Points of Progress: Landmark win for indigenous rights, 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.

Dolores Ochoa/AP
The Waorani people took the government of Ecuador to court after the country auctioned off oil-drilling rights in Waorani land without consent.


Indigenous land rights are being acknowledged in the Amazon. A landmark case has granted the Waorani community of Ecuador the right to self-determination, ruling that the government could not sell their lands without fair consent from the community. The government had divided Ecuador’s portion of the Amazon into sections for international auction, including Waorani land. The Waorani filed a lawsuit, saying that they had not received fair consultation throughout this process. On April 26, a regional court granted Waorani lands protection from oil drilling, which sets a precedent for six other tribal territories that could have been auctioned for oil drilling. The Waorani people say that this case protects their rainforest lands from harmful contamination. A Waorani leader told a reporter, “We have shown the government to respect us, and the other indigenous people of the world.” (The New Yorker)

United Kingdom

Marathons are minimizing their environmental footprint. This year, the London Marathon cut single-use plastic water bottles by more than 215,000 by placing water stations at fewer, more strategic locations. Edible water pods made from seaweed were offered as an alternative at a designated mile marker. Organizers aim to have the race produce zero waste next year. Earth-friendly initiatives have also taken hold in the United States: Many marathons now use metallic race blankets that can be repurposed, collect discarded race clothes for donation, and make compost bins available at the finish lines for food waste. (The New York Times)

United States

Atlanta has an innovative approach to addressing homelessness among ex-convicts. Former prisoners often have a difficult time finding housing. They are also 10 times more likely to become homeless than the general population, according to a recent report by the Prison Policy Initiative. A Metro Reentry Facility in Atlanta is the first transitional state prison of its kind; it serves as a place for offenders to live for 18 months prior to their release date. The facility aims to have “returning citizens” leave with a job and a home. It provides counseling, vocational training, and housing support. (The Pew Charitable Trusts)


The Faroe Islands, an out-of-the-way tourist destination, has a new venture: “voluntourism.” This spring the islands pursued a creative way to maintain tourist sites. The islands closed sites for two days and recruited volunteers willing to pay their own way there and help out in exchange for food and lodging. One resident told a reporter that he was amazed at how much was achieved in just two days; volunteers were able to complete 10 projects over the weekend while prioritizing collaboration with locals. “Closed for maintenance” weekends such as this one could serve as a model for other remote destination communities that are looking for ways to maintain their pristine environment while sharing it with others. (BBC)

Faroe Islands close for maintenance April 27.


Overall, airplane travel has become much safer. Air-travel specialists point to aircraft and airport design improvements, better air traffic control, and improved pilot training as contributing factors. Aviation experts consider the most recent plane accidents – notably the two Boeing 737 Max crashes – a “statistical blip.” Injury and fatality rates worldwide are much lower than in the 1990s. According to the Flight Safety Foundation, from 1996 to 2017 plane fatalities decreased by 96%. And despite an increase in 2018, that year was still among the top 10 safest years in terms of the number of fatal accidents, according to the Aviation Safety Network. (The Associated Press)

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