Good News, 12th February 2021

Peak oil, EVs, terrorism down in Pakistan, police reform in Denver, ambitious US conservation goals, fisheries reforms in Mozambique and Namibia, and dances of cranes in the UK.

Good News, 12th February 2021

Shell has now joined BP in saying the world has reached peak oil. Europe's biggest oil producer quietly admitted in a recent statement that its total oil production peaked in 2019 and will now drop by 1 or 2 percent annually. It's the clearest signal yet from a major oil company that we've reached the beginning of the end of the fossil fuels era. NYT

Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world's biggest, has sold its entire portfolio of companies focused on oil exploration and production. The portfolio, worth about $6 billion in 2019, was fully exited by the end of 2020. The fund’s new CEO has made sustainable investing an explicit strategic focus and says all portfolio managers "need to operate with that in mind." World Oil

Amidst the excitement surrounding GM's pledge to stop making petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, you might have missed the even bigger news that ZF Friedrichshafen, one of the world's top five automotive component manufacturers, has officially ceased R&D on internal combustion engines. "We are preparing for the fact that hardly any combustion engines will be sold in Europe in 2035, perhaps none at all in the passenger car sector."

Meanwhile... here's last Sunday's front page of the Houston Chronicle (a city that's been ground zero for Big Oil for decades). Your regular reminder that change happens slowly, and then it happens, very, very quickly.

newspaper front page
Houston Chronicle, Sunday 7th February 2021

South Australia has become the largest grid in the world to have 100% of its electricity demand met by solar power, even as electricity prices have become the cheapest in the country. For years, fossil fuels advocates in Australia have been warning that too much wind and solar will increase energy prices. Unsurprisingly, those voices are now conspicuously absent. Renew Economy

A long-standing tradition of slavery has been officially banned in Southern India. The custom, known as bitti chakri, has forced lower-caste groups into unpaid labour in upper-caste homes for centuries. It’s a big win for anti-slavery advocates, who have been campaigning on this issue for years. They’re not finished either, vowing to lobby government until they see real change inside communities and not just on paper. Reuters

Crime and murder rates declined in a majority of South American and Caribbean nations last year, including significant reductions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela, some of the most homicidal nations in the world. While it's not clear how much was attributable to the pandemic, law enforcement authorities hope it represents a turning point. Insight Crime

Pakistan experienced a record drop in terrorism last year, with a 45% decrease compared to 2019. Law-enforcement agencies also averted more than half of terror threats in 2020 and recovered 72,227 weapons and five million rounds of ammunition. There's now been an 86% reduction in terror attacks since 2013, and a 97% decline in suicide bombings since 2009. Gulf News

graph showing terrorism declines
Source: South Asia Terrorism Portal

More help, less handcuffs. The US city of Denver is reporting early success with a program that replaces armed police officers with healthcare workers for non-violent incidents. Since June 2020, a mental health clinician and a paramedic have responded to 748 calls without the need for police intervention or any arrests. Organisers are now working with other cities to export the model. Denverite

In the past two decades Australia has experienced one of the most astonishing falls in crime ever recorded by any country. Since 2001, the rate of break-ins has fallen by 68%, motor vehicle theft by 70%, robbery by 71% and other theft by 43% per cent. Across the same period the Australian murder rate fell by 50%, the attempted murder rate by 70% and overall homicide by 59%. The Australian

It’s been two years since Canada legalized recreational cannabis, and one of the many positive benefits has been a drastic decrease in opioid prescriptions. A recent study compared prescriptions before and after legalization and found that average doses per person have fallen to less than 20% of their former levels. Imagine how powerful this is going to be when the US finally gets its act into gear? High Times

Speaking of which, Oregon's Measure 110 has just gone into effect, the first legislation in the United States to decriminalize possession of all illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth and oxycodone. The state's new health-care-based approach will now offer addicts treatment instead of prison. “Criminalization creates barriers to treatment. If we want people to make different choices, we have to give them more options." USA Today

A campaign kickoff event in February 2020 for Oregon's Measure 110, which passed in November 2020 and has now entered into law. Steve DiPaolo

Some great news from our own backyard. A bill banning LGBTQI+ conversion therapy has passed Victoria's Upper House. That means it is now illegal to try to change or suppress a person's sexual orientation or gender identity in our state. Following similar reforms around conversion therapy in Queensland and the ACT, it's another important step in the fight for tolerance and equality in Australia. ABC

A new study in The Lancet looking at the impact of ten different diseases in low and middle income countries estimates that vaccines saved the lives of 37 million kids between 2000 and 2019. For those born in 2019, increases in vaccine coverage and introductions of new vaccines will result in an estimated 72% reduction in lifetime mortality compared to those born in 2000.

India's new budget has doubled the country's spending on healthcare, from 1% to 2% of GDP. It's the largest investment in healthcare in the country's history, and will dramatically improve public health systems as well as fund the huge vaccination drive to immunize 1.3 billion people. Imagine the kind of headlines this would receive if it happened in the United States or Europe? Al Jazeera

women walking past men in India
In the annual budget unveiled on the 1st February, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman proposed increasing healthcare spending to $30.2 billion. Apparently lawmakers "thumped their desks in approval" when the figures were announced. 

