Good News on Poverty in Indonesia, Press Freedom in Fiji and Rhinos in Zimbabwe

Plus, progress on AIDS in Uganda, healthcare and gender equality in the United States, some big breakthroughs on Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the biggest ever debt-for-nature swap in Ecuador, and some welcome shade for US cities.

Good News on Poverty in Indonesia, Press Freedom in Fiji and Rhinos in Zimbabwe
Credit: Compassion Australia
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Good news you probably didn't hear about

Indonesia, the fourth most populous nation in the world, has made spectacular progress in helping its citizens escape the worst forms of destitution. Over the past two decades, it has essentially eliminated extreme poverty and reduced the number of those living on less than $3.20 a day from 61% in 2002 to 16% in 2022. World Bank

The pandemic resulted in significant setbacks for childhood vaccination in Africa, but multiple countries are now closing the gap. Vaccines for pneumonia, rotavirus and measles-rubella are being either introduced or ramped up in Chad, Guinea, Somalia and South Sudan, and many countries are also strengthening access to pulse oximetry and oxygen. Health Policy Watch

Uganda has made notable progress in its fight against AIDS. Between 2010 and 2021, new HIV infections declined by 39%, and AIDS-related deaths fell from 51,000 a year to 17,000 a year, a decline of 67%. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved, and mother-to-child infections have plummeted too. New Vision

Police in the Philippines have rescued over 1,000 trafficking victims from a compound two hours outside Manila. It comes off the back of an agreement by member countries of ASEAN to boost law enforcement and strengthen cooperation and coordination to catch traffickers and identify victims. Straits Times

Rescued trafficking victims waiting to be documented by the Philippine authorities after a police raid in Mabalacat City on 4 May 2023. PNP

Two decades ago, Ethiopia introduced a public health program of household visits delivered by young women. It's been an incredible success, associated with a 70% reduction in the probability of child marriage, a 75% reduction in the probability of early pregnancy, and a 63% increase in the probability of being enrolled in education. Gavi

There's been a big breakthrough on postpartum haemorrhage (the leading cause of maternal mortality) in the form of a low-cost device called a 'drape.' A study involving 200,000 women in four countries has shown that it reduces severe bleeding by 60%. 'This new approach could radically improve women’s chances of surviving childbirth globally.' WHO

Gender norms and roles are still highly unequal in the United States, but things are changing. Among married opposite-sex couples, the share of women who earn as much as or more than their husband has tripled over the past 50 years. In 29% of marriages today, both spouses earn the same amount of money, and wives are the main breadwinners in 16% of marriages. Pew

This is a pretty amazing story about people known as professional medical tactile examiners, a new and emerging profession for blind and visually impaired women in India and Europe, who are helping diagnose breast cancer (try replacing that with a robot). From the always excellent BBC Future.

The training process to become a Medical Tactile Examiner is detailed and rigorous (Credit: Priti Salian)

Some big medical breakthroughs for two of the most devastating diseases in existence. A second drug has been shown to slow the pace of Alzheimer's by up to a third, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation has found clear evidence that the presence of a specific protein can be used to determine if people have Parkinson’s. STAT

Fox, who was diagnosed with a very early case of Parkinson’s at age 29, said that he keeps going back to documentary footage of his childhood. At the time, there was no way to know he would develop the disease; soon, he said, a child like that might be able to simply get a nasal swab at 2 or 3 or 4. “It’s all changed. It can be known and treated early on. It’s huge.”

Last month Fiji's new democratically-elected government repealed the Media Industry Development Act, enacted in 2010 by the former government that assumed power through a coup in 2006. 'The MIDA experiment is over and the draconian legislation now belongs in the dustbins of history.' Fiji Times

A World Bank project in Malawi has brought clean water and sanitation to nearly 350,000 people in Lilongwe City. Around 370 km of new pipes have been installed, including 187 km in previously unserved areas, not only improving the health and well-being of residents but also contributing to economic development.

And finally, we know healthcare is supposed to be un-American, but we thought we might just leave you with this...

