RTBC & Future Crunch

17 september 2021

Bron: Futurecrunch.com
No. 146: E-Ute

Plus, starling murmurations, artificial kidneys, Buddhism for dogs, and good news on poverty reductions in the US, the decline of leprosy, vanishing global coal pipelines, and bandicoot recoveries in Australia.

  • The number of leprosy cases around the world plummeted last year, with new cases falling by 37% and total cases by 27% compared to 2019. While this is partially due to less reporting as a result of COVID-19, it’s in line with longer term trends, especially for children. The proportion of child cases has decreased from 9.2% in 2011 to 7.4% in 2019 and to just 6.8% in 2020. WHO

  • There are some amazing stories hidden in the new Gates Foundation report. Last year Benin, where malaria is the leading cause of death, created a new, digitized system for bed nets, distributing 7.6 million across the country in just 20 days. In Pakistan, an emergency cash program provided assistance to over 40% of the population, two-thirds of whom were women, bringing 10 million of them into the formal financial system for the first time (h/t to our friends at The Progress Network for this one).
  • US poverty fell to 9.1% last year, the lowest level ever recorded and a significant decline from 11.8% in 2019. Thanks to federal relief enacted at the start of the pandemic, nearly 8.5 million people were lifted out of poverty, and childhood poverty experienced its largest ever one year decrease, dropping from 15.8% to 11.9%. WaPo
  • Barcelona is giving citizens free, unlimited public transport for three years when they give up their private vehicles. Since the program began in 2017, more than 12,000 ‘T-green tickets’ have been awarded, reducing the city’s traffic by 10,613 cars and 1,735 motorcycles. Eltis
  • From next year, France will offer free birth control for all women aged 25 and under to target a decline in contraceptive use among young women due to cost. Contraceptive methods are already free in Britain, and Spain offers free birth control pills and subsidizes other forms of contraception. NPR
  • Malaysian women have won a landmark ruling for the right to pass citizenship onto their children born overseas, a privilege previously only granted to men. It’s part of a global movement to amend discriminatory citizenship laws that trap women in abusive relationships and deny children access to education and healthcare. CS Monitor
  • In the past six years, Paris has done more than almost any city in the world to take space back from cars, opening linear parks on old highways along the Seine, phasing out diesel cars, opening bus lanes, raising parking meter prices and plowing bike lanes down hundreds of streets. It’s working
  • The UN has passed a historic resolution to stamp out ritualistic killings in Africa that target children, women, and people with disabilities and albinism. Member states will now be required to develop specific measures to tackle the issue. “This resolution is an important step to stop the horrific, human rights abuses that take place due to beliefs in witchcraft.” East African

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[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]11 juli 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 141: Homesick Pebble

Plus, galactic colonization, robot paramedics, Chinese rock n’ roll, and good news on cancer death rates in the US, coal in the UK and Spain, tree planting in India, and a ban on salmon farming in Tierra del Fuego.

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

  • India has made amazing progress in reducing visceral leishmaniasis, commonly known as kala-azar. You’ve probably heard of it in western media as the “flesh-eating disease” (it’s like crack for newspaper editors). According to a new report from the WHO, the number of cases has decreased by 97% since 1992. Last year, there were only 2,048 cases, and 37 deaths.
  • Cancer death rates continue to decline in the United States for all racial and ethnic groups. For men, the death rate dropped by an average of 2.3% a year between 2015 and 2018; for women, an average of 2.1% during the same time period. STAT
  • With more people living longer lives, the overall number of Alzheimer’s cases in rich countries has risen. What you might not know however, is that the actual percentage of people with the disease is falling – there has been a 16% decrease in Alzheimer’s incidence in the OECD decade-on-decade since 1988. El Pais
  • Last month marked the ten year anniversary of a groundbreaking treaty establishing global labour standards to protect the rights of domestic workers. Over the last decade, 32 countries have signed up, comprehensive laws have been passed in several of them, and there have been improvements in many others, including minimum wages, rest days, paid holidays, written contracts, access to labour courts, and collective bargaining agreements. The International Domestic Worker Federation, founded in 2013, now has half a million members worldwide. HRW

people demonstrating

Domestic worker and human rights organizations join forces to demonstrate at the opening of policy negotiations at the International Labour Conference in Geneva, Switzerland, June 2010. Credit: Jennifer Natalie Fish
  • California, home to 40 million people, has just passed a budget with a massive increase in education spending, including universal kindergarten for 4 year olds and the United States’ first free breakfast and lunch program for all students. Edsource
  • Work has begun in Chile on the world’s first constitution to be drafted by an equal number of women and men. The historic moment is a direct result of the 2019 protests that challenged inequality in one of Latin America’s most socially conservative countries. NBC
  • Urban planners across Europe are redesigning transport systems to be more accessible to all genders. For over a century, the male commute to work by car has been favoured, with wide roads that left little room for footpaths commonly used more by women. Change is now afoot in Paris, Barcelona and Vienna, where new policies are favouring pedestrians and cyclists. Bloomberg

Barcelona is converting one in three of its streets into small parks. 21 new plazas like the one below will be made at road junctions. Safe outdoor space within 200 metres of all homes that cater to pedestrians, offering shaded spaces in summer and facilitating spontaneous children’s play.

city block

A city made for humans, not cars.
  • A nationwide movement to ban ’tampon taxes’ across the United States is gaining momentum. Maine, Louisiana and Vermont just passed laws exempting menstrual products from sales taxes, and lawmakers in 20 other states have introduced similar legislation in the last 12 months. 19thnews
  • File under “most unsurprising news ever.” The world’s largest and longest trial of a four day work week resulted in a massive increase in well-being for its participants. Around 1% of Iceland’s working population took part, cutting their week to 36 hours with no reduction in pay, and no reduction in productivity either. Independent
  • File under “the news doesn’t tell you what’s happening in the world, it tells you what’s rare.” The proportion of Americans who consider themselves to be thriving reached 59.2% last month, the highest since Gallup started asking the question 13 years ago. The pollsters think it’s down to three things: an incredibly successful vaccination rollout, improving economic conditions, and perhaps most importantly, the psychological benefit of renewed social interaction.

graph showing happiness increasing in the US

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[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]2 juli 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 140: Between Two Breaths

Plus, a skin-growing machine, flying transformer cars, a ‘green pivot’ by a fossil fuels tycoon, and good news on malaria in China, a global tax agreement, LGBTQI+ rights in Canada, and conservation in the Balkans.

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

  • A gentle reminder that as of Tuesday this week, over three billion dosesof COVID-19 vaccines have been administered around the world. Most media outlets are focusing on how badly the rollout is going, and while those criticisms are valid in some countries (8% in four months is hard to spin, even for Scotty From Marketing), globally the numbers tell a very different story. Not that you’d know it from the headlines, but the pace is picking up: it took 20 weeks to give out the first billion doses, but only four to give out the last billion.
  • This is easily the biggest and fastest vaccination effort in human history. Our species has never done anything remotely like this before. The manufacturing and distribution challenges are unfathomably hard, and that’s before you get to the all-too-human problems of bureaucratic screwups, political cynicism, and a natural distrust of any new technology. Given the obstacles, it’s amazing that we’ve got this far, this quickly. Perhaps a moment of appreciation is in order?

health worker vaccinating man

A villager receives a dose of COVID vaccine during a door-to-door drive in West Bengal, India on Monday 21st June, one of 8.6 million doses administered on that day.
  • A moment of appreciation too, for a successful, multi-generational effortto eliminate malaria in China. It’s the 40th nation in the world to achieve malaria-free status, and the first in the western Pacific region in 30 years. Not bad for a country that used to report 30 million cases per year in the 1940s. Some good news from Tanzania too, which will allow pregnant girls and teen mothers the opportunity to resume secondary education,overturning a 4-year ban that prevented thousands from finishing their studies.
  • In Canada, a welcome win for LGBTQI+ rights with the passage of a historic bill criminalizing conversion therapy. It joins Germany, Malta, Ecuador, Brazil and Taiwan as countries that have outlawed the practice nationally. Further south, Connecticut has restored voting rights to people with past convictions, marking a milestone in the push to end criminal disenfranchisement, and in Montana, 18,000 acres of wildlife reserve, known as the National Bison Range, has been formally handed back to the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes who will now manage it in perpetuity.
  • Bad news for fat cats, good news for everyone else, as the world’s largest economies have taken a decisive step forward to make multinational companies pay their fair share, setting an international minimum corporate tax rate of at least 15%. In Iran, a set of reforms has been passed to ensure that proper schooling is made available to all migrants, including thousands of undocumented children, and in Europe, 33 cities have signed an International Alliance of Safe Harbours Agreement allowing them to take in more refugees rescued at sea, to distribute the load more evenly away from hotspots in the Mediterranean.
  • Finally, while it’s not technically good news we thought we should still include the latest figures from the Uppsala Conflict Data Program on global conflict-related deaths during 2020. Although the numbers are down from their highs of the mid 2010s, and down significantly from a generation ago, there was a slight uptick in both global conflicts and battle deaths last year. A sobering reminder that progress is never a straight line.

graph of war deaths

Source: UCDP
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[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]21 mei 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No 136: Magic Box

Plus, third thumbs, GM mosquitoes, good news on global stunting, clean energy, animal rights, and a charity update from Afghanistan.

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

  • There’s been so much good news on the clean energy front we’re not even sure where to start. Let’s kick off with “oil and gas are now junk investments” according to some head-in-the-clouds, granola loving climate activist, oh wait it’s *checks notes* the head of the International Energy Agency, Faith Birol. Sky News

The IEA’s new Net Zero by 2050 report says that, after 250 years, humanity should now stop exploring for oil, gas, and coal. It’s arguably as big a moment as the Paris Agreement, because in one stroke, it completely wipes out the fossil fuel industry’s last remaining justifications for new capacity. People throw around the word ’turning point’ a lot but this really is one. New Yorker

