Good News on Marriage Equality in Thailand, Conservation in Romania and Reforestation in the Mediterranean

Plus, global population growth, autism in Australia, contraception in Canada, tree planting in Vietnam and river cleanups in Guatemala. .

Good News on Marriage Equality in Thailand, Conservation in Romania and Reforestation in the Mediterranean
Image: Kan Sangtong/Pacific Press/picture alliance

Good news for people

World population may start falling decades earlier than thought
Most people assume that population growth will continue at ever-increasing rates into the foreseeable future, and that it will necessarily have detrimental impacts to people and the planet. However, the global total fertility rate has more than halved over the past 70 years, from around five children for each woman in 1950 to 2.2 children in 2021. A new study published last month in The Lancet now estimates that the world could fall below the replacement level of 2.1 as soon as 2030.

Thailand takes a major step towards marriage equality
Last week 400 of the country's 415 members of lower parliament approved a draft bill to legalize same-sex marriage and allow same-sex couples to adopt. If passed, Thailand would become the first country in Southeast Asia to recognize the right of all people to marry. BBC

Global efforts to combat tuberculosis ramps up
The WHO and Doctors Without Borders just launched a major initiative in a dozen countries aiming to improve diagnosis and treatment among children; Phase 3 trials of the first TB vaccine in 100 years have kicked off in South Africa; and in the UK, scientists say they've developed a powerful new TB blood test.

Cancer mortality has declined in many countries
Check out this striking graph from the team at Our World in Data, showing age-standardised death rates from cancer in different countries since 1950. The main driver is the decline in smoking—but it's also down to advances in cancer medicine and public health, as well as improvements in screening, diagnosis, and monitoring.

Three countries making uncelebrated progress on poverty
Uzbekistan has witnessed a sharp decline in child poverty, falling from 21.5% in 2021 to 13.7% in 2023; in the Philippines, a new report estimates the poverty rate could soon fall to single digits; and in Cambodia, average incomes have grown fourfold since 1990 and average schooling has increased from 2.4 to 5.1 years.

Murder rates in the United States have plummeted in 2024
It's still early days, and not all the data are in, but in more than 180 cities with available data, murder is down about 20% this year compared to a similar time frame last year. A decline of even half that magnitude would place the US murder rate back on par with its pre-COVID lows. Jeff Asher

Access to voting in the United States is becoming more democratic
A new report shows that since 2000, it has become a lot easier to vote in America, with a majority of states offering early in-person and mail voting options to voters. Despite some efforts to restrict access, nearly 97% of voting-age American citizens now live in states that provide the option to vote before Election Day. NPR

Australia pioneers a national strategy for autistic people
Australia is the first country to create an Office for Autism and the first to release a draft national autism strategy. 'That’s when we realised we needed someone solely focused on these autism policies. We didn’t realise no one had a position like this in the world.' SMH

Canada to offer free contraception to millions of women
The federal government has announced plans to cover the cost of popular contraceptive methods, including hormonal IUDs, birth control pills, and emergency contraceptives. The initiative aims to reduce financial barriers and empower women to make choices about their reproductive health. Women's Agenda

How a small city in Brazil managed to get every child reading
In 2001, 40% of Grade 3 students in Sobral could not read a single word. To improve literacy, authorities initiated a series of reforms, and within 12 years, Sobral went from being ranked 1,366th to first among Brazil’s municipalities for education quality, for both primary and lower secondary education. CRPE

More good news you didn't hear about

Iraq pulls off a world-first by achieving polio transition status. India is ahead of its target in its quest to eliminate the transmission of elephantiasis by 2027. More than half a million people in Northern Brazil will benefit from a new initiative for social services, food security, and education. Despite disruptions, global trade is proving resilient, with indicators looking their best since the end of 2022. Malawi legalises the cultivation of cannabis for industrial and medicinal use. US traffic deaths fell 3.6% in 2023, the second straight yearly drop. North Macedonia has passed a law protecting child rights. In Timor-Leste, a deworming drive to combat soil-transmitted helminthiasis has reached over 300,000 children. Access to electricity in West Africa increased from 45% in 2019 to 52% in 2023. Africa's largest wastewater treatment plant is about to get even bigger. Finland looks like it might become the first country in Europe to eliminate homelessness.

