99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn't Hear About in 2022

The world didn't fall apart this year. You just got your news from the wrong places.
99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn't Hear About in 2022
The Vilafranca team descends after completing their human tower in Tarragona, Spain on 2nd October 2022. (Joan Mateu Parra/AP)

Most people won't miss 2022.

It was a year defined by a lingering pandemic, rampant inflation, unstable economies, multiple humanitarian crises, a summer of climate hell in many parts of Asia, Europe and North America, and more than anything else, the outbreak of a devastating war in Ukraine. Wherever you turned, it was hard to escape the sense that things were falling apart.

That wasn't all that happened though. Our two media outlets, Future Crunch and The Progress Network, spent the year reporting a very different set of stories, the ones you didn't see on the evening news or in your social feeds. Unlikely as it may seem, 2022 was also a year of uplifting human rights victories, extraordinary conservation wins, big milestones in global health and development, and an unprecedented acceleration in the clean energy transition.

We teamed up to bring you a comprehensive list of all that good news. Our goal isn't to try convince you to take one side over the other in a debate about optimism and pessimism - the world is far too muddled for that. Instead, it's to remind you that away from the headlines, millions of people from every corner of the planet did their best to solve the problems that could be solved, and stayed open-eyed and open-hearted even in the most difficult of circumstances.

After the countless hours we all spent collectively focused on everything bad, mad and sad in 2022, perhaps it's worth spending half an hour learning about what humanity did achieve? You might just find yourself pleasantly surprised. We know we were.

We report good news and stories of progress from around the world. The best way to follow us is through our free email newsletters.

Human Rights

1. It was a great year for global efforts to end capital punishment. The death penalty was abolished in Malaysia, Zambia, the Central African Republic, Papua New Guinea and Equatorial Guinea, one of the world’s most authoritarian countries. More than 70% of the world’s countries have now removed the death penalty in law or in practice.

2. Countries tackled discrimination against women on several fronts. Pakistan passed a new law significantly strengthening protections for women in the workplace, India's Supreme Court ruled police could not take criminal action against sex workers, and gave them access to social welfare, bank accounts and voting rights, and teenage mothers in Tanzania were allowed back to school after the reversal of a 20 year old ban.

3. Indonesia passed a landmark bill to tackle sexual violence, the Philippines banned child marriage, a big moment for a country with one of the world's highest rates, and Nigeria recorded a significant decrease with the proportion of girls married before their 18th birthday falling from 44% in 2016 to 30% in 2021.

4. The US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade was a huge setback for reproductive rights in the United States, but around the rest of the world, it was the opposite story. Colombia decriminalized abortion and India's Supreme Court upheld the right to choose for 73 million single women - the first time a legal question about abortion in India has been approached from a women's perspective.

5. Finland and San Marino liberalized their abortion laws, France’s National Assembly passed a bill enshrining the right to choose, and Spain approved a draft bill removing the requirement for 16 and 17-year-old girls to have parental consent before terminating a pregnancy. Spain also made it a criminal offence to harass women attending reproductive health clinics, and passed a historic 'only yes means yes' law for sexual consent.

6. In Mexico, Quintana Roo became the tenth state to decriminalise abortion, Sierra Leone took a huge giant leap forward in liberalizing laws on reproductive rights, after the president’s cabinet unanimously backed a bill to expand access to abortion, and lawmakers in Liberia set in motion a bill to do the same.

7. The United States ended forced arbitration for survivors of workplace sexual assault and harassment - one of the country’s most significant workplace reforms in decades - and five years after #MeToo went viral, seven in ten adults said that people who commit sexual harassment in the workplace are now more likely to be held responsible for their actions.

8. Other forms of discrimination were ended too. Slovenia became the 31st country to legalize same-sex marriage, Cubans overwhelmingly backed same-sex marriage in a referendum, and the last two states in Mexico legalized it, meaning love is now allowed everywhere in the tenth most populous nation in the world. “The whole of Mexico shines with a huge rainbow. Love is love.”