Credit: YES Magazine

The only home we've ever known

Ecuador just announced the biggest debt-for-nature swap in history, a $1.6-billion deal that will reduce its debt burden and free up hundreds of millions of dollars to fund marine conservation around the Galápagos Islands. 'Ecuador is as wealthy as any of the richest countries in the world, but our currency is biodiversity.' NYT

A federal court in Brazil (the world's fifth largest exporter of live cattle) has banned the export of live animals from all the country's ports, a ruling hailed as historic by animal welfare activists. 'Animals are not things. They are sentient living beings, that is, individuals who feel hunger, thirst, pain, cold, anguish, fear.' Reuters

Last year, the Kitasoo/Xai’xais people of Canada created a new MPA called the Gitdisdzu Lugyeks, closing the waters of Kitasu Bay to commercial and sport fishing. It was a landmark moment–the first MPA to be declared under Indigenous law, without government approval, and an unexpected success story. Guardian

‘In some ways, I hope someone challenges us' | The Kitasoo/Xai’xais stewardship authority

Horse racing is dying in the United States. In 1989 there were more than 74,000 races. Last year there were only 33,453. It is unusual to see anyone under the age of 60 at the track, and most Americans now only hear about the sport when the news is bad (recently, there's been a lot of that). Economist

India's Kuttamperoor River, declared biologically dead in 2005, has been brought back to life in the last five years thanks to the work of over 7,000 people, mostly women. It's part of a wider effort: last year the government released $19 million to restore 13 rivers across the country. Nspirement

Environmental groups have just won a big victory in South Carolina, stopping horseshoe crab harvesting on all critical stopover beaches for endangered red knot birds, and on the Mississippi, a pioneering initiative has incentivized fishers to remove almost 3,000 crab traps, meaning wildlife is safer, and the water is cleaner.

If you live in an American city, get ready to see a lot more trees. As part of the Inflation Reduction Act, $1.5 billion will be spent on funding urban tree-planting over the next decade, concentrating on communities that have historically been ignored. That's up from the $36 million/year under previous administrations. AP

Ameen Taylor plants a tree at the Coleman Young Community Center in Detroit, 14 April 2023. A historic amount of money is being spent on urban tree planting and maintenance in underserved, often concrete-covered neighborhoods across the country. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

A non-profit is reconnecting islands of Brazil’s original Atlantic Forest, currently fragmented by farms, ranches, and housing. It recently purchased a 250-acre cattle pasture to connect to the 6,200-acre União Biological Reserve, bringing the total area of protected space to 49,400 acres of contiguous forest. Mongabay

Last year, China committed to plant and conserve 70 billion trees by 2030, the African Union committed to restoring 100 million hectares, and more than 80 companies pledged to conserve, restore and grow 7 billion trees in over 65 countries. In 2023, we're starting to see the results, as forestry teams begin turning those pledges into real forests.

Did you know that Indonesia, home to the third-highest amount of original forest in the world, is slowly winning its war on deforestation? Its rate of primary forest loss has declined every year since 2016 and is now at its lowest level since at least 2002. Washington Post


The rhino population in Zimbabwe has surpassed 1,000 animals for the first time in over 30 years, a sign that efforts to preserve the species are working. Dedicated conservationists continue to persevere 'with great success' despite soaring costs for food and fuel. ABC

A world-first breeding program in New South Wales, Australia, has brought the stocky galaxias fish population back from the brink of extinction, allowing them to be released back into their natural habitat last month. 'Saving threatened species from extinction is one of the reasons we become scientists.' CSU

Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it

In last week's edition we shared a fantastic Rocky Mountain Institute report with the five graphs showing how quickly the energy revolution is accelerating. To our delight, they decided to turn it into a series of memes and we're reproducing all of them this week because we're energy nerds and couldn't resist. Indulge us...

1. The energy transition is a technology revolution (i.e., technologies > commodities)

2. The renewables revolution is exponential, not linear

3.  The renewables revolution is led by China

4. This is the decade of change

5. By 2030, the debate will be very different

AES, one of the biggest power companies in America, just announced it's planning to triple its renewables capacity by 2030 and will exit coal altogether by 2025; and in New Mexico, the largest wind project in the Western Hemisphere just started construction, a 3.5-GW monster attached to an 800-km-long high voltage line.

Britain’s wind farms generated more electricity in the first quarter of 2023 than gas. Renewables now provide almost 42% of Britain’s electricity, and 33% comes from gas and coal (the remainder is nuclear and imports). This has happened incredibly quickly. Reuters

Germany is increasing its ambition on renewables again, announcing a new goal to reach 215 GW of solar capacity by 2030, up from 63 GW in 2022. The first three months of this year marked the busiest ever for the country's solar industry: it's on track to deploy more than 10 GW by the end of 2023. Clean Energy Wire

India has a new power plan, and has surprised everyone by saying it will not build any new coal plants except the ones already under construction. Many of those are unlikely to go ahead either, after a recent collapse of financing. Financial gravity taking hold now... Reuters

South Korea is planning a massive expansion of solar on industrial rooftops and parking lots. 4 GW of solar will be deployed in the city of Daegu and north Gyeongsang province, almost quadruple the amount of solar currently in factory areas around the country. Bloomberg

