkable progress in healthcare in recent decades, thanks in large part to its 51,000 female community health volunteers. Between 1996 and 2022, maternal and child mortality fell by half, contraceptive use rose from 26% to 43%, the prevalence of childhood stunting more than halved, and the percentage of fully vaccinated children doubled. My Republica

FCHVs in Nepal

Benin and Mali have eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, the fifth and sixth countries in Africa to achieve this significant milestone. The number of people requiring antibiotic treatment for trachoma in the WHO African Region has fallen from 189 million in 2014 to 105 million as of June 2022. WHO

Some news from China, courtesy of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights at the United Nations.

  • The maternal mortality rate declined from 18.3 per 100,000 in 2018 to 15.7 in 2022, and 44.16 million rural women have been brought out of poverty during this period.
  • 180 million cervical cancer screenings and nearly 100 million breast cancer screenings have been provided free of charge for rural women and women with low incomes.
  • The primary-school enrollment rate for girls has been over 99% since 2015, more than 50% of female students with disabilities attend ordinary school, and female students now outnumber male students in secondary, undergraduate and postgraduate studies.
  • Between 2013 and 2022, 18,000 cases of trafficking in women and children were solved, and cases in the past ten years have been reduced by 86.2%.
  • China has now put in place a complete legal system comprised of over 100 laws and regulations which protect women’s rights and interests.

Two wins for LGBTQI rights. Taiwan just amended its laws to allow same-sex couples to adopt children they are not biologically related to, and Namibia's Supreme Court has ruled that same-sex marriages conducted outside the country must be recognised by the government, expanding the interpretation of the term 'spouse' in its immigration laws.

A banner reading 'guaranteeing love that transcends blood relations' is held by legislators after the amendment passed its third reading on Tuesday, 16 May 2023.

Lula just signed a law guaranteeing a substantial increase in nursing salaries. $7.3 billion has been budgeted to ensure that the country's 2.8 million nurses and midwives receive fair compensation. 'The approval of this law is the result of more than 30 years of struggle by healthcare workers’ organisations.' Agencia Brasil

Two new laws in the United States have given mothers a long-awaited victory. These laws, the PUMP Act and the PWFA, change the health and economic trajectory for at least nine million women and their families, providing greater economic security and workplace rights and protecting them against discrimination. NPR

Murder rates in the United States are down by 12.5% in the 75 cities with available data for 2023 so far. It's still pretty early, but this suggests we are going to see a significant drop this year. Overall, American cities are far safer and less violent today than they were two years ago. But, of course, everyone knows this already because it's been so extensively covered by American media. VOA

Crime continues to plummet in the United Kingdom. The number of offenses in 2022 fell by 12% compared to the year leading up the pandemic, with dramatic declines in homicide, robberies, and knife crime. But, of course, everyone knows this already because it's been so extensively covered by British media. ONS

Source: Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) from the Office for National Statistics

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest fell 68% in April compared to last year, the first monthly drop under the watch of Lula, and an indication that after a slow start, efforts are starting to pay off. Land clearing is down 40% this year so far–news that comes off the back of the recent ban on mining and commercial farming on 620,000 hectares of Indigenous reserves. Reuters

Forest guardians across the Amazon are finding increasing success in protecting their lands from deforestation and mining, using drones, camera traps, georeferencing and solar panels. 'While technological tools have been helpful, the real defenders of the environment are the Indigenous communities themselves.' RTBC

Have you heard of the Loess Plateau? It's one of the greatest regeneration stories of all time. In 1994, China and the World Bank got together to restore nearly four million acres of over-grazed, over-harvested lands in north-central China. In less than 20 years, it was transformed into green valleys and productive farmland, and it is now greener and wetter than at any other point in the last two centuries.

The Loess plateau in China, in 2007 (left), and transformed into green valleys and productive farmland in 2019. Rex/Shutterstock/Xinhua/Alamy

The Osa Peninsula on Costa Rica’s west coast occupies just 0.001% of the planet’s surface area, yet it is home to an estimated 2.5% of all the biodiversity in the world. Local communities are now being paid to conserve it, using money that is 92% funded from a sales tax on fossil fuels. Regenerative. RTBC

Lawmakers in the Caribbean island of Aruba have taken the first steps toward amending its constitution to include a recognition that nature possesses inherent legal rights to exist and regenerate. If the process is successful, Aruba will become the world’s second country, after Ecuador, to constitutionally recognize the rights of nature. ICN

After nearly a year of wrestling over the fate of their water supply, California, Arizona and Nevada have coalesced around a plan to conserve a major portion of their water from the Colorado River in exchange for more than $1 billion in federal funds. 'The enemy is not any organization, agency or part of the basin. The enemy is the old way.' WaPo

Paris is getting close to the end of a $1.5-billion-dollar effort to clean up the Seine, meaning people will be able to swim in it again for the first time in a century; in London, 40 different restoration projects are bringing buried rivers to light and re-wilding many of the city's waterways; and in Washington, the Potomac is about to become safe for swimming again, too.

Firs Farm Wetlands, in North London, stores 30,000 cubic metres of flood water, helping to protect local properties from flooding.

In 2021, the US Environmental Protection Agency implemented a new set of rules on lead and copper in drinking water. A study has now revealed that the regulations cost $335 million a year to implement while generating $9 billion in health benefits annually. 'We thought the benefits might exceed costs by an order of magnitude, but they were many times that.' Harvard

Malaysia, one of the ten biggest plastic polluters in the world, is ramping up its campaign to ban the use of all plastic bags. After starting with fixed business locations like supermarkets and shops, the ban will now expand to roadside stalls, and by 2025, will be extended to all physical outlets in the country. Straits Times

Australia's largest supermarket, Coles, will stop selling soft-plastic shopping bags by the end of next month, a move that will remove 230 million plastic bags from circulation in the space of a year. Guardian

The platypus has been reintroduced into Australia's oldest national park after disappearing from it in the 1970s. Last week, wildlife officials released four females inside the Royal National Park south of Sydney and plan to introduce two more females and four males in the near future. Smithsonian

6th May 2023 - 12th May 2023

Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world, has made spectacular progress in helping its citizens escape the worst forms of destitution. Over the past two decades, it has essentially eliminated extreme poverty and reduced the number of those living on less than $3.20 a day from 61% in 2002 to 16% in 2022. World Bank

The pandemic resulted in significant setbacks for childhood vaccination in Africa, but multiple countries are now closing the gap. Vaccines for pneumonia, rotavirus and measles-rubella are being either introduced or ramped up in Chad, Guinea, Somalia and South Sudan, and many countries are also strengthening access to pulse oximetry and oxygen. Health Policy Watch

Uganda has made notable progress in its fight against AIDS. Between 2010 and 2021, new HIV infections declined by 39%, and AIDS-related deaths fell from 51,000 a year to 17,000 a year, a decline of 67%. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved, and mother-to-child infections have plummeted too. New Vision

Police in the Philippines have rescued over 1,000 trafficking victims from a compound two hours outside Manila. It comes off the back of an agreement by member countries of ASEAN to boost law enforcement and strengthen cooperation and coordination to catch traffickers and identify victims. Straits Times

Rescued trafficking victims waiting to be documented by the Philippine authorities after a police raid in Mabalacat City on 4 May 2023. AFP

Two decades ago, Ethiopia introduced a public health program of household visits delivered by young women. It's been an incredible success, associated with a 70% reduction in the probability of child marriage, a 75% reduction in the probability of early pregnancy, and a 63% increase in the probability of being enrolled in education. Gavi

There's been a big breakthrough on postpartum haemorrhage (the leading cause of maternal mortality) in the form of a low-cost device called a 'drape.' A study involving 200,000 women in four countries has shown that it reduces severe bleeding by 60%. 'This new approach could radically improve women’s chances of surviving childbirth globally.' WHO

Gender norms and roles are still highly unequal in the United States, but things are changing. Among married opposite-sex couples, the share of women who earn as much as or more than their husband has tripled over the past 50 years. In 29% of marriages today, both spouses earn the same amount of money, and wives are the main breadwinners in 16% of marriages. Pew

This is a pretty amazing story about people known as professional medical tactile examiners, a new and emerging profession for blind and visually impaired women in India and Europe, who are helping diagnose breast cancer (try replacing that with a robot). From the always excellent BBC Future.

The training process to become a Medical Tactile Examiner is detailed and rigorous (Credit: Priti Salian)

Some big medical breakthroughs for two of the most devastating diseases in existence. A second drug has been shown to slow the pace of Alzheimer's by up to a third, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation has found clear evidence that the presence of a specific protein can be used to determine if people have Parkinson’s. STAT

Fox, who was diagnosed with a very early case of Parkinson’s at age 29, said that he keeps going back to documentary footage of his childhood. At the time, there was no way to know he would develop the disease; soon, he said, a child like that might be able to simply get a nasal swab at 2 or 3 or 4. “It’s all changed. It can be known and treated early on. It’s huge.”

Last month Fiji's new democratically-elected government repealed the Media Industry Development Act, enacted in 2010 by the former government that assumed power through a coup in 2006. 'The MIDA experiment is over and the draconian legislation now belongs in the dustbins of history.' Fiji Times

A World Bank project in Malawi has brought clean water and sanitation to nearly 350,000 people in Lilongwe City. Around 370 km of new pipes have been installed, including 187 km in previously unserved areas, not only improving the health and well-being of residents but also contributing to economic development.

Ecuador just announced the biggest debt-for-nature swap in history, a $1.6-billion deal that will reduce its debt burden and free up hundreds of millions of dollars to fund marine conservation around the Galápagos Islands. 'Ecuador is as wealthy as any of the richest countries in the world, but our currency is biodiversity.' NYT

A federal court in Brazil (the world's fifth largest exporter of live cattle) has banned the export of live animals from all the country's ports, a ruling hailed as historic by animal welfare activists. 'Animals are not things. They are sentient living beings, that is, individuals who feel hunger, thirst, pain, cold, anguish, fear.' Reuters

Last year, the Kitasoo/Xai’xais people of Canada created a new MPA called the Gitdisdzu Lugyeks, closing the waters of Kitasu Bay to commercial and sport fishing. It was a landmark moment–the first MPA to be declared under Indigenous law, without government approval, and an unexpected success story. Guardian

‘In some ways, I hope someone challenges us' | The Kitasoo/Xai’xais stewardship authority

Horse racing is dying in the United States. In 1989 there were more than 74,000 races. Last year there were only 33,453. It is unusual to see anyone under the age of 60 at the track, and most Americans now only hear about the sport when the news is bad (recently, there's been a lot of that). Economist

India's Kuttamperoor River, declared biologically dead in 2005, has been brought back to life in the last five years thanks to the work of over 7,000 people, mostly women. It's part of a wider effort: last year the government released $19 million to restore 13 rivers across the country. Nspirement

Environmental groups have just won a big victory in South Carolina, stopping horseshoe crab harvesting on all critical stopover beaches for endangered red knot birds, and on the Mississippi, a pioneering initiative has incentivized fishers to remove almost 3,000 crab traps, meaning wildlife is safer, and the water is cleaner.

If you live in an American city, get ready to see a lot more trees. As part of the Inflation Reduction Act, $1.5 billion will be spent on funding urban tree-planting over the next decade, concentrating on communities that have historically been ignored. That's up from the $36 million/year under previous administrations. AP

Ameen Taylor plants a tree at the Coleman Young Community Center in Detroit, 14 April 2023. A historic amount of money is being spent on urban tree planting and maintenance in underserved, often concrete-covered neighborhoods across the country. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

A non-profit is reconnecting islands of Brazil’s original Atlantic Forest, currently fragmented by farms, ranches, and housing. It recently purchased a 250-acre cattle pasture to connect to the 6,200-acre União Biological Reserve, bringing the total area of protected space to 49,400 acres of contiguous forest. Mongabay

Last year, China committed to plant and conserve 70 billion trees by 2030, the African Union committed to restoring 100 million hectares, and more than 80 companies pledged to conserve, restore and grow 7 billion trees in over 65 countries. In 2023, we're starting to see the results, as forestry teams begin turning those pledges into real forests.

Did you know that Indonesia, home to the third-highest amount of original forest in the world, is slowly winning its war on deforestation? Its rate of primary forest loss has declined every year since 2016 and is now at its lowest level since at least 2002. Washington Post


The rhino population in Zimbabwe has surpassed 1,000 animals for the first time in over 30 years, a sign that efforts to preserve the species are working. Dedicated conservationists continue to persevere 'with great success' despite soaring costs for food and fuel. ABC

A world-first breeding program in New South Wales, Australia, has brought the stocky galaxias fish population back from the brink of extinction, allowing them to be released back into their natural habitat last month. 'Saving threatened species from extinction is one of the reasons we become scientists.' CSU

29th April 2023 - 5th May 2023

A new study in The Lancet shows that globally, the age-standardised death rate due to chronic respiratory diseases fell by 41.7% between 1990 to 2019, and prevalence fell by 16.9% during the same period. Although the pandemic has set back some of this progress, it's still an extraordinary achievement.