9. Canada, France, New Zealand and Greece all officially banned conversion therapy this year, and Israel and India took their first steps towards formally outlawing it.  Singapore effectively decriminalized homosexuality, and Antigua and Barbuda decriminalized gay sex, removing a colonial era law.

10. A court in Kuwait overturned legislation used to prosecute transgender people, Ireland passed new laws protecting transgender people and people with disabilities, Vietnam took a big step forward by urging practitioners to end discrimination in medical care, Israel lifted its surrogacy ban, and Taiwan made a landmark ruling allowing a man to legally adopt his husband’s non-biological child.

11. In news that didn't make any headlines, the Department of Justice reported that between 2012 and 2021 rates of violent victimization in the United States (robbery and sexual, aggravated and simple assault) declined from 26.1 to 16.5 incidents per 1,000 people, youth crime fell to its lowest level on record, and so did the number of young people being prosecuted, giving tens of thousands of teens a second chance.

12. Oh, and after decades of stalemate, the gun safety debate looks like it might finally have shifted this year. The United States Congress took its first significant act on gun safety in nearly three decades in 2022, 45 new gun safety laws were adopted in states, and 95% of gun-lobby-linked bills were blocked.

13. Crime also fell in the United Kingdom. Compared with the year before the pandemic, burglary in 2022 was down 28%, robbery down by 23%, vehicles offenses have fallen by 19%, knife crime by 9%, firearm offenses are down 10%, and homicides have decreased by 5%. Overall crime is now at its lowest level since the 1980s. ONS

14. Two of the world’s worst landmine-affected countries continued to make steady progress in 2022. Angola reported that more than 10 million km² has been cleared since the end of its civil war, and Cambodia marked the 30th anniversary of its removal program, which has made land safe for nine million people and reduced deaths from 4,320 in 1996 to less than 100 in 2021.

15. Pakistan passed four human rights bills, including one that, for the first time, outlawed torture by security forces and police, and both the Dominican Republic and Spain passed legislation enshrining the rights of domestic workers, giving them the rights to minimum wages, survival and disability benefits, appeal against unfair dismissal and inclusion in pension programs.

16. There was a watershed moment for Moroccan labour rights in 2022, with the government extending paid paternity leave from 3 to 15 days as part of a social pact to improve conditions for the working class. This is part of a wider global trend: in the last decade 38 countries have increased the duration of their paid maternity leave, and 37 have introducing paid paternity leave.

17. Poland welcomed over two million Ukrainian refugees with open arms this year. Private citizens spent $2.1 billion on aid, the government spent $3.4 billion, and 1.2 million Ukrainians were granted access to health care, education, and social benefits. Attitudes changed too. 80% of Poles now support taking in refugees fleeing violence and war, up from 49% in 2018.

Conservation

18. In 2022, Mexico agreed to expand the Calakmul Biosphere Reserve from 726,000 to 1.3 million hectares, making it one of the largest protected areas in the world's tropics, Chile created a new national park, covering 75,000 hectares of the Andes, and after seven years of lobbying, the largest wetland in South America, the Ansenuza National Park in Argentina, was declared as a new protected area.

19. Norway unveiled a plan to create ten new national parks, the Rainforest Trust protected over a million acres of forest in Belize, Ecuador, Guatemala, Bangladesh and Myanmar, and Colombia established the new Isla Ají marine protected area, spanning 24,600 hectares of pristine tropical forests and tidal ecosystems, and launched a plan to create three million hectares of new protected areas and 15 million hectares of marine protected areas in the next decade.

20. Our favourite conservation story of the year came from Indonesia's incredible Raja Ampat Archipelago, where fish populations have rebounded, coral is recovering and livelihoods for local communities have improved. Our most unexpected find? The International Dark Sky Association, which has protected over 110,000 km² of dark places around the globe.

21. It was a particularly good year for conservation in Ecuador. The country’s protected waters around the Galapagos were expanded by 60,000 km², a landmark agreement protected the Pastaza, the country’s largest and most biodiverse forest from mining, and a historic ruling by the Supreme Court gave indigenous groups the power to veto all mining and oil projects on their lands.

