Points of Progress: Saving the Alpuan Alps, and more

This is more than feel-good news – it's where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to end your week.

Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters
Marble is quarried near Monte Altissimo in the Apuan Alps in July 2017.

Italy

Local residents are working to lessen the effect of marble quarrying in the Apuan Alps. World-renowned Carrara marble has been mined from the Apuan Alps since Roman times. But globalization of the quarrying industry has led to overexploitation of the mines, which is destroying mountain ecosystems and dampening the local economy. Now, however, the group Salviamo le Alpi Apuane (Save the Apuan Alps) is closing down highly industrialized quarries and replacing them with environmentally and economically viable opportunities such as farming, tourism, and art. The group has even managed to protect a UNESCO-designated park by shutting down two quarries operating inside it. (Positive.News)

India

Buses are giving women a private and safe place to use the restroom. Public toilet facilities for women are scarce in many parts of India. But in the city of Pune, a company is converting old buses into mobile restrooms that feature showers, toilets, and diaper changing stations, all managed and guarded by a full-time attendant. The company is also working toward making the buses centers of information on health for communities. (CityLab)

Indonesia

Drought-resistant native crops are helping Indonesian women gain financial independence. An ancient variety of sorghum indigenous to Indonesia had almost been eradicated from farming communities in favor of white rice. But over the past few years, an effort to reintroduce the crop – largely to women farmers – is reaping financial rewards: The use of costly pesticides has been reduced, lessening their harmful environmental effects. Although sorghum is more labor intensive to farm, it needs less water than other grains, enabling farmers to adapt to climate change. (The Gaia Foundation)

AP
Maria Loretta harvests sorghum on Indonesia's Adonara Island in May 2013.

Canada

Vancouver is trading out plastic straws for straws made from rice. Since 2018, the ubiquity of single-use plastics, especially plastic straws, has drawn global attention. Calls to ban straws became common among cities, with Vancouver planning to take action. But advocates for the very young, the elderly, and people with disabilities pointed out that wide availability of plastic straws made everyday activities accessible to them. To make the anti-pollution policy palatable to all, Vancouver will introduce straws made from rice, which offer benefits similar to plastic straws but are completely biodegradable. (Daily Hive)

Kenya

A company is converting old gas-run safari trucks to electricity. As countries around the world look to the potential of electric cars for reducing fossil fuel consumption, the company Opibus saw an opportunity for innovation in Kenya. Compared with cars with combustion engines, electric vehicles are extremely quiet – an ideal characteristic for safari tours, where animals can be scared off by loud engines. And by converting old vehicles by replacing only their engines instead of building them from scratch, the company cuts down on waste. While Opibus began by focusing on safaris, it plans to eventually focus on vehicles used in other locations. (BBC)

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