“Beyond projects already committed as of 2021, there are no new oil and gas fields approved for development in our pathway, and no new coal mines or mine extensions are required.” The implications are far-reaching; this is truly a knife into the fossil fuel industry (…) a complete turnaround of the fossil-led IEA from five years ago. Dave Jones, Ember
  • The hits keep on coming. The IEA says last year’s record surge in renewables is the ‘new normal’, and that 90% of all new energy built in 2021 and 2022 will be clean. Keep in mind, this is from an organization that was founded explicitly to promote coal, oil and gas. Welcome to an energy revolution driven not by altruism, or politics, but by the cold-blooded logic of the marketplace. Independent
  • Another crunchy hippy, Ben van Beurden, the CEO of Shell, has just announced that half of the oil giant’s energy mix will be clean somewhere in the next decade. HALF. “If we do not make that type of process by the middle of this decade, we have a problem not just as a company but as a society.” Bloomberg
  • The Sines coal plant in Portugal has been shut down nine years ahead of schedule, reducing the country’s carbon emissions by 12%. A second and final plant is due to close in November which will make Portugal the fourth European country to eliminate coal, following in the footsteps of Belgium (2016), Austria (2020) and Sweden (2020). Beyond Coal
  • Ford has unveiled its new electric pickup, the F-150 Lightning. Its petrol-powered counterpart is the biggest selling truck in the United States, and the electric version is aimed squarely at the same customers. 360 km of range, 3.5 tons towing capacity, 11 charging ports for your power tools, three days of backup electricity you can run straight into your house. Price? $40,000. Verge
  • Japan will be smoke-free within the next decade following the announcement by tobacco giant Phillip Morris that it will phase-out conventional cigarettes. Big news for a country that has until very recently been considered a ‘smoker’s paradise’ and an outlier among OECD nations for cigarette use. Channel News Asia
  • Another step forward for human rights in America with Utah’s Supreme Court overturning a district judge’s decision to deny two transgender people the right to change their birth certificates. The ruling comes after a three year deliberation and creates an important precedent not just for the state, but the country as a whole. LGTBQ Nation
  • Earlier this year, Colombia granted millions of Venezuelan refugees legal status, allowing them to work and access healthcare and education. Three months later, the government has spent $187 million on providing migrant healthcare, and about half a million migrant children are attending public schools. “We gave Venezuelan migrants a license to dream.” BBC
  • Stunting is when a child is too short for their age, and is one of the most important indicators of chronic or recurrent malnutrition. According to the WHO, between 2010 and 2020, the prevalence of stunting in children under 5 fell from 27.7% to 22%. That means there are now around 30 million fewer children affected compared to a decade ago. Remember – progress is slow, and it almost never makes headlines.|
  • Animal rights activists in the UK have won a major victory with a landmark reform that legally recognizes animals as sentient beings. A range of new government measures will ban most live animal exports, the importation of hunting trophies like ivory and shark fins, and target puppy theft. The government has also pledged to uphold animal welfare in future trade deals. Guardian
  • A crackdown on rhino poaching in South Africa, Namibia, Kenya and Zimbabwe has paid off with the number of rhinos poached dropping by 1,319 between 2015-2020. The sharp decline is thanks to tougher legislation, enforcement, and more sophisticated investigations. Conservationists have also switched tactics, empowering communities to become rhino custodians. Geographical
  • The population of Vietnam’s critically endangered monkey, the Delacour’s Langur, has quadrupled in the past 20 years thanks to the combined efforts of a German primatologist and local communities. Their collaboration resulted in the Van Long Nature Reserve established in 2001 to prevent habitat loss and poaching. Mongabay
  • Since 2010, almost 21 million km2 has been added to the world’s network of national parks and conservation areas, an area greater than the land mass of Russia. That means about 17% of land and inland water ecosystems and 8% of marine areas are now within formal protected areas, with the total coverage increasing by 42% in the last decade.Protected Planet

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12 mei 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 135: Butterfly Effect

Plus, rocketeers, Phase 3 MDMA trials, life lessons from swifts, and good news on global wind power, de-worming in sub-Saharan Africa, clean water, whale conservation and yes, butterflies.

Good News

  • Last year’s numbers for global wind power are finally in and they’re better than almost anyone predicted: a 53% increase in the number of new turbines installed compared to 2019. The record growth is thanks to the world’s two largest emitters, China and the US, who together commissioned 75% of new installations. GWEC
  • Electric car sales boomed by 40% in 2020, with Europe officially overtaking China, spurred on by subsidies and tighter fuel standards. Growth looks set to continue, with sales in the first quarter of 2021 more than doubling from the same period in 2020. There are now around 10 million EVs on the world’s roads, plus about another one million vans, trucks and buses.  Independent

A new paper in The Lancet has shown that de-worming initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa in the last two decades have resulted in a significant decline in cases among children, from 44% in 2000 to 13% in 2018. This is a huge win for one of the world’s most underrated public health problems, improving the lives of millions of people and driving economic development.

map of Africa showing worming improvementsThe US EPA has proposed a new rule that will phase-out the production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years, saving nearly $284 billion and preventing the equivalent of 187 million tons of CO2 emissions, roughly equal to the annual emissions of one in seven vehicles registered in the United States. AP
  • A philanthropist in South Carolina has gifted 7,500 acres of highlands to conservation groups in the largest private land donation in the state’s history. The area is home to numerous threatened and endangered plant and animal species and includes the largest American Chestnut restoration project in the country. ABC13
  • Lawmakers in Florida have put their money where their mouth is, committing $100 million to preserve environmentally sensitive lands after passing legislation to preserve the migration paths for animals like the endangered Florida panther. It is the state’s most significant spending on land conservation since 2014. WUSF
  • A massive, bipartisan clean water infrastructure bill has been approved 89-2 by the US Senate. The legislation will improve water quality, remove lead pipes from schools, and update infrastructure for the impacts of extreme weather and climate change. 40% of the funds will target underserved, rural, and tribal communities.  Grist
  • A major clean-up of New Zealand’s Kaipara Harbour begins this month, with community groups, landowners and local government working together to restore the water health of the 602,000 hectare catchment. 20 million native trees will be planted around the erosion-prone land to stop sediment running into the harbour. RNZ
  • The US government has ramped up its protection of endangered humpback whales, declaring 300,000 km² of the Pacific Ocean as critical habitat. It’s a big win for conservationists who sued the federal government in 2018 over its failure to designate protected areas, which are proven to double the chance of species’ recovery. WAN
  • Government incentives for pesticide free, wildlife-friendly farming in the UK have helped save Britain’s rarest butterfly, the Duke of Burgundy, from near extinction. The population has soared by 25% over the past decade with one of the largest colonies found on an organic dairy farm in Dorset. Guardian

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[/vc_column_text][vc_column_text]30 april 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 134: Isodope

Plus, advice for grandparents, tidal power, QR codes in the sky, CRISPR for epigenomes, and good news on trachoma in The Gambia, a malaria vaccine in Burkina Faso, and island restoration in the Pacific and Caribbean.

Good News

  • Investors are fleeing from fossil fuels, with the value of share offerings in coal, oil and gas companies plummeting by $123 billion in the last decade. Clean energy IPOs also overtook carbon-heavy flotations for the first time in 2020 with renewables raising a record $11 billion from public equity offerings. Carbon Tracker
  • Big news from Europe: Poland, the continent’s last major holdout on coal, has announced an agreement between the government and unions to phase out coal production by 2049. That’s the first time the country’s powerful mining sector has agreed to reduce its presence, finally admitting that the writing is now on the wall. DW
  • Last week’s announcement by the US government that it will halve its emissions by 2030 is a much bigger deal than most people realise. To pull it off, the country would be looking at a fundamental transformation of its industrial base. Think about what it means for all of this to happen in one decade. NYT⚡ >50% of electricity from renewable energy (+20% from today).
    💨 CO2 released from new natural gas plants to be captured and buried.
    🛑 All 200 remaining coal plants shut down.
    🚙 2/3 of new cars and SUVs sold to be battery-powered (+97% from today).
    🏢 All new buildings heated by electricity instead of natural gas.
    🏗 Cement, steel, and chemical industries adopting strict new energy-efficiency targets.
    🛢 Oil and gas producers slashing methane emissions by 60%.
    🌲 Expanding regenerative forestry and agricultural practices to pull 20% more CO2 from the air than today.
  • The Gambia has become the third African country to eliminate trachoma. It’s an extraordinary achievement: in the mid-1980s, trachoma was responsible for almost 1 out of 5 cases of blindness. Behind it lies three decades of hard work by community volunteers, who played a crucial role in raising awareness and promoting behaviour change. Read their stories here.
  • After nearly a century, an effective malaria vaccine may finally be within reach after trials of a vaccine from Oxford recorded 77% efficacy in 450 children in Burkina Faso. Larger trials are now underway; if the vaccine gets through those, it will represent one of the biggest public health breakthroughs of all time. Guardian
  • The participation of women in the labour force in Saudi Arabia has surged by 64% in the last two years, thanks to recent reforms allowing women to drive, and changes to labour laws. Reminder – equal access to employment opportunities is one of the most important drivers for progress in human rights. Brookings
  • Prostitution will no longer be prosecuted in Manhattan and thousands of cases, dating back decades, may also be dismissed. The reform is part of a growing national movement to change how the criminal justice system deals with sex workers. NYT
  • Conservationists have banded together to save one of the world’s most pristine rainforests from deforestation, purchasing a 950 km2 biodiversity hotspot and wildlife corridor at the intersection of Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. The corridor secures the largest contiguous block of forest in Central America, home to five species of wild cat (jaguars, margay, ocelot, jaguarundi and puma), spider monkeys, howler monkeys and hundreds of bird species. The Nature Conservancy
  • The Australian government has committed $100 million to ocean conservation, in an effort to protect ‘blue carbon’ environments.  The funding will go towards ocean management and methods to draw down carbon with seagrass and mangroves. An additional $11.6m will be spent to establish nine Indigenous protected areas in sea country. West Australian
  • A four-year seagrass restoration project in the UK has kicked off, hoping to turn the tide for local ecosystems impacted by pollution and dredging. The scheme aims to plant eight hectares of biodiverse-rich seagrass meadows off the south coast: the restoration will provide safe habitat for 160,000 fish, including seahorses, and 200 million invertebrates. Positive News
  • Lehua Island in Hawaii and Redonda Isle in the Caribbean are both rodent-free after years of conservation efforts. Rats threatened wildlife and endangered species on both islands, but since their removal, signs of recovery to ecosystems, vegetation and wildlife populations have been almost immediate.

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23 april 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 133: Blue Agate

Plus, hollowed out volcanoes, Porg the Pterosaur, an otherworldly flight, and good news on US climate goals, electric vehicles in Germany, poverty reduction in Ethiopia and a massive new Indigenous reserve in Peru.

Good News

  • The Biden administration has become the last of the big carbon emitters to ramp up its climate goals, with a game-changing commitment to halving carbon emissions by 2030. This is the starting gun for an economy-wide sprint over the next decade to completely transform the industrial base of the US economy. Politico
  • Electric cars in Germany, Europe’s largest auto market and the fourth largest in the world, accounted for 13.5% of sales last year – a huge jump up from 2019’s overall share of 3%. With Volkswagen’s ID.4 now rolling off the production lines, analysts expect that share to climb to over 25% by the end of 2021. Clean Technica
  • Nigeria is beginning its largest electrification project ever, with an ambitious initiative that will give 25 million Nigerians access to cheap solar power. Access to affordable energy is a big part of the government’s COVID-19 economic recovery plan. The rollout will begin with communities who are off the national power grid and eventually cover all 36 states. ESI
  • Ethiopia’s rapid economic growth over the past 15 years has resulted in poverty declining from 39% in 2004 to 19% in 2020. Growth has come from the transition from an agriculture-led to a service-led economy (services overtook agriculture in GDP in 2016) and the government is now targeting a poverty rate of 7% by 2030. IFS
  • A big boost for equality in Afghanistan with new legislation to include mothers’ names on children’s birth certificates and ID cards. Activists have campaigned for years for the reform, which will help women obtain documentation for their children and allow them to travel together. This is especially significant for women who are widowed, divorced, separated, or dealing with abusive partners. HRW
  • A school feeding program in Venezuela has started providing daily meals to 185,000 children in areas where food shortages are most severe. The program is a major step forward in tackling increasing malnutrition rates and there are plans to expand the operation to reach 1.5 million students over the next two years. Reuters
  • The US government has launched the most ambitious food assistance program in the country’s history to help the 25 million Americans who don’t have enough to eat. The campaign has increased food stamps by more than $1 billion a month and has expanded the produce allowance for pregnant women and children. NYT
  • New Mexico has become the 16th US state to legalize recreational marijuana with retail sales to begin by April 2022. A legal cannabis industry could spawn a $318 million market and create over 11,000 jobs for one of America’s poorer states. The reform will also clear the record for many people with past marijuana convictions. BI
  • An inspiring collaboration in British Colombia between an Indigenous community, lawmakers and a mining company, has permanently saved the eastern slopes of Mount Edziza from mining development. The agreement closes the book on any industrial activity in the area which is of great ecological and cultural importance. Narwhal
  • Good news for turtles in North Cyprus with nest counts of green turtles increasing by 162% and loggerhead turtles by 46% since 1993. Local conservation efforts began in 1983, with volunteers and scientists working tirelessly every nesting season to keep the nests safe from local predators and plastic waste. Mongabay
  • After nearly 20 years of negotiations, the Peruvian government has established the 10,000 km² Yavarí Tapiche Reserve for uncontacted peoples deep in the Amazon rainforest. “This constitutes a historic milestone in the protection of the rights of Indigenous peoples in a situation of isolation and initial contact.” Mongabay

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26 maart 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The crunch No. 130

Te Rehutai. Plus, AI necromancy, Dolly Parton, timber skyscrapers, and good news on rabies in Latin America, clean energy in the UK, gazelles in Turkey, and cheetahs in India.

