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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.

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What Could Go Right? Rights and rewrites

LGBTQ wins worldwide, the US approves interracial marriage at record-high rates, and Portugal and Malaysia become vax leaders

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.

Worldwide LGBTQ wins
Wave the rainbow flag high for several recent LGBTQ and LGBTQ-adjacent wins. In a national referendum, nearly two-thirds of Swiss voters decided to legalize same-sex marriage. The approved measure will also allow same-sex couples to adopt unrelated children, among other changes that will improve the lives of Swiss LGBTQ couples.

In 2009, Mexico City was the first Mexican state out of 32 to legalize same-sex marriage. Last week, two more states, Queretaro and Sonora, joined the party, bringing the number of Mexican states where same-sex marriage is now legal to 24. And, while the world bid Angela Merkel a loud Auf Wiedersehen, two politicians quietly made history as the first transgender women to sit in German Parliament.

How close are we to a malaria-free world?
From one perspective, the global fight against malaria has been waged remarkably well. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) 2020 report on malaria estimated that in 2000, 736,000 people worldwide died from the disease; in 2019, the number had shrunk to 453,000. In those 19 years, the organization estimates that malaria prevention and treatment efforts averted 7.6 million deaths. But from another perspective, the results are disappointing. The malaria reduction targets set for 2030 and 2040 will likely not be met. The Covid-19 pandemic threw an additional, enormous hurdle into the mix, and its full effect has yet to be seen. What can we expect will happen now?

We spoke with Alan Court, Senior Advisor at the Office of the WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and Health Financing, for an up-to-date overview of all the moving pieces behind the push to eliminate malaria: innovations in medicines and vaccines, plus what needs to happen to create a malaria-free world and how quickly we might get there. Unsaid but underpinning the discussion was that what once seemed like a pipe dream may now be possible. With the right focus, the pertinent question around elimination could be not if, but when.

The United States becomes less racist
From universally opposed to universally approved: support for interracial marriage in the US has reached an all-time high of 94%, up from 87% in 2013. Although we are, of course, wondering who the heck the remaining 6% opposed are, we are also marveling at how quickly racial attitudes have changed. When Gallup first polled the question in 1958, only 4% approved. Interracial marriage became legal in all states in 1967.

“The last time Alabama politicians rewrote their State Constitution, back in 1901,” Tariro Mzezewa writes in The New York Times, “their aspirations were explicitly racist: ‘to establish white supremacy in this state.’” Over 100 years later, the document is finally being rewritten after voters, inspired partly by the 2020 racial justice protests, gave lawmakers the go-ahead. The State Constitution still includes, for instance, language that bans desegregated schools, and until 2000, interracial marriage.

Let’s also take a moment to appreciate journalist Erika Marie Rivers, who in addition to working a full-time job runs the Our Black Girls website, which collects information on missing Black women whose stories have gone largely uncovered by the media. We have two questions, one silly, one serious. First, when does Erika sleep? Second, do any of our readers know if something similar exists for Indigenous women?

Portugal and Malaysia, vaccination leaders
Gone are the days that only Israel was partying like it was 2019. One of the world’s current Covid vaccination frontrunners is Portugal, where 83% of the population is fully vaccinated. How did they do it? “An overwhelmingly positive response from the public,” says the Financial Times, helped along by the Portuguese anti-Fauci: Henrique Gouveia e Melo, a former submarine commander who became the beloved public face of the vaccination campaign. (Anti-Fauci only because he’s so popular. No shade to Fauci. He was fighting an uphill battle.)

Start planning your Malaysian vacations: Malaysia just hit their target of 80% vaccinated. If “Malaysian vacation” means nothing to you, here are some photos of one of the tourist hotspots reopening October 1. We’ll pause for your reaction.

For our many US-based readers who may be feeling a bit jealous, you are, despite all the—deserved—hand wringing, improving: 77% of American adults have now received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. Rising rates among Black and Hispanic adults have erased vaccination uptake gaps along racial lines, with 71% of White adults, 70% of Black adults, and 73% of Hispanic adults vaccinated. The gaps that remain are now organized around partisanship, education level, age, and health insurance status, reports the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Before we go
It’s a rough time to live in Texas, but a good time to live in San Marino, where 77% of voters just agreed to lift a law from 1865 that banned abortion in this traditionally conservative European microstate.

Skip the ivermectin: a “daily pill” to treat Covid, taken while symptomatic, may be on the horizon. (Regardless, skip the ivermectin.) And, these days, genetic testing and targeted drug treatments mean that breast cancer needn’t be synonymous with chemotherapy any longer.

This isn’t progress per se, but if you’re up for a seriously trippy, mind-expanding experience that doesn’t require any psychotropics, try this.

Below in the links section, rural Indian households now have far better access to clean water, Los Angeles clears tens of thousands of people with past marijuana convictions, and more. 

—Emma Varvaloucas


Data as of September 22, pictured above, shows Cambodia administering around 136 vaccine doses per 100 people. That number has since gone up slightly to around 142 doses per 100 people, as of September 27.

A malaria-free world may be within our grasp. We spoke with Alan Court, Senior Advisor at the Office of the WHO Ambassador for Global Strategy and Health Financing, about the push to eliminate the disease worldwide. Read the conversation here.

In the latest episode of What Could Go Right?, we speak with public intellectual and TPN Member John Wood Jr, about inner transformation and societal change. Listen to it here.

Progress, Please

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Other good stuff in the news

United States:

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TPN Member originals 

This Week on the Podcast

Life has gotten a lot better for a lot of people. But the story of upward movement, while true overall, is not felt equally across society. We see the consequences of that playing out in the US, where tension over our immediate failures, not celebration over our big-picture successes, carries the day. In this episode, we speak with public intellectual John Wood Jr, a national leader at Braver Angels, an organization dedicated to depolarizing politics, about the power of inner transformation to fuel societal change and how a multiplicity of American identities and stories can be unproblematic if we develop a new national sensibility of goodwill.

Listen to the episode.

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Can’t We All Just . . . Be More Rational?

In the 21st century, humanity is reaching new heights of scientific understanding—and at the same time appears to be losing its mind. How can a species that developed vaccines for Covid in less than a year produce so much fake news, medical quackery, and conspiracy theorizing? In Rationality, TPN Member Steven Pinker’s follow-up to Enlightenment Now, Pinker rejects the cynical cliché that humans are an irrational species. Instead, he explains that we think in ways that are sensible in the low-tech contexts in which we spend most of our lives, but fail to take advantage of the powerful tools of reasoning our best thinkers have discovered over the millennia: logic, critical thinking, probability, correlation and causation, and optimal ways to update beliefs and commit to choices individually and with others.

Learn more about the book and buy it here.

Until Next Time

May you learn to walk the fine line between genius and insanity. (Click to watch.)

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.