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? Better work, and less of it

The end of large Ebola outbreaks, the case for a four-day work week, and more progress news in our weekly newsletter.

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. You can read past issues here.

While we’ve been focused on the COVID-19 pandemic, Guinea has been battling another deadly disease: Ebola. Thankfully, last Saturday the West African country declared their outbreak, which began in mid-February, over. With only 12 lives lost, it’s a stunning difference from 2014–16, when thousands died in Guinea’s last Ebola outbreak. What changed? Experience, more modernized healthcare, and critically, two new Ebola vaccines from Johnson & Johnson and Merck & Co, which were donated and used to vaccinate frontline workers. 

Guinea’s story, combined with other recent successes quelling Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, is enough to raise the question of whether we’ll see a large, deadly outbreak of Ebola ever again. “I never say never,” infectious disease scientist John M. Dye told Chemical & Engineering News, “but with regards to this particular pathogen, I believe that lengthy outbreaks will be very unlikely.” That’s just about as positive a response as you can get from an infectious disease specialist, we think. 

Please forgive us, but we can’t write about Ebola without mentioning the infamous maps The New York Times created in 2014 tracking the steps of the doctor who returned to New York after being unknowingly infected with Ebola in Guinea. Let’s call this an unofficial, hopefully soon official, goodbye to that era.

What are the upsides of the staggering downside of the pandemic? (By the way, congratulations to Iceland for reaching herd immunity.) For one, folks are unexpectedly much better engaged with their health. We also really enjoyed TPN Member David Brooks’ most recent column on major, welcome changes the pandemic has brought, including power shifting to workers and a renewed appreciation for domestic life. The piece is focused on the US, but most, if not all, of the changes Brooks writes about apply to many other countries. 

Then there’s tech cheerleader Marc Andreessen—you may know him as the co-founder of Netscape—and his ode to our pandemic savior, technology. The article is not exactly an objective review, but it is uplifting, and this bit on the rise of remote work is worth quoting in full:

“Permanently divorcing physical location from economic opportunity gives us a real shot at radically expanding the number of good jobs in the world while also dramatically improving quality of life for millions, or billions, of people. We may, at long last, shatter the geographic lottery, opening up opportunity to countless people who weren’t lucky enough to be born in the right place.”

Better work, and less of it: a pipe dream or a future that we can help usher in? Now is a good time to remind you that the last time the workweek shrank from 60–70 hours to 40 was another crisis—the Great Depression—and that the conversation about shrinking it again to 32 hours is still blazing hot. That previous link is the best article we’ve seen so far on the four-day workweek, an idea we’re seeing come up again and again as we exit the pandemic.

Two follow-ups on Pride and National Ocean Months: Did you see Las Vegas Raiders’ football player Carl Nassib’s sweet coming out video? He is the first openly gay, active football player in the National Football League. It’s a huge step forward for the culturally conservative sport. And, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will be the first transgender athlete to compete in the Olympic Games. The possibility has existed since 2015, when the International Olympic Committee (IOC) issued new guidelines allowing transgender athletes to compete as long as they met certain criteria; Hubbard herself has been declared eligible by not only the IOC but also the International Weightlifting Federation and the New Zealand Olympic Committee. 

In addition to our new ocean, we also have way, way more fish than we previously thought—10 to 30 times more, actually. It’s just that they were hiding deeper than fishing nets can go, which means that we missed the “vibrant ecosystems” that marine biologist Carlos Duarte, part of the team that made the discovery, says are thriving deep in the oceans’ waters. This is great for ocean health: “This very large stock of fish that we have just discovered, that holds 95% of all the fish biomass in the world,” Duarte told Phys.org, “is untouched by fishers. . . . In the 21st century, we still have a pristine stock of fish.”

Below in the links section, Mexican voters prevent their populist leader from overturning their democracy, we’re getting closer to 3D-printing a human organ, and more.

And before we go, big news: WE’VE FINALLY CURED HICCUPS. (92% of the time.)

Click to watch Paris’ soon-to-be transformation. As urbanist Brent Toderian wrote lower in the thread, What if EVERY city seized this moment of reset & renewal to build back better something powerful and people-focused? Something that addresses their pre-existing challenges, plus everything we’ve learned during this pandemic?” Indeed.

From us: Is humanity winning the fight against infectious disease? TPN Member and Senior Fellow at the Center for Global Development Charles Kenny says we are. But we must continue availing ourselves of the solutions that have led to this progress if that answer is to stay.

In a conversation with TPN Executive Director Emma Varvaloucas, Kenny outlines the immense headway humanity has already made in flattening “the plague cycle” and how to keep it up. Watch the entire conversation or read an extract from it here. This interview is from a few months back, but we’ve just added the reading option!

Progress, Please

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

Other good stuff in the news

TPN Member originals 🧠

Upcoming Events

Future Cities Briefing: Singapore | Ayesha Khanna | July 7
Why Mobility is Destiny | Parag Khanna | October 13

Until next time, how’s the weather up there? 🦸‍♀️👇

Editor’s note: This week’s edition of the newsletter linked to an older study on deep-water fish that we mistook for new. It is from 2014. We regret the error.

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.