Good News

  • The UK is halfway to getting to zero-carbon by 2050 thanks to a record-breaking 11% drop in emissions in 2020. The country is also taking the global lead on per capita emissions, registering two-thirds less than the US and 40% less than China. Even accounting for the export of a large chunk of those emissions, this is pretty incredible considering it’s where the industrial revolution began in the first place. Yale 360
  • In Latin America and the Caribbean, new cases of rabies have been reduced by 95% in humans and 98% in dogs since the 1980s. It’s thanks to a long-term, regionally coordinated strategy that’s included mass dog vaccination, timely access to PEP, and epidemiological surveillance backed by lab support and health education. Emerging Infectious Diseases
  • The African Development Bank has invested $6.3 billion into water supply and sanitation services across the continent in the last decade. As a result, an estimated 30 million people in urban areas and nearly 55 million people in rural areas have gained access to improved water and sanitation during that time period. AFDB
  • Michigan is now offering free college tuition to people over the age of 25 without a degree. An estimated 4.1 million residents are eligible for the program. The US state is also offering Futures for Frontliners, a free college education program for frontline workers who have provided essential services during the pandemic, and which already has 85,000 people enrolled. Detroit News
  • Paris will spend the next ten years transforming the Champs-Élysées into a green space for pedestrians after a community-based proposal was greenlit by the government. Under the new plans, vehicle traffic will be reduced by half, while pedestrians will be able to enjoy wider sidewalks and more greenery in what the architects call ‘planted ‘living rooms.’ CNN
  • Data assembled from 25 of the biggest cities in the United States has shown that there was a significant drop in crime rates in 2020, with a 19% reduction in property and violent crimes and a staggering 65% drop in drug crimes. Researchers say that because many crimes depend on opportunity, fewer people on the streets meant less misconduct. Wired
  • In a historic win for environmental activists, fracking in the Delaware River Basin has been permanently banned to protect wildlife and the drinking water supply for 17 million people. The river basin, which spans New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania, is a critical habitat for countless species, including native trout, American eels, and bald eagles and the ban has been heralded an important step in the country’s transition toward a more sustainable future. NRDC
  • A species of wild gazelle, once thought to be extinct, is thriving in the mountains of the Turkish-Syrian border thanks to the efforts of one Turkish scientist. After spotting his first mountain gazelle in 1998, Professor Yasar Ergun worked with local communities to set up a breeding sanctuary to protect the gazelles from hunting. The population has increased by 865 in the past 9 years. NYT
  • 70 years after been declared extinct, cheetahs are returning to India. The world-first relocation program from Africa, which has been in the works since 2009, has finally been given the green light after the Kuno National Park met official requirements. The homecoming of the cheetah, the only mammal hunted to extinction in modern India, aims to amend the past by “restoring lost natural heritage for ethical as well as ecological reasons.” Indian Express
  • A group of farmers in the Sierra Madre, the longest mountain range in the Philippines, have banded together to successfully reforest over 229 hectares of land. The farmers played a crucial role in planting and maintaining the seedlings, often under arduous conditions. Their hard work paid off, with survival rates of 85% across the sites. “If it’s a greening program, if it’s a ‘bringing back your forests’ program, it’s not just planting. It has to take into consideration maintenance and nurturing.”

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12 maart 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 128

Mama Dinosaur. Plus, robot stingrays, CodeMiko, augmented reality surgeries, and good news on coal in Hungary, hepatitis C in Egypt, cancer rates in Europe, and wildlife protection in China.

Good news

  • Hungary will close its last coal plant in 2025, halving the time of its original plan to reach 90% carbon neutral electricity generation by 2030. The Matra power plant site will transition to a solar farm, replacing coal jobs with new opportunities for workers, who will also receive support from the EU’s transition fund. Seven European countries now have coal free 2025 targets. Euractiv
  • The Canadian government has committed $2.75 billion to help public transit and school buses transition to electric power over the next five years. It’s part of the government’s progressive plan to tackle climate change while creating new jobs in Canada’s growing electric van manufacturing industry. Funds will also be provided for the installation of new charging stations for zero-emission vehicles. Electrek
  • Infant mortality rates in the Philippines have dropped by 80% since the 1950s and are continuing to decline thanks to new regulations that allow hospital births to include traditional birth practices crucial to Filipino culture. Women who give birth in hospital can choose to have a traditional birth attendant help with delivery while also having access to necessary medicine. Borgen
  • Egypt used to have one of the highest hepatitis C burdens in the world – in 2015 it accounted for 40,000 deaths per year, 7.6% of all deaths—and depressed national GDP growth by 1.5%. Three years ago, the government started a huge public health effort, screening 67 million people, and providing free treatment for two million. It worked. This year the hepatitis C burden has fallen to 2%, and public health officials say they are on track to eliminate it altogether. Egypt Today
  • Australian researchers have found that the annual rates of new cases of adults diagnosed with type 2 diabetes is stable or falling in Australia, Europe, the United States, and a number of high income countries in Asia. The study is the first to focus on diabetes incidence,the number of people who develop type 2 diabetes each year rather than total number of people who suffer from the disease at any given time. Baker
  • A new study has shown that cancer deaths in Europe have plummeted in the last three decades. Compared to the peak mortality rate, recorded in 1988, 4.9 million cancer deaths will have been averted in the EU and over one million in the UK by the end of 2021. Predicted death rate declines between 2015 and 2021 include:
    7.8% decline for breast cancer
    4.8% decline for colorectal cancer in men and a 9.6% decline in women
    8.7% decline for prostate cancer
    3.5% decline for uterine cancer
    8.9% decline for ovarian cancer
    14.1% decline for stomach cancer in men and a 16.3% decline in women.
  • China has doubled the number of wild animals protected under its conservation rules, imposing hefty fines on the trading and consumption of 500 species, including many birds and wolves. It comes after 30 years of Chinese environmental groups fighting for animals to be added to the protected list. It’s hoped the ban will also help combat global trafficking of wild animals. Eco Business
  • An undercover investigation by a non-profit media organization has forced South Korea’s largest dog meat auction house to close. The closure follows a wider crackdown on dog meat farming across the country, with advocates now calling for an amendment to the country’s Animal Protection Act that would permanently ban all slaughtering and processing of dogs for food. World Animal News
  • A federal judge has banned future oil and gas development in Ohio’s Wayne National Forest. It’s a big win for conservation groups who fought a three year legal battle to protect the 40,000 acres of Ohio’s only national park. It’s a trend that looks set to continue  after President Biden’s recent moratorium on new oil and gas leasing on federal public lands. Biological Diversity
  • Nothing restores a river or a local economy like removing a dam. River restoration practitioners in America worked around challenging COVID restrictions to remove 69 dams across 23 states in 2020, reconnecting over a 1,000 km of river for fish and wildlife and revitalizing local economies. American Rivers
  • An Alaskan archipelago dubbed the “Rat Islands” have become a shining example of how quickly nature can bounce back. 18th century shipwrecks introduced rats to the islands, almost destroying their fauna and flora, but in 2008 conservationists started a removal program on one of them, Hawadax Island, and within 11 years the ecosystem had fully recovered. “We were surprised that the level of recovery unfolded so quickly — we thought it would be longer.” Science Daily

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26 februari 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 126

Human after all. Plus, interactive dreaming, AI for soccer, Gamestop, and good news on clean energy in the US and China, human rights in India and Ecuador, drug reforms in Malaysia and New Jersey, and the recovery of the European bison.

Good news

  • In China, coal-fired power plants fell to less than half the country’s total power capacity last year, and look set to fall by a further 3% in 2021. This is big news. China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon and by far the largest producer and consumer of coal. Meanwhile, 61.7% of new energy investments were spent on wind, solar and biomass, 20.5% on hydro and 7.2% on nuclear. SCMP
  • In the United States, the world’s second largest emitter of carbon, renewable energy generated one-fifth of all electricity in 2020. After a record year for installations of both wind and solar,  zero-carbon energy sources, which also include hydro and nuclear, now make up 40% of the country’s total electricity mix. Greentech
  • Bangladesh, which until recently had one of the largest coal pipelines in the world, has scrapped nine more coal plants, with a combined capacity of almost 8GW.  The decision was driven by a combination of rising costs, worries about the country’s future reliance on imported coal and growing public opposition to the health impacts of pollution. Daily Sun
  • Australia’s 3rd biggest bank, ANZ, has pulled out of funding the Port of Newcastle, the world’s largest thermal coal terminal. The bank said the investment was too risky and is worried it could become a stranded asset as global decarbonization gathers speed. In news that must really delight their shareholders, Australia’s 4th biggest bank, NAB, has agreed to step in to make up the financing gap. Guardian
  • Uttarakhand has become the first state in India to grant women co-ownership of land, which has traditionally transferred down patriarchal lines. The landmark amendment gives wives and daughters equal access, and overnight, will affect over 350,000 women across the state. It’s hoped other states will now take action too, after what activists are calling a “historic decision”. Times of India
  • A group of workers in Ecuador have also made legal history, after winning the country’s first case against modern-day slavery. After 50 years of labour exploitation, Afro-Ecuadorian workers decided to take action against their powerful agro-industrial employer. The judge ruled in their favour, ordering compensation and a full apology on the company’s website and in local media, detailing every worker by name. Reuters
  • This story is a little close to the and now finally segment you usually get at the end of the evening news, but we’re including it anyway because it’s awesome. Two years after girls in the United States were allowed into the Boy Scouts, almost 1,000 have achieved the top rank of Eagle Scout, a grade that only 6% of Scouts ever make. Dyb dyb dob. CBS
  • The infant mortality rate declined again in Ghana in 2020, to 32.80 per 1,000 live births. A decade ago, it was 49.42 per 1,000 live births, a decline of around 40% in just ten years. Maternal mortality and under 5 mortality rates declined last year too, thanks in part to the country’s universal health coverage, which exempts pregnant women from paying health insurance premiums. Keoma
  • In Malaysia, lawmakers have passed new legislation mandating that drug addicts should be sent to rehabilitation rather than jail. The change of approach is part of the government’s long-term plan to “put science and public health before punishment and incarceration” by giving addicts a second chance and helping them to reintegrate back into the community. Free Malaysia
  • In New Jersey, a new law legalizing marijuana will change the way police interact with underage offenders, especially in minority communities where drug laws have been disproportionately enforced.  Instead of facing criminal charges, people under the age of 21 will now be issued a series of warnings, with a third offense resulting in counselling or community service. Law & Crime
  • Virginia’s lawmakers have approved legislation to abolish the death penalty, moving it a step closer to becoming the 23rd state to ban capital punishment and the first southern state to outlaw the practice. That’s a massive turnaround for the state with the highest execution rate in America. Governor Ralph Northam is waiting to sign it into law. “It’s time we stop this machinery of death.” CNN
  • Rhino poaching in South Africa dropped by 33% last year, the sixth straight year of declines, and the lowest overall number since 2010.  The dramatic decline was partially due to COVID-19 restrictions, but also to ten years of targeted government strategy and the cooperation of different states and countries in sharing information about wildlife trafficking. The South African
  • Thanks to decades of conservation work, the population of European bison has tripled in the last 17 years, from only 1,800 in 2003 to 6,200 today. That means it is no longer on the vulnerable species list. Conservationists praised local communities for their support in rewilding these animals back to land. “Only by working together can we ensure the progress made in the last 70 years will not decline, but that we will witness a change for the better.” CGTN

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19 februari 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No.125

Perseverance. Plus, the most liked TikTok of 2020, cryogenic ferrets, crazy new science, and good news on refugees in Colombia, a reprieve for the ozone layer, plummeting population growth in China, and a new national park in the United States.

