Good News on Child Mortality, Flamingos in Mumbai, and a National Monument 'Where Shamans Dream'

Plus, family planning in Kenya, employment in the United States, a super safe year for aviation and natural disasters, deep-sea mining in France, and the return of wolves to Italy

Good News on Child Mortality, Flamingos in Mumbai, and a National Monument 'Where Shamans Dream'
For several decades, flocks of lesser and greater flamingos have returned to a sliver of wetlands on the shoreline of Mumbai, India, increasing the population 13-fold. Photo by Nayan Khanolkar/Minden Pictures
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. 

Give a damn

In September last year we came across a story about Leonard Gamaigue, a teacher in Chad who set up a mobile school for nomad children in 2019. Three years on his school, a simple open air classroom, follows the community as they move, providing a much-needed opportunity for over 70 kids whose way of life is usually incompatible with formal education.

We decided to track Leonard down. After a few twists and turns we figured out a way to send him A$5,500, which should make a real difference, given how much he's already achieved with so little. A big thank you to all our paying subscribers for making this donation possible. We got a lovely message and some photos from Leonard on Whatsapp a few days ago, which we're sharing here.

Bonjour Future Crunch
J'espère que vous allez bien?
C'est moi Léonard du Tchad. L'enseignant des enfants nomades Mr Mahamat m'a dit qu'il a reçu l'argent que vous avez envoyé. On va retirer demain et je vous enverrai les images de ce que j'ai fait avec. Merci beaucoup pour votre générosité.

Good news you probably didn't hear about

Almost all children in Western and Central Africa now attend primary school, with enrolment rising from 50% in the 1990s to nearly 90% today. Enrolment in high school is increasing too, more than doubling in the last decade to 55%. “With close to universal access in the primary cycle, the progress made is dazzling.” World Bank

Niger, one of the poorest countries in the world, has managed to more than halve the number of women who bleed to death after giving birth in health facilities in the last seven years. Blood loss is the leading cause of maternal deaths in low-income nations - but it now accounts for only one in 10 maternal deaths in Niger, compared to three times that in 2015. BBC

UNICEF just released its latest figures on the decline in global child mortality. In the space of  a single generation, the number of children dying under the age of five has fallen by 59%. Four low-income countries, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Malawi and Uganda, and 15 lower-middle-income countries, including Bangladesh, Mongolia and Uzbekistan, have reduced child mortality by more than 75% since 1990.

Deaths have continued to fall in the last few years too. In 2021, over a million more children made it past their fifth birthday than in 2015. Of course, far too many still die unnecessarily of entirely preventable causes, and there is still so much work to be done. That should not however, diminish what might just be one of our species' greatest ever achievements, and one we wish more people knew about.

Amidst the barrage of headlines about political dysfunction in the United States you might have missed the news that there was a recent bipartisan agreement to spend billions more fighting HIV and malaria abroad. Global health support by the US will increase from $9.83 billion in 2022 to $10.56 billion in 2023. Vox

Pfizer says it will offer its full suite of patented drugs, including cancer treatments, on a not-for-profit basis to 1.2 billion people living in 45 low-income countries. This has the potential to treat nearly 1 million new cancer cases in these countries each year and also covers antibiotics to combat infections that claim the lives of roughly 1.5 million people each year. Fierce Pharma

The US unemployment rate has reached its lowest point in 50 years, a milestone which has been largely ignored by the media. Black workers, young workers and people on the bottom of the income scale saw the largest pay increases in the last 12 months, and median earnings for all workers were 7.4% higher at the end of 2022 compared to a year earlier, outpacing inflation. WSJ

While troubling racial and ethnic disparities persist within the US criminal justice system, recently released data shows that the gap is narrowing. Over the first two decades of the 21st century, the disparity between Black and White state imprisonment rates fell by 40%; in 2020, Black adults were imprisoned at 4.9 times the rate of White adults, down from 8.2 times in 2000.