Have you ever heard of the LV Prasad Eye Institute in Hyderabad, India? We hadn't either, and were pretty impressed to discover that since being started by Dr Gullapalli Rao in 1987, it's served 16 million people free of cost, in over 12,000 villages across India, and trained almost 60,000 healthcare professionals. Siasat

Cigarette smoking in the United States dropped to another all-time low last year, with the percentage of adult smokers falling to 11%, down from around 12.5% in 2020 and 2021. A bit of historical context: in the 1960s, 42% of US adults were smokers. AP

Last week, Nebraska protected the right to abortion in a solidly Republican state, five female state senators in South Carolina defeated a similarly restrictive piece of legislation, and Minnesota passed three bills in a single day that preserve reproductive freedom, ban conversion therapy, and make the state a refuge for transgender people.

Abortion laws, each and every one of them, have been about control. It’s always about control, plain and simple. And in the Senate, the males all have control. We, the women, have not asked for... nor do we want your protection. We don’t need it. There is not a single thing I can do when women such as me are insulted except make sure that you get an earful.
South Carolina Republican Senator, Sandy Senn
Republican Senator Sandy Senn speaks against a near-total abortion ban, 26th April 2023

China’s once-smog-choked skies are steadily improving, according to measurements taken by NASA. The speed at which China has done this is unprecedented, with average exposure to fine particulate matter falling by almost half since 2013, mostly as a result of stricter controls on industrial emissions. Nature

Bangladesh's clothing industry has been completely transformed thanks to labour laws passed after the Rana Plaza tragedy ten years ago. Over 80% of factories are now compliant with international safety standards. “It has undoubtedly saved thousands of lives, through ensuring repairs and renovations at more than 1,600 factories that employ two and a half million garment workers.” Al Jazeera

Yes, everything in France is awful, apart from the fact that it has one of the lowest levels of inequality in the world, devotes a higher percentage of GDP to redistributing market inequalities than any of its wealthy peers, is near the top for average life expectancy, its workers retire earlier than anyone else in Europe (with the lowest rate of poverty), and unemployment is at its lowest in a generation.

An estimated 640 million girls and women alive today were married in childhood, according to a new report by UNICEF. That's a shocking statistic, but things are getting better. Today, one in five young women aged 20 to 24 years were married as children, versus nearly one in four a decade ago. Progress has been particularly strong in India, the country with the most child brides in the world.

Ending Child Marriage: A profile of progress in India

Good news for the American economy. Immigration is back after a multi-year period of decline due to Trump-era policies and the pandemic. Over the past two and a half years, immigration into the US labour market has increased by four million workers. More than 900,000 immigrants became citizens last year, the third-highest on record and the most in any year since 2008. FT

The Australian Institute of Criminology says Australia’s murder rate has fallen by 55% since the early 1990s, despite a small blip during COVID. Overall crime rates are declining too: physical assaults are down by 39% compared to 2009, face-to-face threatened assaults are down 44%, and robberies are down 50%. The Conversation

The World Bank just completed a huge, six-year education project in rural Argentina, enrolling a million students and building or refurbishing 183 rural schools. The result? Primary-education repeat rates decreased by almost 50%, transition rates to high school increased from 74% to 80%, and high school completion rates increased from 63.3% to 74.1%.

A new international study looking at human behaviour in multiple cultures has shown that small acts of kindness are frequent and universal. People make small requests for help from others every few minutes, and these are granted seven times more often than declined, and six times more often than they are ignored. Science Daily

When we zoom in on the micro level of social interaction, cultural difference mostly goes away, and our species' tendency to give help when needed becomes universally visible.
Giovanni Rossi, Assistant Professor of Sociology, UCLA

Remember last week's story about the decriminalization of homosexuality in the Cook Islands? Well, here are the people who made it happen.

Clockwise from top left: Dean Tangata, Lady Tuaine Marsters, Valery Wichman, Karla Eggelton

Bolivia has created a new 43,868-hectare conservation area called the Mayaya de Teoponte in La Paz, connecting Indigenous territories to the north and a conservation area in the southeast. Most of it has been designated as integrated, meaning conservation and sustainable development must go hand-in-hand in its future management.

Environmental groups in Canada are celebrating after forcing Chevron to relinquish 19 offshore exploration permits granted 50 years ago within one of the country's most diverse marine ecosystems. The victory protects globally-unique glass sponge reefs and critical seabird habitats. Eco Justice

The British government just announced new funding for over 80 conservation projects around the world. The projects, ranging from snow leopard conservation in Kyrgyzstan to beekeeping in Ghana and watershed protection in Bolivia, are aimed at boosting international biodiversity, supporting the communities that live alongside nature, and tackling the illegal wildlife trade.

The winners of this year's Goldman Prize (the 'Green Nobel') were recently announced, and if you're looking for some inspiration, then you should really spend a few minutes exploring the stories of these six incredible eco-warriors.

  • Alessandra Munduruku, who saved indigenous lands in the Amazon from mining
  • Chilekwa Mumba, who successfully sued the owners of a copper mine in Zambia
  • Delima Silalahi, who reclaimed swathes of Indonesia from a paper company
  • Zafer Kizilkaya, who expanded Turkey’s marine protected areas
  • Tero Mustonen, who pioneered peatland restoration in Finland
  • Diane Wilson, who held a plastics company to account for dumping in Texas

Brazil's Lula has delivered on one of his campaign promises by officially recognizing six Indigenous reservations last week. One of those territories is the land that Goldman Prize winner Alessandra Munduruku and her community have been working to get formally recognized for decades. Amazon Watch

In what scientists are calling the largest-ever wildlife reintroduction, over 5,000 Polynesian tree snails have been reintroduced in Tahiti over the last month. The species is endemic to the island but was eaten to extinction by invasive snails. With its predators under control, the snail is now being reintroduced as part of a joint effort by international zoos. Smithsonian

Some great local US conservation victories sent in to us from readers. Amber Benbow shared that the Board of Soil and Water Resources in Minnesota has protected 7,000 acres and over 80 km of the Mississippi's headwaters since 2016, and Elizabeth Dunham says local groups in Michigan have managed to stop a military lease on 162,000 acres of state forest near an important watershed.  

In the late 1980s, fishers across Japan started planting trees in coastal watersheds in order to protect their fishing grounds, an act simultaneously rooted in tradition and informed by new science.  It worked–these 'fish forests' have contributed to a notable increase in the populations of vulnerable coastal fish species. Mongabay

A bill in New Zealand that was passed in 2021 to ban the export of live animals overseas went into effect last week. On April 30th, the last live animal export by sea departed from New Plymouth, in a move that will prevent the suffering of millions. World Animal News

A plastic bag ban in Philadelphia that went into effect on 1st July 2021 has prevented 200 million plastic bags from being used, the equivalent to filling City Hall every eight months. 'The ban had a huge, very positive impact. Municipalities all over Pennsylvania are now following Philadelphia and implementing their own plastic bag bans.' Inquirer

One of Canada’s most prominent conservation groups has reached a deal to buy Batchawana Island, the largest privately-owned island on Lake Superior. The  2,100-hectare island is home to several significant animal and tree species. 'We can say they get to stay that way forever.' Global News

Happy 50th anniversary to one of the great conservation success stories of the 20th century, Project Puffin. In 1973, biologist Steve Kress and the Audubon Society began the world’s first restoration of a seabird to an island where humans had killed it off. Today, there are more than 1,300 breeding pairs. Down East

An Atlantic Puffin takes flight after swimming in the Atlantic Ocean on a cloudy summer day near Eastern Egg Rock, Maine, 1st August 2021. Credit: Mark Olsen

8th April 2023 - 28th April 2023

The most important good news story of the month, and arguably the year: Ghana and Nigeria (which has the highest number of malaria deaths in the world) have approved Oxford's highly effective R21 malaria vaccine for children under the age of three. The world's biggest vaccine maker says it will make 20 million doses available in the next two months. Reuters

We expect R21 to make a major impact on malaria mortality in children in the coming years, and in the longer term contribute to the overall final goal of malaria eradication and elimination.
Professor Adrian Hill, Director, Jenner Institute, University of Oxford

Yes, everything in America is awful, except for the fact that inequality is falling; unemployment is at its lowest since WW2 (and so is racial disparity in hiring); it's still the world’s richest, most productive and most innovative economy; poverty and uninsured rates are at their lowest levels in history; Millennials are back on track, and GenZ are blowing past other generations in saving for retirement.

Last year, an initiative called Deworm the World helped India, Pakistan, Kenya and Nigeria provide treatment to around 249 million children. Deworming is proven to improve the nutrition, cognition, school attendance, and long-term economic prospects of children. Evidence Action

Between 2007 and 2021, the number of breast cancer survivors in Canada doubled. There are now two and a half times more survivors than there were during the last estimate in 2007. Around 370,000 women have been diagnosed with breast cancer during this period, and 85.9% had survived the disease as of 2022. Science Daily

Did you know that George W. Bush was responsible for the United States' most impactful foreign policy intervention of the 21st century? No, not that one. This year marks the 20th anniversary of PEPFAR, Bush’s HIV/AIDS program that turned the tide of the global epidemic, and has saved 25 million lives so far. NYT

In Ghana, the proportion of children under five suffering from stunting has fallen from 35.1% in 2003 to 17.1% in 2022. The change is thanks to better education of mothers, the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, better food security and sanitation programs, and a general improvement in the socio-economic situation. Graphic

Electric trams are running again in Kyiv, electric scooters dot the sidewalks, and with curfew extended to midnight, the streets are bright and buzzing. The Kremlin’s campaign to break Ukraine by destroying its power grid failed. Not only did the grid survive, it was even able, in early March, to produce surplus energy for the first time in months. NYT

Over the winter, Ukrainians remained defiant despite a concerted Russian effort to plunge the country into darkness and break their will. Credit: Emile Ducke/NYT

The Cook Islands has officially decriminalized homosexuality. The country, comprising 15 islands in the South Pacific, has rescinded a section of its Crimes Act of 1969. "We are so grateful for all the people and organizations throughout our community who have been working tirelessly to make this happen.” LGBTQ Nation

A new law giving women greater legal protection against gender-based violence has been passed in Uzbekistan, following a long campaign by women’s and human rights activists. “Today, Uzbekistan became the fifth country in Eastern Europe and Central Asia to criminalise domestic violence as a separate criminal offence.” Nadja

Poland has experienced the longest uninterrupted period of growth in European history. Real GDP has increased sixfold in three decades, and the country has a record-low unemployment rate of 3%, lower infant mortality than Canada, higher female life expectancy than the US, and less violent crime than the UK. Guardian

Ten US states have now passed "shield laws" to protect transgender rights and provide sanctuary. Together, these places are establishing themselves as safe havens and recognizing the connection between gender-affirming care and abortion rights as part of a united struggle for bodily autonomy. Erin Reed

States with protective shield legislation.

Colombia has expanded three indigenous conservation areas, the Huitorá, Coropoyá, and Jericó Consaya Reserves, by a total of 279,777 acres. The move consolidates a crucial biological corridor between the Caquetá River and the Chiribiquete and La Paya, home to more than 3,000 plant and animal species—more species than are found in all of Germany. Andes Amazon Fund

In 2006, tiger populations in India reached a record low of 1,411. Since then, they've more than doubled, reaching 3,167 last year, according to the latest census. The resurgence of Indian tigers represents a triumph for conservationists and a ray of hope for other countries struggling to boost wildlife numbers. CNN

Togo begins its annual reforestation drive on 1st June, led by Environment Minister, Foli-Bazi Katari. The goal this year is to plant 14 million trees on 11,000 ha of land, improving on the 5.2 million planted on 8,256 ha of land in 2022. "Our country’s objective is to restore its entire forest and vegetation cover in the long term." Afrik21

The US government has released $350 million for wildlife crossings to prevent deaths and improve habitat connectivity across the country. “Our country has been remarkably effective at building roads, and now we can start funding projects that will help America’s wildlife cross them." AP

The Robert L.B. Tobin Land Bridge in San Antonio, Texas, the largest wildlife crossing in the United States. Credit: Stimson Studio

A large watershed in British Columbia’s Raush Valley has been declared an Indigenous Protected and Conserved Area. The valley contains old-growth cedar and hemlock forests that are home to iconic species like caribou, moose, and grizzly bears. Narwhal

Record numbers of river barriers were removed in Europe in 2022, with 325 taken down in 16 countries, allowing rivers to flow freely and fish to reach breeding areas. It's part of a bigger global trend: the world has now reached peak dams, the point at which the number of dams built annually levels off and begins to decline.

