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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.


What Could Go Right? Three mega-trends

Solar and electric vehicles keep the 1.5C warming goal in reach, the US continues to decarcerate, and Britain goes secular.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

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What Could Go Right?, the podcast, returns for Season 5 on October 4th. Co-hosted by The Progress Network’s founder, Zachary Karabell, and me, Emma Varvaloucas, we have an exciting season planned with guests like clean energy entrepreneur Jigar Shah, writer Rebecca Solnit, and Harvard University’s first female president, Drew Gilpin Faust. Plus we discuss underreported good news every week. Subscribe on your favorite podcast player here. It’s free!

Three mega-trends

The world is always changing, bit by bit and sometimes all at once. This week, we take a bird’s-eye view of three mega-trends affecting large numbers of people: social attitudes in Britain, decarceration in the United States, and the global climate transition. Read all three or skip to the one you care about most!

Britain goes secular
For 40 years, the National Centre for Social Research, the largest independent and nonprofit social research organization in the United Kingdom, has been tracking British attitudes toward social and moral issues. In their latest report, they say that these have undergone such a “profound, long-term, secular change” that “Britain now looks and feels like a different country.”

For example:

  • In 1983, 50 percent of respondents said that sexual relationships between adults of the same gender were “always wrong.” Now just 9 percent express that view.
  • 76 percent say that the law should allow an abortion if the woman decided on her own that she does not want to have the child, up from 37 percent in 1983. 
  • In 1987, 48 percent agreed that “a man’s job is to earn money, a woman’s job is to look after the home and family.” Now, only 9 percent agree.

Attitudes toward transgender rights have reversed sharply in recent years, however: 30 percent now say that a transgender person should be allowed to have the sex on their birth certificate changed if they want, down from 53 percent in 2019. 

The report puts down these massive changes to “generational turnover.” Each new generation is more liberal than the one before.

Attitudes around politics, economics, and the role of the state were more cyclical, reflecting rising concerns about poverty and the ability to move up in society. There is a lot more in the report here.  

Do we have any British readers? Send in your thoughts by clicking “reply.”

The US continues to decarcerate
The US’ harsh criminal justice landscape is well known; we are a world leader when it comes to incarceration rates. Recently, however, our criminal justice footprint has been shrinking, per a new report from the Council on Criminal Justice

From peaks in the 1980s and 90s, violent and property crimes are both down:

Accordingly, so are arrests, incarceration rates, and the number of people on probation and parole. In 2008, we incarcerated 1 in every 100 adults, for instance. That is down to 1 in 147 in 2021. 

The changes in juvenile justice in particular are astonishing. Arrest rates have dropped dramatically from a peak in 1996, in all offense types (violent, property, drug, and other).

These declines are similar across race, too, with overall arrest rates in 2020 beginning to converge across white, black, Native, and Asian Americans. 

We are also holding far fewer juveniles as adults in local jails and in state and federal prisons. The first juveniles held in jail as adults—3,300 of them—were reported in 1993. That number fell to 1,700 in 2021. In state and federal prisons, almost 4,000 juveniles were being held as adults in 2000, but only 292 in 2021.

President and CEO of the Council on Criminal Justice, Adam Gelb, wrote a summary for USA Today that also highlights the importance, as a society, of acknowledging this progress. The full report is here.

The world reaches for 1.5 warming target
In 2021, The International Energy Agency (IEA) released their roadmap to net zero by 2050, outlining a path forward for what needs to be done in the global energy sector to keep the 1.5 Celsius of warming goal in reach. They have just released a 2023 update that takes into account the clean energy boom that has occurred since. 

The big picture, as IEA’s Executive Director Fatih Birol wrote on X, is that the path to 1.5C has narrowed, but the “staggering growth of clean energy technologies” is “keeping it open.”

Global emissions reached a new high in 2022, 1 percent above their pre-pandemic level. They should peak this decade. The IEA forecasts that even without any new climate policies, fossil fuel—coal, oil, and natural gas—demand will also peak this decade. The report calls this “encouraging, but not nearly enough for the 1.5 Celsius goal.”

There has been rapid installation of renewable energy like solar and wind. If already set policy is followed, advanced economies and China are on track to achieve 85 percent of their needed contribution by 2030, says the IEA. Developing economies need more support.

The really great news is that two pieces of the puzzle—the trajectory of solar installation and electric vehicle adoption—are in line with what the IEA’s 2021 report recommended.

But many other pieces are not. The report’s three key suggestions for keeping the 1.5C dream alive are tripling renewable capacity, doubling energy efficiency, and cutting methane emissions by 75 percent by 2030.

Quick hits

  • From our friends at the newsletter Future Crunch: “Uganda just released its national health survey. Fertility rates are down, contraceptive use is up, nine in ten women now give birth accompanied by skilled attendants, child mortality has almost halved in the last decade, childhood stunting rates have fallen by a quarter, maternal mortality has halved, and a majority of children now receive all basic vaccinations.”
  • Texas’ city with the most refugees per capita, Amarillo, is launching an AI chatbot that will function like a “311” and speak 62 different languages. 
  • Post the Black Lives Matter protests, 94 percent of new jobs in the US’ biggest public companies went to people of color.

Below in the links section, Tesla’s “gigacasting” breakthrough, the world’s first humanoid robot factory, AI-translated podcaster voices, and more.

An image of the northern lights
Now is the time to book that vacation to Norway! If the trend of increased sunspot observations continues, NBC News reports, scientists predict that “the next 18 months will bring the strongest northern lights activity of both the coming decade and the past 20 years, with the show being viewable more often and from more places on Earth.” | Photo: Jon Anders Dalan

“What Could Go Right?” Season 5

An image showing the "What Could Go Right?" podcast logo and a banner reading "Season 5"

Negative news can be overwhelming, but it’s important to question whether it accurately reflects our world. Join “What Could Go Right?” to hear positive stories from various experts and challenge the negative narrative. Let’s strive for a more balanced view of what’s happening today. Season 5 begins October 4th. | Listen to the trailer

Progress, Please

(Found good news? Tweet at us @progressntwrk or email.)

Other good stuff in the news 🐆

Energy & Environment:

Public Health:

Science & Tech:

Politics & Policy:

Society & Culture:


TPN Member originals 🧠

(Who are our Members? Get to know them.)

Department of Ideas 💡
(A staff recommendation guaranteed to give your brain some food for thought.)

The children leaving the MafiaBBC
How should the state protect children raised in organized crime families? Italian courts are tackling this thorny issue.

Why we picked it: A fascinating read on a controversial topic I had never heard about before. Should the Italian government remove children from Mafia homes when certain extreme conditions—like involving their kids in crime—are present? —Emma Varvaloucas

Until Next Time

Reading horse, library rat, ink drinker—see this thread for more names for bookworms around the world. 📖 🪱

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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.