Good News on Crime in the United States, Wetland Conservation in Argentina and Electric Vehicles in China

Plus, improvements in global inequality, trachoma eliminated in Vanuatu and Malawi, gay marriage in Cuba, mammals comebacks in Europe, a big conservation goal in Australia, and mindblowing solar pipelines in the United States.

Good News on Crime in the United States, Wetland Conservation in Argentina and Electric Vehicles in China

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

Good news you probably didn't hear about

There's been substantial progress in South America in eliminating river blindness, a severe, disfiguring parasitic skin disease. A program launched in the 1990s has eliminated it completely in Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico and Guatemala, and reduced the number of people at risk from over half a million to just 35,518, scattered across the Brazil-Venezuela border. WHO

In the past three years, the number of cancer survivors in the US has increased by a million, reaching over 18 million as of 2022. This is mostly due to progress against lung, colorectal, and breast cancer, whose age-adjusted death rates have decreased by 44%, 42%, and 53% respectively since the 1970s. AACR

The American Cancer Society says breast cancer death rates in the United States dropped by 43% between 1989 and 2020. As a result, 460,000 breast cancer deaths were averted in US women during this period. The average five year survival rate is now over 90% - up from around 70% back in the early 1980s.

Malawi has eliminated trachoma as a public health problem, the first country in southern Africa to do so, and the fourth country in Africa after Ghana, Gambia and Togo. In 2015, there were 7.6 million people at risk of infection. In just seven years, that number has fallen to zero. WHO

A healthcare worker in Malawi tests a patient's visual l fields using a technique called confrontation. Credit: Heiko Philippin

Vanuata has also eliminated trachoma, the first Pacific nation to reach this milestone. Eight years ago, 12% of children were infected, prompting the launch of a national programme. Trachoma is the second non-tropical disease to be eliminated from the 83 island nation, after lymphatic filariasis in 2016. WHO

To understand the magnitude of this feat, just imagine what it must take to reach people across all of Vanuatu’s inhabited islands – taking boats across open ocean and walking for hours through creeks and over hills in all kinds of weather.
Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO Regional Director for the Western Pacific

The Serum Institute of India, the world's biggest vaccine maker, has developed a cervical cancer vaccine that costs less than $5, and is aiming for 200 million doses by 2024. Big news. Cervical cancer is the fourth most common cancer among women globally, causing an estimated 342,000 deaths a year, almost all in low and middle income countries. Reuters

Nigeria has recorded a significant decrease in child marriage, with the proportion of girls married before their 18th birthday falling from 44% in 2016 to 30% in 2021. There has also been considerable progress in child mortality, which has decreased from one in eight children dying before their fifth birthday in 2016, to one in ten in 2021. UNICEF

This is going to sound crazy, but did you know that global economic inequality has actually decreased since 2011? The size of the global middle class increased by around 68%, while the proportion of people earning less than $10K a year fell substantially. This reflects the growing prosperity of emerging economies in the last decade, a story most of us hardly ever hear about. Credit Suisse

Family planning is an unsung hero in the story of human progress. The number of women and girls using modern contraception in low and lower-middle income countries now stands at 357 million. In the last year alone, their use has averted 135 million unintended pregnancies, 28 million unsafe abortions, and 140,000 maternal deaths. UNFPA

India is on track to meet its SDG targets on child mortality. New figures released by the country's Registrar General show that between 2019 and 2020 there was a 8.6% decline in under five mortality, a 6.7% decline in infant mortality, and a 9.1% decline in neonatal mortality. Economic Times

You might remember that earlier this year we reported Hawaii has reached the milestone of having no girls in its only youth correctional facility — a first in state history. Here's a great story from NBC on how they pulled that off, and how it could be a model for other states to follow.

Violent crime continues to fall in the United States. Between 2012 and 2021, the rate of violent victimization (sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault) declined from 26.1 to 16.5 incidents per 1,000 people. Wouldn't it be nice if this data from Department of Justice appeared in any news outlet other than this one?

