Good News, 21st May 2021

The IEA just blew up the last remaining argument for new fossil fuels. Plus, owning the libs with a pickup truck, handheld ultrasounds, and good news on global stunting rates, de-worming initiatives, animal rights in the UK, and drawdown plans for HFCs.

Good News, 21st May 2021

The IEA just blew up the last remaining argument for investing in any fossil fuels. Plus, owning the libs with a pickup truck, handheld ultrasounds, and good news on global stunting rates, de-worming initiatives, animal rights in the UK, and drawdown plans for HFCs.

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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The Butterfly IQ is the world’s first handheld ultrasound device and one of the most impressive pieces of medical technology we've ever seen. It's about the size of an electric shaver, and connects to a smartphone or a tablet to quickly perform ultrasounds and upload scans to the internet. Doctors and nurses can slip the device into their pocket and carry it with them the same way they would a stethoscope.

Two years ago, we came across a feature in the NYT on an organization called Bridge to Health, which was using the devices for pneumonia screening in Uganda and maternal health in Kenya. Since then we've seen it in action in places like Gaza and on the US-Mexico border, allowing doctors to provide basic medical care to people struggling to get access to hospitals.

Bridge to Health is now planning an expedition to Yemen. We're sending them $4,500 to buy two extra Butterfly IQ devices, putting life-saving medical imaging into the hands of people who need it the most, and allowing them to continue their work through the ongoing humanitarian crisis. We’ll keep you updated on progress.

Thank you as always, to our paying subscribers for making this possible.

women scanning baby
doctor scanning patient
If you'd like to find out more, here's some videos of the Butterfly IQ device in action in places like Kenya, Uganda, Mexico and Gaza.


A new paper in The Lancet has shown that de-worming initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa in the last two decades have resulted in a significant decline in cases among children, from 44% in 2000 to 13% in 2018. This is a huge win for one of the world's most underrated public health problems, improving the lives of millions of people and driving economic development.

Japan will be smoke-free within the next decade, following the announcement by tobacco giant Phillip Morris that it will phase-out conventional cigarettes. That's a pretty big deal for a country that has until very recently been considered a ‘smoker’s paradise’ and an outlier among OECD nations for cigarette use. Channel News Asia

A massive, bipartisan clean water infrastructure bill has been approved 89-2 by the US Senate. The legislation will improve water quality, remove lead pipes from schools, and update infrastructure for the impacts of extreme weather and climate change. 40% of the funds will target underserved, rural, and tribal communities.  Grist

Stunting is when a child is too short for their age, and is one of the most important indicators of chronic or recurrent malnutrition. According to new data from the WHO, between 2010 and 2020, the prevalence of stunting in children under 5 fell from 27.7% to 22%. That means there are now around 30 million fewer children affected compared to a decade ago. Remember - progress is slow, and it almost never makes headlines.

Another step forward for transgender rights in America with Utah's Supreme Court overturning a district judge’s decision to deny two transgender people the right to change their birth certificates. The ruling comes after a three year deliberation and creates an important precedent not just for the state, but the country as a whole. LGTBQ Nation

Earlier this year, Colombia granted millions of Venezuelan refugees legal status, allowing them to work and access healthcare and education. Three months later, the government has spent $187 million on providing migrant healthcare, and about half a million migrant children are attending public schools. "We gave Venezuelan migrants a license to dream." BBC

It's cheaper to save the world than it is to ruin it

There's been so much good news on the clean energy front in the past few weeks we've had to give it a whole new section. Where do we even start. Let's kick off with "oil and gas are now junk investments" according to some head-in-the-clouds, granola loving climate activist, oh wait it's *checks notes* the head of the International Energy Agency, Faith Birol. Sky News

The IEA's new Net Zero by 2050 report says that, after 250 years, humanity should now stop exploring for oil, gas, and coal. It's arguably as big a moment as the Paris Agreement; in one stroke, it completely wipes out the fossil fuel industry's last remaining justifications for new capacity. People throw around the word 'turning point' a lot but this really is one. New Yorker

"Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required." The implications are far-reaching; this is truly a knife into the fossil fuel industry (...) a complete turnaround of the fossil-led IEA from five years ago. Dave Jones, Ember

The hits keep on coming. The IEA says last year's record surge in renewables is the 'new normal', and that 90% of all new energy built in 2021 and 2022 will be clean. Keep in mind, this is from an organization that was founded explicitly to promote coal, oil and gas. Welcome to an energy revolution driven not by altruism, or politics, but by the cold-blooded logic of the marketplace. Independent

Another crunchy greenie, Ben van Beurden, the CEO of Shell, has just announced that half of the oil giant's energy mix will be clean somewhere in the next decade. HALF. “If we do not make that type of process by the middle of this decade, we have a problem not just as a company but as a society." Bloody hippy. Bloomberg