A 20-year effort to rid Lehua Island in Hawaii of rats was recently successfully concluded, and the focus has now shifted to luring back native birds like the ʻuaʻu (Hawaiian petrel), ‘ewa‘ewa (sooty tern), and ‘akē‘akē (band-rumped storm petrel). “Each project is a stepping stone to the next." Hakai

Deep in Florida, nearly half of the Kissimmee River has been restored to its natural state, reversing an ecological disaster from the 1960s. After 20 years, and at a cost of around a billion dollars, over 100 km² has been re-established and rehydrated, and birds and fish are now returning in droves. Nat Geo

The Kissimmee’s meandering floodplains teemed with life before they were diverted into a straight canal a half-century ago. A recently completed project has restored the curves—seen here—and replenished the wetlands. Waterfowl, raptors, fish, and mammals are returning. Credit: Carlton Ward Jr

As California recovers from its drought, farmers are intentionally flooding farmlands to restore underground aquifers. Much of this is being driven by the state's 2014 law to regulate groundwater, which mandates that by 2042, an equal amount of groundwater has to be returned to an aquifer as is withdrawn every year. Civil Eats

Lisbon has become the latest European city to bar through-traffic from its city centre. The plan, which will run for a three-month trial period, could also help Lisbon reach its aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. It's one of 122 cities in Europe that have pledged to achieve that goal. Bloomberg

Over 100 countries now have a full or partial ban on single-use plastic bags, and it's starting to work. In combination with levies and taxes, numerous countries are seeing significant declines in plastic bag use, and the impact is visible on the ground too. “It’s really, really encouraging to see those numbers trending down." Euro News

1st April 2023 - 7th April 2023

Heart disease is responsible for one in every five deaths in the United States. However, at a conference hosted last month by the American College of Cardiology, researchers revealed that between 1999 and 2020, the rate of deaths from heart attacks fell from 87 per 100,000 people to 38 per 100,000 people, and racial disparities narrowed by nearly half. This is astonishing news. Despite setbacks caused by the pandemic, the risk of death from America's biggest killer of people has more than halved since the beginning of the 21st century.

Bhutan has become an Open Defecation Free country, and the WHO just certified Azerbaijan and Tajikistan as malaria-free, following a sustained, century-long effort to stamp out the disease by the two countries. Seems like an appropriate moment to share this.

Scotland’s pioneering policy of putting a minimum price on alcohol has been linked to a 13% drop in the number of deaths from alcohol consumption and hundreds of fewer hospitalisations every year. “Minimum unit pricing was introduced to save lives, and this latest report shows it is doing just that." Guardian

Malawi and Kenya are making significant progress on family planning. Around 60% of women in both countries are now using contraceptives, up from 15% in the 1990s for Kenya and just 7% in Malawi. Contraceptives, including implants and intrauterine devices, are now widely available, including for the majority of populations living in rural areas. Exemplars

Slip, slop, slap. A new study shows there's been a significant reduction in skin cancer in people below the age of 39 in Victoria, Queensland and South Australia. "It's a really exciting thing to see the statistics coming in to show that all the hard work that schools, communities have been putting in, has actually paid off." ABC

You had to be there.

Some more good news from the United States. Voters in Wisconsin have won a major victory for reproductive rights, New Hampshire has stopped further restrictions on abortion access and instead passed legislation to protect it, Missouri is making period products free in schools, Maryland has strengthened transgender rights, Minnesota is making itself a safe refuge for transgender people, Kentucky just legalized cannabis, and the first over-the-counter opioid-overdose treatment is now available across the nation.

Teenage pregnancy among girls aged 15 to 19 in the Philippines has fallen from 8.6% in 2017 to 5.4% in 2022. This is good news for a country with one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the world, and comes off the back of last year's landmark ban on child marriage. The Star

Earlier this week, after a year of intense debate, Malaysia's parliament voted to remove the mandatory use of the death penalty, abolish natural-life prison sentences, and cut down on the number of crimes eligible for capital punishment. Human rights groups have hailed it as a major step forward. BBC

The strongest democracy in the Americas isn’t the United States or Canada, but a small nation of three million people. Free and universal education, public health care, strong unions, and a solid social security system reflects its ethos of nadie es más que nadie—nobody is worth more than anybody else. It now has the largest middle class in the Americas, making up more than 60% of the population.

Brazil's Ministry of Indigenous Affairs is restoring sovereignty and bringing justice to Indigenous communities. Following the removal of tens of thousands of illegal miners from the lands of the Yanomami, the federal government is deploying healthcare services, food and relief. 78% of children with severe malnutrition have already gained weight.

Women's share of board seats at Britain's 350 biggest listed companies reached 40% for the first time in 2022. Just over a decade ago, 152 of the country's biggest companies had no women on their boards at all. Today, they all do, and the vast majority have three or more. Still a long way to go, but it's progress. FTSE

A new marine protected area in Patagonia will safeguard an important feeding and breeding area for endangered blue whales. Spanning 100,000 hectares along the Gulf of Corcovado, the protections are also good news for humpback and sei whales, South American sea lions and two species of threatened albatross that frequent the area. Mongabay

The Melimoyu Foundation is aiming to protect an area of 1 million ha through the creation of six protected marine and land areas. You can see the recently protected area here as number four. “By 2025 we want to have these six areas approved. We already have four, so we still have two to go."

The newly designated Utco Private Conservation Area in Peru will protect 3,060 hectares of Amazonian dry forest. The region is an "epicentre of biodiversity" and home to 20 species of critically endangered flora and almost two dozen species that are found nowhere else in the world, including the yellow-faced parrotlet. Amazon Fund

Two big wins in Ecuador. A new conservation area in the El Oro province will protect water sources for over 85,000 people as well as the habitats of dozens of threatened species, and a court has stopped a copper mine in the Intag Valley, following a successful campaign by the community to invoke the "Rights of Nature" embedded in Ecuador's constitution in 2008.

The critically endangered West African lion is making a steady comeback in Senegal’s Niokolo Koba National Park. Since 2011, conservation measures have bolstered the population from 15 to over 40 lions and are raising hopes for a species that has a wild population of only a few hundred lions in total. Good News Network

The world’s first large-scale shark rewilding is underway in Indonesia’s Raja Ampat archipelago. ReShark is raising endangered zebra sharks from aquariums and aims to release 500 of them into Indonesian waters. Marine reintroductions are tricky business, but experts think the plan will work… which means zebra sharks may be just the beginning. Nat Geo

It’s such a milestone. This is such a hopeful, momentous moment.
Nesha Ichida, Indonesian Marine Scientist, ReShark
Nesha Ichida releases the second zebra shark of the day, a young female named Kathlyn, in Indonesia’s Wayag Islands. Ichida is part of a new group, ReShark, led by 44 aquariums from around the world, that aims to rebuild endangered shark populations by reintroducing sharks raised in captivity to their native waters. (Ichida had released Charlie, Kathlyn’s older sibling, and the very first shark set free through this program, 20 minutes earlier.). Credit: Nat Geo

Wet wipes containing plastic will be banned in England as part of the country’s plan to improve its waterways. In 2021 around 90% of wipes contained plastics which don’t break down and are the biggest cause of blockages. Although the ban is scheduled to come into force next year, stores like Boots and Tesco have already stopped selling plastic-based wet wipes. BBC

Canada is making its largest investment ever in protection for its fresh water. The government just committed $650 million over ten years for the Fraser River, the Mackenzie River, Lake Winnipeg, the Lake of the Woods, Lake Simcoe, the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes. The funds will be used for monitoring, restoration, preventing harmful chemicals and reducing algae blooms. CBC

The US Department of the Interior has pledged to tap into Indigenous knowledge and restore large bison herds to Native American lands. $25 million has been allocated to transfer more bison from federal to tribal lands and forge management agreements with tribes. Previous conservation efforts helped bison bounce back from near-extinction in the late 1880s. PBS

When we think about Indigenous communities, we must acknowledge that they have spent generations over many centuries observing the seasons, tracking wildlife migration patterns and fully comprehending our role in the delicate balance of this earth.
Deb Haaland, Interior Secretary, United States

A New York investment firm has launched a $400-million bid for oil concessions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with plans to turn them into conservation projects. The concessions include areas of critically endangered gorilla habitat, tropical peatlands and swathes of the planet’s second-largest rainforest in the Congo basin. Guardian

Let us prove that we have an alternative to oil exploration and provide a way to centre the economy around nature conservation instead of destroying them for extractive industries.
Matthias Pitkowitz, EQX Biome CEO
Sources: CongoPeat Project, University of Leeds. Crezee et al. (2022). Global Land Analysis & Discovery, Global Forest Watch

After disappearing over a century ago, oysters are making a comeback along Brisbane’s coastline, with three million oysters thriving on baskets built by volunteers. 4,000 baskets were positioned across a 19-hectare site in five-metre-deep water. Within 12 months, sturdy clumps of oysters formed, attracting millions of other animals such as crabs.

The UK beaver revolution continues. After a 400-year absence, an estimated population of 50 beavers has set up home on local riverbanks in Somerset and Wiltshire. It’s suspected the beavers may have escaped from licensed reintroduction sites, and their presence will support other wildlife and boost ecological restoration. NHM

India is celebrating its 50th Anniversary of Project Tiger. The project launched in 1973 with nine tiger reserves. Today, there are 53 reserves across 18 states, covering more than 75,000 km2, encompassing 2.4% of the country's land. “We have 1.4 billion people living here, and the human population has doubled since 1973. Given all this pressure, I would say this is a huge achievement,” CSM

25th March 2023 - 31st March 2023

Club of Rome, the most influential neo-Malthusians of the 20th century, have published a follow-up to their seminal 1972 Limits to Growth study, saying their long-feared "population bomb" may never go off. Based on current trends, they're now estimating global population will peak at 8.6 billion, a figure that will no doubt make just as many headlines as past predictions of doom. New Scientist

Deaths from tuberculosis in Africa fell by 26% between 2015 and 2021, saving an estimated half a million lives. “African countries have made remarkable progress against TB. The question is no longer about whether we can end TB, but how fast we must act to reduce the disease burden, save lives and maintain a high momentum towards a TB-free world." WHO

Nigeria has made substantial progress in its fight against AIDS, with annual deaths declining from 264,463 in 2015 to 51,000 in 2022. Most of this is due to expanded access to treatments: the number of patients receiving anti-retroviral therapies has increased from 800,000 in 2017 to over 1.8 million today. Punch

Kenya is scaling up its rollout of the Mosquirix malaria vaccine, after a pilot program for 400,000 children was shown to substantially reduce deaths in eight counties. Early modelling estimates that one life is being saved for every 200 children vaccinated. This is big - there are an estimated 3.5 million cases of malaria in Kenya every year. ABC

Deaths from terrorism have fallen by over a third since their peak in 2015, with two of the largest decreases occurring in Iraq and Nigeria in the last 12 months. Dividing the world into nine regions, the impact of terrorism fell in seven of them in 2022, and 121 countries experienced no deaths at all, the highest number since 2007. Vision of Humanity

Child mortality rates in Laos fell to a level on par with some OECD countries in 2022, thanks to significant strides in hygiene and health promotion. The country has also recorded a 78.7% reduction in maternal mortality over the last two decades, one of the fastest-falling rates in the world. Loatian Times

The proportion of teenage girls in New Zealand giving birth has halved in the last 10 years, and child poverty has fallen dramatically, with 77,000 fewer children living in low income households compared to 2018, and eight of nine child poverty measures seeing a statistically significant reduction during the same period. National Tribune

For the first time in its history, Canada's population grew by over one million people last year and almost all of that was from immigrants, including over 133,000 Ukrainian refugees. The growth comes as the federal government makes a push to raise its 2025 immigration targets by almost 25%. NYT

Good news from the United States. Oregon just approved $200 million for the state's homeless, Maryland has passed a bill extending Medicaid coverage for transgender people, Washington state has upheld a new tax on the wealthy to fund education, Tennessee is seeing historic reductions in child poverty, and Seattle has become the first US city to outlaw discrimination on the basis of caste.

Substantial majorities of Americans think progress toward inclusion and diversity is on the right track. In a new poll, 86% believe more should be done to promote gender equality, 69% say more should be done to foster acceptance of LGBTQ people, 70% think businesses should promote racial diversity, and 58% are happy with new pronouns.

If that all sounds too 'woke' then Neil Gaiman's definition might help.

