Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.

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What Could Go Right? The Eradication of Malaria

Could we be on the cusp of eradicating malaria worldwide? A new, highly efficacious vaccine might be what we've been waiting for.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

This is our weekly newsletter, What Could Go Right? Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday at 6am. You can read past issues here.

Vaccines are having a moment, and not just the COVID ones. After nearly a century of trying to develop an efficacious malaria vaccine, one is finally on the horizon. Results from a year-long trial involving 450 children in Burkina Faso show a new vaccine from the Jenner Institute at Oxford University at 77% efficacy. Larger trials are now underway.

The death toll from malaria has been cut in half in recent years due to health interventions like bed nets, but malaria still kills almost 400,000 people, mostly little children, every year. If this vaccine stands up to larger trials, those numbers could be cut way, way down, to the point that the director of the Jenner Institute thinks it raises the realistic possibility of a big kahuna goal being within reach: the total eradication of malaria.

An unexpected effect of the pandemic is that the COVID vaccines’ emergency approval has meant that other critical, potentially transformative vaccines like this malaria one may be eligible for emergency approval as well, meaning that it could be produced and distributed much faster than usual.

Emergency approval or not, scientific progress can sneak up on us with incredible speed. Consider that Vox published an article in early March, accurately based on the evidence we had at the time, that concluded “a highly effective vaccine for malaria is still probably a ways away.” Two months later, and here we are. Meanwhile, there is already a malaria vaccine, less efficacious at around 30%, but still helpful, that is now being distributed en masse for the first time.

Over in Biden land, is it just us, or is it hard to keep track of everything he’s doing? We appreciated this bullet point list from Axios on the package he presented to Congress last night, which includes a few tax-the-rich goodies. As a companion piece, we recommend reading TPN Member Diane Francis’ “The Republic of Walmart,” a crystal-clear explainer on how individual taxpayers are left holding the bag when US corporations don’t pay their fair share. And, we applaud the president for agreeing to release up to 60 million AstraZeneca doses that the US is not using. As we can see with the tragedy unfolding in India currently, it’s paramount that we vaccinate the world, fast. There is no point hoarding unneeded doses. 

By the way, if those headlines about fully vaccinated people catching COVID are freaking you out, here’s a reminder about how to understand those numbers:

Is the world more violent or more peaceful than it once was? Wars, genocide, murder, you name it—the answer is unequivocal, says TPN Charles Kenny. The world has seen a significant, measurable decline in violence.

Below in the links section, West Virginia is paying their youths to get vaccinated (we’re waiting for the Krispy Kreme collab to be announced), plastic might become actually recyclable, and more.

And, before we go, we did want to follow up on last week’s topic of police reform. A national roundup here, and here’s a local success story from Newark, New Jersey, whose police officers didn’t fire a single shot in 2020.

This one is purely for the lulz. When municipal graphic design goes awry: the whole Internet is questioning what exactly the District of Columbia is encouraging their residents to do. A for effort, though.

From us: On May 12, join us for a wide-ranging discussion on ideas—which ones are significant now, which may be significant in the future, and how we can participate in ideas’ power ourselves—with Joan Blades, cofounder of Living Room Conversations and MoveOn.org, and public intellectual Steven Pinker, author of Enlightenment Now and several other books.

Progress, Please

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TPN Member originals 

Other good stuff in the news 

New Book: Your World, Better

TPN Member Charles Kenny has a new book, Your World, Better: Global Progress and What You Can Do About It, written for the smart and engaged middle school student. It looks at how America and the world has changed since the reader’s parents and grandparents were young: what has happened to health and wealth, homes, school and work, rights and democracy, war and the environment, happiness and depression. It talks about the things that have gotten better, the sometimes-intensifying challenges that remain, and what readers can do about them. 

Your World Better is optimistic, but it doesn’t shy away from the considerable problems we face. It is meant to encourage kids to help make the world better themselves, to tip them from a sense of powerlessness toward action, not into complacency.

You can download Your World, Better free as a PDF, or a print or e-version for a modest fee. (Author royalties from sales will be donated to UNICEF.)

Until next Thursday, keep on keeping on!

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.