Good News, 17th September 2021

A landmark decision for human rights in Mexico. Plus, the sexiest electric pickup truck on the planet, and good news on the global coal pipeline, US poverty, declines in leprosy, multiple conservation wins in Australia, and the recovery of Atlantic tuna.

Good News, 17th September 2021
Women in Mexico gather to demand the decriminalisation of abortion during a rally organised to mark the International Safe Abortion Day, in Guadalajara, September 2019.Source: EFE / AAP

A fortnightly roundup of good news from around the world. This is the free edition. For the full experience, you can upgrade to the weekly premium edition, which also comes with mind-blowing science and the best bits of the internet. One third of the subscriber fee goes to charity.

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Give a damn

Aavaa is a sex education initiative for Persian-speaking children and teenagers that uses book readings, videos and social media to provide age-appropriate information on bodies, sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. It also provides resources for people who are in contact with children, such as parents and teachers. We're sending them US$3,000 to fund ten new videos.

If you live in an English-speaking country, it's easy to take access to this kind of information for granted, but for millions of young people in northern Africa and the Middle East, these conversations are only just getting started. Thanks to all of our paid subscribers for making this possible, a little bit will go a long way here, helping this content reach hundreds of thousands of people.

Also, an update from Green Pedal in Mozambique, who we sent US$2,900 to a year ago, to buy ten new water irrigation bikes. The bikes have arrived! Once again, thanks to all our paid subscribers.

Check out all the photos here

Good news you probably didn't hear about

The pace of COVID-19 vaccinations in Africa has been way too slow, but that's about to change, after the African Union announced it has pooled enough money with the Caribbean to secure 400 million doses of the J&J vaccine - enough to immunize a third of the continent by the end of this year. World Bank

Under India's flagship Jal Jeevan Mission, millions of people have gained access to clean water in the last two years. About 11.2 million, or 38% of all households in disease-vulnerable regions now have access to clean water, up from 2.9% in 2019, and another 11.8 million, 35% of the total, now have running tap water, up from 7.9% in 2019. HT

A massive collaborative effort by religious groups in America is providing newly arrived Afghan refugees with food, clothing, legal assistance and housing. “It’s incredible. It’s an interfaith effort that involved Catholic, Lutheran, Muslim, Jews, Episcopalians ... Hindus ... as well as nonfaith communities who just believe that maybe it’s not a matter of faith, but a matter of who we are as a nation.”AP

US poverty fell to 9.1% last year, the lowest level ever recorded and a significant decline from 11.8% in 2019. Thanks to federal relief enacted at the start of the pandemic, nearly 8.5 million people were lifted out of poverty, and childhood poverty experienced its largest ever one year decrease, dropping from 15.8% to 11.9%. WaPo

There are some amazing stories hidden in the new Gates Foundation report. Last year Benin, where malaria is the leading cause of death, created a new, digitized system for bed nets, distributing 7.6 million across the country in just 20 days. In Pakistan, an emergency cash program provided assistance to over 40% of the population, two-thirds of whom were women, bringing 10 million of them into the formal financial system for the first time (h/t to our friends at The Progress Network for this one).

The number of leprosy cases around the world plummeted last year, with new cases falling by 37% and total cases by 27% compared to 2019. While this is partially due to less reporting as a result of COVID-19, it's in line with longer term trends, especially for children. The proportion of child cases has decreased from 9.2% in 2011 to 7.4% in 2019 and to just 6.8% in 2020. WHO

Malaysian women have won the right to pass citizenship onto their children born overseas, a privilege previously only granted to men. It’s part of a global movement to amend discriminatory citizenship laws that trap women in abusive relationships and deny children access to education and healthcare. CS Monitor

From next year, France will offer free birth control for all women aged 25 and under to target a decline in contraceptive use among young women due to cost. Contraceptive methods are already free in Britain, and Spain offers free birth control pills and subsidizes other forms of contraception. NPR

For the first time ever, half of lawmakers in Mexico’s lower house of Congress are female, and women are set to lead nearly a quarter of the country's states after recent midterm elections. This follows an ambitious reform passed in 2019 for “gender parity in everything." MS

Mexico’s Supreme Court has made it legal for all citizens to choose what happens to their bodies, in a landmark decision to decriminalize abortion. It's a major human rights victory in a country with one of the world’s largest Catholic populations, and a sign of changing attitudes across Latin America, following a similar move by Argentina earlier this year. BBC

Today is a watershed in the history of the rights of women and pregnant people, and above all, the most vulnerable.
~ Chief Justice Arturo

