Good News on Indigenous Rights in Ecuador, Deforestation in the Amazon, and HIV in South Africa

Plus, hepatitis C in Egypt, a golden age for workers, child cancer in the United States, mangrove restoration in Mexico, and results from the world’s biggest basic income experiment.

Good News on Indigenous Rights in Ecuador, Deforestation in the Amazon, and HIV in South Africa
Some really good news about deforestation in the nine Amazonian countries in 2023

This is our regular round up of stories of progress from around the world. If you'd like to join the 50,000 people who get this in their inbox every week, you can subscribe for free below.

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Good news for people

A few years ago, Egypt had the world’s highest burden of hepatitis C, with around one in ten (nine million) Egyptians chronically infected. In one of the greatest-ever public health accomplishments by a country, it has screened its entire population, brokered a deal for drugs and cured almost everyone, and now it's trying to help other African countries do the same. NYT

Spain is reducing violence against women. In the two decades since 2003, there has been a 29.57% decline in murders, thanks to ongoing efforts to address this critical issue. Spain's experience shows that progress is possible, but also that the journey towards a violence-free world for women and girls is also far from over. Ministerio Del Interior

Since 2016, 25 million people in eastern and southern Africa have gained access to electricity, including 8.8 million people in Uganda and 6 million in Tanzania. Now a new program is aiming to bring clean energy access to 100 million people in up to 20 countries across the region over the next seven years. World Bank

Togo introduced the HPV vaccine, which prevents most cases of cervical cancer, into its routine immunisation system earlier this week. Prior to the introduction, a catch-up campaign ran from the 27th of November to the 1st of December for girls aged 9 to 14, reaching approximately 656,240 girls within that age group. Gavi

A court in Ecuador has ruled in favour of the Siekopai Nation’s claim to their ancestral homeland, Pë’këya, on the border of Ecuador and Peru, restoring property title for 42,360 hectares of some of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, and mandating public apologies for centuries of violence, racism, and conquest. El País

Our elders and our youth are so happy to finally return to our home, our spiritual heartland where our myths and the spirits from other dimensions await us. Although colonizers have tried to uproot us from this territory, they have failed. Now we have officially been able to recognize our land for the Siekopai, the Multi-Colored People.

Justino Pianguaje
Siekopai Leader
Two members of the Siekopai Nation in a ceremonial act in 2023.

Vietnam has made incredible progress in reducing poverty in recent years, recording an average decline in its multidimensional poverty rate of 1-1.5% per year since 2016. It is expected that the poverty rate will fall to 2.93% by the end of this year, and a new target of 0.9% by 2025 was set at a conference last month. Vietnam+

The World Bank just approved $266.5 million for improving internet access in The Gambia, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, and Mauritania, and for promoting a single digital market in West Africa. The program will make internet services in the region more affordable and unlock access for 1.3 million people, of whom at least 50% are women.

Don't tell anyone... but it's a golden age for workers.

Nepal has registered its first same-sex marriage, five months after its Supreme Court issued an interim order allowing same-sex couples to register their marriages. 'The fight for rights is not easy. We have done it. And it will be easier for future generations. The registration has opened doors to a lot of things for us.' BBC

The percentage of people living with HIV in South Africa, the country with the worst burden of the disease in the world, decreased from 14% in 2017 to 12.7% in 2022. Among people aged 15 years and older with HIV in 2022, 90% were aware of their status, 91% were on antiretroviral treatment, and 94% were virally suppressed. HSRC

The first results from the world’s biggest basic income experiment are in. 'So many people started their own businesses that overall wages in the village went up.'

The Ganges River is one of the world’s most sacred waterways—and one of its most polluted. To restore it, India is undertaking one of the biggest engineering programs in the history of sanitation. To date, it has cost $3.77 billion, and while results are still a long way from government claims, there has been genuine progress. Wired

Photograph: Saumya Khandelwal

Life expectancy in the US ticked up to 77.5 years in 2022, following two years of declines driven primarily by the pandemic. This is a 1.1-year increase from 2021, but still below the recent high of 78.8 years. 'We had this dip during the Covid-19 pandemic and now we’re clawing our way back to the numbers we saw in 2019.' NBC

The rate of child and teen cancer deaths in the United States fell 24% between 2001 to 2021, thanks to advancements in immunotherapy—despite diagnoses rising during the same time period. Death rates for leukaemia, the most common cancer in children, declined by 47%. NBC

GDP growth in the US was 5.2% last quarter (the best recovery from Covid-19 in the G7), inflation is falling, wage growth is 5%, median wealth is up 37% from 2020-2022 and has doubled for 18-34 year olds, and more Americans have jobs than at any other time in history. John Burn-Murdoch has an answer for why Americans are so bad at perceiving economic trends.