At around 8am this morning, Australian time, a van-sized robot weighing just over 1,000kg hit the upper atmosphere of Mars at more than 20,000 km/h, decelerated, deployed a huge parachute while still travelling at supersonic speeds, ditched its heat shield, and then winched itself down on a cable from a rocket-powered jetpack to thedusty surface of the Red Planet.

It’s sitting there right now, in an old Martian lake, 200 million kilometers from where you’re sitting, a $2.7 billion rover equipped with a plutonium-powered battery and seven of the most advanced scientific instruments ever invented. Attached to its belly is a little helicopter named Ingenuity, which will soon attempt to become thefirst rotorcraft ever to fly in the skies of a world beyond Earth.

Watching Perseverance arrive this morning, what struck us wasn’t thetechnical prowess, or the mind-boggling statistics, or even the raw emotion on the masked faces of the JPL crew. It was the openness of the endeavor, the willingness of NASA to have its efforts shown to theentire world, in real time, despite a very good chance that something might go wrong (40% of missions to Mars have failed). Can you imagine what that’s like, to have one of the most important things you’ve ever done put under that kind of pressure?

No other country on the planet comes even close to pulling off stuff like this. When it comes to space exploration, America’s unique culture of can-do attitude, risk-taking and transparency is a gift to therest of the world. Sure, the NASA feed had its share of carefully selected mood music and no doubt there was a lot of scrambling off-camera, but the risks were still real. Compared to the carefully managed shots from the UAE and Chinese missions, it was practically a documentary.

Science advances when it’s practiced in the open, and when it’s shared with as many people as possible. Perseverance, like the other Mars rovers, got its name via a nationwide student competition. Thewinning moniker was submitted by Alex Mather, at the time a seventh grader from Virginia. Say what you want about the United States; that small detail says a lot about the kind of society that tries to fly helicopters on other planets. It’s something to admire, and it gives us a lot of hope.

If you’ve got three minutes, check out this animation of the landing sequence.

If you’ve got twenty minutes, watch this video about Perseverance’s insane engineering. Also, contact us immediately. If you’ve got a spare 20 minutes in your workday to watch Youtube then you’ve obviously figured out some dark secret to modern living and we’d like to know what it is (we ended up watching it during our lunchbreak).

Good news

  • Another week, another flurry of announcements on electric vehicles. Jaguar says it will stop selling internal combustion engines within thenext five years, Land Rover will offer electric version of its vehicles from 2024, and the really big one – Ford will sell only EVs in theUnited Kingdom and Europe from 2030. That’s the largest carmaker yet to pledge all-electric sales in Europe. Reuters
  • Massive announcement from Maersk, the world’s largest shipping line. From 2023, all vessels will be required to use carbon-neutral fuels, such as clean methanol and ammonia “If we don’t do this, ten years from now we risk becoming irrelevant.” This is seven years ahead of their original goal, and places serious pressure on other companies to follow suit. Lloyds List
  • Colombia has granted legal status to almost two million Venezuelan refugees. The bold humanitarian gesture, made by President Iván Duque last week, gives them temporary protected status for ten years, allowing émigrés to work and access public services such as health and education. In a world where nationalist sentiments have all too often been stoked against refugees and migrants, it’s a remarkable example of leadership. Smart economic move too. UNHCR
  • Russia and the United States have agreed to patrol together to enforce a new maritime pollution agreement in the waters of the Bering Sea. Officially, relations between the two countries are at their worst in more than thirty years; the Arctic though, has a long history of fostering international cooperation, and officials aren’t letting geopolitical tensions get in the way. Arctic Today
  • The American Cancer Society says death rates have fallen again. Its latest figures show a 2.4% decline from 2017 to 2018 – the largest one-year drop ever. Longer term, there’s been a 31% fall in mortality rates between 1991 and 2018, translating to almost 3.2 million fewer deaths had rates remained at their peak. Its mostly thanks to declines in thefour most common cancers: lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate.
  • A new study in Denmark has found that less people over the age of 70 are having fewer strokes and fewer people of all ages are dying from the disease. It’s good news for global health; strokes are one of theleading causes of death and disability worldwide. Researchers say thedecrease is due to improvements in stroke awareness and a drop in smoking rates. Science Daily
  • A new law decriminalizing same-sex relations has gone into effect in Angola. It overturns a criminal code that had been in place for 134 years, from when the country was still a colony. Activists have heralded it as “a great step forward” in the fight against state-sponsored discrimination against the LGBTQIA+ community in southern Africa. Sahara Reporters
  • Centuries after they were stolen, the ancestral lands of the American Indian Community in Minneapolis, which includes the site of the U.S. Dakota War in 1862, has been returned to them. Tribal Council members hope it marks the beginning of more efforts to reclaim traditional homelands of Indigenous people. “We are trying to heal ourselves and also we are trying to come back and try to nurture theland and heal the land as well.” CBS Local
  • People power in Canada has forced the Alberta government to reinstate the 1976 Coal Policy that it revoked last year. The plan had opened up the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains to open-pit coal mining, but after sustained opposition from conservationists, country music stars and both rural and urban communities, the government has been forced to do an about-face.  The Narwhal
  • China, the most populated country in the world, registered almost two million less births last year, compared to 2019. This is excellent news for the environment; fewer people means less consumption and less pressure on ecosystems. It’s part of a longer term trend too – China’s population is now on track to peak by as soon as 2027. CNN
  • Air pollution is falling across a vast swathe of 15 countries in Africa, from Senegal in the west to South Sudan in the east. It’s the result of rapid urbanization and economic development, leading to a significant decrease in fires traditionally used for land management. “As middle and low-income countries grow you often see more emissions. It’s nice to see a decline occurring when you’d expect to see pollution increasing.” NYT
  • The Mississippi River is the cleanest it’s been in more than a century. Recent testing reported a sharp drop in bacteria, most of which stemmed from human and animal waste, with levels at 1% of what they were before the 1980s. Most of the credit goes to the landmark 1972 Clean Water Act, which forced industries to be accountable for waste discharge and banned the disposal of sewage into rivers and creeks. Regulation huh? Who would have thought. Nola
  • If the state of the world keeps you up at night, you can rest a little easier knowing the ozone layer is recovering faster than previously thought. Between 2012-2017 it looked certain to be delayed when a mysterious increase of an ozone-depleting gas called CFC-11 was traced back to China. But thanks to the country’s quick response in reducing those emissions, scientists say the ozone layer is now back on track to heal to pre-1980s levels within the next 50 years. ABC
  • America has created its 63rd national park: New River Gorge, in southern West Virginia. The new park, covering 72,000 acres of land, and flanking 53 miles of the gorge, now has the same status as iconic places such as Yosemite and Yellowstone. It’s the result of a multigenerational effort, started in the mid-twentieth century, to transform a tired industrial area into a national landmark. NYT

 

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12 februari 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 124

A sleuth of bears, a dance of cranes. Plus, sound-beaming, hydrogen paste, and good news on a slavery ban in India, police reform in Denver, an ambitious conservation goal in the United States, and fisheries reform in Mozambique.

Good news

  • Shell has joined BP in saying the world has reached peak oil. Europe’s biggest oil producer quietly admitted in a recent statement that its total oil production peaked in 2019 and will now drop by 1 or 2 percent annually. It’s the clearest signal yet from a major oil company that we’ve reached the beginning of the end of the fossil fuels era. NYT
  • A long-standing tradition of slavery has been officially banned in Southern India. The custom, known as bitti chakri, has forced lower-caste groups into unpaid labour in upper-caste homes for centuries. It’s a big win for anti-slavery advocates, who have been campaigning on this issue for years. They’re not finished either, vowing to lobby government until they see real change inside communities and not just on paper. Reuters
  • More help, less handcuffs. The US city of Denver is reporting early success with a program that replaces armed police officers with healthcare workers for non-violent incidents. Since June 2020, a mental health clinician and a paramedic have responded to 748 calls without the need for police intervention or any arrests. Organisers are now working with other cities to export the model. Denverite
  • Some great news from our own backyard. A bill banning LGBTQI+ conversion therapy has passed Victoria’s Upper House. That means it is now illegal to try to change or suppress a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity in our state. Following similar reforms around conversion therapy in Queensland and the ACT, it’s another important step in the fight for tolerance and equality in Australia. ABC
  • It’s been two years since Canada legalized recreational cannabis, and one of the many positive benefits has been a drastic decrease in opioid prescriptions. A recent study compared prescriptions before and after legalization and found that average doses per person have fallen to less than 20% of their former levels. Imagine how powerful this is going to be when the US finally gets its act into gear? High Times
  • Amidst the flurry of executive orders signed by the Biden administration in the past few weeks, you might have missed this one. He’s committed to an ambitious conservation goal, backed by science, to protect 30% of US land and coastal seas by 2030. With only 12% of land currently conserved, that will require protecting an area twice thestate of Texas to reach the 30/30 target. Nat Geo
  • Europe is tackling its waste problem by legislating people’s right to repair the things they’ve bought. France is leading the charge, with a ‘repair index’, that will now appear on the labels of white goods and gadgets, graded on the ease of disassembly and spare parts. According to advocates, the movement has as much to do with altering mindsets as fixing gadgets. “Our philosophy is that something doesn’t belong to you if you can’t open it.” Next City
  • Mozambique has passed a powerful new fisheries law that extends protected status to dolphins, whale sharks, and manta rays, and makes it easier for communities living along the 2,700 km coastline to lead management initiatives. It comes off the back of news that thecountry’s largest marine conservation area cut illegal fishing by nearly half in 2020 compared with 2019. Mongabay
  • 400 years after being wiped out by hunters, the UK’s crane population has passed a crucial milestone on its road to recovery. 23 chicks were born last year, pushing the national population past 200. The birds returned to Norfolk in the 1970s under their own steam and are now in Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Somerset thanks to the restoration of wetland habitats. “The return of cranes to the British landscape shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance.” Guardian

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5 februari 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 123

Devil Oreos. Plus, another antidote for environmental despair, transparent wood, genetic matching for couples and good news on terrorism in Pakistan, clean energy in South Australia, decriminalization in Oregon and seabirds in Namibia.