22. Amidst all the worrying news about global deforestation, there were some bright spots in 2022. Nepal, India and Scotland all reported notable recoveries, the EU agreed to adopt the world’s first ever legislation banning the trade of agricultural commodities driving global forest loss, and perhaps most importantly, the election of Lula in Brazil heralded a turnaround for the Amazon.

23. We learned this year that global mangrove loss has now stopped, that more than 42% of the world’s mangroves are now protected (up from 25% in 2012) and that a global alliance of countries launched a new initiative to restore and protect another 15 million hectares by 2030.

24. We also learned that Burundi has planted 150 million trees to restore communities since the end of its civil war in 2018, that Africa’s Great Green Wall is working in Niger, where a staggering 200 million trees have been planted across 12 million acres of arid land, and that Indonesia achieved significant progress in restoring its tropical peatlands.

25. What a year for island restoration. Decades of efforts bore fruit, with the completion of rodent eradication efforts on Tetiaroa Atoll in French Polynesia and the Millennium Forest project on St Helena in the Atlantic, the restoration of the Channel Islands in the Pacific, an extraordinary environmental recovery on Macquarie Island off the coast of Tasmania, and an ‘ecological renaissance’ on nearby Lord Howe in the Tasman Sea.

26. It was quite a year for river restoration too. Israel and Jordan agreed to team up to save the Jordan, in Bangladesh the Halda is bouncing back after just four years of conservation efforts, and birds, fish and flowers are returning to the Mapacho in Santiago, after a ten year effort that has transformed it from a dead river into an urban refuge for nature and wildlife.

27. Europe removed a record-breaking 239 dams and committed to getting 25,000 kilometres of rivers back to free flowing by 2030, the Netherlands began the continent’s largest ever river restoration project on the Meuse, in Canada indigenous communities began ‘reopening the lungs’ of the Squamish  and the largest dam removal project in the world was approved for the Klamath in California.

The Ocean Cleanup working miracles at the mouth of Ballona Creek, near Los Angeles.

28. There was some good news for the world's oceans too. Colombia became the first country in the western hemisphere to protect 30% of its ocean, the Pacific island state of Niue created a marine park protecting 100% of its waters, spanning 317,500 km², and Australia created a 744,000 km² marine park, meaning that a staggering 45% of its territorial waters are now protected.

29. Belize doubled the area of ocean covered by its marine protected areas, in the Indian Ocean nation of Comoros a community-led effort inspired three new marine protected areas, and the Republic of Congo established its first ever marine reserves covering 4,000 km² off the West African coast.

30. Europe closed 87 sensitives zones to bottom trawling in the Atlantic, putting 16,419 km² of ocean below 400 metres off limits, new regulations banned bottom trawling in Kattegatt, a 30,000 km² area between Sweden and Denmark, and in ‘a massive victory for the planet’ South Africa banned oil and gas exploration on the country’s Wild Coast, protecting 6,000 kilometres of coastline.

31. A rewilding project spanning 8,500 km² kicked off in the Iberian highlands - the tenth project from Rewilding Europe, the US government committed over $1 billion to the restoration of Florida’s Everglades, and the European Commission tabled a new Nature Restoration Law to repair 80% of impacted habitats and restore all the continent’s degraded ecosystems.

32. In 2022 we discovered that Argentina has pioneered a rewilding model that has restored over 800,000 hectares of damaged land, and that in the United Kingdom one in five councils have now launched rewilding schemes or are planning to do so, and five nature recovery projects are underway to restore 99,000 hectares in the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk, and Somerset.

33. The Nature Conservancy unveiled Canada’s largest ever private conservation project, 1,450 km² of boreal forest in northern Ontario, and Yvon Chouinard, the ‘existential dirtbag’ who founded Patagonia, gave away his entire company to a trust that will use future profits to fight the climate crisis. "Earth is now our only shareholder." Guardian

34. In a milestone five decades in the making, the UN General Assembly declared access to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment to be a universal human right. It’s a profound shift in the way we see ourselves, and a crucial part of the moral framework our species will need in order to evolve out of our industrial era.