Kenya has made significant progress on family planning in the last decade. Between 2008 and 2022 the proportion of married women using modern contraceptive methods increased from 39% to 57%, nearly all women (98%) now receive antenatal care, and 89% of births are assisted by a skilled provider, up from 66% in 2014. KNBS

Democracy in decline? Someone might want to tell that to the nearly 10 million new voters that have registered for Nigeria's upcoming elections, 84% of them under the age of 34. This will be the seventh election for Africa's most populous country since it returned to democratic governance 23 years ago. Al Jazeera

The practice of voluntary euthanasia as an act of mercy is centuries old. In the last few years however, it has begun to be inscribed into law, reflecting a significant shift in cultural attitudes. At least 25 jurisdictions now allow some form of assistance in dying – ten countries, 11 US states, and four Australian ones. CSM

Did you know that 2022 was one of the safest years ever for aviation? And did you know that 2022 saw one of the lowest ever death rates from natural disasters, and that so far, the 2020s have been the safest decade in history for natural disasters? OWD

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The only home we've ever known

Against a backdrop of skyscrapers, flamingos are thriving on the shores of Mumbai with their population increasing from 10,000 in 2007 to 130,000 today. The area has become a vital feeding ground because untreated sewage has nurtured the algae that are the flamingos’ main food. “Human impact may seem terrible for nature at first glance but can also be a gold mine for some species.” Hakai

More island restoration! San Clemente off the coast of San Diego is celebrating the de-listing of the Bell's Sparrow and four plant species from protected status following a decades-long conservation effort, and in New Zealand, the Mercury Islands have achieved predator-free status and wildlife is thriving thanks to a combination of ground-breaking science and local community involvement.

The Biden administration is designating the Avi Kwa Ame (Spirit Mountain) in Southern Nevada a national monument to protect 450,000 acres of sacred tribal lands. Local tribes have been fighting for this since 1999. It will be the second national monument to explicitly address its Indigenous roots following Bears Ears in Utah. NYT

Avi Kwa Ame in southern Nevada, a sacred mountain described by the elders of Yuman-speaking tribes as “the place where shamans dream.”

Following the designation of five marine protected areas in 2022, the Maluku Islands in Indonesia plan to protect more of their ocean this year as part of wider efforts to preserve natural resources while boosting local economy. Fishing boats larger than 10 tons will be prohibited from entering the new protected areas which are crucial habitat for leatherback sea turtles. Mongabay

France has banned deep-sea mining in its waters to safeguard “the common heritage of humanity.” Deep seas make up 90% of the ocean and are extremely vulnerable to disturbance. Deep-sea mining has been under the international spotlight since July 2021, with a growing number of governments calling for a ban including Germany, Spain, New Zealand, and Costa Rica. Euro News

Volunteers are tackling Paris’s increasing heatwaves with an ancient Japanese tree-planting method that creates fast-growing pocket forests, smaller than a tennis court. Miyawaki forests can grow 10 times faster than standard forests and capture more carbon. These mini forests are also popping up in other cities across Europe and Asia. France24

Decades of rewilding efforts in Italy have resulted in the spectacular expansion of the Italian wolf population. The country is at the forefront of Europe’s rewilding movement which is creating wilder, more diverse habitats … and raising a host of new questions about what we actually mean by 'wild' in the 21st century. GLP

First Nations in British Columbia have forged two historic agreements to regulate development on their ancestral lands. The Yaq̓it ʔa·knuqⱡI were granted veto power over a proposed coal mining project and the Blueberry River First Nations struck a deal with the provincial government to limit logging and oil and gas drilling. The striking progress is the cumulation of a decades-long push to protect vast tracts of land and ocean that now amounts to tens of millions of acres. Yale360

The Great Scottish Squirrel Survey (try saying that three times in a row) has found efforts to protect native red squirrels are working, and that populations are 'thriving' across the country. "It's a good demonstration that the efforts of our projects and also our partners and statutory agencies have been really successful." BBC

For the first time in living memory a pair of dolphins have been spotted frolicking in New York’s Bronx River, an encouraging sign that the decades-long effort to restore the river that was once a dumping ground for industrial waste is working. Guardian

We’ve come a long way across multiple decades of environmental improvement, water quality cleaning, better environmental stewardship, better relations, all of which helps the overall environment and then leads to recovery of these systems.
Howard Rosenbaum, Dolphin Expert, Wildlife Conservation Society.

That's it for this edition, we hope you enjoyed it, and thank you again to all our paying subscribers for helping us send the donation to Chad. We're so grateful.

Much love,


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