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.


What Could Go Right? America ain’t so bad

Dropping emissions, free diapers, and tiny homes for veterans are just a handful of good things happening in the United States right now.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

This is our weekly newsletter, What Could Go Right? Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday at 6am ET. You can read past issues here.

America ain’t so bad

On a spectrum of how Americans feel about the country, where unmitigated sunniness would lie on one end and utter despair on the other, we seem to frequently land, if not on despair, at least on the worse side of grumpiness. When really in the grand scheme of things we’re doing all right.

We are amongst the highest reporters of life satisfaction, and we have some money to burn, too:

Sometimes we need reminders that there is a lot of positive action going on despite all the noise. In that spirit, while we’re a little late for the Fourth of July, here are a few things that have gone right in the United States recently.

Emissions drop: The US’ emissions are down five percent in the first five months of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022. Taking into account the rest of the world, global emissions were, overall, 0.3 percent higher.

Chart: Carbon Brief

The Jersey shore wind: The Danes are coming to New Jersey to build the US’ largest offshore wind farm, the third offshore wind farm to be approved by the Biden administration. Ocean Wind 1 will provide enough electricity to power 380,000 homes and is even larger than Vineyard Wind, the offshore wind farm currently being built near Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. It is expected to be operational by late 2024 or early 2025. This is what the turbines will look like from the Jersey Shore.

Chemical weapons destroyed: Last week the US finished eliminating its chemical weapons stockpile, an agreement that took effect in 1997 for the US and 192 other countries under the Chemical Weapons Convention. These weapons were rockets carrying what you may know as sarin gas as well as other chemical agents, first used in World War I. 

Tiny homes for veterans: Tens of thousands of veterans lack permanent housing. One solution is tiny home villages, communities of “tiny homes” where the houses are under 400 square feet. The House of Representatives is currently considering a bill for a $100 million investment to build more of these communities for veterans, which would include job and financial training as well as mental health support for the residents.

The Noyer XL tiny home by Minimaliste | Photo: Operation Tiny Home

Education evolution: Indiana is one of the last US holdouts where parents at public schools must pay for textbooks and other curricular materials, even iPads. This coming school year, however, will be the first in which Indiana schools will be barred from charging families such fees, after one plucky district in the state set an example. 

Pro-family policy gets popular: Nineteen states now exempt diapers from taxation. A substantial chunk of those are new additions, coming in 2022 and 2023 after the rollback of abortion rights, when red states became more open to adopting pro-family policies. (An additional five states don’t charge sales tax at all.)

In Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee has “proposed a program that would cover half the cost of diapers during the first two years of a baby’s life for children on TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program,” reports The 19th.

Chart: National Diaper Bank Network

And pro-birth control: Last week Arizona became the latest state, joining 12 others, where women over 18 years old can obtain birth control without a prescription. The bill passed in 2021 with bipartisan support, and is now in effect. 

School safety risk: I appreciated this reminder from The Progress Network (TPN) Member Isaac Saul in response to a reader question in his newsletter that asked whether it’s safe for American parents to send their kids to school, given mass shootings.

“The odds that an American child will die in a mass shooting at a school are roughly 10 million to 1. That is pretty much on par with being killed in an earthquake or struck by lightning,” Saul wrote.

All Americans would like to see mass shootings end. But let’s evaluate their risk sensibly when it comes to making decisions around our children’s education.

Extra reading: Joe Scarborough of Morning Joe celebrates America’s recent achievements (🔒) in a Fourth of July essay for The Atlantic.

Quick hits

  • Tweaking agricultural soil to store more carbon could remove 31 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year, research says. It would be a significant boost toward reaching climate goals if it can be done.
  • Bad information abounds on social media, but so does good information. Meet the (legitimate) OB-GYNs of TikTok, some of whom have millions of followers.
  • Twelve African countries will receive 18 million doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine. This will save a lot of lives.
  • Aspiring progress intellectuals, here is your chance to sharpen your writing chops and your thinking under the tutelage of big-name advisors. The Roots of Progress, founded by TPN Member Jason Crawford, has just launched its first blog-building intensive. Learn more here.

Correction: Last week’s newsletter on 2023’s animal comebacks confused the beaver population numbers of England with those of Europe. According to the Beaver Trust, there are about 550 beavers in England. There are over a million across Europe.

Below in the links section, the return of the giraffes, helping the blind to see, upending ancient gender roles, and more.

Human rights are much better protected around the world today than they once were. The chart above—from Our World in Data’s new page on human rights, which includes more than 50 interactive charts in all—shows the staggering increase in the universal right to vote over time. The only countries without universal voting rights today are Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Somalia.

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:


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.)

Rage against the machineThe Free Press
Technology is our new god. What would a refusal to worship look like? Paul Kingsnorth offers a vision of resistance.

Why we picked it: Humans default to making additive changes to solve problems, even when making subtractive changes is the more efficient solution. Adopting a personal practice of “tech-asceticism,” as Kingsnorth calls it, is a subtractive change that I think is at least worth considering (and considering often) in relation to AI, social media, smartphones, the internet, and all other new and evolving tech. The opposing view is worth a thought, too, of course. —Brian Leli

Until Next Time

Energy-generating metro turnstiles? Check. 🚇

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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.