The UN has passed a historic resolution to stamp out ritualistic killings in Africa that target children, women, and people with disabilities and albinism. Member states will now be required to develop specific measures to tackle the issue. “This resolution is an important step to stop the horrific, human rights abuses that take place due to beliefs in witchcraft.” East African

A big step forward for LGBTQIA+ rights in Israel after the government lifted restrictions on blood donations by gay men. It follows the United Kingdom and the United States, who have both eased similar restrictions over the past year. AP

Barcelona is giving citizens free, unlimited public transport for three years when they give up their private vehicles. Since the program began in 2017, more than 12,000 ‘T-green tickets’ have been awarded, reducing the city’s traffic by 10,613 cars and 1,735 motorcycles. Eltis

In the past six years, Paris has done more than almost any city in the world to take space back from cars, opening linear parks on old highways along the Seine, phasing out diesel cars, opening bus lanes, raising parking meter prices and plowing bike lanes down hundreds of streets. It's working.

Parisian public space is rare, precious, and very useful. It belongs to everyone and it can’t be captured by one unique usage, which is the automobile.

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it

A massive moment for the climate divestment movement, after Harvard, the richest university on earth, announced that it no longer has any direct investments in fossil fuel companies, and that its indirect investments through private equity funds would be allowed to lapse. Congratulations to the activists who fought for this for so many years.

Chubb, the world’s largest publicly traded property and casualty insurer, is walking away from Canada's Trans Mountain tar sands expansion. It's the 16th insurer to quit the project, a major victory for indigenous communities and environmental activists who've campaigned against it for years. Insurance Business Canada

In the six years since the Paris Agreement was signed, the global pipeline of new coal plants has shrunk dramatically. More than three quarters of planned projects have been shelved, 44 governments have committed to ending coal, and a further 33 have cancelled their pipelines. The remaining pipeline is now spread across just 37 countries, 16 of which have only one project. Carbon Brief

Think what this is going to look like in another six years.

This diagram shows projects that have been cancelled (dark grey), announced (light blue), shelved (light grey), pre-permit (yellow), with government permits (orange), entering construction (red), starting to operate (dark blue) or retiring (green). Source: E3G, Global Energy Monitor and Ember (2021).

Here's a clue: India has the second scariest coal pipeline on the planet: 33 GW under construction and 29 GW in pre-construction. In reality, most of that is a mirage. The plants under construction are destined to be stranded assets, there has been no movement in the 29 GW of pre-construction capacity, and no new coal-fired power plants announced at all in the last 12 months. IEEFA

Greece has historically been one of the most coal-reliant economies in Europe - in 2015, half of all energy was produced from lignite, the dirtiest form of coal. In a shift that would have been inconceivable a few years ago, lignite's share is now down to around 10%, and the country is on track to close its last coal plant by 2025. Money talks. SP Global

Solar installations are booming in France. In 2021 the country has installed more solar than in any other year in history - and that's just from the first six months of the year. Although solar is still only 3.1% of total electricity consumption, this represents a new kind of growth the country has not experienced before. PV

The Phillipines just awarded 928 renewable energy contracts with a combined capacity of 30 GW. This comes off the back of the country's ban on new greenfield coal plants in October last year. “We are proactively pursuing policies and programs that will help us secure a sustainable, competitive energy future for the coming generations." Manila Standard

Illinois, the 18th largest economy in the world, and the fifth largest economy in the US, just passed what it's calling "the most pro-worker, pro-climate legislation in the country." The bill mandates zero emissions from the power sector by 2045, a five fold increase in renewables, and funding for a just transition for communities affected by coal and gas closures. Gizmodo

New York's new governor, Kathy Hochul, has signed a bill into law that will require all passenger vehicles sold in the state to be emissions-free by 2035. The law makes New York the second state after California to announce a phase out date for greenhouse gas emissions in cars and light trucks. The Hill

Toyota, the world’s largest car manufacturer by volume, and the last big remaining holdout on EVs, is finally coming to the party. It just announced plans to spend $13.5 billion to develop batteries and an accompanying supply system, and will release 70 electric cars globally by 2025, including 15 fully-electric vehicles. Verge

That party is getting bigger all the time. Hyundai just announced it will not sell any more more combustion vehicles in Europe after 2035, and in the rest of the world after 2040. their CEO, Jaehoon Chang, is the latest in a long line of industrialists to suddenly develop a conscience. “Climate change is an undeniable challenge that requires the greatest and most urgent attention of all.” Electrive

And here's the belle of the ball - the first customer ready trucks from Rivian have rolled off the production line at their headquarters in the Prairie State, in a big moment for EV enthusiasts. Forget the F-150 or the Cybertruck; this is the future of the battery electric pickup. If you haven't heard of this company yet, do yourself a favour and check this out (Also, green cars = green jobs).

