Points of Progress: Cuyahoga River, Israel's water, 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.

Before picture: Firefighters extinguish flames from the oil-laden Cuyahoga River in Cleveland in 1969.
After picture: The city of Cleveland celebrates the 50-year revival of the Cuyahoga River May 28.

United States

The Cuyahoga River in Cleveland is thriving. Fifty years ago, a news photo of the river on fire sparked a nationwide conversation about how humans were hurting the environment. Since then, the river that once oozed has become a home for fish that are safe to eat. Cleanup efforts have also helped transform the state’s image: Ohio’s tourism bureau announced in March that for the past eight years, the state has had an annual increase of 550,000 visitors. (The New York Times)


Israel has long helped other areas cope with drought through water technology innovations. By 2030, the United Nations predicts that half of the world’s population will face severe water shortages unless water consumption habits are radically changed. Israel already produces half of its water through desalination plants that pull water from the Mediterranean and make it potable for residential or commercial use. Almost all water is then recycled for agricultural use. California and India have been taking notes, and collaborations are underway. Experts say that fundamental changes in water consumption are still necessary regardless of these innovations, and the process for putting them into practice is lengthy. Proper storage of the salty byproduct of desalination known as brine has also been problematic. (Quartz)


This year, the Amazon rainforest in Colombia’s Magdalena Valley was added to the El Paujil reserve. Once rich in biodiversity, the area lost more than 90% of its original forest cover from deforestation. Habitats for endangered species were destroyed, but the reserve’s new protected status ensures habitat conservation and restoration. Other areas of the reserve have already seen resurgence of wildlife that had been considered eradicated, and conservationists hope the newly added Magdalena Valley will undergo similar renewal. (Mongabay)


Teenagers are teaching younger children how to be tech savvy. As the number of kids with smartphones increases, the need for digital literacy and online safety becomes more pressing. And since the digital age is just as new for adults as it is for children, German authorities decided to turn to older students for their experience. Peer-to-peer mentoring programs are now established in 11 out of 16 German states. Instead of schools banning cellphones entirely, teachers see the program as an effective way to address the unavoidable presence of them in students’ lives. (The Associated Press)


The continent is leading the way with 34 national plastic bag bans. Since burning waste in Africa is common practice, toxic fumes emitted from burning plastic have become a problem. The United Nations reports that plastic bag bans are an effective way to reduce such pollution. The bag bans, along with bans on other nonbiodegradable plastics, have also helped African cities clear up often-clogged drainage systems, and a National Geographic reporter said that Kenya’s capital has become “visibly cleaner.” (National Geographic)

A man in Nairobi, Kenya, shows off his reusable shopping bag after plastic bags were banned in August 2017.
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