Five years after #MeToo went viral, seven in ten adults in the United States say that people who commit sexual harassment in the workplace are now more likely to be held responsible for their actions, and about six in ten say that those who report harassment or assault at work are more likely to be believed. Pew

India's Supreme Court has upheld the right of a woman to an abortion up to 24 weeks into pregnancy regardless of marital status, a decision widely hailed by women's rights activists. This overturns a law dating from 1971, which limited the procedure to married women, divorcees, widows, minors, 'disabled and mentally ill women' and survivors of sexual assault or rape. Reuters

The world's biggest trial of a four day work week, involving 70 firms giving 3,300 employees full pay for 80% of their normal hours, just reached its halfway point. 46% of firms say overall productivity has actually improved, and more than eight in ten say it's working so well they're going to keep on going once the trial ends. Gizmodo

Cubans have overwhelmingly approved gay marriage and adoption in a government-backed referendum that also boosts rights for women. 66.9% of voters said yes to a new family code that legalizes same-sex marriage and civil unions, allows same-sex couples to adopt children, and promotes equal sharing of domestic rights and responsibilities between men and women. Reuters

Impossible. Until it's done.

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. Attitudes are changing too. 80% of the population now supports taking in refugees fleeing violence and war, up from 49% in 2018. Bloomberg

The Dominican Republic has passed legislation enshrining the rights of domestic workers. They will now have access to minimum wage, defined working hours, insurance coverage, workplace injury protection, survival and disability benefits and inclusion in state pension programs. Latina Republic

The road has been long and the journey arduous, but thanks to the will of the sectors involved, today we can say that the Dominican Republic is a country with more social justice, a country in which all workers are recognized with all their rights.
Luis Miguel De Camps García, Minister of Labor, Dominican Republic

We're amazed at the bravery of the protestors in Iran at the moment. Have you heard Baraye yet? It's the anthem of the movement, a song that reached 40 million views in two days before being taken down by the authorities. Do yourself a favour and listen to the music and lyrics.

The only home we've ever known

"No new extinctions." Australia has unveiled an ambitious ten-year recovery plan for threatened species, including the prevention of any new native animal or plant extinctions. The government has pledged $224.5 million towards the project, and committed to conserving 30% of the continent's land mass. Australian Geographic

Spain has become the first country in Europe to give personhood status to an environmental entity - legally recognising the rights of the Mar Menor lagoon to exist as an ecosystem and evolve naturally. More than 600,000 citizens backed the initiative after the lagoon suffered massive degradation from coastal development and local farming. Euro News

If you're looking for a definition of 'regenerative' how about this? As America’s coal industry recedes, it's leaving behind barren, acidified sites across Appalachia. Chestnut seedlings however, thrive in those soils, and conservationists are now planting tens of thousands of them on former mines across the region. NYT

Did you know last year's infrastructure bill, passed by the US government, contains more than $55 billion in funding for water projects? The first tranche of funding, totalling $7.4 billion, went out at the end of last year, and now another tranche of $1.3 billion has been awarded to 18 states. ENR

After seven years of lobbying, 661,416 hectares of wetland in Argentina has been declared as a new protected area, the Ansenuza National Park. It’s the largest wetland in South America and a crucial ecosystem for 66% of all migratory and shorebird species, including three species of flamingos. WHSRN

The Mar Chiquita wetland is one of the largest saline wetlands in the world, and includes a great diversity of habitats: the vast saline water lagoon, permanent and seasonal freshwater rivers and lagoons, muddy beaches, shrub and cactus thickets, dry Chaco-type forests and extensive flooded grasslands and savannas. Photo: Marcela Castellino

Multiple Indigenous nations across Canada are declaring protected areas based on their own sovereignty. The idea took off in 2018, following the publication of a report showing Indigenous-led conservation could help Canada reach its commitments on climate change and conservation. Half a million square kilometres of protected areas across the country have now been proposed. Narwhal

Europe has closed 87 sensitives zones to bottom trawling in the Atlantic, putting 16,419 km2 of waters below 400 metres off limits. This comes after a ban four years ago on bottom trawling below 800 metres, providing further protection for vulnerable marine ecosystems such as cold water reefs, sea mounts and sea pens. EC