Global Health

35. There were some really big milestones for tropical disease prevention this year. Niger became the first African country to eliminate river blindness, Malawi, Togo, Vanuatu and Saudi Arabia all eliminated trachoma, saving tens of millions of people from the world’s most common cause of blindness, and Benin, Uganda, Rwanda, and Equatorial Guinea eliminated sleeping sickness, a deadly disease caused by tsetse flies.

36. The WHO reported the number of schoolchildren in sub-Saharan Africa infected by bilharzia - the world's most common parasitic disease - has fallen by 60% in the last 20 years, and that global cases of visceral leishmaniasis, a horrible disease spread by sandflies, have decreased six-fold since 2011.

37. Guinea Worm inched closer to being the third ever disease to be fully eradicated. In 2022, only nine cases were recorded in two countries, an extraordinary reduction for a disease that infected 3.5 million people in 21 countries 35 years ago. At least 80 million cases have been averted since then thanks to the heroic efforts of The Carter Centre.

38. We know you're not supposed to mention the zombie movie anymore, but we thought it was pretty amazing to find out this year that COVID-19 vaccines prevented 19.8 million deaths during 2021. India averted the most deaths at 4.2 million, followed by the United States at 1.9 million and Brazil at just over a million.

39. There was some really encouraging news about the fight against cancer, the world’s second most common cause of death. Cancer death rates have fallen substantially in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan, and Rwanda revealed it is on track to become the first country in the world to eliminate cervical cancer.

40. 2022 was a big year for the development of drugs and vaccines to combat some of the world’s most devastating diseases. We saw the arrival of a RSV vaccine that reduces severe disease by 82%, a GBS vaccine, a dengue vaccine that cuts the risk of hospitalisation by 84%, a super cheap cervical cancer vaccine, and a single dose oral drug that is 95% effective at curing sleeping sickness.

41. Millions of Alzheimer’s patients were given hope this year, after a new drug was shown to slow memory decline by 27% over 18 months. It's the biggest breakthrough in a generation, offering real optimism that dementia can be beaten and one day, perhaps even cured. BBC

42. Most importantly of all, scientists at Oxford released results of trials of a new malaria vaccine with 'world-changing' potential, giving up to 80% protection from the bite of the Anopheles mosquito, the world's deadly animal. A deal has already been reached to manufacture 100 million doses a year, and the charity Malaria No More said it might mean children dying from malaria could end in our lifetimes.

A mother in Nanoro, Burkina Faso, where trials involving 09 children were held, protects her baby behind a mosquito net. Photograph: Nyani Quarmyne/Panos Pictures

43. Speaking of malaria, the World Malaria Report said there were an estimated 619,000 deaths in 2021, down from 625,000 in 2020. India, Pakistan, Brazil and Tanzania, some of the world’s worst affected countries, all reported substantial progress, and in June this year, global leaders managed to rally over $4 billion of new funding.

44. UNAIDS said that global AIDS deaths fell to 650,000 in 2021, down by 11% since 2019, and UNICEF reported infections among children under five have fallen by more than 50% since 2010. Oman eliminated mother-to-child transmission of HIV, and Botswana revealed it’s on the cusp of becoming the first African country to do so - astonishing progress for a country that used to have the highest rate of HIV in the world.

45. In March, the WHO released an update on humanity's efforts to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus, one of the world's leading causes of death for newborns. Between 2000 and 2020, 47 countries achieved elimination, global cases decreased by 88%, and deaths decreased by 92%, from 170,829 in 2000 to just 14,230 in 2020.

46. You don’t hear much about rubella (German measles) these days - probably because cases have dropped by 48% since 2012, and elimination has been verified in half the world’s countries. Joining the list in 2022 was Singapore - the seventh Asian country to do so. The fight against measles is holding the line too, despite a brief resurgence a few years ago, and a fall in vaccination rates during the pandemic.

