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? India is killing it right now
And, some slim silver linings in Ukraine, six months post-invasion
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All about India
Perhaps American activists can take a page out of rural women in India’s playbook. When you want action but aren’t seeing any, lock your local leader in his house until you do. No, that is not a serious suggestion, but yes, that really did happen, in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, according to Reuters. These women were demanding clean, piped water in their homes, so they could stop walking for hours per day to collect it from a main water source like a well or hand pump. By 2020, they had it.
The success is part of an initiative started by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2019 for all rural households to have piped water by 2024. Earlier this month, Modi announced a progress report: 52% of them, or 100 million homes, now do. The scale and pace of the project is stunning. “Nearly 30,000 engineers and officials, and thousands of contractors and laborers,” reports Hindustan Times, “are engaged in a mission that will involve, in all, [the] laying of nearly 4 million kilometers of pipelines.”
We’re looking forward to seeing the project’s effect on public health. Already, the Hindustan Times article says, cases of waterborne diseases “have come down 66% . . . between 2019 and 2021 in areas provided with clean drinking water.”
It has been a week of impressive India news. In addition to clean water, they are also racing to add solar capacity across the country. After a building blitz in the first six months of 2022, the country now has a cumulative solar capacity of 57 GW. (For comparison, the United States has 97.2 GW.) The state of Delhi is also spending big to electrify its buses.
Some cultural changes are afoot, too. On Tuesday, India’s Supreme Court ruled in favor of a pregnant woman who brought a case against her employer when they denied her maternity leave “because she had already taken leave to care for her husband’s children from a previous marriage.” The decision, although not legislatively enforceable, updated the concept of family to one inclusive of same-sex couples, blended families such as those with stepchildren, and other family formations considered “atypical” by the court to have protection under the law as well as eligibility for social welfare benefits.
And, after decades of elective abortions to terminate pregnancies of girls, landing India among the top six of countries worldwide with a “skewed sex ratio,” the ratio has started to normalize.
Some slim silver linings six months into the invasion of Ukraine
August 24 marked six months since Russia invaded Ukraine. Many are wondering whether Ukraine’s counteroffensive to retake its territory might shift the balance toward them.
After an agreement was inked in July, Russia has finally let Ukraine restart shipping wheat and other exports from three of the seaports it has been blocking in the Black Sea since February. “The first”—and much-needed—“shipment of Ukrainian grain to Africa since Russia’s invasion arrived in Djibouti on Tuesday,” Voice of America reports. It will go to Ethiopia, where drought and armed conflict have placed millions in need of humanitarian aid.
These drones are helping Ukraine to avoid the fate of somewhere like Cambodia, where decades after armed conflict ended, the country is still dealing with mines and other explosive weapons buried in the earth that are triggered accidentally, killing and maiming people. Drones or no drones, mines are going to be a problem in Ukraine, but the more it is dealt with in real-time, the better. The drones cannot remove mines, but spot them safely, so teams are able to go in and de-mine an area.
And for The Progress Network, journalist Stephanie Stacey covered the surge in interest to learn Ukrainian since the war began—in the first month of the invasion, she writes, “the number of users studying Ukrainian on popular language-learning app Duolingo increased by 577%.” Speaking and learning Ukrainian is a profound cultural weapon in a country that has seen the use of the language undermined by both Imperial Russia and the USSR, and now again by Russian President Vladimir Putin to justify Russia’s invasion.
The linguistic resistance is both within and outside of Ukraine, Stacey explains. While in England people are signing up for classes specifically designed for those hosting refugees, “in the western city of Lviv, displaced Ukrainians from the predominantly Russian-speaking East have signed up en masse for Ukrainian classes.”
Before we go
Togo is doing the most. It is the first country in the world to eliminate four neglected tropical diseases: Guinea worm, lymphatic filariasis, sleeping sickness, and trachoma.
File this under “things that make absolutely no sense in the United States.” You need screenings and a prescription to get a hearing aid. Many insurance companies qualify hearing aids as elective, though, meaning that once you get a prescription, they aren’t covered, anyway. (Since when did “being able to hear” become nonessential . . .) In the fall, though, you’ll be able to buy a hearing aid over the counter, no prescription necessary, and at lower prices.
This headline speaks for itself. The USDA is sprinkling fish-flavored vaccines from the sky to fight rabies. What?
Below in the links section, plant-enriching bison, genetically modified chestnut trees, regenerative livers, and more.
Progress Pop Quiz
Most of you really liked Secretly Sexy. So, we’re keeping it! It won’t be in every edition, as we continue experimenting, but it’s here to stay. Next up is a progress pop quiz.
Send us your guesses by hitting “reply” to this email. Along with the answers, we’ll publish the names of anyone who gets them all right in the next edition!
