Give me 5... Positive things in the world right now
By Corinne Salt
So, 2019 has been a bit of a weird one... Boris is Prime Minister and has suspended Parliment. The UK have declared that we are in a seriously dire climate emergency, yet seem to still be doing nothing about it. Donald Trump continues to deny climate change as a whole, despite the fact the Amazon Rainforest is burning right before our eyes. So, there is no wonder that we might be feeling overcome by the sense of doom and gloom in the world right now.
The term “Eco-anxiety” has been coined to describe “the chronic fear of environmental doom,” and is affecting an increasing amount of people. The daily news often pummles us with the shocking and often negative occurences in our country and the world. We can overlook the fact that there is a lot to be excited about in the world right now, from scientific breakthroughs to equality advocacy. Whilst it is important to do what we can to fight the inequalities and atrocities in our world, it is increasingly important to find balance and focus on the positives as well. So, here are a few to brighten your day!
1. The ozone layer is repairing itself
The ozone layer, damaged from many years of aerosol usage, has been found to be repairing itself. The ozone layer protects us from the sun’s UV rays, yet aerosols – containing harmful chemicals called CFCs – cause damage to this protective layer. As a result we are more vulnerable to skin cancer, one of the most aggressive forms of cancer. In the 1980s the discovery of this damaging process was followed by The Montreal Protocol, aiming to reduce and reverse the ozone depletion.
Subsequently, governments agreed to phase out the damaging chemicals. Today, we are seeing that the ozone layer is now repairing itself. Head of the UN Environment, Erik Solheim, has said that “The Montreal Protocol is one of the most successful multilateral agreements in history for a reason” and “holds such promise for climate action in future.” The collaboration of science and politics has led to signs of recovery and a prediction of near full recovery by 2060.
2. Female education is getting better
Illustration by Audrey Lee
Female education has been described as “the world’s best investment.” Increasing the number of girls in education has been shown to increase economic growth and help close gender pay gaps. In recent years, we have seen some amazing successes. Since 2000, the number of girls out of school has nearly halved. The number of countries closing the gap in enrolment is increasing and “women and adolescent girls are completing more years of school than ever before.”
The movements and advocates for women in education are supporting and continuing this work. Global movements such as The Girls Opportunity Alliance – spearheaded by the wonder woman that is Michelle Obama – highlight the dedication towards female education and equality.
Female education is crucial in the development of a country, and the sustainability of its societies. Yet, 98 million adolescent girls globally are still not in school. There are a number of factors contributing to this, but the underlying fact is that it is unacceptable and incredibly necessary to do something about it. We have shown how affective advocacy can be, and how the collaboration of committed individuals and movements can have a powerful effect. Let’s keep it going!
3. We are surviving more diseases
Due to the wonders of modern day medicine, polio is now headed the same way as smallpox (currently the only eradicated disease), with only 33 cases reported in 2018. New treatments mean that more people than ever are surviving cancer and heart disease. The herd immunity that widespread vaccination gives us, protects our societies from unnecessary deadly disease outbreaks.
We have seen great progress, for example, in the treatment of HIV/AIDs. At its peak in 2004, the HIV/AIDs crisis claimed the lives of 3.1 million people around the world. Yet by 2017 this had reduced by more than 50%. Today, we have seen more than one person cured of HIV, with the first patient, Timothy Ray Brown, now living medication free for 12 years. It was also recognised by the UN that gender inequality was fuelling the crisis, with many more women being affected due to societal and religious prejudices. Great organisations such as SASA! work continuously with the aim of closing this gap. The great advances in science, and the awareness raised, have made this possible and continue to do great work.
Influenza is another example of the excellent advances science has made and its contributions to society. Today, the flu can be prevented by a simple annual vaccination yet, between 1918-20, the Spanish influenza virus killed approximately 50 million people worldwide (around 3% of the world’s population at the time). It is now no longer the deadly disease is once was. This year, The World Health Organisation (WHO) launched the Global Influenza Strategy to help further control influenza outbreaks in all countries, and protect those more vulnerable.
The amazing work of science and global collaboration is certainly something to be celebrated.
4. We have better global sanitation and hygiene
Illustration by Perri Tomkiewicz
Globally, we have seen an improvement in access to water, sanitation and hygiene. Between 2000 and 2015, over 1 billion people gained access to piped water. In this time, basic sanitation has increased even more rapidly. We are seeing improvements around the world, and there is now a greater focus on sustainable methods.
In addition in the UK, we are seeing more people address hygiene issues that can occur even in the developed world, particularly those surrounding period poverty. Campaigns such as The Homeless Period campaign have brought to light the importance of proper period sanitation for women living on the streets. 1 in 10 girls in the UK are unable to afford sanitary products, and so projects like The Red Box Project supply sanitary products for young girls in the UK. They have created over 5000 active Red Boxes since starting in 2017, and have teamed up with companies such as Always, who have committed to ending period poverty in the UK. These are just a few of the charities and movements doing good around the world.
5. There are new climate technologies
New technologies are being developed that have the potential to help solve the climate emergency that we are currently in. The Centre for Climate Repair is being set up at Cambridge University as a collaboration between scientists to help find new radical technologies to reduce carbon emissions and the effects of global warming. One method is looking at refreezing the poles, to speed the cooling process. These “climate repair” technologies have the potential to more rapidly reduce global warming, especially to be used alongside efforts of emission reduction.
Sensors monitoring methane levels and emissions are a low cost technology to help companies reduce their methane emissions. Research has found that reducing industrial methane emissions is the quickest way to reduce the rate of warming, and emissions can often be controlled by simple maintenance. Fred Krupp, President of the Environmental Defence Fund, explains that “the US oil and gas industry emits 13 million metric tons of methane each year,” and it has been predicted that it is possible to reach a 75% reduction in emissions “using already existing technology.” The technologies currently available and those being developed may help us achieve climate targets more quickly. Now, we just need the policies and the investment from governments and industries to put it in the ground.
There are many great things going on in the world, with fantastic health and climate research and greater advocacy for education. The state our world is in is still not acceptable in a number of ways. Yet, history has shown that, when working in collaboration, mankind is capable of great things. The positives we see in our world right now highlight how far we have come, and “the last 200 years brought us to a better position than ever before to solve these problems.”
We need to be knowledgeable, fight for what’s right, and remember the good in the world too.
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