47. In its 75 years since independence, India has made astounding progress in public healthcare: eradicating both polio and smallpox, decreasing HIV and malaria, and reducing the infant mortality rate from a harrowing 200/1,000 births in the 1940s to just over 27 per 1,000 births today. Healthcare efforts have more than doubled average life expectancy from 32 years in 1947 to 70 years in 2022.

48. The World Tobacco Atlas revealed that for the first time the proportion of smokers in the world has fallen. That's a hugely consequential shift that will save millions of lives. Out near the front of the pack? The United States, where cigarette smoking is down sharply, and New Zealand, the first country to implement an annually rising smoking age, ensuring tobacco cannot be sold to anyone born after 1 January 2009.

Decarbonisation

49. In 2022 the clean energy transition kicked into a new gear. The IEA raised its global forecast for renewables growth by 76% compared to two years ago, in what it called its largest ever upward revision, and said renewables are now on track to overtake coal in global electricity production by 2025 - an astonishing shift beyond the wildest dreams of green campaigners just a few years ago.

50. Vladimir Putin arguably did more for the climate than any individual in human history, by turning clean energy into a national security issue. 19 European countries accelerated their decarbonisation plans, nine countries bordering the North Sea announced a massive increase in offshore wind deployment, the continent cut its demand for gas by a quarter, and increased its clean energy target to 82% by 2030.

51. Lawmakers in Germany, the world’s 4th largest economy, agreed to spend $180 billion by 2026 to accelerate the shift to a cleaner economy, Czechia brought forward its coal phase out date by five years, Slovenia agreed to stop using coal for electricity by 2033, Romania agreed to phase out coal by 2030, the $11 billion Nord Stream 2 project, a carbon bomb that had paralysed the West for years, went bankrupt, and Russia's prospecting plans in the Arctic are dead in the water too.

52. After three decades of inaction, the United States passed its first ever comprehensive climate bill in 2022, containing $369 billion in spending. It was the most significant climate news since China announced its net zero target, and in its aftermath, analysts started predicting 'staggering' amounts of clean energy deployment, with wind, solar and batteries accounting for over 95% of capacity in US interconnection queues.

53. California, the world’s fifth-largest economy, passed its most comprehensive ever climate change legislation in 2022. Lawmakers approved a record $54 billion in climate and energy spending and passed sweeping new restrictions on oil and gas drilling as well as a mandate that California stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere by 2045.

54. The vibe shift in US energy was strong this year. Households installed record amounts of rooftop solar, utilities finally stopped trying to slow down the energy transition and started spending money on transmission instead, and wind, sun and water generated more electricity than either coal or nuclear. Something they said would never come has come to pass: clean now beats coal, and gas is next.

55. Oh, and the US Senate passed an international climate treaty so powerful it could avert nearly 1°F of global warming, and nobody noticed.

56. China’s dizzying ambitions on clean energy continued to balloon in 2022. It installed 140 GW of wind and solar (more than the entire world in 2020) and updated its targets to build a US-sized amount of clean energy every year until 2025, including anoffshore wind farm in the Taiwan Strait big enough to power all of Norway.

57. China also passed new regulations forcing all of the country's coal plants to compete with renewables by 2025, tightened its environmental regulations and placed a ban on new industrial projects in polluted areas, and revealed plans for 100 GW of battery storage and 120 GW of pumped hydro by 2030, smashing all previous forecasts.

58. And no, coal didn’t bounce back. In China, coal consumption fell for 12 straight months between June 2021 and June 2022, new coal projects outside China became effectively uninsurable, the global pipeline of new coal capacity collapsed, the US coal surge ended before it started, and the European one turned out to be an illusion.

59. The global solar industry produced 295 GW of panels in 2022, representing an incredible 45% year-on-year increase compared to 2021, and it looks like that was just a warmup. The sector is now betting on annual sales of 940 GW of solar by 2025. That's 5.8% of total global electricity demand, every year, or the equivalent of the world’s entire fleet of 438 nuclear plants every 20 months.