Bangladesh isn't just ground zero for climate disaster. It's also a hotspot for solutions, where a mix of technology and community have resulted in cyclone-related mortality declining more than 1,000-fold in the past 40 years. I tell my American friends, "You should send your sceptics to Bangladesh! We have gone through the doom and gloom phase. Now it's all about solutions." NPR

A water level gauge in a tributary of the Surma River in northern Bangladesh. Hundreds of laypeople read these gauges in rivers across the country and send data daily to engineers at Bangladesh's Flood Forecasting & Warning Centre in Dhaka. Fatima Tuj Johora for NPR

Participants at the UN Water Conference last week pledged billions of dollars and made over 700 commitments to ensure a water-secure future for everyone. It's welcome news: despite substantial progress in the last two decades, two billion people still lack access to safe drinking water and 40% of the global population are impacted by water scarcity. UN

The commitments at this Conference will propel humanity towards the water-secure future every person on the planet needs.
António Guterres, Secretary-General, United Nations

The biggest commitment of all was the Freshwater Challenge, the largest-ever global initiative to restore rivers, lakes, and wetlands. Driven by Colombia, the DRC, Ecuador, Gabon, Mexico and Zambia, the project aims to restore 300,000 kilometres of rivers and 350 million hectares of wetlands (an area larger than India) by 2030. UNEP

Reintroduction programs are forging ahead in the world’s two most populous countries: 200,000 Chinese sturgeons were recently released back into the Yangtze as part of China’s re-wilding efforts, and India welcomed four cheetah cubs, the first in-country birth since the species was declared extinct there 70 years ago. The mother was relocated from Namibia last September.

Credit: Global Times

The EU is upholding its 2018 neonics ban and cracking down on temporary exemptions for bee-toxic pesticides. It closes an important loophole. In the last four years more than 236 exemptions for banned pesticides were granted in European countries, with neonicotinoids accounting for almost half. Euractiv

The US government has withdrawn a land-swap deal that would allow the construction of a road through Alaska’s Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, an area originally protected under President Jimmy Carter. The move is good news for geese and other migrating birds that use the wetlands as a migratory stopover. NYT

After a 400-year absence, beavers are coming back to London! Conservation groups have created the UK’s first urban reintroduction site for a breeding pair of Eurasian beavers that will arrive later this year. The project is one of 22 across the city that have been greenlit as part of the Rewild London Fund. Guardian

We are hoping to challenge perceptions, and demonstrate how London, too, can embrace these ecosystem engineers as we strive for a healthier, wilder future in which our capital can become a leader in urban rewilding.
Elliot Newton, Co-founder, Citizen Zoo

The number of privately protected areas in South America has exploded in the past two decades, and these areas now cover around two million hectares. Most are collectively owned by campesino communities or smallholder families, and the real numbers may be higher, as many landowners who do conserve their land aren’t officially registered. Mongabay

Growth of Peruvian PPAs by number, segregated by ownership category. Others include rural associations, businesses, and universities. Image courtesy of López de la Lama et al. (2023).

This year’s Ramadan will be greener, with mosques around the world banning single-use plastics ahead of breaking fast and some banning plastics all together. Links between Islam and sustainability are nothing new - the Quran instructs Muslims “to be mindful of God’s creation and care for the environment.” WEF

Iraq has announced a plan to plant five million palms and trees to combat high temperatures and water scarcity and to create windbreaks against dust storms. Saudi Arabia has already commenced its plan to plant 10 billion trees on its territory by 2031 as well as 40 billion additional trees in collaboration with other countries.

A 20-year project combining public health and conservation has brought mountain gorillas in Uganda back from the brink of extinction. Improvements in community sanitation and hygiene have resulted in fewer gorillas picking up human diseases. In 1997 there were only 650 mountain gorillas in the wild, by 2018 there were 1,063, and conservationists expect another increase at the next census. New Scientist

We realised that to make sure wildlife stays healthy, we have to improve the health of people who interact with it. And to ensure that people stay healthy, you have to make sure they’re not getting diseases by poaching wildlife.
Gladys Kalema-Zikusoka, Wildlife Vet, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park
Thomas Marent/Minden Pictures/Alamy

18th March 2023 - 24th March 2023

Vox has a great new feature section on progress and optimism. We recommend the pieces by Brian Walsh, on why doomers are wrong about the future, and the amazing Hannah Ritchie, on why optimism is the only thing that works (but only if we assume that progress is not inevitable).

The astounding economic and technological progress made over the past 200 years has been the result of deliberate policies, a drive to invent and innovate, one advance building upon another. And as our material condition improved, so, for the most part, did our morals and politics — not as a side effect, but as a direct consequence.

More than 97% of people worldwide now have some level of immunity against COVID-19, either from infection or vaccination, or a combination of the two. Over 5.5 billion people, almost 70% of humanity, has been vaccinated, easily the largest, fastest and most successful campaign in the history of global public health. Think Global Health

The new World Happiness Report says there was a "globe-spanning surge of benevolence" during the pandemic, with acts like donating, volunteering and helping a stranger increasing by a quarter compared to pre-pandemic times. Contrary to dominant media narratives, the report also says that positive social connections and support in 2022 were twice as prevalent as loneliness.

The global inventory of nuclear weapons has declined by more than 80% since the Cold War, from a peak of 70,300 in 1986 to 12,700 in 2022. Under the Trump administration, the United States stopped disclosing the size of its stockpile, but transparency has resumed again under the Biden administration. FAS

Federation of American Scientists, 2022

Ghana is including free long-term contraception in its national health insurance program, a move that will allow millions of women to avoid paying out of pocket for implants, IUDs and injections. In Liberia, a new program has cut teen pregnancy in five of the country's fifteen counties by at least half since 2017.

This means long time peace of mind for women, girls and their families with potential positive impact on their health and economic life.
Abena Amoah, Executive Director, Planned Parenthood of Ghana

A human rights court in Latin America has issued a landmark ruling requiring Bolivia to reform its criminal codes to make lack of consent central to the definition of rape and create protocols to improve all sexual assault investigations. The ruling is binding and establishes a legal precedent that could reverberate throughout the region.

Some good news from Brazil, one of the most violent countries in the world, where the homicide rate in 2022 fell to 19 per 100,000 people, its lowest level since 2007 (when the Brazilian Forum on Public Security began collecting data), and a decline of almost a quarter since its peak in 2017. OGlobo

Feeling negative about the United States? Michigan just passed a law protecting LGBTQ citizens, Minnesota has become the fourth state to provide free meals to all schoolchildren, Illinois has become the third state to enact mandatory paid leave, New Mexico has passed a law that prohibits life imprisonment for juvenile offenders, Arizona has pioneered an urban food forest that's become a model for climate action, and California just announced a program to cut the number of unsheltered people by 15% in the next two years.

Oh, and all of those stories are from the last two weeks.

Students celebrate with Governor Tim Walz after signing the free school meals bill at Webster Elementary in northeast Minneapolis on 17 March 2023. Ben Hovland | MPR News

California has announced a plan to transform its oldest prison, San Quentin, into a centre for rehabilitation modelled after Norway's incarceration programmes, which have some of the lowest recidivism rates in the world. It's a landmark moment for criminal justice reform, marking a fundamental shift away from the punitive American system. Guardian

Childhood stunting in Cambodia has fallen from 34% in 2014 to to 22% in 2022. In actual numbers, that's 180,000 fewer children suffering from stunting than eight years ago. The country is also getting a handle on nutrition for older children, thanks to its nationwide school meals programme, which feeds 300,000 children with hot meals every day. Phnom Penh Post

Investment into early warning systems and more resilient buildings has significantly reduced the death toll from Cyclone Freddy in Mozambique. Tragically, 59 people have been killed, but it's a fraction of the 602 killed by the similar-sized Cyclone Idai four years ago. A reminder that as the world develops, it becomes more able to deal with natural disasters. UN

India is experiencing an unprecedented infrastructure makeover that is transforming the ability of hundreds of millions of poor and emerging middle-class citizens to travel, connect to the internet, and access electricity, and removing one of the country's biggest constraints on economic growth. Economist

Chile’s Pisagua Sea will become the country's first MPA to protect not only marine species, but also local artisanal fishing communities who have contributed to the sustainable management of resources. Spanning 181,622 acres, the area’s abundance of crustaceans and phytoplankton makes it a crucial breeding ground for fish, mammals and birds. Oceana

An Egyptian startup is tackling ocean pollution by turning plastic bags into outdoor paving tiles that are tougher than cement. To date, the company has recycled five million bags and hopes to increase that number tenfold by 2025. It’s good news for the Mediterranean Sea, which suffers from 74,000 tonnes of waste every year from Egypt alone. Reuters

Illegal gold mining is one of the drivers of deforestation in the Amazon, but the new Brazilian government has made stopping it a priority, evicting thousands of illegal gold miners from Yanomami territory, an indigenous reservation the size of Portugal, and restoring the sanctity of indigenous land. Reuters

The United States has two new national monuments: Castner Range National Monument in Texas, made up of 6,600 acres of rugged canyons and arroyos, and Avi Kwa Ame in Nevada, comprising a half million acres of the most biologically diverse and culturally significant lands in the Mojave Desert, including 28 species of native grasses and some of the oldest Joshua trees in the country. NYT

The designation will protect critical habitat in the Spirit Mountain area for desert tortoises, bald eagles and peregrine falcons, as well as some of the oldest Joshua trees in the United States. Credit: John Burcham/ NYT

People who mistreat domestic animals in Spain will face much tougher penalties following new legislation that has increased potential jail time from 18 months to three years. The law requires compulsory training for dog owners and aligns with the country’s shift in 2020 to recognise animals as "living beings endowed with sensitivity" rather than simply "things." Euro News

The humble push bike is the new king of the road in London. Cyclists now outnumber motorists at peak times in the city's centre, following sustained efforts to encourage cycling and deter car use. Over the last decade, motorists have declined by 64% and cycling has increased by 386%, with an estimated 800,000 journeys a day now made by bike in the English capital. Forbes

19 billion native seeds will be planted as part of the Klamath River dam removal, the largest river restoration project in American history. Local tribes and environmental groups are busy sourcing 96 different species of trees and shrubs including culturally significant plants like yampah, lomatium and milkweed to plant across 2,200 acres of drained reservoirs. OPB

Pallets of native seeds being stored for the Klamath River restoration at BFI Native Seeds in Washington state. Gwen Santos / Resource Environmental Solutions

For the first time in 26 years, the US EPA has set new legal limits for drinking water to remove six common "forever chemicals." Because these substances don’t naturally break down, they have been linked to liver and thyroid issues, birth defects, kidney disease and decreased immunity. Guardian

What difference a decade makes. In 2013 the EU and Israel became the world’s first markets to ban cosmetic animal testing. Today, 43 nations have sales bans or restrictions. The tireless work of activists has also turned the retail tide, with big beauty brands like Avon, L’Oréal and Johnson & Johnson banning the practice. Humane Society

11th March 2023 - 17th March 2023

Did you know that the world malaria map is shrinking? Since the turn of this century, 25 countries, home to more than a billion people, have eradicated the disease. Six of those countries (China, El Salvador, Malaysia, Iran, Belize and Cabo Verde) have achieved the feat since 2019, and the next three to join the list will be Nepal, Bhutan and Saudi Arabia. WHO

European cancer mortality predictions for 2023 suggest death rates will be 6.5% lower in men and 3.7% lower in women than they were in 2018. The biggest contributor to this decline is lung cancer, whose mortality rates are estimated to fall by up to 36% among those aged 25 to 64 years. Between 1989 and 2023, more than 5.8 million cancer deaths have been avoided in the EU.

India conducted the largest and most effective vaccination campaign by a single country during the COVID-19 pandemic. A new report by Stanford University estimates it saved 3.4 million lives and prevented $18.3 billion of economic losses - a timely reminder that the news tells us about what goes wrong, and hardly ever tells us about what goes right.

Some good news from East Africa. Child mortality in Kenya declined by 22% between 2014 and 2022, and by 36% in Tanzania between 2015 and 2021. Uganda is also reporting a 37% decline in annual HIV/AIDS-related deaths between 2016 and 2021, thanks to antiretroviral therapies and changing sexual behaviours.

India has been transformed by digital payments. Close to 300 million individuals and 50 million merchants now use phones for even the smallest of transactions - 10 cents for a cup of chai or $2 for a bag of vegetables. The shift has revolutionized Indian commerce, making business easier and bringing tens of millions into the formal economy. NYT

The digital payments system has brought many people into the formal economy. Credit: Atul Loke for The New York Times

107 countries around the world now provide paid parental leave for fathers. Back in the 1990s, only 46 countries had a paid leave policies for fathers, largely high-income nations. "There is widespread recognition that we don't solve gender equality without dads getting leave." Axios

The United Kingdom has overtaken Canada, Germany and Australia to become one of the world’s most socially liberal nations towards divorce and abortion. “What were once pressing moral concerns – things like homosexuality, divorce and casual sex – have become simple facts of life for much of the public.” Guardian

Reproductive rights activists in Honduras are celebrating after Honduran President Xiomara Castro signed an executive order ending a ban on the morning after pill. Honduras, a heavily Catholic nation, banned the use and sale of the emergency contraception in 2009, arguing it would cause abortions. Reuters

It looks like the United States might have turned the corner on one of its biggest social and health problems - drug overdoses. Recent data from the CDC is showing a sustained dip in overdose deaths as of September 2022, down 7.2% from the peak reached in February 2022. Its still too early to celebrate, but it's the first bit of good news we've seen on this issue in a long time.

