Good News on AIDS, Ocean Conservation in Indonesia, and Clean Air Zones in Spain

Plus, malaria in Tanzania, child poverty in the US, river restoration in Europe and Canada, ospreys in the UK, green steel in Germany, and electric trucks from Volvo and Mercedes.

Good News on AIDS, Ocean Conservation in Indonesia, and Clean Air Zones in Spain
"The last paradise." Home to more than 1,600 species of fish, 75% of the world's known coral species, and credited with the richest marine biodiversity on Earth.

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Give a damn

We Care Solar is an organisation with a simple mission - to light every birth. They provide doctors, nurses and midwives with lighting, mobile communication, and medical devices using off-grid solar electricity, and operate in four countries: Liberia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and most recently Sierra Leone.

We are sending them US$3,500 to fund the installation of a solar system for a community health centre in Sierra Leone. The funds will pay for clean, renewable energy, medical-grade LEDs, appliances, including a fetal Doppler and infrared thermometer, rechargeable headlamps and charging ports for phones.

Thank you to all our paying members for making this happen. Mothers attending the clinic will no longer need to include candles or kerosene as part of their birthing kits, and midwives and doctors will be able to provide emergency obstetric care throughout the night. That's thanks to all of you. We are so grateful.

Good news you probably didn't hear about

The WHO says the end of the COVID-19 pandemic is officially in sight. Weekly reported deaths have fallen to their lowest level since March 2020 and attention is now turning towards helping countries 'finish the race'.

Over the past two decades the Global Fund has saved 44 million lives from three of the world’s deadliest epidemics, AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. One of the biggest drivers of the fund’s success is its community-led approach. It was one of the first international organisations to give community groups a voice and representation at board level.

Global AIDS deaths fell to 650,000 in 2021, down by more than 11% since 2019. While the fight is far from over and huge challenges still remain, it's an extraordinary achievement. The tens of thousands of activists, donors and healthcare workers who made it happen deserve more recognition (they sure aren't getting any from global media). UNAIDS

Leprosy has decreased from over five million cases a year in the 1980s to just 133,802 in 2021. In the past decade there has been a 42.5%  decrease in new global cases. Multidrug therapies and screening programs have been instrumental in reducing transmission and 14 countries have reported no new child cases for five consecutive years. WHO

Have you heard of the UNFPA Supplies Partnership? It's one of the most impactful, yet least known aid programs of all time, delivering contraceptives and maternal health medicine to adolescents and women around the world. Since 2008 it's prevented 89 million unintended pregnancies, 26.8 million unsafe abortions, 254,000 maternal deaths, and saved 1.6 million children.

Tanzania is one of the world's worst affected countries by malaria - but has made significant progress in the last decade thanks to bed nets, insecticides, and a new vaccine. Malaria-related deaths decreased by 71% between 2015 and 20121, and prevalence among primary school children has also nearly halved, falling from 21.6% in 2015 to 11.8% in 2021. Global Citizen

The poverty rate in America plummeted to 7.8% in 2021, the lowest level on record, cutting the number of children in poverty by nearly half. "Even temporary support can have lasting impact. There is a great literature that shows improvements in income, especially at early ages, have long-term payoffs for kids."

Youth crime has reached its lowest level on record in the United States. In 2020, there were an 424,300 arrests for violent crime involving persons younger than 18. That's 38% lower than the number of arrests in 2019, half the number of arrests from five years earlier, and 78% below the 1994 peak. Naturally, this story has been making headlines everywhere. OJJDP

Oklahoma, which once had the highest incarceration rate in the US, has achieved remarkable success in reducing prison populations. A series of bipartisan bills has led to a 21% decline in prison populations in the past five years — from 28,342 in 2017 to 22,341 in 2022. Among other achievements, the number imprisoned for felony offenses has fallen by a third, and for drug offenses by 62%.

Tess Harjo, left, embraces her grandmother, Sally Taylor, right, after being released from the Eddie Warrior Correctional Center in Taft, Oklahoma, November 2019. Sue Ogrocki/AP

Incredible thread summarising efforts in the US to reform bail. Hundreds of thousands more people are free and hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars have been saved, without any correlated increase in crime. Turns out people are less likely to commit crime if you let them return to their jobs and communities. "We can have more freedom, more fairness, and more safety all at once.”