Floating solar panels on the Hapcheon Dam in South Korea, on 8th February 2022. More than 92,000 solar panels floating on the surface of the reservoir are able to generate 41 MW — enough to power 20,000 homes.

60. Amidst the backdrop of the global market downturn, climate tech bucked the trend. 2022 was a bumper year, with at least $6 billion ploughed into climate companies by new funds, $37 billion of 'dry powder' ready to fuel innovation, and what one analyst described as perhaps the biggest two months ever in the history of energy finance.

61. Munich Re and Swiss Re, the world's two largest reinsurers, announced oil and gas exits, as did Allianz, one of the world’s biggest fossil fuel insurers. Korean Re, Asia’s second-largest reinsurance company, said it will no longer provide reinsurance for new coal mining or power plant construction.

62. HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank by total assets, announced it will no longer provide financing for new oil and gas fields, Nordea, the biggest Nordic bank, said it would cease all lending to oil and gas, and Credit Agricole, the largest retail lender in France, said it would stop financing new oil extraction,

63. Japan's three largest banks, among the largest remaining financiers of coal in the world, announced they would stop financing new thermal coal mining, Lloyds, the UK's largest bank, said it will no longer provide direct financing to fossil fuels and MAPFRE, the largest non-life insurer in Latin America, said it would not cover or invest in fossil fuel companies without a 1.5C plan.

64. Electric vehicle sales topped 10 million in 2022, up from 6.6 million last year, and overall spending on clean transport worldwide exceeded $450 billion. There was a 38% increase in global battery manufacturing capacity, batteries were found to last far longer than previously predicted, and more recycling capacity came online than there was battery scrap available.

65. In China, the largest car market in the world, almost 30% of all new vehicles sold were fully electric in 2022 - up from 13% in 2021 and just 5% in 2020. At this pace, pure battery electric vehicles will be a third of China’s new car market by next year, blowing the predictions of even the most optimistic analysts out of the water.

66. Lawmakers in Europe banned internal combustion engines in all new cars and vans by 2035, as did Canada, and then California, the largest auto market in the United States, followed shortly afterwards by New York.

67. The US battery industry went nuts in 2022. At least $25.7 billion of factories are now in the works, most of them in red states, money is pouring into everything from graphite plants to cobalt refineries, and analysts estimate over $91 billion will be invested in the next decade as a result of the Inflation Reduction Act.

68. Chrysler said it would stop producing combustion engine powered vehicles by 2028, Buick said it would only sell electric vehicles by 2030, Nissan ended combustion engine development in all markets except the United States, Hyundai closed its combustion engine development division, and Porsche reported that its all-electric Porsche Taycan is now outselling the 911.

69. Amidst the relentless barrage of bad news about the war in Ukraine, the global energy crisis, climate catastrophes and the disappointments of COP27, the most important story of the year was largely missed by the world's media: the climate fight is working.

Development

70. The pandemic created a major setback for poverty reduction efforts worldwide, but in 2022 we were also reminded of the decade of progress that came before it. Nepal, for example, reduced poverty from 39.1% in 2010 to 17.7% in 2019, and achieved its largest ever reduction in the proportion of people deprived of sanitation —from 60.6% in 2011 to 21.4% in 2019.

71. Cambodia revealed its poverty rate plummeted from 39% to 18% in the last decade, Vietnam lifted almost 10 million people out of poverty during the same period, and Indonesia achieved one of the most spectacular development successes of the 21st century, lifting 25 million people out of poverty between 2000 and 2021.

72. The biggest story of the year however, came from India, in what the UN called a ‘historic change.’ Between 2005 and 2019, nearly 415 million people were lifted out of what is known as multidimensional poverty, a measure that includes health, education and standard of living. Children saw the fastest reduction, with child poverty falling from 34.7% to 21.8%

73. UNICEF reported some welcome news on global child mortality. The pandemic did not result in the feared reversal - rather, child mortality has actually decreased to its lowest level ever, at 37 deaths per 1,000 live births. Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and India have all reported significant declines in the last few years.