Good news

  • South Australia has become the largest grid in the world to have 100% of electricity demand met by solar power, even as its electricity prices have become the cheapest in the country. For years, fossil fuels advocates here in Australia have been warning that too much wind and solar will increase energy prices. Unsurprisingly, those voices are now conspicuously absent. Renew Economy
  • Amidst the excitement surrounding GM’s pledge to stop making petrol and diesel vehicles by 2035, you might have missed the even bigger news that ZF Frederickshavn, one of the world’s top five automotive component manufacturers, has officially ceased R&D on internal combustion engines. “We are preparing for the fact that hardly any combustion engines will be sold in Europe in 2035, perhaps none at all in the passenger car sector.”
  • Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, has sold its entire portfolio of companies focused on oil exploration and production. Theportfolio, worth about $6 billion in 2019, was fully exited by the end of 2020. The fund’s new CEO has made sustainable investing an explicit strategic focus and says all portfolio managers “need to operate with that in mind.” World Oil
  • Pakistan experienced a record drop in terrorism last year, with a 45% decrease compared to 2019. Law-enforcement agencies also averted more than half of terror threats in 2020 and recovered 72,227 weapons and five million rounds of ammunition. There’s now been an 86% reduction in terror attacks since 2013, and a 97% decline in suicide bombings since 2009. Gulf News
  • Crime and murder rates declined in a majority of South American and Caribbean nations last year, including significant reductions in El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Venezuela, some of the most homicidal nations in the world. While it’s not clear how much was attributable to the pandemic, law enforcement authorities hope it represents a turning point. Insight Crime
  • In the past two decades Australia has experienced one of the most astonishing falls in crime ever recorded by any country. Since 2001, the rate of break-ins has fallen by 68%, motor vehicle theft by 70%, robbery by 71% and other theft by 43% per cent. Across the same period the Australian murder rate fell by 50%, the attempted murder rate by 70% and overall homicide by 59%. The Australian
  • Oregon’s Measure 110 went into effect this week, the first legislation in the United States to decriminalize possession of all illegal drugs, including heroin, cocaine, meth and oxycodone. The state’s new health-care-based approach will now offer addicts treatment instead of prison. “Criminalization creates barriers to treatment. If we want people to make different choices, we have to give them more options.” USA Today
  • A new study in The Lancet looking at the impact of ten different diseases in low and middle income countries estimates that vaccines saved the lives of 37 million kids between 2000 and 2019. For those born in 2019, increases in vaccine coverage and introductions of new vaccines will result in an estimated 72% reduction in lifetime mortality compared to those born in 2000.
  • India’s new budget has doubled the country’s spending on healthcare, from 1% to 2% of GDP. It’s the largest investment in healthcare in thecountry’s history, and will dramatically improve public health systems as well as fund the huge vaccination drive to immunize 1.3 billion people. Imagine the kind of headlines this would receive if it happened in the United States or Europe? Al Jazeera
  • Tesco, the UK’s biggest supermarket chain, removed 1 billion pieces of plastic from across its stores in 2020, including the bags used to pack loose vegetables, fruit and baked goods, plastic shrink wraps around tinned food, plastic in Christmas products and plastic wrapping around greetings cards. Shows you how powerful consumer pressure can be when directed in the right way. Greenbiz
  • The US government has trebled the size of the Gulf of Mexico’s largest coal sanctuary, from 145 km² to 414 km². The expansion protects 14 additional reefs from the bottom-tending fishing gear, ship anchors and oil and gas exploration. Initially proposed under the Bush administration and formalized by Obama, the process concluded during the final week of the Trump administration. Nola
  • For the first time in more than a generation, chinook salmon have spawned in the upper Columbia River system, thanks to a successful re-introduction program by biologists from the Colville Tribe. “I was shocked at first, then I was just overcome with complete joy. I don’t know that I have the right words to even explain the happiness and the healing.” Spokesman
  • Fishermen in Namibia have reduced the accidental deaths of seabirds, including endangered albatrosses, from 30,000 per year in 2009, to just 215 at last count. It’s down to a simple regulation created in 2015 that made bird-scaring lines mandatory on all fishing boats. The98.4% reduction in seabird mortality is an “absolutely amazing” achievement. Eco Magazine

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22 januari 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch No. 121

Why the tree of life is lot messier than we think. Plus, robot ballet, the most important Bitcoin essay of 2020, and good news on solar in Vietnam, indigenous land rights in Panama and the recovery of the world’s smallest tern.

Good news

As tempting as it is, we’re going to steer clear of Biden’s first flurry of executive actions. Your feed, paper or television is probably filled with that news anyway – and no doubt you feel very differently about it depending on your political point of view. Instead, here’s some other stories you might have missed:

As tempting as it is, we’re going to steer clear of Biden’s first flurry of executive actions. Your feed, paper or television is probably filled with that news anyway – and no doubt you feel very differently about it depending on your political point of view. Instead, here’s some other stories you might have missed:

  • Total has become the first major global energy company to quit the American Petroleum Institute due to its climate policies and support for drilling. This high-profile departure from the most powerful energy lobby on the planet is a sign of things to come; expect the trickle to become a flood as the Biden administration ramps up efforts to tackle climate change. Reuters
  • Vietnam just had an insane year for rooftop solar, with 7.4GW installed in less than 12 months. That’s 25 times more than it installed in 2019: equivalent to more than half of Australia’s entire capacity in a single year. By contrast, only 1.2GW of new coal capacity was added to Vietnam’s grid in 2020, from projects that took years to plan and complete. IEEFA
  • The Naso people of Panama are celebrating a major victory after the country’s Supreme Court upheld their claim to 400,000 acres of ancestral lands encompassing some of the most pristine forests in Central America. “We will be able to continue what our culture and way of life represents: taking care of our Mother Earth, conserving a majestic forest, and protecting the planet from the effects of climate change.” Yale 360
  • Last year the Global Fund doled out over $8 billion to combat infectious diseases and strengthen health systems in developing countries. This is the highest amount of grants ever given out in a single year – and they all kick off this month. “This is an exceptional achievement that will help more than 100 countries continue the critical fight against HIV, TB and malaria.” Relief Web
  • Development banks and states have just pledged over $14 billion towards planting the Great Green Wall to contain desertification in North Africa. It’s welcome news; although numerous pilots have proven the project’s viability over the last few years, it’s been stuck in funding purgatory. This is a major step forward. The Tribune
  • China has passed a landmark environmental law protecting the Yangtze, one of the country’s two ‘mother rivers.’ From the 1st of March, chemical projects near the river will be banned and relocated, sand mining will be restricted, and all fishing,   including in tributaries, lakes and the estuary, will be forbidden (more than 400 million people live in the Yangtze basin). Reuters
  • The European Environment Agency says the continent’s renewable power generation has doubled since 2005, and is now on par with coal and gas. Not only has this significantly decreased emissions, it’s also yielded key improvements for soil acidification, air pollution and eutrophication – where freshwater is overloaded with nutrients, causing algal blooms and low oxygen levels. Reuters
  • R he interior least tern, the smallest member of the tern family, has been taken off the US endangered list after 30 years of tireless work by states, federal agencies, tribes and conservationists. In the early 20th century, its feathers became a popular feature of women’s hats, and by 1985 numbers had dropped to less than 2,000. Today, the population is over 18,000, with 480 nesting sites in 18 states. AP

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15 januari 2021
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
The Crunch no. 120

Wormtongue Inc., mysterious caves, the one-minute city, and good news on clean energy in Germany, women’s rights in Argentina, child marriage in the Dominican Republic and a plastic ban in Mexico City.
This is the premium edition of Future Crunch. One third of your subscription fees go to charity. We’ve been on summer vacation for the last three weeks, and stopped payments during that time so you weren’t paying for this newsletter while we were gone. Thank you for your patience, and welcome back!

Well, that escalated steadily for four years. As much as we’ve tried to stay away, US politics is pretty much the only story on the internet right now and let’s be honest – with reports of further insurrection looming ahead of a presidential inauguration, the National Guard being deployed in force and a second impeachment on the table, who’s got time for stories of human progress anyway? Amazingly as it may seem, there have already been plenty of good news stories from around the world this year. You’ll find them a little further on. First though, we’ve got something to say about what happened in Washington last week.

As you know, the beat of this newsletter is good news, mind-blowing science and the best bits of the internet, but we’re also interested in the news media itself, and we think we’ve got something important to add about their culpability in all of this. To understand why, and to make sense of how we got here, it helps to turn to Tolkien (and yes we know you’re not supposed to use Lord of the Rings metaphors once you’re over the age of 15 but we’re unrepentant nerds so give us a chance to stick the landing here).

Good news

  • Renewable energy production in Germany, the world’s fourth largest economy, exceeded that of coal, natural gas and oil combined for the first time last year. Wind alone produced more electricity than all of the country’s lignite and hard coal plants, heralding “the end of coal,” and emissions fell by 80 million tonnes meaning the country has reduced emissions by 42% since 1990. It is possible.
  • Norway has become the first country to record more sales of cars powered by electric engines than cars powered by petrol, diesel and hybrid engines over the course of a year. Battery-electric vehicles made up 54.3% of new passenger-car sales in 2020, up from 42% in 2019, putting the country on track to ban new petrol and diesel cars by 2025. Market Watch
  • Southeast Asia, the last great hope of the coal barons, radically reconsidered its commitment to coal last year. Four of the region’s largest emerging economies – Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam – cancelled nearly 45GW of coal power in 2020, equivalent to the total installed capacity of Germany. Energy Tracker Asia
  • Argentina has legalized abortions in the first 14 weeks of pregnancy, becoming the largest Latin American nation to give women autonomy over their bodies. “When I was born, women did not vote, we did not inherit, we could not manage our assets, we could not have bank accounts, we didn’t have credit cards, we couldn’t go to university. When I was born, women were nobody. Now, for all the women for fought for those rights and more, let it be law.” NYT
  • The Dominican Republic has definitively banned child marriage. Previously, girls from the age of 15 were allowed to marry, and 36% of Dominican girls and adolescents married before the age of 18, the highest rate in Latin America and the Caribbean. Men or family members who now attempt to force a child to marry will be imprisoned for five years and the marriage annulled. Euro Weekly News
  • The Philippines has lifted the age of consent for sex from 12 to 16 after decades of lobbying from children’s rights activists. Campaigners say the legislation is a major milestone in efforts to protect the country’s young people from sexual abuse, and where 500 teenagers get pregnant and give birth every day. “This is a victory for Filipino children.” SCMP
  • Women’s rights activists in Iran have campaigned for a bill against gender-based violence for 16 years, and now the government is taking a stand on the issue. Hassan Rouhani’s administration passed a bill on the 4th January this year that protects women against domestic and other forms of gender-based violence. Al Jazeera

 

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18 december 2020 
Bron: Futurecrunch.com
99 Good News Stories You Probably Didn’t Hear About in 2020

There’s been so much loss, grief and heartbreak in 2020 that it feels almost wrong to be compiling our now traditional annual list of good news. Things can and do fall apart, and this year it felt like they really did. The hits have just kept on coming and it hasn’t just been Covid-19. There’s also been the devastating economic impacts of rolling lockdowns and the accompanying loss of livelihoods, the turbocharging of inequality, racial strife and social unrest, rising geopolitical tensions, the increasingly problematic effects of social media, the worrying spread of populism and of course the biggest issue of all – climate change and ecological collapse, with seemingly no solutions in sight.

