12 min read

Good News on Human Rights in Spain, Solar in Vietnam, and Monarch Butterflies in North America

Plus, trachoma eliminated in Togo, inequality declining in the US, clean energy learning curves, another automaker goes electric, the global war on waste ramps up, and major conservation wins in the Indian and Pacific Oceans.
Good News on Human Rights in Spain, Solar in Vietnam, and Monarch Butterflies in North America
Monarchs at sunrise congregate on a wild black cherry tree roost. Photo by Denise Gibbs.

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Give a damn


We recently heard about a 90,000 person refugee camp in the Sahara, on the western border of Algeria, where residents are using machines to turn plastic waste into furniture and other useful products. The project is being run by Precious Plastic, an NGO who helped set it up after the UNHCR put out a call for solutions to help with waste challenges. They're now recycling about 180kg of trash a day.

We gave them a call to see if we could help, and they said they really need a third machine that specializes in turning plastic trash into smaller products like buttons and jewellery, which residents can then sell. We're sending them £3,376 to buy the machine, which is manufactured in the UK, and to pay for the shipping to Algeria, where it should arrive in the next month or two. Thanks to all our paying subscribers for making this possible!

Good news you probably didn't hear about


Togo has become the third country in Africa to eliminate trachoma, the world’s leading cause of preventable blindness. Significant progress has been made across the continent, with infection rates falling from 189 million in 2014 to 116 million in 2021. WHO

The Central African Republic has officially abolished the death penalty, and Malaysia has banned it too, handing judges discretion to use a range of substitute sentences for serious crimes. 170 countries have now abolished or restricted the use of capital punishment.

Between 2013 and 2020 China’s air pollution dropped by 40%, which means the country reduced the same amount of pollution in seven years as America did in three decades. Since air pollution is the largest killer of people worldwide, this achievement equates to millions of lives saved. Bloomberg

The UN says every person on earth will be covered by early warning systems for extreme weather events within the next five years. Issuing a warning 24 hours before a storm or heatwave has been shown to reduce damage and loss of life by an average of up to 30%. EuroNews

A landmark ruling in Mexico has banned random immigration checks that target Indigenous or Afro-Mexicans who are often detained, harassed, or wrongfully deported.  It’s an important victory for human rights groups who have spent years in court fighting for the change. HRW

Spain’s parliament has approved a bill that will make consent a determining factor in rape cases. The proposed legislation known as 'only yes means yes,' will free survivors of sexual assault from having to prove violence. The law includes measures such as creating a network of 24-hour crisis centres for survivors of sexual assault and their families. Guardian

From today, Spain is a freer, safer country for all women. We are going to swap violence for freedom, we are going to swap fear for desire.
Irene Montero, Spanish Minister for Equality

America’s inequality problem has improved for the first time in a generation. The poorest half of Americans now hold a bigger share of the nation’s wealth than they have at any point in the last 20 years. Some welcome news for 6.2 million workers in Germany too, who will receive up to €400 extra per month thanks to a national increase in the minimum wage.

Over the past decade Houston, the fourth largest city in the US, has reduced its homeless rate by 63% thanks to a radical 'housing first' approach that moves people into permanent accommodation rather than shelters. The city now has a $100 million plan in the works to cut homelessness by a further 50% by 2025. NYT

Thailand has become the first Asian country to legalise medicinal marijuana and allow people to grow the plant at home. While recreational use of the drug remains illegal, the government hopes the new law will boost the wellness and tourism industries. ABC

In the wake of the Uvalde shooting in Texas, Canada has implemented a national freeze on the sale and purchase of handguns. The new legislation is part of a gun control package that will also limit magazine capacities. While Canada’s gun homicide rate is less than a fifth of the US, it is higher than other wealthy countries. Reuters

For the first time in 60 years, China’s population is about to decrease. Over the past four decades the population swelled from 660 million to 1.4 billion, but in 2021 it increased by a record-low of 480,000, and is now on course to shrink in 2022. BBC

The number of young people being prosecuted in adult courts in the US has dropped from 8% in 2010 to 1% in 2020, giving tens of thousands of teens a second chance to turn their lives around. The 'raise the age' movement has contributed to the shift which deals with offenders under 18 years old through the juvenile justice system and community-based programs. AP

Regardless of what young offenders are charged with, what works is community-based intervention and letting communities lead reform efforts.
Naomi Smoot Evans, Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice in Washington

Did you know that same sex marriage just took a big step closer to being legalized in both Thailand and Czech Republic?

