Points of Progress: Global decline in deforestation, and more
Why We Wrote This
This is more than feel-good news – it’s where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.
Places where the world saw progress, for the June 1, 2020 Monitor Weekly.
May 22, 2020
By Nusmila Lohani
Deforestation has slowed over the past five years, according to a United Nations study released May 7. From 2010 to 2015, the Earth lost approximately 12 million hectares (30 million acres) of forest every year. In the past five years, that number has dropped to 10 million hectares. The new Global Forest Resources Assessment shows forest loss rates are inconsistent around the globe. Researchers took into account major losses in sub-Saharan Africa, where population growth has exacerbated forest loss, but found an encouraging trend worldwide. This is partly due to a significant decline in deforestation in South America, and more trees being planted in parts of Europe and Asia, which saw net gains in total forest area. More forests also now have sustainable management plans, according to assessment coordinators. (Reuters, Food and Agriculture Organization)
1. United States
Charles Rex Arbogast/AP/File
Ida B. Wells’ great-granddaughter holds up her portrait. Wells posthumously received the highest honor in journalism for her reporting on lynchings during the Jim Crow era.
Ida B. Wells, a pioneering journalist and civil rights activist of the late 19th and early 20th century, has been awarded a posthumous Pulitzer Prize. The special citation acknowledges her “outstanding and courageous reporting” on lynchings in the postwar South – reporting that placed her own life in danger and was widely criticized by mainstream media at the time. In the first 100 years since the prestigious award was founded in 1917, 84% of Pulitzer Prizes went to white people, and mostly men. Nikole Hannah-Jones of The New York Times, who won in 2020 for an essay as part of the 1619 Project on America’s origins as a slave nation, said Wells is “the most boss black investigative reporter and one of the most boss investigative reporters in the history of our country.” (Financial Times, The Pulitzer Prizes)
2. Central and South America
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights, located in Costa Rica, held a hearing in January on sexual abuse of girls in a school setting, in the first case of its kind the court has taken up. The case is the result of 18 years’ effort by Ecuadorian Petita Albarracin, who maintains her daughter was sexually abused by the vice principal and doctor at school beginning when she was 14. Her daughter died by suicide when she was 16. Three out of 10 students ages 13 to 15 have experienced sexual harassment in schools in Latin America, according to UNICEF. This case could lead to the first standard for protection from sexual violence at schools for all 23 member states of the court. The case was filed by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2006 after the Ecuadorian authorities failed to investigate Ms. Albarracin’s daughter’s death. The court is expected to rule on the case within a year. (The Guardian, Reuters, Organization of American States)
Icelandic whaling companies have temporarily halted whaling for the second year in a row. Iceland has continued the practice (along with Norway and Japan) despite the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling. The two Icelandic whaling companies both announced a stop in operations for the year 2020. Although the companies’ decision to halt killing whales is largely for economic reasons, it underscores the decline in whale meat consumption and rise in whale watching tourism. In 2018, Iceland’s whale watching industry drew 345,000 tourists, a notable increase from 72,000 tourists in 2003. In 2017, the industry brought in $26.5 million, according to a report by the University of Iceland’s Institute of Economic Studies. (Forbes, Mongabay)
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A rainbow flag flies over the annual LGBTQ parade in Germany, July 2019. The country recently banned gay conversion therapy for minors.
The German parliament has banned the use of so-called gay conversion therapy on people under the age of 18. It is the fifth country to prohibit, for minors, the controversial practice of attempting to change an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, following Brazil, Ecuador, Malta, and Taiwan, plus 20 states and some cities in the United States. Studies show that conversion efforts can increase the risk of depression or suicide among young people, and although the therapy has been debunked by experts around the world, the practice remains legal throughout much of Europe. Germany’s new law prohibits conversion therapy advertisements aimed at minors, and makes it illegal to administer to adults who have been forced, tricked, or threatened into seeking services. (CNN, NBC)
Black rhinos in Africa, an endangered species, are gradually increasing in number.
Africa’s black rhinos are slowly increasing in number, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Between 2012 and 2018, the population grew by around 785 rhinos. The gradual increase is a result of a number of conservation efforts including stronger law enforcement operations. “It is essential that the ongoing anti-poaching measures and intensive, proactive population management continue, with support from national and international actors,” said Grethel Aguilar, acting director-general of IUCN. Poaching seems to have declined in the past few years, since its peak in 2015 when an average 3.7 rhinos were killed daily. All three subspecies of black rhino are now on the rise. Black rhinos remain critically endangered, however. (The Guardian, IUCN)