- Are American youths committing more or less violent crime since 2006?
- Has current US approval of labor unions gone up or down since 2010? (Hint: it was 48% in 2010.)
- Are suicide rates worldwide higher or lower than they were in 1990?
Fighting with the Ukrainian Language
Six months into Russia’s invasion, interest in the Ukrainian language is still soaring. Speaking and learning it is everything from a show of resistance within Ukraine to a way of welcoming refugees outside of it. | Read more
(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)
Other good stuff in the news 🦬
- Researchers achieve first out-of-season coral spawning, giving hope to Great Barrier Reef | ABC News
- 12 ways the Inflation Reduction Act will benefit birds and people | Audubon Society
- 9 park success stories advocates made possible | NPCA
- US to see renewable energy boom in wake of historic climate bill | The Guardian
- 1,000 new EV chargers to be built across England | Evening Standard
- Where the buffalo roam, endangered prairies thrive | National Geographic
- Wind, solar provide 67% of new US electrical generating capacity in first half of 2022 | Electrek
Science & Tech:
- A new approach to car batteries is about to transform EVs | Wired
- Gene editing could revive a nearly lost tree | The Washington Post
- This company is about to grow new organs in a person for the first time | MIT Technology Review
- This simple kit turns your regular bike into an e-bike in minutes | Freethink
Politics & Policy:
- Germany’s ultra-cheap train ticket saved 1.8 million tons of CO2 | Bloomberg
- The expanded child tax credit kept 4 million kids out of poverty. Can it come back? | Vox
- Two states have passed ‘right to garden’ laws. Will others follow? | Civil Eats
- Thailand is now providing free birth control pills via an app | Bangkok Post
- ‘Ghost guns’ now must be traceable, as Biden rule takes effect | The Washington Post
- Monkeypox antiviral drug put to the test in trial | BBC
- Yelp will flag more anti-abortion pregnancy centers | AP
- Argentine woman’s affordable chemo cap offers hope by preventing hair loss | Reuters
Society & Culture:
- Teachers in New Jersey add climate change to curriculum | NPR
- How a recent court opinion could clear the way for military sexual assault survivors to find justice | The 19th
- Sudan journalists defy military rule by forming first union in 30 years | The Guardian
- Want safer streets? Cover them in art | Reasons to Be Cheerful
TPN Member originals 🧠
(Who are our Members? Get to know them.)
- A shortcut for feeling just a little happier | Arthur C. Brooks
- Why ‘nobody wants to work anymore’ is BS | Jason Feifer
- How the American dream became a political cudgel | Theodore R. Johnson
- We should expect more—and worse—pandemics to come | Matthew Yglesias
- We’re facing another reconstruction. Black women are central architects in it | Peniel E. Joseph
- Is Martin Luther King’s dream still alive? | Peniel E. Joseph
- The challenge of knowing one’s own country | James Fallows
- Would Prophet Muhammad punish Salman Rushdie? | Mustafa Akyol
- What a new Iran nuclear deal could look like | Ian Bremmer
- Why your social life is not what it should be | David Brooks
- Build for the future | Jason Feifer
- Lower black and Latino pass rates don’t make a test racist | John McWhorter
- Andrew Yang says his third party will attract voters who disagree with one another | Andrew Yang
- Beyond GDP: Changing how we measure progress is key to tackling a world in crisis | Diane Coyle
- Stop calling everything you disagree with ‘anti-democratic’ | Tyler Cowen
- The high cost of pretrial detention | Danielle Citron
- What 2032 will look like | Ian Bremmer
- Non-member add: How to raise kids who give back to the world | Kelsey Piper
Department of Ideas 💡
(A staff recommendation guaranteed to give your brain some food for thought.)
What happens on the average day? | Effective Altruism Forum
“I think of this as a bit like a cheat sheet: some information to have in the back of my mind when reading whatever regular news stories are coming at me, to ground me in something that feels a bit closer to what’s actually going on.”
Why we picked it: It’s useful—and I think calming—to maintain an awareness of the fact that we are all basically nothing. In my opinion, this is true about each of us as individuals and all 8 billion of us as a group. We are a blip on the radar. And yet, as Bill Nye once said, “we can understand that.” —Brian Leli
- Why We Need a Philosophy of Progress | Jason Crawford | September 8
- Dent the Future: Curious & Curiouser | John Wood Jr. | September 12
- Global Cohesion & Solidarity—On Food, Shelter & Economies | Parag Khanna | September 15
- The Racial Reckoning of the Third Reconstruction | Peniel E. Joseph | September 15
- Festival of Dangerous Ideas: American Decadence | Ruth Ben-Ghiat | September 18
Until Next Time
Please, no ketchup jokes.👇
Correction: A previous version of this newsletter identified Narendra Modi as India’s president. He is the prime minister.