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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 rice scientist behind famine’s worldwide disappearance

Next time you boil up a pot of rice, spare a moment of appreciation for Yuan Longping, the Chinese rice scientist whose work saved incalculable lives from starvation.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

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Here’s a study to take straight to HR: a UK-based group campaigning for a four-day workweek found that working one day less would cut the UK’s emissions by 127 million tons, an over 20% decrease. In other words, we think it’s time to let your boss know that adding Friday to the weekend would help save the planet. While the reality of a four-day workweek sounds too good to be true, there is significant movement around the idea already, with both Spain and Scotland subsidizing national pilot programs and large companies like Unilever halfway through their one-year experiment with it.

Another thing that would help save the planet: transforming the desalination process, aka the method by which saltwater becomes potable. Desalinating water is crucial for arid countries like Saudi Arabia where 50% of its drinking water comes from desalination. The process, however, is energy-intensive—10% of Saudi Arabia’s electricity is used for desalination—and leaves behind an extremely salty “brine” that is pumped back into the ocean, where it can have a toxic effect on marine life. In a few years, however, Saudi Arabia will be home to the first 100% sustainable desalination plant. Instead of drawing water from the sea, “hydro-panels” will draw water vapor from the air to convert it into drinking water, and the plant will be run completely on solar power. While it is part of a luxury tourism project, so limited in its impact, we’ll be interested to see if this technology catches on. 

In a last bit of climate news, the cofounder of Paul Mitchell hair products gets a thumbs up for funding new technology to restore coral reefs, and Indonesia gets another for banning new coal plants.

Next time you boil up a pot of rice, spare a moment of appreciation for Yuan Longping, the Chinese plant scientist whose work with high-yield hybrid rice strains saved incalculable lives from starvation across Asia and Africa. A national hero in China, he passed in late May, leaving behind an extraordinary legacy. In the 1970s, The New York Times wrote in their coverage (linked to above), two of his major discoveries “helped create the Green Revolution of steeply rising harvests and an end to famine in most of the world.” You can visualize that dramatic progress here.

And, a few US-based graphs that piqued our interest lately. While the gender pay gap hasn’t changed much overall since the early millennium, the Pew Research Center found that the gap has been closing among workers aged 25–34. In 2020, women that age were paid 93% of men’s salaries. In comparison, women across ages were paid 84%.

Pew also released new information on immigration attitudes. The share of both Democrats and Republicans who believe that it’s important to have been born in the US and to be Christian in order to be truly American has dropped dramatically between 2016 and 2020.

We’ve written about how the Biden administration’s new child tax credit payments are forecasted to cut child poverty in half. Turns out the US is already doing well vis a vis hunger. Hunger rates have dropped 43% in 2020, an outcome President Biden took credit for but The Economist says is both his work and that of the Trump administration, since the rates began their decline right after the first pandemic stimulus checks went out and food stamps were extended. To us here at TPN, it’s further evidence of a job well done by the US in taking care of its citizens, financially speaking, during the pandemic. We hope it signals a permanent transition.

Below in the links section, adorable Thai dogs are learning to sniff out COVID, a behind-the-scenes look at the hedge fund that shook ExxonMobil, and Glasgow plants 18 million trees.

Vilnius, Lithuania built a “portal” to another city to help keep people connected. The connecting portal is in Lublin, Poland, about 600 kilometers (or roughly 375 miles) away. Both portals are equipped with large screens and cameras that broadcast live images between the two cities. The project is meant to prompt people to “rethink the idea of unity.”

From us: Join The Progress Network founder Zachary Karabell and Financial Times (US) editor-at-large Gillian Tett on June 10, as they discuss what a more sustainable and human capitalism might look like. RSVP to attend our next free event, It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way: Rethinking Today’s Capitalism.

Prisons have been increasingly designed for isolation over the past few decades. But there’s newfound momentum to cut back on—and even end—solitary confinement in the US. New bills, including one already signed into law in New York, are pushing back on this inhumane practice. Read more about the states chipping away at the mass incarceration playbook in our latest Progress in Five Minutes: Ending Solitary Confinement.

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Upcoming Events

Walk a Mile in My News | Braver Angels | June 4
Inside Money: Brown Brothers Harriman and the American Way of Power | Zachary Karabell | June 8
Your World Better: Talking to Kids About Global Progress, Challenges and What They Can Do To Help | Charles Kenny | June 8
It Doesn’t Have to Be This Way: Rethinking Today’s Capitalism | Zachary Karabell and Gillian Tett | June 10
Beyond Who, What, When, Where, and How—Exploring Constructive Journalism | Ulrik Haagerup | June 14

Until next time, let’s all pour one out for Zoom schooling! 👇

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.