The proportion of smokers in Cambodia fell from 16.6% in 2014 to 13.04% in 2021, a decline of around one-fifth. It's good news: tobacco use remains the single largest preventable cause of disease and untimely death in Cambodia. Attitudes are also changing, with 95% of people supporting an increase in cigarette taxes and the price of tobacco products. Ghana News

As predicted, following Eli Lilly's cut to insulin prices last week, the two other biggest manufacturers in the world, Novo Nordisk and Sanofi, have cut their prices by 75% and 78% respectively. Before this, insulin prices were five to ten times higher in the United States than in other high-income countries.

Construction work in the United States has become a lot safer in the last few generations. Between 1970 and 2023, the occupational death rate in construction declined from around 70 per 100,000 workers to 15 per 100,000 workers, a fall of almost 80%, and during the same period the injury rate declined seven-fold. Construction Physics

Amidst the horrors of the war in Ukraine, one of the rare bright spots has been a dramatic shift in attitudes towards the LGBTQ community. Queer people have achieved unprecedented visibility in the country's fight to preserve its sovereignty, and public opinion has rapidly grown more supportive of reforms to fully recognize their rights as citizens. Politico

American volunteer Eddy Etue in a training exercise near the Black Sea port of Odessa, Ukraine, in June 2022. "Being able to wear this unicorn insignia without issues, particularly in a country in Eastern Europe - it feels amazing." Credit: Openly News
Eventually, we stopped on the unicorn as a widely recognizable image. I decided to draw it not cute but valiant — breathing fire and wearing armour. It was hard to find the balance — I wanted it to evoke LGBT vibes while not looking lame. Also, it had to have that tough, military look. We even cleaned up the fire to avoid any hints of sexual imagery so as not to provoke the haters.
Nastia Levytska, Designer of the unofficial patch of the Ukrainian LGBT military

In the last three months humanity has made some big strides towards protecting life on Planet Earth. Following COP15 in December and the High Seas treaty last week, and with UN negotiations on plastics pollution in progress, countries finally have a clear action plan to deal with the three planetary crises of our time: the climate emergency, biodiversity loss and pollution. Guardian

Seaweed is having a moment. A recent study found that substituting 10% of diets with seaweed by 2050 would free up 110 million hectares of agricultural land, while only using 0.03% of the ocean’s surface. Seaweed farms, which have a long history in Asia, also eliminate the need for fresh water, pesticides, and fertilizers. NYT

Debt-for-climate swaps, which allow countries to reduce their debt obligations for conservation, are taking off, and new research shows they could generate over $100 billion for environmental action in low-income countries. While the concept has been kicking around since the 1980s, recent deals for Barbados, Belize and the Seychelles show that it’s going from strength to strength. Energy Monitor

The Vjosa River in Albania, home to more than 1,000 animal and plant species, has been declared a national park. For years, its fragile ecosystem was under threat: at one point as many as 45 hydro projects were planned across its length. But earlier this week, after a decade-long campaign by environmentalists, it was declared the first wild river national park in Europe. Guardian

The Vjosa, 'Queen of the European Rivers.' Credit: Gregor Subic

The Biden administration has finalized a rule forcing factories and power plants in 23 Western and Midwestern states to sharply cut smog-causing pollution that is released from their smokestacks and fouls the air in Eastern states. The rule should help cut nitrogen oxide pollution between March and November by half by 2027. NYT

New research has found that levels of air pollution in the Great Lakes region in the United States has decreased thanks to the elimination of three toxic insecticides: lindane, ɑ-HCH and endosulfan. The good news is mostly owed to regulatory action taken decades ago. Grist

Forest certification is slowly gaining ground in central Africa. Nearly 6 million hectares are now certified under the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Pan-African Forest Certification (PAFC) standard: 2,989,168 hectares in Congo, 2,535,880 hectares in Gabon, and 341,708 hectares in Cameroon. Both schemes are recognised by the Fair & Precious initiative.

The final horn has sounded for one of Scotland’s oldest fox hunts, with new animal rights legislation ending 252 years of the cruel tradition. The Hunting with Dogs bill, which was passed in January 2023 and came into effect last week, outlaws hunting and killing wild mammals using packs of dogs. CNN

The population of whooper swans in the UK is predicted to double by 2030 thanks to conservation measures. Researchers analysed 30 years of data on over 10,000 wild swans and found survival rates were significantly higher in nature reserves, and that this is spilling over into other populations. "The big message is that nature reserves can operate as very good protectors of wildlife." BBC

Credit: Tomi Muukkonen

25th February 2023 - 10th March 2023

UNICEF on how the lives of girls around the world have improved in the last decade. More girls are completing high school, fewer are having children, more have access to family planning, fewer child marriages take place, female genital mutilation has decreased and the proportion of girls being infected by HIV has fallen. It's not enough - but it shows that progress is possible.

Around 90 million women of working age have gained full legal equality in the last decade. It's not even close to enough. Billions of women remain disenfranchised, and dismantling centuries of patriarchy is going to take generations. It is a start though. In 2010, no woman in the world had the same legal rights as a man. World Bank

The first two decades of the 21st century have seen the largest decline in maternal deaths in human history. Between 2000 and 2020, the annual number of women dying while pregnant or within 42 days of giving birth fell from 447,000 to 287,000, and the lifetime risk of a 15-year-old girl dying from maternal causes almost halved. UN, WHO & World Bank

Source: MMR2020

On International Women’s Day, Emmanuel Macron announced that the French government will introduce a bill to add reproductive rights to the country’s constitution, a move supported by a majority of French people. The legislation will allow France to “carve in stone women’s freedom to turn to abortion." Bloomberg

The campaign to make insulin less expensive just scored a major victory, with Eli Lilly, one of the three biggest manufacturers in the US, announcing it will cap the price at $35 per month. More than eight million Americans with diabetes rely on insulin; this move will be life-changing for those who are financially insecure or not properly insured. Vox

New legislation banning child marriage has come into force in England and Wales, a major step forward for women's rights. Girls younger than 18 can no longer get married or have a civil partnership even if their parents give consent. Previously, religious marriages were legally permitted to occur at any age. "We’ve campaigned for this change for a decade." Independent

Brides Do Good, one of the many groups that fought for the law, launching their #OnlyAGirl campaign in 2019

Australian unions have won significant changes to improve the lives of working women in the last 12 months, including more parental leave, more rights to flexible work, wage increases in female-dominated sectors, stronger equal pay laws, and new protections from discrimination. "There is more to be done, and we are not giving up." ACTU

Did you know that women’s groups in India are one of the world's largest and most successful examples of community development? Over 80 million women participate in 7.5 million groups, and in the past decade they've become a key component of the country's economy, contributing to one of the biggest and quickest reductions of poverty in history. Project Syndicate

British Columbia has become the first jurisdiction in Canada to make prescription contraception free to all residents. This includes oral hormone pills, contraceptive injections, intrauterine devices, subdermal implants and the morning-after pill. "This is a win for health, and it's a win for gender equity in our province." CBC

Regular readers will know about Zipline, who run the world's largest drone delivery program. Since 2019, they've delivered nearly eight millions doses of vaccines in Ghana, and are now responsible for one tenth of all the country's vaccine deliveries, disproportionately reaching vulnerable and remote households. GNA

Zipline flight operator Georgina Wilson performs pre-flight checks on one of the drones at the Omenako Zipline centre in Ghana. CREDIT: Stacey Knott

Pandemic benefits in Canada designed to cushion the blow of lockdowns lifted over 300,000 children out of poverty in a single year, the largest 12 month decline in child poverty ever recorded. Benefits also helped narrow income inequality, as lower-income households saw after-tax income grow at a faster rate than that of other groups. NUPGE

Freedom House, which publishes one of the world's most influential reports on global democracy, says 2022 looks like a possible turning point in the global struggle for freedom. The year’s events showed that autocrats are far from infallible, and their errors have provided openings for democratic forces, which have demonstrated 'solidarity and vigour.'

Samantha Power, the current head of USAID, agrees. She thinks that early 2022 was a high-water mark for authoritarianism, pointing out that populism around the world is in decline, democracy has proven stubbornly resilient and autocratic states are appearing increasingly fragile. Foreign Affairs

After two decades of failed negotiations and political deadlock, this is the moment when UN conference president Rena Lee confirmed that nearly 200 countries have reached a landmark deal to protect ocean life, charting a path to conserving international waters. It's the first international agreement on ocean protection since 1982, and a hugely important victory for life on Earth. In Rena's words:

"The ship has reached the shore."

International delegates at the Our Ocean Conference have committed nearly $20 billion to ocean conservation, including funding for expanding and improving marine protected areas and biodiversity corridors. Panama, this year's host, also announced it will add 93,389 km2 to its Banco Volcán MPA, bringing the country’s total marine protection to over 54%. Mongabay

Conservation efforts have restored 15 million hectares of Brazil’s Atlantic Forest since 2009, leading to the return of hundreds of birds and the reintroduction of the lowland tapir to Rio de Janeiro for the first time in 100 years. The forests, which have endured centuries of deforestation, are one of Brazil’s most important biomes. Mongabay

The demilitarised zone between North and South Korea has found new life as a wildlife sanctuary. 6,200 wildlife species now call it home, including 38% of the Korean peninsula's endangered species, such as golden eagles, musk deer, and mountain goats, in addition to hundreds of endemic plant species. BBC

A loss for lawmakers in Texas who wanted to build a border wall is a huge win for Monarch butterflies, following the FDA's designation of the prostrate milkweed plant as an endangered species. The listing of the plant, which provides crucial habitat for the butterflies, will help safeguard their migration when they head north from Mexico each spring. Courthouse News

A new national park in Australia will protect 437,394 hectares of globally significant wetlands, as well as salt lakes and playas. The site, called Thurloo Downs, is located on Karenggapa and Parundji country and is home to 50 threatened species. It's the largest acquisition of private land for a national park in NSW history. Environment NSW

Trees grow along an inland waterway in Thurloo Downs. Credit: A Pike/DPE

26 Australian species have recovered enough that they no longer require a threatened listing. The populations of 14 mammal, eight bird, two frog, one reptile and one fish species have all improved, including the greater bilby, eastern barred bandicoot, sooty albatross, and Murray cod. Guardian

Sea otters represent one of the great unsung success stories of conservation, with populations of around 25,000 in southeast Alaska and over 125,000 in the Pacific Ocean. It’s been a long time in the making, starting with a protection treaty between Russia, the US, Britain and Japan in 1911, when there were fewer than 1,000 animals left in the wild. BBC

One of the most endangered cats in the world, the Iberian lynx, is bounding towards recovery thanks to parallel efforts by Spain and Portugal. In 2002, fewer than 200 remained in the wild. Today, around 1,400 roam the Iberian Peninsula. The success of the program has also given conservationists better odds at recovering the black vulture and the Iberian imperial eagle. Biographic

Throughout the rich world, young people are driving less, or choosing not to own a car at all. In the US, the proportion of people with licences is falling for every age group under 40. It's essentially just baby boomers who are now responsible for increasing traffic. A similar trend is well-established in Europe, where average distances driven have fallen by a tenth since the turn of the millennium. Economist

The US EPA has reinstated an Obama-era rule on mercury and other toxic chemicals that are emitted from coal-fired power plants. The standards, first adopted in 2016, reduced mercury, acid gas and non-mercury metal emissions by over 80%, but were reinstated by the Trump administration at the request of the coal industry in 2020.

Not strictly good news but we had to include it! Check out the People's Choice Award for this year's Wildlife Photographer of the Year: a jaw-dropping photograph of a snow leopard traversing the icy cliffs of the Himalayas. German photographer Sascha Fonseca set up a bait-free camera trap in this location three years ago to secure the winning shot. NHM

"I've photographed other big cats, but the 'ghost of the mountain' is in its own category." Sascha Fonseca

18th February 2023 - 24th February 2023

Have you heard about India's Ayushman Bharat scheme? It's the world’s largest free healthcare program, covering 1,300 illnesses including cancer and heart disease. Since 2018 it has provided free treatment to over 500 million people via 154,000 health and wellness centres, and the government just increased its funding by 12% in the latest budget.

