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.
What Could Go Right? 99 good news stories
2022’s human rights victories, environmental wins, and health and development milestones
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99 good news stories from 2022
Rampant inflation, volatile global economies, and supply chain issues. Protests in Iran and China, war in Europe, and a tense American political landscape. Extreme weather events all over the globe. Britain went through three prime ministers in short order, the crypto world melted down, and we had a monkeypox outbreak on top of the Covid-19 pandemic.
That’s one summary of how 2022 went. As a reader of The Progress Network (TPN), though, you know that there are other ones to choose from. 2022 was also a year of “uplifting human rights victories, extraordinary conservation wins, big milestones in global health and development, and an unprecedented acceleration in the clean energy transition.” That’s how our partner Future Crunch put it in our collaborative roundup of 99 of the best good news stories from 2022. Read them all here, and end up like this guy:
For a preview, here are my personal five favorites from the list:
- After decades of stalemate, the gun safety debate looks like it might finally have shifted this year. The United States Congress took its first significant act on gun safety in nearly three decades in 2022, 45 new gun safety laws were adopted in states, and 95 percent of gun-lobby-linked bills were blocked.
- Poland welcomed over two million Ukrainian refugees with open arms this year. Private citizens spent $2.1 billion on aid, the government spent $3.4 billion, and 1.2 million Ukrainians were granted access to health care, education, and social benefits. Attitudes changed too. Eighty percent of Poles now support taking in refugees fleeing violence and war, up from 49 percent in 2018.
- Covid vaccines prevented 19.8 million deaths during 2021. India averted the most deaths at 4.2 million, followed by the United States at 1.9 million and Brazil at just over a million.
- After three decades of inaction, the US passed its first ever comprehensive climate bill in 2022, containing $369 billion in spending. It was the most significant climate news since China announced its net-zero target, and in its aftermath, analysts started predicting “staggering” amounts of clean energy deployment, with wind, solar, and batteries accounting for over 95 percent of capacity in US interconnection queues.
- UNICEF reported some welcome news on global child mortality. The pandemic did not result in the feared reversal—rather, child mortality has actually decreased to its lowest level ever, at 37 deaths per 1,000 live births. Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and India have all reported significant declines in the last few years.
Make sure to take a look at the whole list, and send it around to any grinches you know who need cheering up. It’s just the festive palate cleanser we need to move with bright spirits into the new year.
Follow-ups on three TPN newsletter topics this year
🤖 Artificial intelligence (AI) experts see the problem of distinguishing human versus AI-produced text, and they’re working on a fix.
⚖️ We’re slowly unwinding the effects of the War on Drugs, from lower incarceration rates to closing racial disparities in the criminal justice system. Now US Attorney General Merrick Garland has “instructed federal prosecutors to end charging and sentencing disparities in cases involving the distribution of crack and powder cocaine.” The Washington Post on why that’s another step forward here.
💻 It might interest you to know that many countries around the world, from South Korea to Israel to Sweden, think that social media has been good for democracy, according to a new survey from the Pew Research Center. The US is a big anomaly, where 79 percent of American respondents think that the Internet and social media have “made people more divided in their political opinions, the highest percentage among the 19 countries polled.” Why the US is such an outlier is a meaty question to chew over.
Before we go
Pair the good news with this slightly wacky, funny, but ultimately powerful list of underrated reasons to be thankful. The first one: “that when cyanobacteria arose 2 billion years ago and filled the atmosphere with oxygen which killed off most species and removed methane from the air so temperatures crashed and the entire planet was encased in ice, this didn’t quite extinguish all life but eventually led to the rise of eukaryotes that turn oxygen back into carbon dioxide and later those eukaryotes banded together into multicellular teams like you.” Totally.
If you miss us over the holiday break, try some of our best-received podcast episodes of 2022. On the What Could Go Right? show this year, we’ve had a Republican and a Democrat come together to talk about why politics is like pro wrestling, Arthur Brooks on the path to purpose, meaning, love, and contentment, and Tyler Cowen on why he thinks that the “world has never been more optimistic than it is now.”