Dual cab, 505 km on a single charge, 750 horsepower, 4,990 kg towing capacity, a motor on every wheel, 0-100 km/h in 3 seconds (faster than a Ferrari), $67,500.

The only home we've ever known

The population of four endangered tuna species - Atlantic bluefin, Southern bluefin, Albacore and Yellowfin - are all showing signs of recovery thanks to the enforcement of fishing quotas over the past decade. While all those populations are still critically endangered, it shows that regulation and enforcement is capable of turning the tide. Nat Geo

Until ten or fifteen years ago, the vast majority of table eggs were produced in cage systems. Today, that's no longer the case. Thanks to animal activists and shifting consumer tastes, cage-free eggs now represent the majority of eggs produced in the UK, the EU and Australia. The Poultry Site

A welcome conservation victory in our own backyard, with news that the population of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot has jumped from 150 to 1,500 in the past 30 years. It’s the first time the status of an animal in Australia has changed from 'extinct in the wild' to 'endangered.' BBC

Humans did this.

The population of Australia's largest wombat species is back from the brink too, after almost being wiped out in the 1980s. ABC

Conservationists in Austin, Texas have won a legal battle to reclaim protected critical habitat for a rare species of salamander to help bolster their population against proposed developments and climate change. The protected areas include an underground aquifer, spring outlets and spring runs. Biological Diversity

Slovakia has passed a new law banning dog owners from keeping dogs on chains. The legislation, the result of years of campaigning by NGOs, will be effective from 1st January 2022 for young dogs, and will come into full effect in 2024. "Despite big compromises, this is a huge victory for animal rights in this country." Slovak Spectator

Western Australia has become the first Australian state to end native forest logging, with a ban effective from the start of 2024. The government will invest $350m to expand softwood timber plantations and $50m to support affected workers and communities. Guardian

A rewilding project in England that reclaimed 128,000 acres of industrial wasteland three decades ago has blossomed from a single tree into what's now known as the National Forest. The forest has created 5,000 new jobs and there are plans to create a new 25-acre wood to remember those who've died during the COVID-19 pandemic. Euro News

The UK's National Forest

A conservation project to save Yorkshire’s peatlands has carried out restoration work on 5,048 ha of blanket bog, and is delivering huge environmental benefits, having already saved 48 million tonnes of carbon from being released. Peat is an unsung hero of conservation, delivering one of most effective forms of natural carbon capture, flood control and ecosystem recovery. The Guardian

We’ve always called peatlands the Cinderella habitat because they’ve been doing lots of hard work in the background but being generally treated badly and abused. Finally, it feels like this last couple of years Cinderella has come to the ball.

In a remarkable feat of eco-engineering, oysters are saving Kutubdia Island in Bangladesh from fast-rising seas. Marine scientists have worked with island locals for nine years to create oyster-encrusted reefs that buffer the coastline from waves and support marine life, pi0neering a new model that may transform coastline management around the world. BBC

One of the world’s largest tyre graveyards, in Kuwait, is being revitalized into a new urban development, thanks to a recycling plant that has started converting the 42 million old tyres into consumer products. The new plant has a capacity of 3 million tyres per year. WEF

The EPA has restored protections to Alaska’s Bristol Bay, blocking construction of a proposed pebble mine near the world’s largest sockeye salmon run. Native communities and commercial fishermen have fought against the mine for decades, which would threaten 200 species of birds, 40 different land animals and all five species of Pacific salmon. Backpacker

Honestly, what is wrong with people? Why mine this? 

Electronic mail

Irish journalist John Naughton sends out a daily email which we can only really describe as bits and bobs from the internet, and it's one of the best things in our inbox right now. Each edition includes 'a musical alternative to the morning’s radio news' a suggested long read, and invariably, some nugget of wisdom.

We almost always find something good. He's also got what we think might be the best quote of the day section in any newsletter we've come across. Short, smart, sweet, and highly recommended. Memex 1.1

That's it's for this edition, thanks as always for reading (and well done on getting through all of that, there was a LOT). Another shout out to all our paid subscribers for making those donations possible.

We'll see you all in a fortnight.

Much love,


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