Indonesia has made remarkable progress in reducing stunting (when a child does not have sufficient nutrition to grow and develop). Between 2018 and 2022, the national stunting rate saw an unprecedented decline, from 30.8% to 21.6%, benefiting 3.9 million mothers and 10.6 million children. Peru, Senegal, Thailand and Brazil have also all dramatically reduced stunting to below 20%. World Bank

Uganda's recently released poverty report shows that between 2017 and 2020, at least 1.52 million Ugandans joined the middle class, meaning "they secured better livelihoods compared to the previous period." The report also shows that poverty is on a long-running decrease, having fallen from 56% in 1993 to 20.3% in 2021. UNDP

One of the big worries during the pandemic was that a fall in cancer screenings in the United States would lead to a rise in diagnoses. Good news. It didn't happen. Around two million Americans are expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, and about 600,000 will die of the disease, an overall reduction of 33% since 1991. WaPo

More than 33 million children in Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have been vaccinated against polio since March 2022, thanks to an emergency response organised by the WHO. Vaccinations will continue “so that every child receives the protection they need." AP

The World Bank is launching a project in Vietnam to distribute 300,000 water purifiers to 8,000 schools and institutions across the country. It's expected to make clean water available to around two million children and to reduce carbon emissions by almost 3 million tons over the next five years (no more burning wood to boil water).

Last week, more than $6.2 billion was raised by Turkish citizens for earthquake relief efforts, thanks to a joint broadcast called Türkiye, One Heart that ran on more than 200 TV channels and over 500 radio stations. Support came from people in all walks of life, from the CEOs of huge corporations to children who donated the money in their piggy banks. Daily Sabah

Actors, singers and TV personalities at the "Türkiye One Heart" fundraising campaign held at Turkuvaz Media Center, Istanbul, Türkiye, Feb. 15, 2023. 

Gabon, Jamaica and Sri Lanka have joined forces to fight back against damaging beauty practices, launching a project to eliminate the centuries-old practice of using mercury to lighten the skin. “We are all beautiful, not in spite of our skin but because of it. We need a new ideal to follow, one which is equated with humanity and not the fairness of one’s skin.” WHO

A new report says that primary school completion in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has increased from 47% in 2010 to 58% in 2020. Since 2016, the country has enacted ambitious reforms, including the introduction of free basic education, and the share of the budget allocated to education has increased considerably, from 11.5% in 2017 to 22.1% in 2021. UNESCO

A big leap forward for LGBTQI rights in South Korea: in a landmark ruling, the Seoul High Court has ruled that a government health insurer owes coverage to the spouse of a customer after the firm withdrew it when it found out the pair were gay. The court also found that denying benefits to same-sex couples amounted to discrimination. "This ruling offers hope that prejudice can be overcome." BBC

Utah's State Legislature has unanimously approved a bill that enshrines into law a ban on conversion therapy. “This is an extraordinary moment in Utah’s LGBTQ history. It is the first conversion therapy ban in the country to pass through both chambers unanimously.” Deseret

Ecuador has a new reserve - the Tarímiat Pujutaí Nuṉka Reserve, 1,237,395 hectares of cloud forests, sandstone plateaus and floodplains that are home to over a thousand species of birds as well as jaguars, tapirs, and spectacled bears. It will be one of the largest reserves in the region thanks to local communities who campaigned for protections. Mongabay

A former railway line Singapore is being converted into a green corridor spanning 24 kilometres, from the Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve in the north, to the city's central business district. The corridor will help preserve mangroves, forests and grassland, provide a safe haven for animals to traverse between green spaces, and will be ten times longer than the High Line in New York. Bloomberg

Bukit Timah Truss Bridge on the Rail Corridor.

Brazil's new president has vowed to protect all of Brazil’s biomes, including the Cerrado savannah, Atlantic Forest, Pampas grasslands and the Pantanal wetlands, by implementing the same strategies that reduced deforestation in the Amazon from 27,772 km2 in 2004 to 4,571 km2 in 2012. His efforts will be helped by America’s recent pledge to the Amazon Fund, of around $50 million. Mongabay

In the past six years Ghana has reforested over 628,000 hectares of land, putting the country seven years ahead of its target to restore 2 million hectares of degraded land by 2030. The success is attributed to an agroforestry programme that helps farmers plant trees on their land. Afrik21

British Columbia is changing its forest management approach to include greater participation of Indigenous communities in land-use decisions and accelerate the protection of old-growth forests. The new measures will herald the end of prioritising timber extraction over biodiversity and carbon storage. Narwhal

After decades of short-term and transactional thinking, we’re making significant changes in our approach to forestry in this province. The first step is putting Indigenous Peoples at the centre of land management decisions in their territories. The days of making decisions without Indigenous Peoples are over.
David Eby, Premier of British Columbia

A water program in Bolivia dreamed up by five people a decade ago has protected over 500,000 hectares of forest. The program helps farmers in upper watersheds provide urban residents with drinking water in exchange for protection of their water-producing forests. 24,000 farmers have joined the program, which will soon be replicated in Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, and Mexico. Mongabay

“Take care of your forest, turning it into a garden for you and for society. In exchange we will connect your home to clean water.” Image courtesy of Natura Foundation.

UN members are meeting in New York this week to forge a treaty to conserve marine life in international waters. It's the third round of  negotiations. If adopted, the legally binding treaty would outline measures to protect global ocean health, foster climate resilience as well as safeguard food security for people around the world. Oceanographic

Artisanal fishers in Chile’s Valparaíso region have started creating grassroots marine reserves to save their unprotected coastline. Although more than 40% of Chile’s maritime territory is protected, there is a lack of MPAs along the coast. The fishers have agreed not to harvest any resources in their reserves, and enthusiasm for their initiative has led to a rise in tourism. Mongabay

It’s a solution that comes from the communities, not from a desk in Santiago or an office in Valparaíso. Here, the community made the decision for ourselves, for our children and our grandchildren.
Rodrigo Sánchez, Executive Director of Fundación Capital Azul

California has become the first US state to ban the sale of new animal fur products both online and in-store. The law, which was introduced in 2019, was implemented on 1st January 2023. With fur farms now illegal in Norway, Croatia, Italy, the United Kingdom, and Czechia, activists believe the end of this cruel industry is in sight. Plant Based News

A big milestone for animal conservation in the EU, Iceland, Norway, and Liechtenstein, with a new ban on bird hunting with lead shot in wetlands. An estimated one million waterbirds die of lead poisoning in the EU every year. Hunters will now only be able to use non-toxic ammunition within 100 metres of wetlands. Guardian

11th February 2023 - 17th February 2023

COVID-19 led to the largest ever increase in global health funding - from $43 billion in 2019 to $67 billion in 2021. A significant chunk is being spent on other health-related areas, like child and matertnal health, HIV/AIDS, strengthening national health systems, purchasing supplies (like mosquito bed nets), and treating disease. Think Global Health

Gastric cancer deaths are declining among all Hispanic/Latino populations in the United States, and 16 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Most countries have seen mortality reductions of between 2 to 3% per year in the last two decades, and the decline has been particularly pronounced in Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, and amongst men older than 50. Lancet

Health officials in India are reporting a 98.7% decline in cases of visceral leishmaniasis between 2007 and 2022 - from 44,533 to just 834 last year. The disease, also known as Kala-Azar or Black Fever, is the second deadliest parasitic killer in the world after malaria. India says it might eliminate it this year. Times Now

Spain has passed legislation expanding reproductive and transgender rights, and will be the first country in Europe to allow workers paid menstrual leave. Period products will now be offered free in schools and prisons, state-run health centres will do the same with hormonal contraceptives and the morning after pill, and workers suffering debilitating period pain will be allowed to take paid time off. The changes also enshrine the right to have an abortion in a state hospital - 80% of procedures are currently carried out in private clinics. NPR

There's a ton of good news in Tanzania's recently released National Panel Survey. Between 2014 and 2021:

Access to improved sanitation increased from 25% to 40%
Access to clean drinking water improved from 57% to 64%
Access to electricity increased from 24% to 34%
Food insecurity in rural areas decreased from 20% to 15%
Stunting, wasting, and underweight rates for children all decreased
Births attended by skilled birth workers increased from 70% to 85%
Literacy in rural areas increased from 61% to 70%
Primary school enrolment increased from 74% to 82% for boys and girls

Remember when Russia started blowing up Ukraine's electricity system? Well thanks to better air defences and some heroic engineering, it's back up and running. As of this week, there is no deficit in the country's energy system, meaning there is enough electricity for all Ukrainians, 24 hours a day. Euromaiden

A celebration of Valentines Day from our friends at The Progress Network. With each passing year, humanity's crimes against love - bigotry, abuse, class prejudice, racial stigma, rape and forced marriage, have become more culturally abhorrent and legally impermissible. Today, the average child is being born into the most inclusive and tolerant time in human history.

As a general rule, we don't really do traditional 'feel-good' stuff in this newsletter, but this one's too lovely not too share. If you're feeling overwhelmed by all the awfulness, here's a heart-warming story from the Seattle Times, about a woman who was forced to walk to work after her car died, and found $15,000 on the way.

The proportion of people in favour of the death penalty or who think courts are too hard  has declined substantially in the United States. A majority of people now support 'second-look' sentencing - where judges are allowed to release prisoners after they've served 15 years. Mirage

The US prison population had declined by 25% since reaching its peak in 2009. Half of the country's states have reduced their prison populations by more than that, including New Jersey, and New York who have reduced prison populations over 50% since their peak. The Sentencing Project

Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest fell by 61% in January compared to a year earlier. It's the first month under the new government - suggesting something has shifted. In mid-January, Brazilian environmental agents launched their first anti-logging raids with the blessing of Lula, who has pledged to end surging destruction. Reuters

The Djéké triangle in the DRC, home to the critically endangered western lowland gorillas, has become part of the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park. The protections will secure one of the oldest long-term research sites for the gorillas and the customary rights of 13 local communities to access the resources they depend on. Afrik21

The wood stork may soon fly off the endangered species list thanks to an epic recovery effort in Florida that has increased breeding pairs from 5,000 pairs in 1984 to over 10,000 pairs today. The stork has also increased its range, tripling the number of colonies across Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas. NPR

Improved protection measures in Kyrgyzstan's Besh-Aral State Nature Reserve have helped increase the population of the Menzbier’s marmot by 30% in the last two years to over 16,000. Conservationists are also reporting more sightings of bears, wolves, lynx, golden eagles and bearded vultures, suggesting the measures are having a positive impact for other species. FFI

Populations of endangered rhinos, buffalo and elephants are rebounding in Uganda. Since 1983, the buffalo population has increased by 77% and elephants by nearly 300%. Eastern black rhinos have rebounded too - after being wiped out in the 1980s, they were reintroduced in 2005 and their numbers have grown to 32. Yale360

An elephant at Uganda's Murchison National Park. Credit: Wildaid

The US Department of Agriculture is rolling out almost a billion dollars in funding to help farmers and forest owners implement conservation programs. The 'once-in-a-generation' spend will support planting filter strips and grassed waterways, improving grazing management, restoring wetlands, and practices that protect groundwater and surface availability. TRCP

Call it the Tiger King effect. The Netflix documentary has helped end the same industry it made famous, with the Biden administration outlawing the private ownership of big cats and the public petting of the animals at zoos and sanctuaries. The new law signals the end of 'a warped industry with no socially redeeming purpose, perpetrating great harm.' NYT

A group of 10,000 women in Assam, India known as the 'Hargila Army' have saved one of the world’s rarest storks: the greater adjutant. Traditionally seen as a bad omen, the stork was persecuted to the brink of extinction until a conservationist rallied local women to help transform attitudes to the bird, which has since become a cultural symbol. Guardian

Conservation is all about uniting people and building ownership. I’ve always believed that, if given a chance, women can make a big difference in conservation.
Dr Purnima Devi Barman - Founder, Hargila Army

After 25 years of effort, the Mexican Wolf Recovery Program is gaining momentum with the population doubling from 98 in 2015 to 196 last year. The increase gives wildlife officials hope that they will reach their goal of 320 Mexican wolves sustained for eight years across southern Arizona and New Mexico. Cronkite News

Chilika Lake, the second biggest lake in India, was declared dead in the 1990s, but two decades of conservation work has resulted in a six-fold increase in seagrass and the return of marine life. The project has also changed the livelihoods of two million people: every rupee the government spent on restoration resulted in at least seven rupees of benefits to fisheries, tourism and carbon capture. Mongabay

4th February 2023 - 10th February 2023

In the year 2000, a grim cover story in Newsweek forecast that 30 million children in Africa would be orphaned by 2010 because of AIDS. It never happened - thanks in large part to the United States' PEPFAR program, which has provided over $100 billion in funding and saved 25 million lives in the last two decades. WaPo

Progress continues: 12 countries in Africa have reached 95% antiretroviral therapy coverage in pregnant women, 16 countries worldwide have eliminated mother to child transmission of HIV, and Botswana recently became the first high prevalence African country to be validated as being on the path to elimination. Common Dreams

India's Jal Jeevan Mission continues to be one of the great, unsung stories of human development. Almost 79 million households have been provided with access to a tap water connection since the program's launch in August 2019 - bringing the total to 111 million, or 56% of rural households in the nation. Financial Express

India's army of a million all-women community health workers, known as ASHAs, continue to be some of the world's great, unsung heroes of public health. In 2006, India's maternal mortality rate was 254 deaths per 100,000 live births. By 2020, ASHAs had helped slash that by over 60%, to 97 per 100,000 live births. MIT Tech Review

Along with WhatsApp, ASHA workers also rely on books to reach the most vulnerable and marginalized people in the community. Here, Maya Patil, an ASHA from Maharashtra’s Kutwad village with 13 years experience ,talks to a group of migrant sugarcane cutters.