People don't believe what they see—they see what they believe. America is experiencing a sustained, consistent, decades-long decline in violent crime, but most of its citizens believe crime has never been worse. Jeff Asher has an answer for why Americans are so bad at perceiving crime trends.

FBI data on violent crime in the United States, 1960-2022.
Gallup's new poll showing that 63% of Americans describe the crime problem in the US as either extremely or very serious, up from 54% when last measured in 2021, and the highest ever recorded.

'Every man has a right to his own opinion, but no man has a right to be wrong in his facts.'

Bernard M. Baruch
US Representative on the UN Atomic Energy Commission, 1946

Hope is a Verb, Season II

Our podcast is coming back! A new season of stories, where you get to meet the heroes we never hear about. We're so excited to introduce you to our next group of people mending the world, we've already had some extraordinary conversations with them.

Season 2 of Hope is a Verb launches on Friday this week. Check out the trailer, it should give you a good taste of what's in store. Please subscribe wherever you listen to your podcasts to make sure you don't miss out on new episodes, dropping every Friday throughout the festive season.

Good news for the planet

We're blown away by the amazing new Climate TRACE tool, launched last weekend at COP28 by Al Gore's team. It allows anyone in the world with an internet connection to access a top-down, independent, and multi-source dataset of all the planet's sources of carbon emissions. Nowhere to hide anymore.

One of our favourite data points is that deforestation is dropping in key regions of the world. Emissions from deforestation and degradation declined by 56% and 87%, respectively, in Indonesia between 2015 and 2022, and by 7% and 19% in the Congo Basin in 2022 compared to 2021.

There might be some good news coming for the Amazon region, too. A new analysis has shown that deforestation across the nine Amazonian countries so far this year is down 55.8% from the same period a year ago, in a major turnaround for a region that's vital to curbing climate change. Reuters

Oh, and on Saturday, Brazil launched its $205 million Arc of Restoration program to restore degraded woodlands amounting to 60,000 km2 (an area nearly the size of Latvia) in the Amazon by 2030. 'Avoiding deforestation is no longer the answer to the climate crisis. We need to be more ambitious.'

The Amazon covers 5.5 million square kilometres of South America. 

OK, fine, one more. Colombia just launched a new Fund for Life and Biodiversity to help protect ecosystems in the country that will manage close to $1 billion by 2026. The financial mechanism will allow environmental initiatives to receive monetary resources more than once, and will be managed by a trust. Reuters

River restoration news. A $12 million project has kicked off on the Yakima River in Washington State; $4 million has been approved for the Crooked River in Oregon; in Idaho the Goat River is flowing again; in Australia, there is about to be a new $50.5 million package for the upper Murrumbidgee River; and in Scotland, £1.2 million has been awarded for catchment restoration of the Peffery River.

England is getting a new national park as part of a set of 'nature pledges' to give greater access and protection to the countryside. 34 new landscape recovery projects will also be created under a farm payments scheme, which will see 200,000 hectares of land managed to benefit nature and sustainable food production. BBC

For over a decade, Ana María and David Borbóna have led the community restoration of the mangroves of Baja California Sur, Mexico, planting an estimated 1.2 million seedlings and transforming vast stretches of barren sand to green. 'We are not talking about sustainability. We are talking about regeneration—and it’s worth fighting for, whatever is required, because it’s necessary.' Hakai

'"Do you know what the most important thing is?" he asks me. "Not science, not technology. Heart."'

Paying local residents to plant mangroves in Indonesia has raised incomes, increased fishery output, protected coastal areas, and contributed to efforts to mitigate climate change. Now the government has launched a new program to restore 600,000 ha of mangroves by 2024—the world’s largest mangrove restoration ambition to date. World Bank

Starting in January, most stores in Colorado won’t be allowed to provide single-use plastic carryout bags without charging a fee, and Rhode Island’s ban on plastic bags will launch on the same date. That makes 13 states across the United States that now ban single-use plastic carryout bags statewide. Florida Phoenix

The island nation of St Kitts and Nevis has launched a campaign to educate the public about its impending plastic ban. The government will, on the 30th of June next year, ban the sale of plastic shopping bags, and on the 30th of September, the sale of styrofoam food containers, trays, and plastic straws. Jamaica Observer

Wolverines in the contiguous United States will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, earning them additional federal protections. The move comes after years of legal back-and-forth over the survival prospects of the animals amid climate change and other human activities. Smithsonian

If you're going to read one story this week, please make it this one, about eccentric Englishman Brendon Grimshaw and the world's smallest national park. BBC

Moyenne, a tiny rainforest erupting from the ocean.

That's all for this week, thanks for reading.

Quite a few of you have contacted us to ask when our end of year list is coming out. You'll be pleased to hear it's dropping next Thursday. We'll send you a reminder in advance.

With love,

Gus and Amy

Future Crunch

Future Crunch

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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