New fishing regulations will ban bottom trawling in Kattegatt, a 30,000 km² sea area between Sweden & Denmark, which is home to porpoises and endangered Swedish shark species. Conservation groups have fought for the measures for over a decade and the new regulations are now the strongest in Europe. Greenpeace

As of Tuesday this week, plastic shopping bags are not allowed in Montreal. The regulations apply to all retail businesses and restaurants, the first of a series of moves designed to make Canada's second largest city zero waste by 2030. Next thing to go is single use plastic in restaurants, starting in March 2023. TVA Nouvelles

Paris is winning its war on cars. Since 1990, the proportion of car journeys has dropped by 45%, public transport use has risen by 30%, and cycling has increased tenfold. Next up: a new citywide speed limit of 30 km/h, car-free zones outside schools, and 'peaceful zones,' that make it illegal to drive through the city centre without stopping. RTBC

Poaching is less of a threat to sea turtles than it used to be, with a new analysis showing illegal poaching has dropped sharply around the world in the last decade. The numbers are reflected in anecdotal reports from conservationists too. In Lousiana, for example, hatchlings have been spotted on the uninhabited Chandeleur Islands for the first time in over 75 years. PBS

Conservationists are celebrating the recovery of the snail darter, a small freshwater fish native to the Tennessee river. In the 1970s, the fish became the focus of a Supreme Court ruling and an act of Congress when a proposed dam threatened its extinction. It was transplanted to the Hiwassee and Holston rivers and today can be found in several additional locations. Mirage

European populations of mammals and birds are bouncing back following decades of successful conservation initiatives. Most of the 50 species tracked for a new report, including bison, lynx, wolves, beavers and bears, are increasing in numbers and spreading to new areas across the continent. “It shows that, if you take measures, wild animals can recover.” Bloomberg

New animal welfare legislation in New Zealand will ban live animal exports by sea from April 2023. Although the country only exports animals for breeding, not slaughter, its remoteness means animals are at sea for extended periods, heightening welfare-associated risks. Guardian

After been hunted to extinction 400 years ago, Eurasian beavers have been declared a protected species in England, making it illegal to capture, kill, injure, or disturb them. Wildlife organisation have praised the move, saying beavers' dams help keep water clean and prevent flooding and drought. BBC


Saving the world is cheaper than ruining it

The fight against climate change is going to change more in the next four years than it has in the past 40. The great story of our lives is just beginning
~ Robinson Meyer

Two great pieces this week, from two of our favourite analysts. The first is from Michael Liebreich, on how Putin has set in motion forces that will accelerate the end of the fossil fuel era on which his imperial ambitions were built, and the second is from Robinson Meyer, on why the impact of the Inflation Reduction Act is going to be bigger than anyone thinks.

Based on the headlines, you'd expect the global energy crisis to have caused an increase in coal and gas in 2022. Except that's not what happened, at least in the electricity sector. In the first half of 2022, renewables and hydro met all of the growth in global electricity demand, preventing a 4% increase in fossil generation, avoiding $40 billion in fuel costs, and avoiding 230 Mt of CO2.

It's worth drilling down on the numbers for the world's four biggest emitters. In China, wind and solar additions caused fossil fuel power to fall 3%, rather than rise by 1%. In India, they slowed down the rise from 12% to 9%, and in the United States, from 7% down to 1%. In Europe, they prevented a major carbon bomb; without wind and solar, fossil fuel generation would have risen by 16% instead of 6%.

Why are we reporting this for the second time in a row? Because meeting additional global demand with clean electricity is the first step to stopping growth in fossil fuels. Only once we achieve that can we begin phasing dirty energy down. Huge, huge milestone for the global clean energy transition. Ember

What if the the US Senate passed an international climate treaty so powerful it could avert nearly 1°F of global warming, and nobody noticed? That's pretty much what happened last week. Fortunately, Robinson Meyer has it covered over at the Atlantic.

