There’s been so much loss, grief and heartbreak in 2020 that it feels almost wrong to be compiling our traditional annual list of good news. Things can and do fall apart, and this year it felt like they really did. Amazing as it may seem however, there were also big wins for conservation, living standards, peace, safety and human rights, clean energy, and yes, even global health. The reason you didn’t hear about them is because good news doesn’t sell advertisements or generate clicks, and that was more true in 2020 than ever before.
16. Attitudes in China towards the eating of wild animals changed drastically in 2020. Up to 90% of the public now supports strict bans on the trade and consumption of wildlife, and more than 15,000 people were prosecuted for wildlife crimes this year, a 66% increase from 2019. China also removed dogs from the list of animals that can be treated as livestock, signalling the beginning of the end of the sale of live dogs for food and fur across the country.
35. The WHO revealed that malaria deaths have reached the lowest level ever recorded, a drop of almost 60% in the last two decades. Take a moment to let this sink in: between 2000 and 2019, 1.5 billion malaria cases and 7.6 million malaria deaths were averted globally.
Peace, Safety & Human Rights
44. A new report by the Global Peace Index showed that since 2007, the majority of the world’s countries – 113 countries – have reduced their armed forces, 100 have reduced military expenditure and both imports and exports of weapons have reached their lowest levels since 2009.
74. The IEA’s annual report contained a hidden nugget of very, very good news this 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 in 2013, to 20 million a year by 2019.
82. 2020 saw an unprecedented acceleration in national climate pledges. South Korea became the first Asian country to set a 2050 net zero emissions goal, followed by Japan, and then most importantly, China, which committed to net zero by 2060 – perhaps the single most important development in climate policy since the Paris Agreement.
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For the last 12 months, the global media has been focused on a lot of bad news. But there were other things happening out there too: conservation successes, huge wins for global health, more peace and tolerance, less war and violence, rising living standards, some big clean energy milestones, and a quiet turning of the tide in the fight against plastic. Stories of human progress, that didn’t make it into the evening broadcasts, or onto your social media feeds.
Our media feeds are echo chambers. And those echo chambers don’t just reflect our political beliefs; they reflect our feelings about human progress. Bad news is a bubble too.
“If it bleeds, it leads” isn’t a phrase coined by some cut-throat tabloid editor. It’s a potent truth that lies at the heart of the modern day media machine. It’s time for some balance. That’s why our team at Future Crunch spent the year gathering good news stories you probably didn’t hear about,
We at GaiaInnovations have selected a few of the 99 cases below:
Some of the biggest conservation successes in generation
5. In 2016, more than 20 countries pledged more than $5.3 billion for ocean conservation and created 40 new marine sanctuaries covering an area of 3.4 million square km. Reuters
9. In December, the United States and Canada announced a joint permanent ban on all offshore oil and gas activity in the Arctic. CBC News
Huge strides forward for global health
11. In 2016, some of the world’s biggest diseases, like colon cancer, dementia and heart disease, started declining in wealthy countries. New York Times
17. Life expectancy in Africa has increased by 9.4 years since 2000, thanks to improvements in child survival, progress in malaria control and expanded access to ARVs. Quartz
Political and economic progress in many parts of the world
25. 93% of kids around the world learned to read and write this year. That’s the highest proportion in human history. And the gender gap between girls and boys in school narrowed in 2016 too. Medium
27. World hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years. New York Times
31. In 1990, more than 60% of people in East Asia lived in extreme poverty. As of 2016, that proportion has dropped to 3.5%. Vox
35. In June, after years of wrangling, the drive to end female genital mutilation in Africa made a major breakthrough, when the Pan African Parliament endorsed a continent-wide ban. The Wire
We finally started responding seriously to the climate change emergency
42. The Paris Agreement became the fastest (and largest) United Nations treaty to go from agreement to international law in modern history. CBS
74. The average number of large oil spills around the world has been drastically reduced, from an average of 24.5 per year in the 1970s, to just 1.8 a year in 2015. ITOPF
Endangered animals got a some well-deserved breaks
79. At this year’s CITES conference, 183 countries agreed to the strongest protections ever for endangered animals, with big wins for parrots, rhinos, porpoises, rays and elephants. Washington Post
81. Wild wolves started coming back to Europe, and for the first time since the American Revolution, wild salmon began spawning in the Connecticut River. Al Jazeera
86. Humpback whales were removed from the endangered species list, having fully recovered in the last 46 years. Science Mag
The world got more generous
92. In April, Pony Ma Huateng, the chief executive of the Chinese internet giant Tencent, donated $2 billion to charity. South China Morning Post
93. 2015 was America’s most generous year ever, with charitable donations from individuals, estates, foundations and corporations reaching record highs. 2016 is on track to be even bigger. Associated Press
94. In 2016, charitable giving in China rose to $15 billion, a 10 fold increase from just a decade ago Bloomberg
Read the whole article with all the 99 reasons by Angus Hervey from Future Crunch in Medium.