And yet, on a planet of 7.8 billion people there’s always more than one story. You probably didn’t hear these ones because they didn’t sell advertisements or generate clicks, and that was more true this year than ever before. Progress isn’t a straight line and it doesn’t happen by magic. It depends on people who, even during the darkest of times, believe that it’s possible to make the world a better place and who are willing to roll up their sleeves to do the work, even when the cameras aren’t watching. These are their stories, and off the back of a horrible year, we think it’s more important than ever to celebrate them. We hope you agree.

  • 1. The British territory of Tristan da Cunha created the fourth largest completely protected marine area in the world, and the largest in the Atlantic. The 687,000 km² sanctuary is a no-take zone, meaning fishing and other harmful activities are now prohibited, to protect wildlife found on and around the chain of islands, including albatross, penguins, whales, sharks and seals. Nat Geo
  • 2. Belize added another jewel in its crown as a global leader in ocean conservation. In August, it increased the size of its Sapodilla Cayes reserve to 1,300 km² to encompass the Cayman Crown, one of the best preserved reef ecosystems in the region, home to many endangered species of corals, as well as previously undocumented reef types. EDF
  • 3. In October, the Seychelles reported that one third of its territorial waters are now protected, covering 410,000 km² of ocean (an area larger than Germany) and Samoa launched an ambitious new ocean conservation strategy, with a commitment to create 36,000 km² of new fully-protected marine protected areas by 2025, 30% of its territorial waters. BBC
  • 4. In November, 14 countries, responsible for 40% of the world’s coastlines, signed a new pledge to end overfishing, restore fish populations and stop the flow of ocean plastic in the next 10 years. Each of the countries also committed to making sure all oceans within their national jurisdictions, a combined area roughly the size of Africa, are managed sustainably by 2025. Guardian
  • 5. The most incredible environmental group you’ve never heard of, Pristine Seas, revealed this year that in the past decade they’ve inspired the creation of 23 marine reserves – two-thirds of the world’s fully protected marine areas, covering an area of more than five million square kilometers. In the next decade they believe they can double what’s already been accomplished. Nat Geo
  • 6. In December, a new report by the UN’s FAO revealed that after decades of pressure, fisheries in the Mediterranean and Black Sea are turning the corner. The percentage of overexploited stocks fell from 88% to 75% between 2014 and 2018, and since 2018, the number of fish stocks with high relative biomass has doubled.
  • 7. In perhaps one of the most globally consequential yet under-reported stories of 2020, China issued new rules for its distant water fishing fleet. The country’s Wildlife Protection Law will now apply at sea, ships will no longer be allowed to ‘go dark’ or approach marine protected areas, ship captains who break the rules will lose their license for five years and company managers will be banned for three years. Earth.org
  • 8. In the Pacific Northwest, the Yurok tribe began the reintroduction of the Californian Condor to its ancestral lands along the Klamath River, and also signed a historic deal to begin the largest dam removal project in US history, freeing up 600km of spawning grounds for salmon and other migratory species like steelhead trout and Pacific lamprey. “These efforts are as much about ecology as they are to right the wrongs that took place in this country for the last 200 years.”
  • 9. At the turn of this century, Staten Island’s landfill was the largest garbage dump in the world, three times larger than Central Park, with trash mounds 20 stories high. Today, it’s a green oasis, and one of the most unlikely urban ecological restoration success stories of all time. The radical fix? Bury the rubbish, plant some grass and do nothing for 20 years. NYT
  • 10. A new study from Yale revealed that the mass of electronic waste generated by Americans has been declining since 2015. The biggest contributor is the disappearance of large, bulky cathode-ray tube TVs and computer monitors. The total number of electronic devices entering the waste stream is also levelling off, due to ‘convergence’ e.g. smartphones doubling up as cameras.

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28 november 2020 
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC117: Sacred Corn

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

  • Swedish iron-ore giant, LKAB, is investing €39bn to decarbonize, the biggest transformation in the company’s 130-year history and the largest industrial investment ever made in Sweden. This might be the most important energy news of 2020 – industrial emissions are nowhere close to being solved, and this investment paves the way for desperately needed new technologies and standards.
  • Remember the good old days when terrorism was front page news? The 2020 Global Terrorism Index is reporting that deaths from terrorism have fallen for the fifth consecutive year. 103 countries have improved – the highest number of countries to record a year-on-year improvement since the inception of the index.
  • COVID-19 has raised questions about whether authoritarian regimes are better at handling pandemics than democratic societies. They’re not. Eight of the top 10 most successful responses have come from democracies. Success appears to rely less on being able to order people into submission, and more on governments engendering a high degree of trust and societal compliance. Bloomberg
  • Scotland has become the first country in the world to introduce free universal access to period products. Members of the Scottish Parliament unanimously approved the legislation, which makes access to tampons and sanitary pads in public buildings a legal right. “Scotland will not be the last country to make period poverty history – but it now has a chance to be the first.” The Scotsman
  • A new study has shown that air quality in Europe has improved dramatically in the past decade. Thanks to the implementation of better environmental and climate policies, around 60,000 fewer people died prematurely due to fine particulate matter pollution in 2018, compared with 2009. For nitrogen dioxide, the reduction is even greater; premature deaths have declined by about 54%. EEA
  • A new study has shown that air quality in Europe has improved dramatically in the past decade. Thanks to the implementation of better environmental and climate policies, around 60,000 fewer people died prematurely due to fine particulate matter pollution in 2018, compared with 2009. For nitrogen dioxide, the reduction is even greater; premature deaths have declined by about 54%. EEA
  • 250 years after they were stripped of their ancestral homelands, a 1,200 acre ranch has been returned to the Esselen tribe of northern California, a deal that will conserve old-growth redwoods and the California condor and red-legged frog. Guardian
  • The most incredible environmental group you’ve never heard of is called Pristine Seas. Since 2008, they’ve inspired the creation of 23 marine reserves – two-thirds of the world’s fully protected marine areas, covering an area of than five million square kilometers. They’re now gearing up for another decade of expeditions and believe they can double what’s already been accomplished. Nat Geo

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5 november 2020 
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC114: And Now We Wait

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

There’s only one story now…

  • Another one bites the coal dust. The Philippines, the third largest ASEAN economy, has announced it will no longer accept proposals to construct new coal power plants. This caps off a brutal October for the global fossil fuels industry, after dozens of financial institutions announced exits last month not just from coal, but oil and gas too. IEEFA
  • Since Donald Trump took office, the clean energy sector in the United States has employed nearly three times as many people as the fossil fuels industry, and between 2016 and 2019, renewables added more than double the jobs that fossil fuels did. Sometimes, a simple piece of data paints a clearer picture than a thousand opinion pieces. #MAGA. Morning Consult
  • UNESCO says that since 1995, the proportion of girls receiving primary and secondary education has increased from 73% to 89%. In actual numbers, that’s an extra 180 million girls in school compared to a generation ago (and three times more women are also now enrolled in universities). Reminder – educating girls and empowering women is the single most effective way to combat climate change.
  • The number of people suiciding in Japan has plummeted in recent years, falling each year for the last decade. Last year there were 20,169 cases, the lowest number since 1978 when the government first started keeping records, and at least 10,000 fewer deaths per annum than during the early naughts. Japan Subculture
  • For the second year in a row, Iceland, one of three remaining whaling nations, says it will not be hunting any whales, thanks to changing public opinion and falling consumption of whale meat. Announcements by the country’s two whaling companies suggest this may be the permanent end of the annual hunt. NatGeo
  • Centuries of colonialism, followed by decades of mismanagement, have almost destroyed the caribou herds of British Columbia. In 2011, First Nations people took matters into their own hands, suing the government and starting their own conservation programs. Slowly but surely, it’s working. Numbers are increasing, and the government is now providing funding and protecting land. Civil Eats

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29 oktober 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC113: Let Them Eat Dirt

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

Plus, the smallest boat on Earth, why China may have already peaked, digital public parks, and good news on tuberculosis, child marriage in Bangladesh and ocean conservation in Samoa.

  • The clean energy juggernaut rolls on. Lazard has just published its annual cost of electricity report, one of the energy industry’s most respected benchmarks. It says the cost of onshore wind has fallen to $26 a megawatt-hour and utility scale solar is $29. Forget coal – that means that building new wind and solar is now cheaper than keeping many existing gas plants running (gas-led recovery, anyone?).
  • Japan, the third largest economy in the world, has committed to reaching zero emissions and achieving a carbon-neutral society by 2050, with a fundamental shift in policy on coal use. The country’s new Prime Minister, Yoshihide Suga, says “responding to climate change is no longer a constraint on economic growth.” Oh, and South Korea has announced it will be carbon neutral by 2050 too. NPR
  • The world is winning the fight against tuberculosis. The WHO has just published its annual TB report, showing that between 2015 and 2019, global deaths fell by 14%. In fact, since 2000, TB treatment has averted more than 60 million deaths. Naturally, this incredible news has made headlines everywhere, interrupting the news cycle and bumping those two old white dudes off the front pages. WHO
  • Child marriage is becoming less common in Bangladesh. The proportion of girls being married before the age of 18 has dropped from 64% in 2010, to just over 50% today. In actual numbers, that means there are 10 million fewer girls who have been forced into child marriage today compared to a decade ago. UNICEF
  • Samoa has launched an ambitious new strategy to protect and preserve its ocean area, with a commitment to protect 30% of its territorial waters by 2025, a significant increase from the 1% currently under protection. This will result in 36,000 km2 of new fully-protected marine protected areas in the next five years. Government of Samoa
  • Seattle’s Duwamish River is visibly healing. In 2001, after a century of unchecked industrial pollution, it was labelled as one of the most toxic sites in America. After two decades of clean up efforts by conservationists and community groups, wildlife is now returning and the river is the cleanest it’s been in 100 years. Seattle Met
  • Egypt has managed to plant trees in the desert using wastewater, creating a massive 200 hectare oasis known as the Serapium Forest, which has boomed despite a recent drought. Following the success of the project, the country is now looking to plant more desert lands with trees to fight climate change. Al Monitor

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22 oktober 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC112: Creativity’s Dirty Little Secret

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

Plus, Disney Britain, intuition pumps, zeptoseconds, and good news on global electricity access, women’s rights, seagrass restoration in Virginia, and a new conservation project in Uganda.