One of last year's biggest human rights stories was the Philippines' landmark ban on child marriage. New data is now showing that government efforts to prevent teen pregnancies are working too - pregnancy amongst women aged 15 to 19 declined from 8.6% in 2017 to 5.4% in 2022. Asia News

Finland has passed legislation making it substantially easier for trans people to change their legal gender. The new law, passed by a large majority in parliament, means transgender people 18 and older can legally change their gender by a process of self-declaration, and no longer have to go through an onerous medical and psychiatric approval process first. Spain passed a similar law in December.

Madagascar has approved a new program to expand safety net services to at least 3 million people, or 13% of the country's extremely poor households, and Brazil has restarted its federal housing program “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” for lower income people. The Print

The number of mothers in the United States who smoke cigarettes during their pregnancy has declined by 36% in the last five years, from 7.2% in 2016 to 4.6% in 2021, an annual average drop of 8%. This is really good news - tobacco exposure is is one of the biggest causes of adverse pregnancy outcomes. US News

In a major labour rights victory, the US Department of Homeland Security has issued new guidance allowing migrant and immigrant workers who experience or witness labour or civil rights violations to receive protection against deportation, and temporary employment authorization. It's the result of years of worker-driven organizing and advocacy. HRW

The words no woman may be deprived of the right to termination of pregnancy have taken a step closer to being added to France’s constitution after being approved by the country's Senate. “At a time when so many women are still deprived of this right, when countries are taking it away from them or challenging it, France will continue to tirelessly defend it.The Local

Australia has become the first country to recognise psychedelics as medicines. The Therapeutic Goods Administration has approved the use of MDMA and psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms, for certain mental health conditions. They will be considered schedule 8 drugs - approved for controlled use when prescribed by a psychiatrist - from July 2023. ABC

It's the 50th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act, a piece of legislation that has protected more than 1,600 wildlife species in the United States since 1973. Thanks to the ESA, at least 227 species have been saved from extinction and 110 species have seen a tremendous recovery including American alligators, bald eagles, peregrine falcons, and humpback whales. E Magazine'

A bold initiative to regrow 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon has delivered almost 20% of its target despite the pandemic and an increase in fires. Launched in 2017 as a collaboration between a music festival and conservation groups, the project uses a seed-planting method called muvuca to spread a varied mixture of native seeds to assure a higher diversity of trees. Conservation

Over the last decade, the amount of deforestation caused by palm oil has declined every year in Indonesia, the world’s largest producer. In 2021, it hit a 22-year low, and Malaysia has seen a similarly positive trend. “I don’t want to sit here and say that the palm oil industry has suddenly become shiny green and sustainable, but it’s mostly stopped deforestation." Vox

Canada is making good progress towards its goal of conserving 25% of its oceans by 2025, with several marine protected areas in the works:

  • The Tang.ɢwan-ḥačxʷiqak-Tsig̱is Reserve off the coast of Vancouver Island will span 133,000 km2 of underwater mountain ranges and deep-sea hydrothermal vents that support unique marine species.
  • A new network of protected marine zones named the Great Bear Sea will safeguard a 10 million-hectare corridor of ocean from the top of Vancouver Island to the Canada-Alaska border.
  • The Gwaxdlala/Nalaxdlala Marine Refuge will protect 2,000 hectares of rich marine biodiversity including 240 marine species and a unique ecosystem of fragile and slow-growing corals and sponges.
The Tang.ɢwan-ḥačxʷiqak-Tsig̱is marine protected area is four times the size of Vancouver Island. Map: Carol Linnitt / The Narwhal

An agreement between coastal nations to restrict use of fish aggregating devices in the Indian Ocean is a huge win for yellowfin tuna. These devices have a high environmental cost and 97% of yellowfin tuna trapped by drifting devices are juveniles. The restrictions are also good news for endangered turtles, sharks and other marine mammals. Guardian

Peru has become the first South American country to recognise wildlife trafficking as part of organised crime. The new regulation will allow judges to lift bank and tax secrecy and hand out penalties of up to 20 years in prison for criminal leaders. More than 5,000 species of trafficked wildlife are seized in Peru every year. Dialogo Americas

A company in India has recycled over 300 million cigarette butts from the streets of New Delhi and reprocessed them into a range of products, including mosquito repellent, compost and stuffing for toys and pillows, by bleaching the fibre with organic chemicals to neutralise the toxins. Euro News

The UK has unveiled an ambitious environmental blueprint to clean up air and water, boost nature and reduce waste over the next five years. Under the plan everyone will live within 15 minutes' walk of a green space or water, and at least 500,000 hectares of wildlife habitat will be restored to protect the country's rarest species, from hedgehogs to red squirrels. BBC

Conventional hydro turbines kill 22% of fish that pass through, but a new design from a company in California has blunted, curved edges that allow safer passage. In one test, 131 American eels passed through a turbine spinning at 667 rotations per minute and all survived. RTBC

Natal Energy

28th January 2023 - 3rd February 2023

A new law protecting women against discrimination and sexual harassment has come into effect in China. It's the country's most significant reform to women's rights in 30 years, and the only place we were able to find the story was in a law journal and an HR magazine. In case the significance isn't apparent, there are 326 million female employees in China.

Happy World Neglected Tropical Disease Day! It was on the 30th January, and there's a lot to celebrate. 80 million fewer people required treatment in 2021 compared to 2010, a fall of 25% in a decade. Eight countries eliminated a tropical disease last year, 47 countries have now eliminated at least one, and many more are on track to achieving this target. WHO

Millions of people have been liberated from the burden of neglected tropical diseases. As this progress report shows, we still have a lot of work to do. The good news is, we have the tools and the know-how not just to save lives and prevent suffering, but to free entire communities and countries of these diseases.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General, WHO
As of December 2022, 47 countries, territories and areas have eliminated at least one NTD. Two countries (Benin and Gambia) completed the acknowledgement process in 2021, and eight countries (DRC ,Malawi, Saudi Arabia, Togo, Vanuatu, Equatorial Guinea, Rwanda and Uganda in 2022. Togo and Mexico have eliminated four and three NTDS respectively, while nine additional countries have eliminated two NTDs. Source: Global Report on Neglected Tropical Diseases, 2023

Schistosomiasis, also known as bilharzia, is a tropical disease caused by parasitic worms, and has plagued people in China for more than 2,100 years. In the 1950s, 11.6 million cases were detected, and approximately 100 million people were at risk. Today, the disease is close to being eradicated. The number of cases in 2021 was 29,041, a reduction of 92.97% from 2008. WHO

Researchers in the UK have figured out a way to reduce the risk of colon cancer recurrence by 28%, just by changing the timing of patients’ chemotherapy. The beauty of this approach is that it doesn’t require any additional treatment or new medication. "Doctors around the world will now be able to put these findings into clinical practice, saving many thousands of lives." Freethink

The US government just launched a new initiative to allow Americans to directly sponsor refugees. The 'Welcome Corps' is modelled on Canada's successful program, and within 24 hours of its launch, more than 4,000 people had signed up to get more information. "This is a moment for America to be as generous as we know that we can be as a country." NPR

Sierra Leone has passed landmark legislation advancing women’s rights. Activists have been fighting for this for more than a decade. The law requires all employers to reserve at least 30% of jobs for women, extends maternity leave to 14 weeks, mandates equal pay, grants equal access to financial support and training and puts an end to six decades of customary laws that prevented women from owning land.

Did you know 2022 was a great year for LGBTQ rights around the world? Numerous countries removed bans on homosexuality, outlawed conversion therapy and legalized gay marriage. 33 governments have now legalized same-sex unions, triple the number compared to a decade ago. “It feels like something of a tipping point." Bloomberg

Did you know 2022 was a great year for children's rights? Zambia, Mauritius, Comoros and Cuba banned corporal punishment, Cuba, Mauritius, England, Wales and Zambia ended child marriage, Nigeria and Burkina Faso ended military detention of children and Colombia, Republic of Congo and Tunisia agreed to protect education in armed conflict and refrain from using schools for military purposes. HRW

Enrolments under the Affordable Care Act in the United States have reached an all-time high, driving the nation’s uninsured rate down to record lows. The proportion of uninsured people under the of age 65 is now down to 8%. In 2009, the year before the ACA was enacted, 17.5% of people under 65 lacked insurance. Still no death panels in sight. WSJ

China's population decline has been met with almost universal dismay in the Western media, framed as the harbinger of a demographic and economic time bomb that will strain the world’s capacity to support ageing populations. Here's the other side of the story, by a Chinese professor of sociology specialising in demographics. NYT

Millions of working people around the world live in extreme poverty, but the good news is that this number has decreased substantially over the last few decades, from 808 million in 1991 to 224 million in 2021. This epic graphic shows what that change looks like over time, broken down into different regions of the world. Visual Capitalist

Credit: Gilbert Fontana

Over 225,000 acres of Minnesota’s pristine Boundary Waters Wilderness will be protected thanks to a 20-year mining ban approved by the Biden Administration. It’s good news for one of America’s most visited wilderness areas and a ‘fatal blow’ for a proposed mining project. Grist

Protections for Alaska’s Tongass National Forest have been reinstated, a long-awaited victory for the tribal communities who live in it. Spanning nearly 17 million acres - an area slightly larger than the state of West Virginia – Tongass is home to 800-year-old cedar, hemlock and Sitka spruce trees and over 400 species of land and marine wildlife. BBC

I describe walking into the forest as walking into one of the most beautiful cathedrals you'll ever find in the world. I don't want my grandchildren, their grandchildren, to have to fight for that too.
Joel Jackson, President of the Organized Village of Kake

The EPA has finalised a new rule to formally restore federal Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands that sustain fish and wildlife and hunting and fishing opportunities. The new rule has been championed by hunters and anglers and will replace the previous administration's Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which significantly narrowed protections. TRCP

Efforts to save the Western Monarch butterfly are paying off, with 335,479 butterflies migrating to the Californian coastline last year, a welcome increase from less than 2,000 butterflies in 2020. Local efforts continue to double down on protecting the overwintering sites, restoring habitats, and stopping the use of pesticides. Xerces

Following on from our story last week about Miyawaki forests in Paris, pocket forests are also popping up in the Amazon. 14,734 hectares have been reforested using the Miyawaki method, which can restore nature to its original state in around six years. The secret to its speed lies in that it understands the forest as a society … a living ecosystem that continuously renovates itself. Mongabay

Akira Miyawaki (bottom line on the left) at a planting festival in Santa Barbara do Pará, in 2013. This was the last visit of Professor Miyawaki to Brazil. Credit: ASFLORA.

Germany will give Brazil $222 million towards preserving the Amazon. Distributing funds to indigenous groups would be a wise investment; regions of the Brazilian Amazon under indigenous control account for just 5% of forest loss over the last two decades, compared with unprotected areas that have lost up to 14 times more. ABC

A new protected area in British Columbia will permanently safeguard the ‘rarest of the rare’ species including lichens, grizzly bears, wolverines and old-growth cedars and hemlock trees. The 58,000 hectare conservancy in the Incomappleux Valley is one of Canada’s last remaining inland temperate rainforests. Narwhal

Rewilding charity Heal has bought 460 acres of land in Somerset to kickstart an effort to create nature reserves spanning 48 English counties by 2050. The Somerset site will become a blueprint for the project and will include food growing areas, community meeting spaces and rare-breed cattle, pigs, and ponies to graze land in a natural way. BBC

Ireland’s Greater Skellig Coast has become the country’s first ever 'Hope Spot' — an area scientifically identified as critically important to marine conservation. The designation will protect roughly 7,000 km2 of Irish coastal waters and is part of a global initiative by Mission Blue, who have designated 148 Hope Spots around the world. Green News

For over 200 years, Phillip Island was overrun by feral pigs, goats and rabbits introduced during European settlement. The result was devastating, completely destroying the island's vegetation. In 1979 an eradication program begun and by 1988 non-native species were successfully eliminated from the island. The change is astonishing. Nature will recover - if we let it. SMH

21st January 2023 - 27th January 2023

Almost all children in Western and Central Africa now attend primary school, with enrolment rising from 50% in the 1990s to nearly 90% today. Enrolment in high school is increasing too, more than doubling in the last decade to 55%. “With close to universal access in the primary cycle, the progress made is dazzling.” World Bank

Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, has managed to more than halve the number of women who bleed to death after giving birth in health facilities in the last seven years. Blood loss is the leading cause of maternal deaths in low-income nations - but it now accounts for only one in 10 maternal deaths in Niger, compared to three times that in 2015. BBC

UNICEF just released its latest figures on the decline in global child mortality. In the space of  a single generation, the number of children dying under the age of five has fallen by 59%. Four low-income countries, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda, and 15 lower-middle-income countries, including Bangladesh, Mongolia and Uzbekistan, have reduced child mortality by more than 75% since 1990.