In radio you can listen to political economist Angus Hervey tells Jesse Mulligan why 2016 was, in fact, a very good year.
Dallas, Texas is about to become one of the greenest cities in America – by building one of the country’s largest urban nature parks. Dallas’ new “Nature District” will comprise a staggering 10,000 acres, including 7,000 acres of the Great Trinity Forest. The Trinity River Park designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates could revitalize a Dallas floodplain into a lush green recreation space.
The Trinity River Park will provide visitors with access to playgrounds, lawns, and riverside trails. The design aims to enhance the natural beauty of the area while minimizing flooding damage in Dallas. Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates said they worked with government engineers to ensure the infrastructural soundness of the floodplain so that the park transforms flooding “from a natural disaster into a breathtaking spectacle.”…
Read the rest of the article by Lacy Cooke in Inhabitat.
The world’s most populous country is about to invest a whole lot of money in clean energy. Clean Technica reports that China is planning to spend about $174 billion on hydroelectric and wind energy projects over the next four years. The news comes from reports from China’s National Energy Administration (NEA) that were obtained recently by Reuters.
To break it down further, China’s NEA is planning to spend about 1.2 trillion yuan, or $174 billion U.S. on renewable energy between 2016 and 2020. That money will largely go towards the construction of new wind farms, the building of which is predicted to provide about 300,000 jobs over the next four years. They’re also planning to put in place a market-based subsidy for the wind industry…
Read the rest of the article by Colin Payne in Inhabitat.
Recent political events have shown that the ‘doom and gloom’ news narrative no longer serves society. A more inspiring lens on the world is needed in order to heal division and empower people to bring about change.
Following the Brexit vote and Trump’s surprise election, questions have been asked about the media’s role in creating social division. Last month, Oxford Dictionaries named ‘post-truth’ the word of the year, describing circumstances when objective facts are less influential than appeals to emotion and beliefs. Our social media feeds have become echo chambers, critics say, and ‘fake’ news is proliferating. And only 25 per cent of people trust journalists to tell the truth.
Meanwhile, Stop Funding Hate has emerged, urging advertisers to withdraw from tabloids that the campaign claims fuel hate through aggressive anti-migrant stories.
But zoom out, and there is a wider issue about how the media has been influencing society.
For a long time, the press has been telling a negative story about human nature and what is happening in our world. The broad narrative that arises is that things are bad and getting worse; that we live in an acutely dangerous world characterised by self-interest, competition and scarcity.
Recent decades, however, have in fact brought much progress globally and by many measures. They include a reduction of extreme poverty; fewer people dying as a result of conflicts; improving health and life expectancy; more countries having become democracies, and falls in violent crime.
Nevertheless, the benefits have not been equally shared. And it goes without saying that problems faced by individuals, communities, nations and the world as a whole – from climate change to social inequality – need our urgent attention.
But, despite the brilliance of so much journalism, the media’s excessive focus on bad news has created a story about our world that distorts reality, divides us and – counterproductively – limits our ability to respond effectively to the challenges we face.
Where the media puts its attention and how it frames the information it selects, is a precious choice. It wields a powerful influence over our individual and collective mind states and it guides our shared cultural story. There’s an urgent need, and opportunity, for a better story about ourselves, our world, and what’s possible…