Tesco, the UK's biggest supermarket chain, removed 1 billion pieces of plastic from across its stores in 2020, including the bags used to pack loose vegetables, fruit and baked goods, plastic shrink wraps around tinned food, plastic in Christmas products and plastic wrapping around greetings cards. Shows you how powerful consumer pressure can be when directed in the right way. Greenbiz

Europe is tackling its waste problem by legislating people’s right to repair the things they’ve bought. France is leading the charge, with a ‘repair index’, that will now appear on the labels of white goods and gadgets, graded on the ease of disassembly and spare parts. According to advocates, the movement has as much to do with altering mindsets as fixing gadgets. “Our philosophy is that something doesn’t belong to you if you can’t open it.” Next City

The US government has trebled the size of the Gulf of Mexico's largest coral sanctuary, from 145 km² to 414 km². The expansion protects 14 additional reefs from the bottom-tending fishing gear, ship anchors and oil and gas exploration. Initially proposed under the Bush administration and formalized by Obama, the process concluded during the final week of the Trump administration. Nola

Amidst the flurry of executive orders signed by the Biden administration in the past few weeks, you might have missed this one. He's committed to an ambitious conservation goal, backed by science, to protect 30% of US land and coastal seas by 2030. With only 12% of land currently conserved, that will require protecting an area twice the state of Texas to reach the 30/30 target. Nat Geo

Source: National Geographic

For the first time in more than a generation, chinook salmon have spawned in the upper Columbia River system, thanks to a successful re-introduction program by biologists from the Colville Tribe. “I was shocked at first, then I was just overcome with complete joy. I don’t know that I have the right words to even explain the happiness and the healing.” Spokesman

Mozambique has passed a powerful new fisheries law that extends protected status to dolphins, whale sharks, and manta rays, and makes it easier for communities living along the 2,700 km coastline to lead management initiatives. It comes off the back of news that the country’s largest marine conservation area cut illegal fishing by nearly half in 2020 compared with 2019. Mongabay

Fishermen in Namibia have reduced the accidental deaths of seabirds, including endangered albatrosses, from 30,000 per year in 2009, to just 215 at last count. It's down to a simple regulation created in 2015 that made bird-scaring lines mandatory on all fishing boats. The 98.4% reduction in seabird mortality is an “absolutely amazing” achievement. Eco Magazine

The UK's crane population has passed a crucial milestone on its road to recovery, 400 years after being wiped out by hunters. 23 chicks were born last year, pushing the national population past 200. The birds returned to Norfolk in the 1970s under their own steam and are now in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Somerset thanks to the restoration of wetland habitats. “The return of cranes to the British landscape shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance.” Guardian

A dance of cranes (that's the collective noun) in wetlands in the United Kingdom. Photograph: Nick Upton/RSPB/PA

Give a damn

Our newest charity partners are the Thin Green Line, an amazing organization that supports wildlife rangers and their communities. One of their many initiatives is something called the Ranger Box, which equips a 10-person anti-poaching patrol team in Africa or Asia with the basic equipment they need to operate effectively – uniforms, boots, communications equipment and shelter. These people are on the frontlines of conservation, putting their lives at risk on behalf of the living planet. They deserve the right tools for the job.

That's where our readers come in. Thanks to the generosity of our paid subscribers, we're sending the Thin Green Line A$6,000, to purchase six Ranger boxes. Over the next few months, ranger teams from around the world will start receiving the boxes, which are stocked with locally bought supplies to make sure the money is spent within local economies. We'll let you know once they start arriving, and hopefully pass on a few pictures of the teams with their new equipment.

A huge thank you to all of our paying subscribers who made this possible. A little goes a long way.

Six more of these, landing soon.

Give a damn (again)

In November last year our paid subscribers helped us send US$5,000 to Sirkhane Darkroom, a charity on the Turkish-Syrian border using photography to give refugee children an opportunity to be creative and have fun. They were trying to raise money for a caravan to turn into a mobile darkroom, but were struggling, especially during the pandemic. They've now purchased the caravan and are in the process of converting it as we speak. Here's a video message from Serbest Salih, the founder of the project. Also - some great pictures of the caravan in action.

We did it !!! Dear Friends,

With your great support and donations we got the opportunity to get a mini caravan, with the caravan we will be able to reach hundreds of children
📸. Thank you so much to Future Crunch subscribers for the chance! Our next step is to expand to much wider areas with the Sirkhane Darkroom caravan. Children will be able to access opportunities that they can naturally learn by experiencing social skills, have fun and produce. We will start mobile caravan workshops very soon.



That's it for this fortnight, thanks for reading.  

Something to think about before the next time we see you. If it's human nature to continue doing the same stupid things we've done in the past - waging war on ourselves and each other, abusing people because of what they believe, how they look, and who they love, or burning through nature's abundance without any regard for the future, then we are in big, big trouble.

But if it's human systems that do this - our institutions, processes, laws and rules, both explicit and implicit - well then we've got a chance. Modern civilization has never actually tried to exist sustainably on this planet, or to build societies that are truly inclusive, but the momentum for both of those changes is now building. Not everywhere of course, but in enough places that it's definitely not going away, and may eventually become irresistible.

The future is going to be more terrible and wonderful than any of us can possibly imagine. We don’t know what's going to happen, and that uncertainty inspires dread, but it also allows for the possibility of hope. Not for the imagined comforts of the past, which only worked for a few, but for the possibility of human flourishing for everyone, and space for nature to regenerate, even in unimaginable circumstances.

There are still plenty of reasons to hope.

We'll see you in a fortnight.

Much love,


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