Activists and MPs celebrate after Thai lawmakers gave initial approval to legalising same-sex unions.

The only home we've ever known


A community-led effort to protect turtles in Mohéli, one of the islands of the Indian Ocean nation of Comoros, has inspired the expansion of Comoros’s protected areas from one to six, including three new marine protected areas (MPAs). The country’s first MPA was created in 2001 and is now one of the largest nesting sites for green sea turtles in the Indian Ocean. Mongabay

Oil drilling in the Arctic’s National Wildlife Refuge is officially bad for business with three major oil companies cancelling leases and five of America’s big banks refusing to fund projects there. The 20 million-acre reserve provides critical habitat for the Southern Beaufort Sea’s remaining polar bears. WaPo

The ocean off Gaza is ‘crystal blue’ for the first time in years, after sewage treating facilities stepped up operations to stop untreated sewage flowing directly into the water. It’s good news for the 2.3 million Palestinians who can finally enjoy a swim this summer. Euro News

The Pacific Island state of Niue is creating a marine park to protect 100% of its ocean, an area the size of Vietnam spanning 317,500 km2. The island’s waters are a birthing ground for humpback whales and boast the world’s highest population of grey reef sharks and the katuali sea snake. Niue follows the lead of the Cook Islands which has also committed to 100% protection. Guardian

The ocean is everything to us. It’s what defines us. We have to ensure our reefs and corals remain to provide a healthy ecosystem and continue to create a food source for our people.
Dalton Tagelagi, Premier of Niue

It's all protected now

The global war on waste is ramping up. India is about to kick off the largest plastic ban in the world, America just announced it will phase out single-use plastic in national parks by 2032, saving 14 million tonnes of plastic from ending up in the ocean, and in Australia, efforts to minimise plastic over the past six years have reduced coastal litter by 29%.

Living Lands and Waters, a 23-year old environmental non-profit in the United States, collected over half a million pounds of trash across seven rivers throughout the USA last year. 63% of that waste came out of the Ohio River, a main source of drinking water for more than five million Americans. Ground Truth Project

Big environmental win in California with the end of state-run pesticide programs on public, agricultural, wild lands, and private properties. The government has also announced a $40 million award to support regional initiatives that repurpose agricultural land in an effort to reduce water demand.

Five major nature recovery projects are underway in the UK to restore a whooping 99,000 hectares of land across the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk, and Somerset. The projects aim to tackle wildlife loss, climate change and improve people’s access to nature, especially in city areas. Guardian

Queensland will invest over $24 million into protecting koala populations and habitats.The koala is an endangered species in Queensland, New South Wales, and the Australian Capital Territory, mainly due to habitat loss. Guardian

A 25-year study of the monarch butterfly in North America, the largest and most comprehensive assessment of the breeding population to date, has overturned everyone’s worst fears and revealed that the species is actually doing alright, after an average annual increase of 1.36% per year. Global Change Biology

The endangered Bali mynah bird is making a comeback thanks to a surprising partnership between conservationists and local bird sellers. For the past decade approved breeders have been given licenses to breed and sell 90% of mynah offspring if the remaining birds are released at West Bali National Park. AP

A victory for wolverines in Montana, with a court reinstating additional protections for the species under the Endangered Species Act. Like other snow-dependent species, wolverines are facing habitat losses due global warming and the protections will help focus resources to save them. Biological Diversity

Today’s decision gives us hope that wolverines could once again roam Colorado’s high country, where high elevation, snowy habitat could help these elusive and fascinating animals survive in the face of climate change.
Megan Mueller, Conservation Biologist, Rocky Mountain Wild

A landmark ban on ivory in the UK has gone into effect. The Ivory Act is one of the toughest in the world, with offenders facing an unlimited fine or up to five years jail. It’s hoped the ban will help end the global ivory trade, which slaughters an estimated 20,000 elephants each year. UK Gov

New York has passed a bill that bans pet stores from selling animals supplied by abusive breeders or 'puppy mills.' Under the new law, pet shops are required to collaborate with animal shelters and encourage people to adopt rather than buy pets. California passed a similar law in 2017. NY Post

Brazil’s iconic golden lion tamarin, found only in the Atlantic Forest, has been saved from extinction with the population rebounding from 200 in 1977 to over 2,000 today. Local conservationists have worked tirelessly for 50 years to protect natural habitat and bolster the population through breeding programs. Work is now underway to protect the other three species — the black lion tamarin, golden-headed lion tamarin, and black-faced lion tamarin. Mongabay