El Salvador, once known as the 'murder capital of the world' has substantially reduced its murder rate since 2015. Seven years ago, the rate was 103 homicides per 100,000 people - the highest in the world. In 2021, that had dropped to 18 per 100,000, and the downward trend has continued into 2022. El Salvador Info

Equatorial Guinea, one of the world’s most authoritarian countries, has become the latest nation to get rid of the death penalty. Capital punishment has been 'totally abolished' in the central African country after the president signed a new penal code earlier this week. Guardian

After decades of advocacy by labour activists, Spain has passed a landmark law improving the rights of domestic workers. The new regulations, which enter into force on the 1st October 2022, will give over 370,000 domestic workers (almost all women) the right to unemployment benefits, appeal against unfair dismissal, and health and safety protections equivalent any other employed person. ILO

Poland has welcomed over two million Ukrainian refugees with open arms. Private citizens have spent $2.1 billion on aid, the government has spent $3.4 billion, and 1.2 million Ukrainians have been granted access to health care, education, and social benefits. The war is also changing attitudes. 8 in 10 Poles now support taking refugees that are fleeing violence and war, up from 49% in 2018. Bloomberg

The only home we've ever known

Yvon Chouinard, the ‘existential dirtbag’ who founded Patagonia, has given away the entire company to a trust that will use future profits to fight the climate crisis. "Earth is now our only shareholder. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth." Guardian

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States has says that concentrations of CFCs, the harmful chemicals that damage the ozone layer, have now dropped by just over 50% compared to the 1980s. Scientists say it is a “significant milestone” on the path to recovery. Euro News

The US Senate has ratified the Kigali Amendment, a global climate treaty that formally phases down the use of HFCs, the industrial chemicals that replaced CFCs in the 1980s. Republicans supported the phase-down as being good for business, while Democrats and climate activists praised it as good climate policy. NYT

Chip Wilson, the founder of Lululemon, has pledged $75.8 million to acquire wilderness in British Columbia. It's one of the largest philanthropic gifts in Canadian history, and will be used to buy forests and repurchase mining, forestry and other resource licenses, turning huge tracts of land into parks managed by indigenous communities. Bloomberg

Two inspiring river stories for you. In the Netherlands rewilding experts are undoing 500 years of engineering on the Meuse River, a project described as Europe’s largest river restoration. In Canada, indigenous communities are co-leading an effort with the government to restore the estuary of the Squamish River, "reopening its lungs, and bringing back the natural being of it.”

Three great ocean conservation stories too. The Republic of the Congo has created its first ever marine protected areas, covering 4,000 km2 off the West African coast, Albania has declared its Porto-Palermo Bay as a nature park, and after a decade of work Canada has unveiled a blueprint for a vast network of marine protected areas across the northern third of its West Coast.

Make it four. 20 years ago, Indonesia's Raja Ampat archipelago was in trouble due to unsustainable fishing practices. In 2004 authorities incorporated it into a network of over 20,000 km2 of protected areas, and today fish populations have rebounded, coral is recovering and livelihoods for local communities have improved. Earlier this year it was given a Blue Parks Award. CNN

After a decade of efforts, Sweden has hit a new recycling record, collecting 552,600 tonnes of packaging in 2021, an increase of 6% since 2020. On average, each Swede handed in 53 kg of packaging including 23.2 kg of glass, 18.9 kg of paper and 9 kg of plastic. Warp

Over the past decade Bridgestone has invested more than $100 million into eco-tyres made from guayule, a drought-friendly shrub that produces a compound that's good enough for race tyres. The eco-tyres have been tested on Indy Cars for over a year and provide 'similar or better performance' than traditional rubber tyres. Ars Technica

A Firestone race tire made from guayule plants, pictured next to the little woody shrubs that made it possible.

Italy has officially banned the slaughter of male chicks to end the culling of up to 40 million young birds by the egg industry each year. It follows two years of campaigning by activists, starting with a petition in 2020. France and Germany have also banned culling and a similar petition in the US has exceeded 50,000 signatures. Plant Based News

The world’s largest shipping company, the Mediterranean Shipping Company, is rerouting its fleet to avoid collisions with endangered blue whales off the southern tip of Sri Lanka. The company is working with scientists and marine experts to modify its navigation guidance to reduce the risk of a ship striking a whale by 95%. Business Insider

After being driven to extinction in the United Kingdom in 1979, the large blue butterfly has just had its best year since record keeping began 150 years ago. The success is thanks to reintroduction efforts that began in 1983, and the establishment of multiple protected habitats across southwest England. Ecowatch

The unprecedented success of this project is testimony to what large scale collaboration between conservationists, scientists and volunteers can achieve. Its greatest legacy is that it demonstrates that we can reverse the decline of globally-threatened species once we understand the driving factors.
Jeremy Thomas, Professor of Ecology, University of Oxford

There has been a string of recent successes in rewilding the osprey across the UK. After being hunted to extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries, there are now close to 300 breeding pairs across the British Isles. “It’s been a tremendous success. From a human perspective, we’re making good on what we destroyed." Guardian

The US federal duck stamp program is one of the most successful conservation programs ever created. Since 1934, it's raised $1.1 billion through sales of stamps, and helped conserve more than six million acres of habitat. Earlier this week the Interior Department announced another $105 million of funding to conserve or restore 116,305 acres of habitat for waterfowl and other birds in 18 states. Mirage

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Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it

Two of the world's top universities have recently published research proving that saving Planet Earth really is cheaper than ruining it. Last month, Marc Jacobson and his team at Stanford showed that for 145 countries, a transition to 100% wind, water, solar and storage would pay for itself within six years, and create 28 million new jobs. 95% of the technologies needed are already fully commercial.