The Sines coal plant in Portugal has been shut down nine years ahead of schedule, reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 12%. A second and final plant is due to close in November which will make Portugal the fourth European country to eliminate coal, following in the footsteps of Belgium (2016), Austria (2020) and Sweden (2020). Beyond Coal

The US EPA has proposed a new rule that will phase-out the production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years, saving nearly $284 billion and preventing the equivalent of 187 million tons of CO2 emissions, roughly equal to the annual emissions of one in seven vehicles registered in the United States. AP

Electric car sales boomed by 40% in 2020, with Europe officially overtaking China, spurred on by subsidies and tighter fuel standards. Growth looks set to continue, with sales in the first quarter of 2021 more than doubling from the same period in 2020. There are now around 10 million EVs on the world's roads, plus about another one million vans, trucks and buses.  Independent

Ford has unveiled its new electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning. Its petrol-powered counterpart, the F-150, is the biggest selling pickup truck in the United States. This thing is aimed squarely at the same customers. 360 km of range, 3.5 tonnes of towing capacity, 11 charging ports for your power tools, three days of backup electricity you can plug into your house. Price? $40,000. Verge

Own the libs


Animal rights activists in the UK have won a major victory with a landmark reform that legally recognizes animals as sentient beings. A range of new government measures will ban most live animal exports, the importation of hunting trophies like ivory and shark fins, and target puppy theft. The government has also pledged to uphold animal welfare in future trade deals. Guardian

A philanthropist in South Carolina has gifted 7,500 acres of highlands to conservation groups in the largest private land donation in the state’s history. The area is home to numerous threatened and endangered plant and animal species and includes the largest American Chestnut restoration project in the country. ABC13

Lawmakers in Florida have put their money where their mouth is, committing $100 million to preserve environmentally sensitive lands after passing legislation to preserve the migration paths for animals like the endangered Florida panther. It is the state's most significant spending on land conservation since 2014. WUSF

A major clean-up of New Zealand’s Kaipara Harbour begins this month, with community groups, landowners and local government working together to restore the water health of the 602,000 hectare catchment. 20 million native trees will be planted around the erosion-prone land to stop sediment running into the harbour. RNZ

Government incentives for pesticide free, wildlife-friendly farming in the UK have helped save Britain’s rarest butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, from near extinction. The population has soared by 25% over the past decade with one of the largest colonies found on an organic dairy farm in Dorset. Guardian

The Duke of Burgundy is back, baby. 

The US government has ramped up its protection of endangered humpback whales, declaring 300,000 km² of the Pacific Ocean as critical habitat. It’s a big win for conservationists who sued the federal government in 2018 over its failure to designate protected areas, which are proven to double the chance of species’ recovery. WAN

A crackdown on rhino poaching in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe has paid off with the number of rhinos poached dropping by 1,319 between 2015-2020. The sharp decline is thanks to tougher legislation, enforcement, and more sophisticated investigations. Conservationists have also switched tactics, empowering communities to become rhino custodians. Geographical

The population of Vietnam’s critically endangered monkey, the Delacour’s Langur, has quadrupled in the past 20 years thanks to the combined efforts of a German primatologist and local communities. Their collaboration resulted in the Van Long Nature Reserve established in 2001 to prevent habitat loss and poaching. Mongabay

Since 2010, almost 21 million km2 has been added to the world’s network of national parks and conservation areas, an area greater than the land mass of Russia. That means about 17% of land and inland water ecosystems and 8% of marine areas are now within formal protected areas, with the total coverage increasing by 42% in the last decade. Protected Planet

Electronic mail

Thoroughly enjoying The New Fatherhood, a weekly newsletter by Kevin Maguire, exploring the evolving nature of being a father in the 21st century. Plenty of tools, tips, and hacks to be a better dad, plus a pretty quickly growing community of modern fathers who don't think old-fashioned gender roles are of much use as a guide any more.  

Mums get a lot of the attention when it comes to raising children - and quite rightly, since we still live in a world where the burden falls primarily on them. Unfortunately though, that means there are very few resources or online support for fathers who want to be equal partners in bringing up their kids. This newsletter is one of the rare spaces on the internet where those conversations are actually taking place.

Very welcoming for Mums too, especially if you're interested in understanding what it's like from the other side.

Whew. We know this one was slightly longer than usual, thanks for reading.

We are always here on the other side of that reply button, and love hearing from our subscribers. Spelling mistakes, glaring omissions, furious rants or grudging tips of the hat, we welcome it all. Hope you and your loved ones are doing okay out there. We'll see you in a fortnight.

Much love,

Gus, Amy and the rest of the FC team.

Intelligent optimism, down under. You're receiving the fortnightly free edition. If you'd like to get the weekly premium edition you can upgrade here (one third of your subscriber fee goes to charity). If you need to unsubscribe, you'll break our hearts but we understand that it's us, not you. There's a button for that below. We're also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

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We're a team of science communicators. Our mission is to foster intelligent, optimistic thinking about the future, and create a 21st century that works for people and the planet.

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