74. One of the least celebrated stories of human progress? Fewer teenage girls as a proportion of the global population are giving birth today than at any point in human history. Oh, and 357 million women and girls are using modern contraception in low and lower-middle income countries, and in the last year alone, their use averted 135 million unintended pregnancies, 28 million unsafe abortions, and 140,000 maternal deaths.

75. The UN reported that global electricity access rose from 83% to 91% of humanity between 2010 and 2020, with the number of unserved falling from 1.2 billion to 733 million.

76. New data also showed that the proportion of people cooking with wood, charcoal, kerosene or dung has fallen from 53% in 1990 to 36% today, meaning that in a single generation, an extra 2.48 billion people are now cooking with electricity or clean stoves.

77. In March, we found a story we think should have been in every news outlet, but instead ended up in internet purgatory. A global network of organisations called the Clean Cooking Alliance revealed that in the past decade, it has helped over 400 million people access clean cooking fuels and technology, saving an estimated 4.6 million lives from premature deaths. Surely worth at least one headline?

78. In August, India’s Jal Jeevan Mission, which aims to connect piped water to 192 million households by 2024, announced it’s over halfway to meeting its goal, and in September, the WHO and UNICEF reported their latest data on the state of the world’s drinking water, revealing that between 2000 and 2020, the global population with access to safely managed drinking water services increased from 3.8 billion to 5.8 billion people.

79. High school dropout rates for girls in India declined to their lowest level ever, with two million more girls staying in school each year since 2017, Iran reported it’s on the cusp of eradicating illiteracy, Cambodia said its literacy rate is 90%, up from 77% in 2008, and Sierra Leone announced that a quarter of its budget will be spent on education, and over a million students have been newly enrolled since 2018.

Students attending school at at the WCA Primary School in Kamabai, Sierra Leone, which offers classes and resources to pregnant teenage girls. NICEF Sierra Leone

80. One of the most surprising stories of the year was that America’s inequality problem has improved for the first time in a generation. The last few years have been the most economically prosperous for the bottom 50% in three decades - their net worth has doubled since the beginning of 2020, and they now hold a bigger share of the nation’s wealth than ever before, inflation notwithstanding.

81. In 2022, the number of Americans living without health insurance hit a record low of 8%, with more than 5.2 million more people receiving coverage since 2020. Minority groups achieved the biggest leaps - Hispanic people saw a 53% jump between 2020 and 2022, Black people 49% and Native Americans 32%. Not a single death panel in sight.

82. The US Census Bureau reported that the poverty rate in America plummeted to 7.8% in 2021, and the number of children in poverty fell by nearly half. To put this in context - in 1993, one in four children lived in families living below the poverty line. 26 years later, that’s fallen to roughly one in ten. The magnitude of this decline is unequalled in the history of poverty reduction efforts in the United States.

83. 2022 was the year when free, nutritious meals for students in America went mainstream. California, Maine and Colorado all made their programs permanent, Vermont, Nevada and Massachusetts extended them until the end of the year, and legislation was introduced to do the same in Minnesota, Wisconsin, New York, Maryland and North Carolina.

84. US air quality is improving. Since 1990, fine particulate matter pollution has declined by 41% and concentrations of O3, a precursor to smog, have declined by 22%. The result? 370,000 avoided premature deaths, 189,000 fewer cardiac and respiratory hospital admissions, and 8.3 million fewer lost school days... every year.

85. Europe revealed that improved air quality has saved millions of lives in the last few decades. In the early 1990s, nearly a million premature deaths a year were caused by fine particulate pollution. By 2005, that number had been more than halved to 450,000, and in 2021 dropped to around 300,000.

86. At the beginning of the year China reported that air pollution was down by 9.1% from a year earlier. Air pollution has fallen by 42% since 2013, which means China has achieved the same reduction in eight years as America did in three decades.