Now another study from Oxford has come to a similar conclusion, showing that switching from fossil fuels to renewable energy could save the world as much as $12 trillion by 2050. If solar, wind, batteries and electrolysers stay on their learning curves for another decade, we will achieve a near-net-zero emissions energy system within just 25 years.

Feels impossible, until it's done. Take California. For years, it clung to its contradictory status as both a climate leader and prolific fossil fuel producer. But no longer. Among the flurry of bills that's been passed in recent weeks are a set of extraordinary, once unthinkable restrictions on the state’s oil and gas industry. New Republic

Well that happened fast. Clean energy now provides more employment globally than fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. Clean energy, which under IEA’s definition includes nuclear power, is now estimated to account for 40 million jobs, more than half of the 65 million energy sector jobs globally.

Contrary to the stories we've been getting from almost every media outlet in the world, Russia's invasion of Ukraine has reduced fossil fuels usage. While global power demand in the first half of 2022 grew by 2.5%, emissions fell by around 1%. Coal consumption by power plants dropped 1.2% and gas saw a small decline too, compared with a 17% jump in wind and solar output. Bloomberg

Installations of rooftop solar in Spain have increased ten-fold in 2022. Favourable rules and ample room for expansion, combined with soaring costs for other forms of energy, have accelerated what was already a very strong growth trend in the sun-drenched nation. Who's responsible? See above. Bloomberg

Nine nations bordering the North Sea have announced a massive increase in targets for offshore wind power in the coming decades. The numbers are insane. 76GW by 2030, 193 GW by 2040 and 260 GW by mid-century. To put this in perspective, current capacity in the region is less than 20GW. Time to build. AP

Samsung, one of Asia's biggest industrial giants, has committed to reaching net zero for its mobile, television and consumer electronics divisions by 2030, and across all global operations including semiconductors by 2050. Pepsi and agriculture giant ADM are partnering to implement regenerative agricultural practices on two million acres of American farmland by 2030.

Norway's sovereign wealth fund will require all companies it invests in to reach net zero by 2050. This might not sound like a big carbon coup, but it is. The fund is estimated to own around 1.3% of the global stock market, putting it in a position to exert genuine pressure on major companies to clean up their act. Reuters

Headline spotted in the Financial Times: We’re Moving Into A More Optimistic Era For Climate Action.

Headline spotted in the New York Times: Clean Energy Projects Surge After Climate Bill Passage.

Liaoning, a province in the northeast of China that was once one of the country's major coal and industrial hubs, has launched a $87 billion plan to expand clean energy production. The province is planning 60GW of renewables, nuclear and virtual power plants, enough combined generation to power all of Thailand. Bloomberg

Japan is forecasting a huge wave of power plant closures this decade. Its Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is now predicting over 43 GW of thermal capacity shutting by 2030. That's 50% higher than previous estimates, and represents a quarter of all the country's fossil fuels capacity. Bloomberg Japan

Electric vehicles are exploding across the United States. Market share in the southeast has doubled compared to last year, Hertz just announced plans to order 175,000 EVs from General Motors, Bloomberg has updated its forecasts to 50% market share by 2030, and none of the car companies can keep up. WSJ

Spain is getting serious about cleaning up its air. Due to legislation passed last year, all municipalities with 50,000 residents or more will have to implement low-emission zones within their borders in 2023. According to one Spanish news source, that’s nearly 150 Spanish municipalities. Clean Technica

That's part of a wider trend. The number of clean air zones across Europe has risen 40% since 2019. Low-emission zones have now been introduced in 320 European city regions, a figure expected to rise to 507 by 2025. All ten of the continent's most popular tourist cities now restrict petrol and diesel clunkers. C'mon Straya. Guardian

Thyssenkrupp, Germany’s largest flat steel manufacturer, has formally decided to begin the move away from coal at its flagship Duisburg plant due to customer demand for green steel. Starting in 2026, 2.5 million tonnes a year will be made using hydrogen-powered direct reduction, about 6% of all German steel production.

If exponential growth in solar and wind blew your mind... if you never saw the electric vehicle rocket coming... we've got news for you. Heat pumps are next. Switching to one is one of the few individual actions you can take to drastically reduce your climate impact. Wondering where to start? Try this.

Mercedes-Benz just unveiled its long haul trucking prototype. The engineering is incredible - 500 kilometres per charge, 10 ton payload, 1.2 million km battery life, no tail pipe pollution, hardly any noise and regenerative braking. A timely reminder that electric vehicles don't just replace combustion engine vehicles, they're actually better on multiple counts.

Volvo is launching three new massive electric truck models. Full scale production has begun on the the Volvo FM, Volvo FH, and Volvo FMX. Each weighs up to 44 tonnes, and designed to cover a wide range of applications including city distribution, refuse handling, regional transport, and construction work. Business Green

"Batteries will never be able to handle heavy-duty trucking."

That's it for this edition, thanks for reading. We'll see you in a fortnight.

Much love,


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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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