Deaths have continued to fall in the last few years too. In 2021, over a million more children made it past their fifth birthday than in 2015. Of course, far too many still die unnecessarily of entirely preventable causes, and there is still so much work to be done. That should not however, diminish what might just be one of our species' greatest ever achievements, and one we wish more people knew about.

Amidst the barrage of headlines about political dysfunction in the United States you might have missed the news that there was a recent bipartisan agreement to spend billions more fighting HIV and malaria abroad. Global health support by the US will increase from $9.83 billion in 2022 to $10.56 billion in 2023. Vox

Pfizer says it will offer its full suite of patented drugs, including cancer treatments, on a not-for-profit basis to 1.2 billion people living in 45 low-income countries. This has the potential to treat nearly 1 million new cancer cases in these countries each year and also covers antibiotics to combat infections that claim the lives of roughly 1.5 million people each year. Fierce Pharma

The US unemployment rate has reached its lowest point in 50 years, a milestone which has been largely ignored by the media. Black workers, young workers and people on the bottom of the income scale saw the largest pay increases in the last 12 months, and median earnings for all workers were 7.4% higher at the end of 2022 compared to a year earlier, outpacing inflation. WSJ

While troubling racial and ethnic disparities persist within the US criminal justice system, recently released data shows that the gap is narrowing. Over the first two decades of the 21st century, the disparity between Black and White state imprisonment rates fell by 40%; in 2020, Black adults were imprisoned at 4.9 times the rate of White adults, down from 8.2 times in 2000.

Kenya has made significant progress on family planning in the last decade. Between 2008 and 2022 the proportion of married women using modern contraceptive methods increased from 39% to 57%, nearly all women (98%) now receive antenatal care, and 89% of births are assisted by a skilled provider, up from 66% in 2014. KNBS

Democracy in decline? Someone might want to tell that to the nearly 10 million new voters that have registered for Nigeria's upcoming elections, 84% of them under the age of 34. This will be the seventh election for Africa's most populous country since it returned to democratic governance 23 years ago. Al Jazeera

The practice of voluntary euthanasia as an act of mercy is centuries old. In the last few years however, it has begun to be inscribed into law, reflecting a significant shift in cultural attitudes. At least 25 jurisdictions now allow some form of assistance in dying – ten countries, 11 US states, and four Australian ones. CSM

Did you know that 2022 was one of the safest years ever for aviation? And did you know that 2022 saw one of the lowest ever death rates from natural disasters, and that so far, the 2020s have been the safest decade in history for natural disasters? OWD

Against a backdrop of skyscrapers, flamingos are thriving on the shores of Mumbai with their population increasing from 10,000 in 2007 to 130,000 today. The area has become a vital feeding ground because untreated sewage has nurtured the algae that are the flamingos’ main food. “Human impact may seem terrible for nature at first glance but can also be a gold mine for some species.” Hakai

More island restoration! San Clemente off the coast of San Diego is celebrating the de-listing of the Bell's Sparrow and four plant species from protected status following a decades-long conservation effort, and in New Zealand, the Mercury Islands have achieved predator-free status and wildlife is thriving thanks to a combination of ground-breaking science and local community involvement.

The Biden administration is designating the Avi Kwa Ame (Spirit Mountain) in Southern Nevada a national monument to protect 450,000 acres of sacred tribal lands. Local tribes have been fighting for this since 1999. It will be the second national monument to explicitly address its Indigenous roots following Bears Ears in Utah. NYT

Avi Kwa Ame in southern Nevada, a sacred mountain described by the elders of Yuman-speaking tribes as “the place where shamans dream.”

Following the designation of five marine protected areas in 2022, the Maluku Islands in Indonesia plan to protect more of their ocean this year as part of wider efforts to preserve natural resources while boosting local economy. Fishing boats larger than 10 tons will be prohibited from entering the new protected areas which are crucial habitat for leatherback sea turtles. Mongabay

France has banned deep-sea mining in its waters to safeguard “the common heritage of humanity.” Deep seas make up 90% of the ocean and are extremely vulnerable to disturbance. Deep-sea mining has been under the international spotlight since July 2021, with a growing number of governments calling for a ban including Germany, Spain, New Zealand, and Costa Rica. Euro News

Volunteers are tackling Paris’s increasing heatwaves with an ancient Japanese tree-planting method that creates fast-growing pocket forests, smaller than a tennis court. Miyawaki forests can grow 10 times faster than standard forests and capture more carbon. These mini forests are also popping up in other cities across Europe and Asia. France24

Decades of rewilding efforts in Italy have resulted in the spectacular expansion of the Italian wolf population. The country is at the forefront of Europe’s rewilding movement which is creating wilder, more diverse habitats … and raising a host of new questions about what we actually mean by 'wild' in the 21st century. GLP

First Nations in British Columbia have forged two historic agreements to regulate development on their ancestral lands. The Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡI were granted veto power over a proposed coal mining project and the Blueberry River First Nations struck a deal with the provincial government to limit logging and oil and gas drilling. The striking progress is the cumulation of a decades-long push to protect vast tracts of land and ocean that now amounts to tens of millions of acres. Yale360

The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey (try saying that three times in a row) has found efforts to protect native red squirrels are working, and that populations are 'thriving' across the country. "It's a good demonstration that the efforts of our projects and also our partners and statutory agencies have been really successful." BBC

For the first time in living memory a pair of dolphins have been spotted frolicking in New York’s Bronx River, an encouraging sign that the decades-long effort to restore the river that was once a dumping ground for industrial waste is working. Guardian

We’ve come a long way across multiple decades of environmental improvement, water quality cleaning, better environmental stewardship, better relations, all of which helps the overall environment and then leads to recovery of these systems.
Howard Rosenbaum, Dolphin Expert, Wildlife Conservation Society.

1st January 2023 - 20th January 2023

The American Cancer Society has released its latest data showing cancer deaths have fallen again in the United States in the most recent year for which data is available. Between 2019 and 2020, the mortality rate fell by 1.5%, and the overall rate has fallen by 33% since 1991, translating to an estimated 3,820,800 fewer deaths during this period. CNN

The WHO has certified the Democratic Republic of the Congo as free of transmission of dracunculus medinensis, the parasite that causes Guinea-worm disease. Only five countries now remain to be certified (Angola, Chad, Ethiopia, Mali, South Sudan), while Sudan is in the precertification stage. WHO

Between 2014 and 2021, the WHO's South East Asia Region achieved a 73% reduction in measles deaths and a 64% reduction in cases. Five of the region's 11 countries – Bhutan, DPR Korea, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Timor-Leste - have eliminated measles, and two - Maldives and Sri Lanka - have eliminated rubella as well. WHO

India has the world’s largest measles immunization program, targeting 27 million children annually. It's also one of the most successful - between 2017 and 2021, measles incidence decreased by 62%, and rubella by 48%. Although the pandemic caused millions of children to miss their shots, the programme is now back on track, and officials are aiming for elimination by the end of this year. WHO

It's widely accepted that the 21st century has been bad for democracy around the world: multiple research institutes have pointed out the phenomenon of 'democratic backslide.' However, new research shows there is actually little evidence of this, and that the real story of the last two decades is global democratic stability. OSF

The number of populist leaders around the world has fallen to a 20-year low after a series of victories for centrists in the past year. A new report says that 800 million fewer people are living under populist leaders at the start of 2023 compared to 2020. Much of the decline has occurred in Latin America, most notably with the defeat of Bolsonaro in Brazil. Guardian

Saudi Arabia has made significant progress on women's rights since 2019. Critics say the reforms are intended to deflect attention from the country's flagrant human rights violations, which cannot be ignored, but for millions of women, genuine change is happening quickly, altering the country's social fabric. ABC

The Ugandan government has declared an end to its Ebola outbreak, less than four months after cases were first reported. “Uganda put a swift end to the outbreak by ramping up key control measures such as surveillance, contact tracing and infection, prevention and control. The magic bullet has been our communities." Guardian

America's teen birth rate has plummeted in a single generation, "a change of such improbable magnitude that experts struggle to fully explain it." In 1991, a quarter of 15-year-olds became mothers before turning 20. Today, just 6% become teen mothers, a decline of 77% in 30 years. Teen births have fallen at equal rates among white, Hispanic and Black teenagers, and by more than half in every state. NYT

We all heard about the invasion of Brazil's Congress after Lula's inauguration. Unsurprisingly, the world's media paid less attention to the reopening of Brazil’s Indigenous affairs agency, Funai, bringing together hundreds of indigenous activists and leaders. “This is a very emotional moment. It is almost like a catharsis. Like in soccer, celebrating the goal. It’s an exorcism." Mongabay

A panel of international experts backed by the United Nations has found that the ozone layer is on track to recover by 2040, thanks to decades of policy work to get rid of ozone-damaging chemicals. Since the hole was discovered in May 1985, countries have phased out 99% of ozone-depleting substances under the Montreal Protocol. NPR

Our success in phasing out ozone-eating chemicals shows us what can and must be done – as a matter of urgency – to transition away from fossil fuels, reduce greenhouse gases and so limit temperature increase.
Petteri Taalas, UN Environment Programme's Ozone Secretariat

Efforts to improve air quality in Europe are paying off with fewer people dying early or suffering illness due to air pollution. The European Environmental Agency just published its latest assessment, showing that between 2005 and 2020 the number of early deaths from exposure to PM2.5 fell by 45%, and the continent is on track to reach its target of a 55% reduction in premature deaths by 2030. EEA

A new analysis of cities around the world had challenged the classic urban trade-off between density and green spaces, concluding that ideal urban neighbourhoods need both. It turns out we can have our energy-efficient metropolises and our cool, clean air smelling of flowers, too. “Density is not destiny." Atlantic

A landmark victory for animal rights in the United States, with new legislation eliminating the requirement that pharmaceutical companies use animals to test new drugs before human trials. It marks a radical shift for the industry, the result of a cumulative effort of decades of scientific and technological breakthroughs and lobbying by activists. NPR

One of the hallmarks of the landmark global biodiversity agreement signed by almost 200 countries in December last year is its emphasis on Indigenous people in conservation efforts, marking a significant shift in the global debate on biodiversity. The agreement also gives credence to the 'Rights of Nature'- a growing movement already adopted by 30 countries and tribal nations. ICN

Delegates applaud after reaching an agreement during the plenary of the United Nations Biodiversity Conference (COP15) in Montreal, Quebec, Canada on Dec. 19, 2022. Credit: Andrej Ivanov/ AFP via Getty Images

Decades after being declared biologically dead, the River Mersey in north-west England has been labelled “the best environmental news story in Europe” as fish species have begun rebounding. Conservation efforts along the river are rippling out, boosting the environment across the whole region and into North Wales. Wirral Globe

The recent decision to embark upon the rehabilitation of the Jordan River could prove vital to securing peace between Jordan and Israel. Decades of conflict, along with the climate crisis, have turned its once flowing waters into a trickle and with clean up now essential for both sides, cooperation is the only way forward. Jewish Insider

What’s happening now is a bit like a dream come true. If you came here ten years ago, nobody would have thought that such a thing could happen.
Nadav Tal, Water Officer, EcoPeace, Israel

Conservation efforts in the Caribbean have resulted in the dramatic recovery of the critically endangered Union Island gecko, with a population increase of 80% from 10,000 in 2018 to around 18,000. The gecko, only discovered in 2005, quickly became the target of exotic pet collectors, but was saved thanks to the rapid response of officials and activists. Mongabay

For the first time since 1977, no one-horned rhinos were poached in the Kaziranga National Park in India last year. It’s significant progress considering poachers killed over 190 rhinos in Assam between 2000 and 2021. Despite the poaching, the species' numbers have increased to 3,700 from just 200 at the turn of the century. Reuters

Proof that legislation powers conservation, New York harbour is teeming with life thanks to a landmark act by US Congress 50 years ago. The Clean Water Act helped transform the harbour from an open sewer into a functional ecosystem, with a resurgence in wild oysters, alewife, Atlantic salmon, whales and marine borers, and attracting bald eagles, ospreys, and herons back to the shoreline. NYT

A humpback whale surfaces in New York Harbour, with the city's skyline in the background. Credit: Artie Raslich.

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