Welfare housing in Helsinki. Photo: Juuso Westerlund/Der Spiegel

Good news for the planet

The largest-ever restoration initiative in the Mediterranean
Since 2017, the Restoring Mediterranean Forests initiative has regenerated around 20,000 km2 of degraded forests, an area 500 times the size of Athens. The project plans to restore a total of 80,000 km2 by 2030, including wildfire-affected areas. UN

Biden restores protection measures to Endangered Species Act
The Biden Administration has restored several protections for US species that were weakened under Trump. Thanks to the amendments, species classified as ‘threatened’ will have the same blanket protections as ‘endangered’ listings, and economic impacts will not be considered when deciding if animals and plants need protection. Inside Climate News

Guatemala to clean up one of its most polluted rivers
Over 50 companies have joined forces to clean up Guatemala's Motagua River within the next decade. The river is one of the largest landfills in Latin America and is responsible for 2% of the plastic waste that enters the ocean. Efforts will span education, public policy, infrastructure, waste management, and clean-up task forces. Fair Planet

The Alliance is not just an initiative; it is a socio-economic and environmental movement. One of the main differences between this and previous initiatives is that we are aware that this is a problem that requires everybody's contribution.
Chloé Dubois, co-founder of Ocean Legacy

A new protected area in the Bolivian Amazon
The Dowara Kanda Tech Uyapï municipal conservation area in Bolivia will protect 254 km2 of critical landscape, including Yungas cloud forests. The region acts as an important water collector and is home to the critically-endangered Emmel’s ground snake, as well as vulnerable species such as the military macaw and giant anteater. Andes Amazon Fund

Philanthropists to create ‘European Yellowstone’ in Romania
A foundation has bought 270 km2 of Romanian wilderness as part of its plan to create a gigantic protected area spanning 2,000 km2. The area is one of the most important wildlife ecosystems in Europe and is home to wolves, brown bears, lynxes, beavers, and bison. El País

Virgin forest in the Carpathian Mountains in Romania. Credit: Sandra Bartocha

Family farm to become the biggest natural grassland in England
The Pertwood Plain project will rewild a 2,800-acre family farm in Wiltshire to bring back endangered species like cuckoos, grasshopper warblers, and turtle doves. Pigs and cattle will roam the property in low densities to recreate flower-rich chalk grassland, allowing the owners to cut costs on fertiliser and machinery. The Guardian 

Massive Indigenous conversation win on the horizon in Canada
Canada is close to finalising a historic Indigenous-led conservation agreement that will secure funding for protections 'unprecedented in scope and scale' across the Northwest Territories (NWT). The NWT Project Finance for Permanence (PFP) initiative will protect at least 30 million hectares of freshwater habitats and wildlife. The Pew Charitable Trusts

Landmark agreements from Conference on Migratory Species
The 14th Convention on Migratory Species has adopted stronger protections for migratory animals. The measures include multi-country initiatives to foster collaboration between range states, a mandate to address the impacts of deep-seabed mineral exploitation, and targeted action plans for Atlantic humpback dolphins, hawksbill turtles, angel sharks, and African elephants.

A victory for the largest marine national park in the US
After decades of overuse and public debate, a no-fishing marine reserve area will be established within Biscayne National Park. The measures will help restore the coral reefs and populations of marine life such as black groupers and hogfish. NPCA

Three positive news stories for Aussie conservation!
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy has reported that the populations of numbats appear to be increasing after reintroduction efforts, there’s a bilby boom of more than 3,300 individuals thanks to a protected network of predator-free fenced areas, and the largest coordinated threatened species monitoring program for the great desert skink has kicked off.

A numbat spotted during a recent survey at Yookamurra Wildlife Sanctuary in South Australia. Credit: Belinda Howe/AWC
More music for those who will listen

Want to feel better about the state of the world? Check out Bloomberg's new series 'An Optimist’s Guide to the Planet'. Spain is banning domestic flights under 2 hours as part of its carbon reduction plan. A rewilding initiative has returned giant anteaters to Brazil for the first time in a century. The pretty purple North Park phacelia plant in Colorado is about be delisted. Ten international organisations, led by the World Shipping Council, have come together to develop guidelines to prevent illegal wildlife trafficking. Senegal’s new president is a bit of an eco-warrior. Polynesian Indigenous groups have initiated a historic treaty to give whales personhood. Vietnam is planting millions of trees as part of a post-Lunar New Year festival. The Arunachal tribe in India has donated 1,470 hectares of land to save a critically-endangered songbird. In West Virginia, 2,000 acres of Big Cove is now protected as part of Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Check out the new Everglades to Gulf Conservation Area in Florida—it's really big!

That's it for this edition. No news next week, keep an eye out for our podcast retrospective.

With love,

Gus and Amy

Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to Fix The News.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.