  • The IEA’s latest annual report contains a hidden nugget of very, very good news. Last year, the number of people without access to electricity dropped from 860 million to 770 million, a new record low. Africa has made particularly good progress; the number of people gaining access to electricity doubled from 9 million a year between 2000 and 2013, to 20 million between 2014 and 2019. IEA
  • Global sulfur dioxide pollution levels fell by 6% last year, according to a new analysis of NASA satellite data. SO2 emissions fell in all three of the world’s top emitter countries – India, Russia and China, only the second time ever that this has happened. Researchers say it’s due to falling coal usage, especially in India. Air Quality News
  • In the last quarter century, how far have we come in advancing women’s rights? A new analysis from the IRC reveals some dramatic gains, including a 110% increase in women serving in national parliaments, a 49% increase in women in ministerial positions, a 38% decrease in maternal deaths, and an 18% increase in female literacy. Is it enough? Not even close. But it is progress.
  • Crime has plummeted in the Philippines this year. In the first nine months of 2020 there was a 46% decline in the country’s ‘focus’ crimes of murder, homicide, physical injury, rape, robbery, theft, and hijacking. Police are scratching their heads; given the loss of livelihoods and other economic difficulties, they were expecting crime to actually go up. Manila Bulletin
  • Uganda has launched its ambitious Wildlife Habitat & Corridor Restoration Project, which focuses on restoring habitat for endangered chimpanzees by adding 3 million trees to the Albertine Rift Forests. The area is home to endangered chimpanzees, as well as more than 50% of birds, 39% of mammals, 19% of amphibians and 14% of reptiles and plants of mainland Africa. Monde Stuff
  • Every signature counts. US federal officials have issued new protections for Gulf of Mexico deep-sea coral hot spots, restricting damaging fishing gear in most of those areas. This comes after 11,000 people signed their names in support during a final round of public comment in late 2019. The protections mark a major milestone in safeguarding coral ecosystems in the Gulf. Pew

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15 oktober 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC111: The Very Last Scream Of Light

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

Plus unhappy families, the world’s biggest insect farm, bionic drummers and good news on lynxes, Hepatitis B, electric vehicles in Europe, and crime in the United States.

  • The proportion of the world’s children under the age of five infected with hepatitis B has dropped to just under 1%, down from 5% in the early 2000s. 85% of kids around the world are now getting all three doses of the HBV vaccine – and Gavi says it is on track to avert a further 1.2 million infection-related deaths between 2021 and 2035. Science, B*t©h3$! WHO
  • We had to dig for this one, seeing as it did not appear in a single mainstream news publication. The US Justice Department has released its crime data for 2019, showing that violent crime in the United States decreased by 0.5% last year, the third consecutive year of declines, and property crime dropped by 4.1%, the 17th consecutive year of declines. Hellholes, anyone?
  • Crime is declining in France too. While the idea of ‘ensauvagement’ — long a dog whistle of the far right — is now being parroted by all sides of French politics, the truth is that nearly all major crimes are lower than they were a decade ago. Since 2006, acts of physical violence outside the home have decreased by 8% and thefts with physical violence or threat have dropped by 61% in the same period. NYT
  • Electric car sales in Europe have smashed through even the most optimistic forecasts by experts. One in 10 new cars sold in 2020 will be electric or hybrid, triple last year’s sales. New forecasts suggest that it will be one in seven in 2021, as manufacturers scramble to comply with tighter emissions standards. Smart regulation + great technology. It really can be that simple. Ars Technica
  • Here’s an even bigger market signal. The world’s largest cement producer, LafargeHolcim, has become the the first global building materials company to commit to reducing its emissions within the next decade, and says it will reach 100% carbon neutrality by 2050. Reminder: the cement industry causes 8% of global carbon emissions. FT
  • Singapore has created the new 400 ha Sungei Buloh Park in the northern portion of the island, a refueling site for migratory birds and home to oriental hornbills, otters, saltwater crocodiles, and many other species. It’s part of a wider initiative to turn disused industrial areas back into natural landscapes, and plant 1 million trees across the city-state by 2030. Mongabay
  • The recovery of the Iberian lynx is one of the best conservation success stories of modern times. The population increased by 23% in 2019. There are now 894 individuals in the wild, up from just 92 in 2002. The EU has also earmarked €18 million to keep the project running for the next five years, giving conservationists a real shot at restoring a stable, genetically diverse population. La Vanguardia

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8 oktober 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC110: Involuntary Transatlantic Rafting Event

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

Plus rock n’ roll gods, composting funerals, 3D-printed decoy turtle eggs, and good news on immigration laws in Italy, air pollution in London and conservation in Vietnam.

  • Myanmar has become the second country in southeast Asia, and the twelfth country in the world to eliminate trachoma. Fifteen years ago, the disease was responsible for 4% of all cases of blindness in the country. By 2018, prevalence had dropped to 0.008%, and a month ago, the WHO confirmed its elimination.
  • Italy has abolished anti-immigrant decrees installed by former populists, and reinstated humanitarian protection for migrants and refugees. The government has also cut the time needed for citizenship applications from four years to three. “Tonight a wall comes down. Onward towards a country with more humanity.” The Local
  • Same-sex marriages now make up a half a million US households, five years after the Supreme Court made it legal for people to love each other. According to the latest census, there are now 980,000 same-sex households in the country, and half of those are married, an increase of almost 70% since 2014. VOA
  • During the first term of the most coal-friendly president in American history, 145 coal-burning units at 75 power plants have been shut down, eliminating 15% percent of the country’s coal-generated capacity. This is the fastest decline in coal capacity in any single presidential term, far greater than the rate during either of President Barack Obama’s terms. #MAGA. NYT
  • The number of people suffering from air pollution in London has plunged from 2 million in 2016, to 119,000 in 2019, a fall of 94%. It’s thanks to regulations introduced by the city’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, which have resulted in 44,000 fewer dirty vehicles now driven in central London every day compared with 2017. Guardian
  • Greyhound racing is dying out in the United States. Thanks to changing attitudes and the efforts of animal rights activists, 39 American dog tracks have closed since 2001. In the country that invented modern commercial greyhound racing, there are now only seven dog tracks remaining in five states, and within the next two years, those will likely close too. Nat Geo
  • Vietnam has established a new 22,132 ha tropical forest nature reserve called Dong Chau-Khe Nuoc Trong, whose name means “clear water in the ravine.” It is home to 40 globally threatened species, including the singing gibbon and the saola, a mysterious antelope-like bovine with a pair of long, straight horns known as the Asian unicorn. World Land Trust

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1 oktober 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC109: Dawn Of The Heliocene

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

Plus, conscious crows, Curly the Robot, predatory gaming chairs, and good news on electric vehicles in California, parental leave in France and community rights in Ecuador.

  • California just became the first US state to say it will ban the sale of new internal combustion engines, starting the clock on a future that would’ve been unthinkable a few years ago. Automakers now have 15 years left until their products become illegal in one of their most important markets. It’s a big deal. California consumes about 1% of global oil production. NPR
  • The announcement came less than a day after China pledged to go carbon neutral by 2060. The move is largely symbolic given the lack of details. It does however, bring the world’s third biggest economy into a loose but vitally important consensus with the second largest (EU), fourth largest (Japan), and fifth largest (California). Four of the world’s six largest economies now have end dates for their carbon emissions. Bloomberg
  • “When a baby arrives in the world, there is no reason it should be just the mother who takes care of it. The presence of the father is much more important than we thought, much earlier than we believed.” France has just doubled paternity leave from 14 to 28 days starting next summer, and fathers will be required to take at least a week off work after their babies are born. NYT
  • Kazakhstan has joined an international protocol on the abolition of the death penalty. It’s the 88th nation to become a signatory to the protocol, which fulfills a fundamental right to life and human dignity. The country’s head of state, President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, quoted the Kazakh poet and philosopher Abai, stressing the need for “love, compassion, bold actions, deeds and thoughtfulness.” Astana Times
  • Ecuador’s highest court has ruled that communities have the right to vote on whether to allow large and medium-sized mining projects in their areas. The court’s decision follows a petition by the government of Cuenca, a city in the country’s highlands, to propose a referendum on seeking to ban mining near water sources. Mining.com
  • France’s environment minister has announced that wild animals will no longer be allowed in travelling circuses, and that starting immediately, France’s three marine parks won’t be able to import or breed dolphins and killer whales. The measures will also bring an end to mink farming within the next five years. “It is time to open a new era in our relationship with these wild animals.” ABC

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24 september 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC108: The Board Is Your Brush

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

Plus, terrible lizards, sunken data centers, resurrecting the American chestnut, and good news on peak oil, a pneumonia vaccine and a ban on fur farming in Poland.

  • According to notorious latte-sipping, radical greenies, BP, the world has already passed peak oil. The company estimates that, for the first time ever, global energy demand is levelling off and that in the face of stronger climate action, oil demand will fall by at least 10% this decade and by as much as 50% over the next 20 years. Carbon Brief
  • Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has committed to becoming a ‘regenerative company’. Since 2017, it’s cut 230 million metric tons of carbon from its supply chain, and is now targeting zero emissions by 2040, without offsets. The company is also committing to protect, manage or restore at least 50 million acres of land and 1 million square miles of ocean by 2030. Electrek
  • China has lifted over 50 million people out of poverty in the last five years. The country’s requirements are stricter than the World Bank’s; in addition to having sufficient income, China doesn’t consider people to be out of poverty until they have enough food and clothing, guaranteed basic healthcare, access to compulsory education and safe housing. Bloomberg
  • A new agreement between UNICEF and the Serum Institute of India has dropped the global price of the pneumonia vaccine to $2 per dose. The 43% price drop will expand protection against one of the world’s deadliest diseases, forestalling the deaths of millions of children in developing countries. Borgen
  • Animal rights activists are celebrating a huge win, as Poland’s lower house has voted to ban fur farming. The law, which is expected to pass the upper house easily, also bans ritual slaughter for exports and the use of wild animals in circuses. Poland is the world’s third-largest fur producer after China and Denmark, and the ban will spare the lives of more than five million animals. CIWF

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17 september 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC107: How To Print Damascus Steel

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

Plus, silent owl wings, giant mech warriors, big wave surfing, and good news on global inequality, hydrofluorocarbons, air pollution in China and re-wilding in Australia.

  • In the first half of 2020, renewables (solar, wind, hydro and biomass) didn’t just beat out coal on the European grid — they beat out all fossil fuels put together. As a result, the continent’s power sector CO2 emissions fell by 23%. Coal’s game in Europe is well and truly up, and gas isn’t too far behind. Ember
  • Has global inequality in the last two decades gotten worse, or gotten better? The answer will probably surprise you. During the 2000s and 2010s, the global Gini coefficient dropped by 15 points and the earnings share of the world’s poorest half doubled. The reason this feels surprising is that most of us hardly ever read journalism written by people from Asia, Africa and South America. Uppsala
  • In a similar vein, the Social Progress Index measures the social and economic performance of all the world’s countries over time. According to the 2020 report, the world has improved on 8 of 12 key measures in the past decade. 95% of countries have improved by one point or more, and only 2% have declined.
  • A new study in The Lancet has shown that between 2013 and 2017, air pollution in 74 key Chinese cities fell by a third, driven by a 85.4% decline in household air pollution and a 12% decline in PM2.5. As a result, the death rate attributable to air pollution has plummeted by more than 60%, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.
  • The United States Senate has passed a bipartisan agreement to phase out hydrofluorocarbons, a potent greenhouse gas that is widely used in air conditioners and refrigeration. Lawmakers were swayed by a combined push from industry and environmentalists (unlike coal, oil and natural gas, HFCs don’t have a lobby). WaPo
  • Conservationists in Australia have eradicated all feral cats and foxes from a vast 9,570-hectare fenced area at Mallee Cliffs National Park, creating the largest feral predator-free safe haven on the mainland and paving the way for the largest re-wilding project ever to be undertaken in the state of New South Wales. AWC

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10 september 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
fc106 candyflipping into the future

