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? Gen Z, optimism evangelists

Plus, the case for giving birth in spite of eco-anxiety, and an international deal is bringing a huge solar farm to the Jordanian desert.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

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Outside of the developed world, Gen Z is totally optimistic
Turns out Gen Z might not need The Progress Network. A new global study from Unicef found that the respondents in the younger group surveyed, aged 15–24, are positive about the future and see themselves as citizens of the world. (The older group was aged 40+.) Their answers reflected an understanding that the world is on a trajectory of improvement. One 24-year-old survey participant from Bangladesh, for instance, summed up two themes we often bang on about here in this newsletter: “I am very optimistic about where the world is headed,” he said. “The number of wars in the world has decreased, and science has advanced a lot.” 

In poorer nations, where rising tides have lifted all boats, youth were much more likely to expect they would be in an economically better situation than their parents than youth in richer countries: 85% in Ethiopia, for example, or 82% in Indonesia, but only 30% in Spain. And while many of the respondents reported problems with anxiety and worries about the climate, the report ends, “Born into a more digital, interconnected, and diverse reality, young people see . . . a safer and more abundant world that offers children better education, opportunities, and hope for the future.” 

Meanwhile, quite a few Americans and Europeans between the ages of 24 and 40 are wringing their hands about the ethics of bringing children into a world of climate change. Get some perspective, says British journalist Madeleine Kearns—much more politely—in a podcast with HumanProgress on why eco-anxiety around giving birth is “misguided,” particularly if you live in the first world. Judge her “unpopular truths” for yourself, with the transcript of the conversation here and the video here

Eco-peace in the Middle East and Morocco goes solar
Israel needs renewable energy but doesn’t have land to build a solar farm. Jordan needs water and has land to spare. Voila: an electricity-for-water agreement by which Jordan will build a solar farm, funded by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and Israel, a desalination plant. Linking countries together to solve common challenges does not automatically make the world more peaceful, but interdependence certainly increases the odds that countries will recognize war as ill-advised. One support for this theory is that the idea for the project originated with an NGO called EcoPeace Middle East, an organization of Jordanian, Palestinian, and Israeli environmentalists. This news may seem somewhat hyper-specific, but we’re highlighting it as an example of the kind of unsexy things that don’t garner much attention but in aggregate, slowly change the world. Try giving it a mention at Thanksgiving. At the least, you’ll sound very informed.

Morocco is a great place to go for rugs, tea, and exemplary climate change action. BBC Future’s Toward Net Zero vertical recently covered how the country has “made a name for itself as a climate leader” and where it should ramp up efforts. On the previous front: Renewables power 37% of the country’s energy; the nation is aiming for 52% by the end of the decade. It has pledged to reduce emissions just under 20% by 2030, and has a fresh commitment, made at COP26, to no longer build new coal plants. The Moroccan government stopped petrol and fuel oil subsidies in 2015 and used the money to improve education and offer health insurance. 

Before we go, some quick progress hits
The continued development of fast, at-home, and accurate Covid-19 tests—this new one’s accuracy is on par with PCR tests—is only a good thing. Next, the price needs to come down.

Who needs air conditioners when you can cool buildings using lakewater? Learn about deep lake water cooling (DLWC) and salt water air conditioning (SWAC), two climate solutions popping up from Toronto to Hong Kong. 

Nuclear fusion equals carbon-free energy generation. Opinions diverge on whether nuclear fusion could really be workable in the next decade despite a booming private sector. TPN Member Tyler Cowen, though, thinks we’re close enough to imagine a new world: transformed transportation, cheap n’ easy desalination (hey, Jordan!), and many other possibilities.

Whether you’re rejoicing or lamenting the Biden administration’s approach of throwing money at various problems, there is one type of recipient that definitely won’t mind the price tag of the new infrastructure bill: animals. The bill includes millions for ecosystem conservation, programs to help wildlife navigate roads (if you’ve ever hit a deer on a highway, you know that this one is helpful to more than just the animals), wildfire prevention, and more.

The cost of Thanksgiving dinner has risen since last year, but HumanProgress is here to remind you that it’s still cheaper than it was in 2019 and 37% cheaper than it was in 1986. This all means more turkey for less working hours.

And a little wisdom from TPN Member Adam Grant as we head into a few days off: don’t ruin your leisure time by expecting it to be productive.

Below in the links section, Puerto Rico offers anti-Covid lessons, the number of tobacco users falls steadily, new vaccines show efficacy against HIV and tick bites, and more.


We could all use a humorous reminder that some technological progress isn’t all that progressive compared to Mother Earth, where actual reality remains hard to beat. 

Want to do your part to save democracy this Thanksgiving? Maybe leave your political arguments at home and bring a book by your favorite Greek philosopher instead. Solo political contemplation is actually more depolarizing, says TPN Member Robert B. Talisse, than engaging in debate. This way, you might save Thanksgiving dinner, too. Watch our interview with Talisse in full or read an excerpt here.

Progress, Please

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Did you know that masks are also effective against not making your own nativity scene? 👇

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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.