Happy holidays, and we’ll see you in the new year.
Below in the links section, sewer-diving robots, gene-edited hens, media-literate kindergartners, and more.
How to read the news without losing your mind
As the holidays approach, we bring you this “evergreen” read: a five-step approach to reading the news without giving up on everything. | Read more
(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)
Other good stuff in the news 🐤
Energy & Environment:
- The overlooked benefits of real Christmas trees | BBC
- Homeowner associations in Maryland can no longer force residents to have lawns | The New York Times
- Another $3.5B notch in America’s widening “battery belt” | Axios
- New US clean energy investments have topped $40B since the IRA passed, report says | Utility Dive
- What would a climate-resilient Pakistan look like? One province offers clues. | The Christian Science Monitor
- India’s Mahindra to invest $1.2B in new EV plant | Reuters
Science & Tech:
- Gene-edited hens may end the culling of billions of chicks | BBC
- Meteosat: Europe’s new weather satellite heads skyward | BBC
- Can people with disabilities be astronauts? ESA shows encouraging signs of progress | Inverse
- These robots will dive into the sewers, so we don’t have to | Freethink
Politics & Policy:
- Barbados’ top court strikes down laws that criminalize gay sex | The Guardian
- One state is poised to teach media literacy starting in kindergarten | The Hechinger Report
- US Energy Department to spend $3.7B on carbon removal | Reuters
- EPA plan swaps superpollutant for climate-friendly options | E&E News
- South Africa to decriminalize prostitution | Africanews
- Inside Cleveland’s plans to become a 15-minute city | Fast Company
- Trudeau announces $800M for Indigenous-led conservation initiatives | CBC
- Oregon governor commutes all 17 of the state’s death sentences | CBS News
- Congress passes bill to fund police de-escalation training | AP
- Chicago slows gentrification with taxes on teardowns | Bloomberg
- Ebola vaccines trigger durable responses in African adults and children | Gavi
- Moderna’s mRNA cancer vaccine shows promise in preliminary study | The Wall Street Journal
- Newborns to get rapid genetic disease diagnosis | BBC
- Experimental cancer therapy shows success in more than 70% of patients in global clinical trials | Medical Xpress
- More breast cancer patients can choose smaller surgery | AP
Society & Culture:
- Many schools find ways to solve absenteeism without suspensions | The Hechinger Report
- Claudine Gay will be Harvard’s first Black leader, and the second woman to hold the position | The New York Times
- London’s unsold arts tickets given away to ease cost of living | BBC
- US rents drop at the fastest rate in 7 years, per Zillow | Axios
- A slowdown in US inflation eases some pressure on households | AP
- Renewable energy jobs growing four times faster than rest of UK market | The Guardian
TPN Member originals 🧠
(Who are our Members? Get to know them.)
- Cryptocurrency is the Segway of finance | Matthew Yglesias
- A conversation with sociologist Steve Fuller on Up Wing vs. Down Wing politics | James Pethokoukis
- John Adams on composing and creative freedom | Tyler Cowen
- The revolt against Iran’s theocratic regime | Yascha Mounk
- Author Leila Philip on turning North America back into ‘Beaverland’ | James Fallows
- On Russia’s reckoning, China’s vulnerability and US democracy’s Dunkirk | Anne-Marie Slaughter & Ian Bremmer
Department of Ideas 💡
(A staff recommendation guaranteed to give your brain some food for thought.)
A bad year for the bad guys | Vox
In key countries around the world, 2022 was the year democracy proved it could fight back.
Why we picked it: Against the odds, democratic systems, and the people who live under them, showed their strengths this year, while authoritarian systems showed their weaknesses. As Joe Strummer famously said, “The future is unwritten.” But for now, the people have largely prevailed. —Brian Leli
Until Next Time
A soft holiday reset: Ireland’s oldest Christmas carol. 👇