Major financial institutions around the world are accelerating their move away from coal. It took almost six years for the first 100 to adopt coal exclusion policies, but since then the number has doubled in just over three years. It's not just a Western phenomenon anymore either–41 Asian companies now have coal exclusion policies. IEEFA

'Despite record profits for several of the largest coal mining companies globally over the last two years, the momentum of coal exclusion policies indicates that financial markets do not see their exposure to coal as a great long-term investment.' IEEFA

After years of dragging its feet, Thailand is ramping up its shift to renewables thanks to the fallout from the global energy crisis. Last month the government announced 5 GW of renewables, essentially doubling wind and solar by 2030, and announcements representing another 3.6 GW are planned for later this year. Bangkok Post

80% of new cars sold in Norway are now battery-powered. The streets are quieter, the grid hasn’t collapsed, and the air is cleaner, as levels of nitrogen oxides (byproducts of burning gasoline and diesel) have fallen sharply. "We are on the verge of solving the NOx problem.' NYT

Did you know that the Tesla Model Y is now the best-selling car in Europe? CT

We know we bang on a lot about electric vehicles, but that's because they really matter in the fight against climate change! If you're looking for an explanation on why that's the case, and some fantastic data about how fast the revolution is moving, it's the topic of the latest post from the indispensable Hannah Ritchie.

It's not just cars. The electric bus revolution is going even faster. Canada just announced the largest electric bus project in North America, the United States has more than 5,500 committed electric school buses, over a quarter of all buses in the Netherlands are electric, and a Chinese company just signed a deal to supply 12,000 electric buses to Nigeria.

Actually, it's everything that moves now, from massive earth-moving equipment in South Korea, to tiny, dinky little cars in India.

Up top, Volvo's new fully-electric 23-ton excavator; down below, the new MG Comet, recently launched in India, priced at $9,760. Apparently the cost to charge the latter for 1,000 km of driving is less than the price of a large pizza.

Indistinguishable from magic

22 years after the unveiling of the human genome, a second milestone has been reached with the first 'pangenome', representing genomes collected from 47 individuals from every continent except Antarctica. It's an incredible new medical resource which makes the picture of human genetic variation more accurate and more complete. Big moment. Science

Apparently Waymo didn't get the memo about the death of driverless cars. The company is doubling the area it covers with robotaxis in Phoenix, and in San Francisco, it now covers the entire peninsula, operating a free, 24/7 service. 'We’re already serving 10,000 fully autonomous trips with public riders every week.' The Verge

Ok, this is incredible. Google just used reinforcement learning to teach robots to play soccer in a simulation, and then when they transferred the skills directly into real life robots, they performed amazingly well, 'exhibiting robust and dynamic movement skills such as rapid fall recovery, walking, turning, kicking and more.'

Scientists in San Diego have reached a milestone in cloning endangered animals. A Przewalski’s horse, born in February and still unnamed, is the second of its kind, a genetic copy of the world's first cloned Przewalski’s horse, Kurt, born in August 2020. Both were made from cells frozen more than 40 years ago. Up until now, cloning has only produced a single animal of any such species. Wired

The second cloned Przewalski's horse, created from a collaboration of the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance, the nonprofit Revive & Restore and cloning company ViaGen Pets. Illustration by Charis Morgan, photo by Ken Bohn/San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance

Additive manufacturing is growing up. Siemens just contracted with a company in North Carolina to 3D print 59 tons of turbine parts over six years, not because of design advantages, but because it can produce them faster, cheaper and more sustainably than what traditional manufacturers can make with metal casting. Green Biz

Researchers in Venice, Italy, say we need to start thinking differently about cities. Digital twins allow us to stop thinking of cities as socio-economic and physical constructs that happen to contain people. Instead, we should treat them as throbbing, living, mutually-interwoven, self-organizing, nonlinear beasts—which evolve, 'to an extent, like living systems.' Nature

Have you heard of Seabed 2030? It's an international effort to map the entire seabed of our planet. In six years, it's added 90 million km2 of bathymetric data and has now mapped 24.9% of the world’s ocean, up from 6% when it started. Last month alone, it added over 19,000 newly discovered undersea volcanoes. UNESCO

We love a good explanation for Fermi's Paradox. This one's new. And while we're on that subject, here's the first view of Earth from Europe's newest weather satellite, the Meteosat Third Generation Imager. It's the first of a constellation of six that will be in place by 2026. This level of resolution has been unachievable over Europe and Africa until now. ESA

Alright, that's it for this edition, hope you enjoyed the extra content. There's plenty more where that came from if you become a paid subscriber. We hope you'll join us.

Thanks for reading, we'll see you next week.

With love,


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