Animals

87. 2022 was the Year of the Tiger, and it kicked off with a report from the WWF showing the century-long trend of wild tiger decline has finally been reversed. In Europe, populations of mammals and birds are bouncing back, and in an incredible reversal, saiga antelope in Kazakhstan have rebounded 10-fold after a fatal disease killed half the population seven years ago. “If you take measures, wild animals can recover.”

88. This was also the year in which a landmark ivory ban in the United Kingdom went into effect, and the 150 year ivory trade in Hong Kong came to an end. Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools, one of Africa’s most renowned game-viewing destinations, maintained a zero elephant poaching rate for the third year in a row, and Gabon reported its elephant population has increased by over a third in the last decade, to 95,000 animals.

89. Giraffe populations across Africa rebounded by 20%, the one-horned rhino bounced back in India, Brazil’s iconic golden lion tamarin bounced back too, bison returned from the brink of extinction to the plains of America, the number of wolf packs in the Alps jumped more than 25%, cheetahs returned to India after more than 60 years, and 40 years after being declared locally extinct, rhinos returned to Mozambique.

90. A US federal judge restored a large number of protections for endangered and threatened species removed by the Trump administration, federal protections for gray wolves were fully restored across most of the United States, and the Biden administration protected three million acres of critical habitat for the northern spotted owl, after striking down a Trump-era plan to open the area to logging.

91. Italy followed in the footsteps of France and Germany by banning the slaughter of male chicks, ending the culling of up to 40 million young birds by the egg industry each year. The United States is in the middle of a multi-billion dollar shift to cage-free eggs, and Australia said it will phase out battery eggs altogether

92. In 2022 the 19th meeting of CITES produced new trade regulations for over 600 species, including new protection for sharks, frogs, turtles, songbirds and tropical timber species. The most significant development was the expansion of fishing regulations to protect 95% of shark species fished for their fins. Shark-fishing gear was also banned across much of Pacific, and earlier in the year, Hawaii became the first US state to ban shark fishing altogether.

93. Sinaloa became the fifth state in Mexico to ban bullfighting, Korea announed that after four decades of legal battles it will ban bear farming in 2026, Dolce & Gabbana banned fur and angora from all future collections, and both Belgium and Italy officially banned fur farming in 2022, the 16th and 17th countries to do so in Europe.

94. Good news for dogs in America this year. A decade ago, 2.6 million stray dogs and cats were being euthanized each year. However, thanks to dog-relocation networks, animal rescue and increased demand for pets during the pandemic, the number of euthanised dogs has now fallen to a historic low of 390,000.

95. In a landmark decision, EU has banned the imports of crops using two bee-killing, neonicotinoid pesticides. The ban follows a report from the EFSA identifying 'high acute risk' to honeybees from certain neonicotinoid chemicals and the moratorium will commence before December this year. Eco Watch

96. A a new analysis showed that illegal poaching of turtles has dropped sharply around the world in the last decade, and numbers are recovering. After several decades of protection and monitoring, turtle recoveries were reported in the Seychelles, Georgia and off the coast of Louisiana. "This is just the beginning. There's potential for these populations to double, triple, we're not even sure."

97. The pirarucu, the largest fish in the Amazon, is recovering thanks to community conservation efforts, a 30-year recovery program in the Virgin Islands is working for the red hind, a species of grouper, Atlantic cod are showing signs of a comeback thanks to catch limits imposed in New England, and tuna populations are recovering in the world’s largest fully protected ocean reserve, the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii.

98. New York’s waterways are the cleanest they’ve been in over a century, and whales, dolphins, sharks, seals, crabs, seahorses and oysters are returning in droves. A swathe of Alaskan coastline the size of Texas was designated as critical habitat for seals this year, New Zealand’s fur seals are thriving after near extinction, and Svalbard’s walruses have bounced back too, after being nearly hunted to extinction for ivory.

99. Britain reported a string of successes in re-wilding populations of osprey, cranes and spoonbills, the US Interior Department announced $105 million of funding to conserve or restore 116,305 acres of habitat for waterfowl and other birds in 18 states, and thanks to a collaboration between government agencies, scientists, and indigenous tribes, condors are once again soaring over the skies of North America.


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