René Mensen (CC BY 2.0)

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it


Vladimir Putin has arguably done more to accelerate the clean energy transition than anyone in history. 19 European governments have now accelerated their decarbonisation plans, and under the latest national commitments, EU countries are aiming for 63% of renewables in electricity generation by 2030, up from 55% under previous commitments. Ember

The Greek government has adopted the country's first national climate protection law, requiring all coal fired generation be closed by 2028, and renewables to account for up to 70% of electricity generation by 2030. This is insanely ambitious. The current share is around 40%. Renewables Now

Amidst the sound and fury surrounding the global conversation on energy, most journalists are still missing the most important point: solar, wind and batteries are on learning curves, and coal, oil, gas and nuclear aren't. A new analysis of wind and solar farms in the United States for example, has shown that each time the total amount of wind installed doubles, the cost comes down by 15%, and for solar, by 24%.

Incredible things are quickly normalized by this kind of exponential growth. This battery storage site in Texas would have been by far the world’s largest five years ago. Today it’s just another project. It's why almost nobody in America is building fossil fuel power plants any more...

...and why nobody in the world wants to insure them either.

It's why it's no longer newsworthy that an industrialised nation just produced 100% of its electricity from wind for two days in a row. Or that another one has set the most ambitious climate goal in the world, aiming to reach net zero by 2035, and net negative – absorbing more CO2 than it emits – by 2040.

Samsung, South Korea’s largest conglomerate, is requiring all its financial subsidiaries to stop investing in coal companies, and Sompo, one of Japan's biggest insurers, says it will stop underwriting new and existing coal around the world. Two really big market signals from where it matters most, southeast Asia.

Next Era, the largest power company in the United States, just announced a plan to achieve 'real-zero' by 2045, by building huge amounts of solar and hydrogen. No other utility to date has committed to near-total decarbonization without the use of offsets or carbon capture technology. WSJ

While everyone's attention has been on the US federal government's inability to pass climate legislation, states and governors have quietly notched up an astonishing list of energy and environment wins across the country. A powerful antidote to despair. LCV

China's biggest dam builder says the nation will start construction on more than 200 pumped hydro stations with a combined capacity of 270GW by 2025. That's more than the capacity of all the power plants in Japan, and will be enough to meet about 23% of China's peak demand. Straits Times

Carbon Brief has a new report showing China’s carbon emissions fell by 1.4% in the first three months of 2022, making it the third quarter in a row of falling emissions. That's the longest emissions decline in China for a decade. Previous declines have been followed by rapid rebounds, but this time could be different...

... because China is now building the equivalent of one coal plant of wind and solar every week. The country is on track to install 108GW of solar alone this year, almost double the 54 GW installed in 2021. Combined with 50GW of wind, that would generate the same amount of electricity as 52 coal plants. Bloomberg

Austria just passed legislation requiring all new or replacement heating systems to be renewable from next year. By 2035, all oil and coal heating systems must be replaced by renewable ones, and by 2040 all gas heating systems must also be replaced. People with low incomes will receive 100% of the costs. Kleine Zeitung

Vietnam, a country of almost 100 million people, is undergoing one of the biggest and fastest energy transitions in the world. In the four years to 2021, the share of solar increased from zero to nearly 11%, making it the world's 10th largest solar power producer. Petrotimes

And the next time someone complains about the coming wave of toxic materials from solar panels, or says "what about recycling?" send them this.

Volvo has become the world's first manufacturer to deliver a construction machine built using fossil-free steel to a customer. This articulated hauler was handed over on the 1st June 2022  - just nine months after the company unveiled the world’s first vehicle concept using fossil-free steel. Aggnet

Lawmakers in the European Parliament have voted to ban internal combustion engines in all new cars and vans by 2035. The legislation requires carmakers to reduce their fleetwide emission averages by 100% from 2035, with interim steps in 2025 and 2030. Politico

Buick, the iconic American automaker, says it will only sell electric vehicles by the end of this decade. And Chevy just slashed the starting price of its Bolt EV by 27% to $26,595, making it the cheapest electric vehicle in North America.

2023 Chevy Bolt EV: range: 414km | 0-100km/h in 6.5 seconds | 200hp | charging time: 160km in 30 minutes. Same price as a Honda Accord.

That's all for this edition, hope you enjoyed it. A big thank you again to all our paying subscribers for helping us send that plastic recyling machine to the desert. We're looking forward to sharing some photos and videos once it's up and running.

We'll see you in a fortnight.

Much love,

FC HQ

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