Utility scale solar is now a third cheaper than fossil gas in the United States, "presenting a deflationary opportunity for electric supply costs" (hello Inflation Reduction Act). That's why there is now a mind-bending amount of solar in the country's interconnection queues, 674 GW to be precise, 284 GW of which includes batteries. Bloomberg

A recent report from the IEA says that to meet global climate goals, the world needs to mobilize $90 billion in public funding for commercial-scale demonstration projects by 2026. Never going to happen right? Except it already has. Last week, 16 countries delivered $94 billion in funding, exceeding and achieving the goal four years early. Department of Energy

Loy Yang, Australia's most polluting power plant, is going to be shut ten years earlier than planned. Fantastic news! The giant brown coal station generates about 30% of the state of Victoria's power every year, and emits twice the amount of CO₂ as every gas power generator in the national electricity marker combined. SMH

It's been a good few weeks for the clean energy transition in Australia. Victoria announced a target of 6.3 GW of storage by 2035, enough to power half the state's homes at peak energy use, and Queensland, the heartland of Australia's coal industry, announced a plan to get 80% of its energy from renewables by 2035.

It's been a good few weeks for the energy transition in Germany. The country's largest coal power company, RWE, which owns more than a quarter of the remaining coal fleet, is bringing forward its phaseout date by eight years to 2030, and the largest coal miner, LEAG, is investing €10 billion to turn 33,000 hectares of its mining assets into Germany's largest green energy hub.

Portugal has raised its debut offshore wind power auction target to 10 GW, more than three times the target at the start of 2022. That kind of capacity should be able to produce around 45 TWh a year, equivalent to 90% of the country's 2021 national electricity consumption. In a single auction. Reuters

Beginning in April 2025, Tokyo the largest city in the world, will require all newly constructed homes to have solar panels. The regulation will make it the first prefecture in Japan to have such a requirement, and will affect a hefty percentage of all new buildings. ZME

In 2020, electric vehicles accounted for 5% of all new car sales in China. In 2021, the proportion had shot up to 13%, blowing every forecast out of the water. For 2022, electric cars are on track to hit more than the a quarter of all car sales. “We have reached a point where we’re competing on price, we’re competing on features. It’s not a subsidy thing. The market is taking over.” Exponential View

In Germany, electric cars aren't the future. They're the present. Plugin vehicles hit 28% market share in August, and Tesla isn't even in the top five brands by overall sales. The most registered passenger electric car in Germany so far this year? The Fiat 500 electric. Clean Technica

Can Europe decarbonize its heavy industry? The answer, increasingly, seems to be yes, thanks to tougher emissions targets, rising carbon prices, changing consumer demand and most importantly, low carbon technologies coming of age. More than 70 projects across the continent are now commercialising decarbonization in basic-materials industries. Economist

Ford's electric vehicle sales tripled in September, driving an increase of 16% in overall deliveries in the latest quarter. The company's increased the price of the electric F-15o twice in the last month. Also, responding to 'overwhelming demand,' the EPA is nearly doubling the money available to states to buy electric models of the iconic yellow school buses that millions of children ride every day.

New York is following in California’s footsteps with a new regulation that requires all new passenger cars, pickup trucks, and SUVs to be zero emissions by 2035. Oh, and electric vehicle charging sites now outnumber petrol stations in Manhattan by ten to one, and are fast approaching parity across all five boroughs. Autoblog

Another week, another electric plane. Or how about two? Swedish company Heart Aerospace has unveiled its ES-30, a regional hybrid-electric plane with a capacity of 30 passengers, and in Washington, US startup Eviation has completed the first test flight of its nine passenger prototype. “It’s an opportunity to build the future of aviation. It’s revolutionary.”

Impossible. Until it's done.

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

Much love,


Intelligent optimism, down under. You're receiving the free edition. You can upgrade to the premium edition over here (it comes with mind-blowing science and the best bits of the internet, and one third of your fee goes to charity).We offset the carbon cost of creating this newsletter by planting trees. If you need to unsubscribe, you'll break our hearts but we understand that it's us, not you. There's a button for that below. We're also on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter

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