Good News on Global Smoking Rates, Elephant Conservation in Zimbabwe, and an Environmental U-Turn by Brazil

Plus, de-mining in Angola, social housing in Paris, fish conservation in the Amazon, the Rights of Nature Movement, and traditional fire management in California

Good News on Global Smoking Rates, Elephant Conservation in Zimbabwe, and an Environmental U-Turn by Brazil
Mana Pools elephant reaching for food at sunrise. Credit: @davidwhelanphotography

This is our weekly roundup of good news from around the world. If you'd like to get this in your inbox, you can subscribe for free below.


Humanity just reached a big turning point. For the first time on record, global smoking prevalence has fallen, from 22.6% of people in 2007, to 19.6% in 2019. That's a hugely consequential shift in behaviour that has the potential to massively reduce harm. Tobacco use causes around 8.7 million deaths and approximately $2 trillion in economic damage every year. Tobacco Atlas

Uzbekistan says that 94% of girls aged 12-14 have received a dose of the human papillomavirus vaccine. This will have a big impact: cervical cancer ranks as the country's second-most common cancer among women, and studies have shown that widespread HPV vaccination drives down incidence by around 90%. Gavi

Europe's Child Guarantee is one of the EU's main social policy initiatives, and it's working. The proportion of children classified as 'severely deprived' has decreased from 22.8% in 2009 to 14.6% in 2021. The policy has been particularly successful in eastern Europe. Latvia, Bulgaria, Poland and Hungary have all seen declines of more than 20%. European Parliament

Visceral leishmaniasis is a horrible disease spread by sandflies, causing severe fever, weight loss, enlargement of the spleen and liver, and anaemia. In the last decade, global cases have decreased from 64,223 in 2011 to 11,689 in 2021, the lowest since 1998. The drop has been particularly noticeable in the WHO South East Asia Region - less than 1,500 cases in 2021, a decrease of 96%. WHO

The DRC's Indigenous Pygmy people have won a major human rights victory with a new law that recognizes  them as a distinct people with rights and access to free, prior and informed consent before the government or industry can exploit their land. We, a network of 45 Indigenous organizations, worked for 14 years to get these protections enshrined into law Mongabay

In what might be our favourite ballot initiative from the midterms, Colorado voters approved a measure to provide free meals for all the state's public school students. The measure will help schools pay for the meals by raising $100 million a year through increased taxes on those with incomes of more than $300,000 a year. NPR

The West African nation of Benin adopted one of the continent’s most liberal laws on reproductive rights last year after hearing testimony from gynaecologists about women dying from illegal abortions. A year later, this culturally conservative country, made up mostly of Christians and Muslims, has become one of the few in Africa where a woman's right to choose is broadly available. NYT

Angola is making steady progress in clearing its minefields. HALO, a British non-profit spearheading the effort, has cleared more than 10 million m2 since the end of the civil war in the 1990s. Much of that effort is being led by all-women teams - this photo essay about their work is amazing. NPR

Suicides by active duty members of the US military have decreased substantially over the past 18 months, thanks to increased attention by senior leaders, and the implementation of an array of new programs, ranging from required counselling visits to stress relief education and recreational outings. PBS

Mega-philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has revealed that in the last seven months she and her team have given almost $2 billion in donations to 343 organizations. "I needn’t ask those I care about what to say to them, or what to do for them. I can share what I have with them to stand behind them as they speak and act for themselves." Amen.

Paris, one of the world’s most expensive cities, is also one of the most progressive for low-cost housing. 25% of accommodation is accessible to people on lower incomes, and the French capital is now targeting 40% by 2035. That means a major expansion of public housing so that homes for low-income tenants make up a third of all units. Bloomberg

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Lula says Brazil is back, and that climate change will be at the heart of his agenda as he cracks down on deforestation, tackles inequality and rolls out renewable energy. His highly successful Amazon Fund has just been reactivated, and Brazil also just joined Indonesia and the DRC to create a new funding mechanism to protect forests. Between them, the trio are home to half the world's rainforests.

The Global Mangrove Alliance has reported a decline in the overall rate of mangrove loss. More than 42% of the world’s mangroves are now protected, an increase of 17% since 2012. Indonesia holds one-fifth of the world’s total mangrove coverage with more than 2,000 km2 ripe for restoration. Mongabay

A new conservation project is blooming in Devon, aiming to create a network of flower-filled grasslands spanning 1,200 hectares of coastland by 2030. The first 200 acres have already been sown, using 31 seed varieties including yellow rattle and oxeye daisy. The new habitats will attract a wide range of wildlife including voles, bats, birds of prey and butterflies. Guardian

Tetiaroa Atoll, a 12-island paradise in French Polynesia, has been declared rodent free after years of conservation efforts. Scientists are now studying local flora, wildlife and marine environment to establish the world’s first pre-eradication baseline. Mongabay

Zimbabwe’s Mana Pools, one of Africa’s most renowned game-viewing destinations, has maintained a zero elephant poaching rate for the third year in a row - a staggering achievement given 12,000 were poached in the area in the past ten years. More funding for local rangers along with the introduction of tracking technology and smartphones has driven the change. Global Conservation

Since it was formed in 2010, the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature has turned an unorthodox legal theory into a thriving global movement. An estimated 400 initiatives are in progress and 39 countries have recognised the Rights of Nature in national legislation or local law to protect endangered ecosystems and wildlife. Inside Climate New

The Halda River in Bangladesh, the world’s only natural gene bank for several carp species, has made a comeback. At its peak in 1941, 4,000 kg of fish eggs were being harvested, but by 2016 that had dwindled to zero. Conservation efforts kicked off in 2018, and the river has started rebounding. Mongabay

After a disappointing few weeks for plastic recycling in Australia, the government has pledged to recycle or reuse 100% of plastic waste and end plastic pollution by 2040. The lucky country is going to need all the breaks it can get - only 16% of the one million tonnes of plastic in circulation is currently recycled. ABC

The largest fish in the Amazon, the pirarucu, has been saved from extinction thanks to a community campaign to impose strict fishing regulations. The controls have resulted in a population surge, with the number of pirarucu in the Carauari region alone exploding from 4,916 in 2011 to 46,839 in 2021. ABC

The Karuk Tribe in northern California has reignited its cultural practice of intermittent burns as part of a four-year project to prevent wildfires. Low-level and controlled burnings are an ancient and successful forest-management practice. “A cleared floor and less fine fuels such as leaves and ferns, makes it more difficult for wildfires to ignite and spread.” Mongabay

The start of burn practices by Indigenous people participating in a fire training event in October 2022. Images courtesy of the Karuk Tribe.

That's it for this edition, thanks for reading. We'll see you in a week. Hang in there! It's never as bad (or for that matter as good) as it looks.

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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