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

Plus, cryopreserved horses, Black Hole Lego, the opposite of cynicism, and good news on coal in Bangladesh, sleeping sickness in Togo, and turtle conservation in Myanmar

  • Meet Wawira Njiru. In 2012, after returning home to Kenya from her overseas studies in Australia, she started feeding schoolchildren. A few years earlier, the government had made primary education free, but the schools had been unprepared for the influx – overnight, 1.3 million children entered the system. Many kids weren’t getting a proper meal, and the lack of decent nutrition meant they were dropping out, making high school and university more unlikely. Wawira decided to do something. She started small, using her own savings and some donations from friends. A local church let her set up a kitchen five minutes away from a school, so children could come during lunch time. 25 were identified, and she found some local volunteers to help with the cooking. Within a few months, they were feeding hundreds, and within a few years, thousands. Her organization Food for Education, is now capable of feeding 30,000 children per day.
  • Bangladesh has one of the largest coal pipelines in the world. Or rather, it did. The government is reviewing 90% of planned plants with a view to finding ‘less expensive alternatives.’ That’s 28GW of coal on the chopping block – larger than Australia’s entire capacity. Another coal bomb defused, thanks to the efforts of  ̶b̶u̶r̶e̶a̶u̶c̶r̶a̶t̶s̶ ̶a̶n̶d̶ ̶p̶o̶l̶i̶t̶i̶c̶i̶a̶n̶s̶  scientists and engineers. China Dialogue
  • Trachoma is the world’s leading infectious cause of blindness. It’s also one of the greatest public health successes of all time. According to latest data the number of people at risk from the disease has been reduced by 92% in the last 17 years, from 1.5 billion in 2002 to 137 million in 2020, and 13 countries have eliminated it altogether. WHO
  • Togo has become the first African country to officially eliminate sleeping sickness, a parasitic disease that’s almost always fatal when left untreated. The achievement comes after more than two decades of sustained political commitment, surveillance and screening, and is part of a much bigger global success story – fewer than 1,000 cases were reported globally in 2019. WHO

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3 september 2020
Bron: Futurecrun.ch
FC105: Rice Cooker Voodoo

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

  • Following staggering losses, Asia’s largest oil and gas producer, PetroChina, has announced a zero emissions target by 2050. This is its first ever emissions target; what makes it so meaningful is that it’s the listed arm of state-owned China National Petroleum. Further proof that a major strategic shift is now underway in global oil and gas markets. Reuters
  • Global AIDS deaths decreased again last year. According to the latest figures from the UN, the number of people who died from the disease fell by 5.4% between 2018 and 2019, reaching the lowest level since 1993. Also crucially, for the first time ever, more than two thirds of HIV-positive people around the world now have access to anti-retroviral treatments. UNAIDS
  • In 2015, Germany opened its borders to people fleeing war and persecution: arguably the greatest humanitarian act of the 21st century. The country now has 1.7M refugees, the second highest population in the world, and the gamble has paid off. More than half are employed and paying taxes, and over 80% say they feel a strong sense of belonging (C’mon Straya). Guardian
  • Belize has added another jewel in its crown as a global leader in ocean conservation. Last month, it increased the size of its Sapodilla Cayes reserve to 1,300 km2 to encompass the Cayman Crown, one of the best preserved reef ecosystems in the region, home to many endangered species of corals, as well as previously undocumented reef types. EDF
  • It’s not just Belize. In the last five years the Seychelles has progressed from protecting 0.04% to 30% of its national waters, covering 410,000 km2 of ocean – an area larger than Germany. 85% of the Seychelles’ coral reefs and 88% of the nation’s shallow waters are now protected from fishing, oil exploration and other marine development. BBC
  • Physicists have managed to create the same pressures found in white dwarf stars – and white dwarfs are dense. Using the highest-energy laser system in the world, they subjected a 1×1 mm plastic bead to 450M times the Earth’s atmospheric pressure. Want to see the word ‘ablate’ used properly? Check this out. Science Alert
  • The biggest commercial rooftop greenhouse in the world just opened in Montreal. It covers an area of three football fields, collects and reuses rainwater, bumblebees pollinate the plants, while wasps and ladybugs keep aphids in check. “We are now able to feed almost 2% of Montreal with our greenhouses and our partner farms.” Phys.org
  • Scientists from Cambridge University have made another breakthrough in their quest to crack ‘artificial photosynthesis’. Previously, the same researchers had developed an artificial leaf but ran into problems. This new device is easier to make, relatively stable, and converts sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into clean energy, wirelessly and without any outside electricity. Independent
  • Say it ain’t so! Apparently Zeppelins and dirigible airships are back after 80 years out of favour, and they’re faster, safer and cleaner. The UK is at the centre of the airship revival, going head to head with France. The goal is to capture part of the $120bn air freight market and displace a slice of the vastly greater truck haulage business. Telegraph

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29 augustus 2020
Journalist Charles Groenhuijsen over positiviteit in de journalistiek:
Charles Groenhuijsen: met positief nieuws kunnen we de wereld beter maken
17 juli 2020
Bron: Future Crunch

Good News you might not have heard about

  • The UN Security Council has unanimously agreed to a global ceasefire, adopting a resolution that demands a general and immediate cessation of hostilities around the world, in order to unite efforts to fight the coronavirus in vulnerable countries. UN
  • COVID-19 is poised to usher in the biggest retreat for global meat eating in decades. Global per-capita consumption in 2020 will fall to the lowest in nine years, and the 3% drop from last year represents the biggest decline since at least 2000. Bloomberg
  • Meet Hasina Kharbhih, whose NGO, has, in the past two decades rescued over 72,000 women and children trafficked across India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal. Ozy
  • This one got swamped by pandemic news, but it’s still a big deal – Congo has declared the second-largest Ebola outbreak ever is over after two years. Channel News Asia
  • Germany will almost double funding for the WHO this year, contributing more than half a billion euros. “We need a strong, transparent and accountable WHO today more than ever,” said the country’s Health Minister Jens Spahn. DW
  • The US Supreme Court has passed a landmark ruling protecting LGBTQIA+ citizens from workplace discrimination. Conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch authored the decision: “It is impossible to discriminate against a person for being homosexual or transgender without discriminating against that person based on sex.”
  •  The US imprisonment rate is at its lowest level in more than two decades, with the greatest decline coming among black Americans, whose imprisonment rate has decreased by 34% since 2006. Pew
  • … and as rates fall, former prisons, jails, and detention centers are being converted from facilities that confine people into ones that support them, such as mental health clinics, community centres and homes for former convicts. FreeThink
  • Georgia’s parliament has passed a landmark democratic reform, bringing the distribution of parliamentary seats into line with the national vote results, and ending the excessive consolidation of power by a single political group. Eurasia 
  • Volkswagen, one of the world’s biggest carmakers, just produced its last ever combustion vehicle at Zwickau, one of its biggest factories in Germany. That factory is now Europe’s largest electric vehicle plant. Next Web
  • California has approved a groundbreaking policy to wean its trucking sector off diesel, requiring manufacturers to sell a rising number of zero-emission vehicles from 2024, a ‘major step’ toward reducing the state’s emissions. Reuters
  • Amazon India has eliminated all single-use plastic in its packaging across fulfillment centers in the country, and local rival Flipkart says it has cut down the usage of plastic packaging in its own supply chain to about 50%. Reuters
  • Germany has agreed to end the sale of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and food containers from July 2021, bringing it in line with a European Union directive intended to reduce the amount of plastic waste. DW
  • Pakistan has just announced the creation of 15 new national parks, expanding protected areas from 12% to 15% of the country, and creating 5,000 ‘guardians of nature’ jobs for young people in the next three months.  Gulf News
  • More than two million people gathered in northern India last week, and planted 250 million trees to tackle climate change. AP 
  • You know those online petitions? Sometimes they work. Following a campaign that garnered more than 280,000 e-mails from concerned shoppers, beauty retailer Sephora has banned mink-fur eyelashes. Independent
  • Following a concerted reintroduction effort two decades ago, Kentucky is now home to the largest population of elk east of the Mississippi. Their homes are the hillsides of former coal mines. NYT

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26 juni 2020
Bron: Future Crunch
Good news you might not have heard about

Good news you probably didn’t hear about

  • Renewables have toppled coal in energy generation in the US for the first time since 1885, the year that Mark Twain published The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and America’s first skyscraper was erected in Chicago. EIA
  • Denmark’s government has approved a new climate plan quadrupling total offshore wind energy capacity in the next decade, and including the construction of two titanic offshore ‘wind energy islands.’ KEFM
  • In the last three weeks, the world’s one-millionth public electric vehicle outlet was installed, Germany made it mandatory for all gas stations to include electric chargers, and the EU committed to one million public chargers by 2025.
  • New Zealand will provide free sanitary products in schools across the country in an effort to tackle period poverty – where girls and women are unable to afford or access sufficient menstrual hygiene products. CNN
  • The GAVI vaccines alliance has raised $8.8 billion to fund programmes until 2025, exceeded its target of $7.4 billion. This will help immunise 300 million more children against measles, polio and diphtheria. Reuters
  • More on vaccines: an agreement has been reached that lowers the price of pneumococcal conjugate vaccines from $3.50 to $2.00, resulting in millions of dollars in savings for both GAVI and lower income countries’ vaccine budgets. UNICEF
  • Lawmakers in Gabon have voted to decriminalise homosexuality, reversing a 2019 law. Sylvia Bongo, Gabon’s First Lady, said parliament had “restored a fundamental human right: that of loving, freely, without being condemned.” Thomson Reuters
  • Just as a brutal killing in the US has sparked a national change in attitudes towards race, so has one in Iran, challenging traditions that have long devalued the lives and rights of women and children. Following the murder of Romina Ashrafi, lawmakers have approved a law to criminalise child abuse and neglect, and are considering another criminalising sexual and physical abuse of women. CS Monitor
  • The Ashaninka people of the Amazon have won a decades long court battle against the forestry industry, setting a precedent that will “define hundreds of thousands of cases on environmental crimes in Brazil.” MPF
  • In 2005, all the waste from Ljubljana, Slovenia’s capital, went to landfill. Today 68% of its waste is recycled, and its landfill receives almost 80% less rubbish, putting it at the top of Europe’s recycling leaderboard. Guardian
  • China is increasing environmental funding to $57 billion this year, up by almost 10% from 2019. This includes a national green development fund, and major new conservation programs in the Yangtze and Yellow river basins. Reuters 
  • China has also removed dogs from the list of animals that can be treated as livestock. While this hasn’t stopped the notorious Yulin dog festival, in the long run it effectively ends the sale of live dogs for food and fur. SMH
  • The Dutch parliament has voted to permanently close the mink fur farms that were shut down following outbreaks of COVID-19, and will close all other remaining farms by the end of the year. Sentient Media
  • More than 45 transportation and energy companies, as well as dozens of private landowners, have agreed to create or maintain monarch butterfly habitats along ‘rights-of-way’ corridors across the United States. Mongabay
  • The European Commission is seeking to halve the use of ‘high-risk’ chemical pesticides by 2030 to halt the decline of pollinators. Reuters
  • Ethiopia planted four billion tree seedlings last year (84% survived). This year, led by PM Abiy Ahmed, more than 20 million people will plant five billion seedlings as part of the country’s Green Legacy Challenge. Quartz

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