Points of Progress: Protections for migratory birds, and more

Patrick Dennis/The Baton Rouge Advocate/AP/File
Flocks of migratory birds arrive in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, ahead of cold weather. Communication towers are revamping their lighting systems to prevent bird deaths from accidental collisions.

United States

Since 2016, more than 2,700 communication towers across the country – some 20% – updated their lighting systems in an effort to save migratory birds. The American Bird Conservancy says 7 million birds die each year by accidental collision with flight towers. A change in requirements allows tower operators to maintain aviation safety while turning off the steady-burning red lights that distract birds. A study found that turning off the red lights, while retaining the flashing white ones, can reduce bird mortality rates by 70% and reduce electricity costs. The conservancy is working with some 11,000 remaining towers to embrace these lighting changes. (American Bird Conservancy)

Saudi Arabia

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.

As of Aug. 2, women over the age of 21 can travel abroad without the consent of a male guardian. They can also register births, marriage, or divorce for the first time. Before the recent decree, women could not obtain passports or exit the country without consent. Although this is a landmark win, women’s rights activists who have fought for this appear to be suffering consequences. Activists on trial for peaceful advocacy say they were beaten and threatened with sexual assault during detention. (BBC)

Lithuania

Former Soviet republics are challenging the notion that science is a “man’s world.” The Economist reports that only 19 women have been awarded the Nobel Prize in science – compared with 600 men – and only 28% of the world’s researchers are women. In Bulgaria, Latvia, and Lithuania, science and engineering fields have achieved gender parity, with Lithuania leading the way at 57%. Equal representation in science, technology, engineering, and math fields makes economic sense: The European Institute for Gender Equality found that such an achievement would increase gross domestic product by at least 3% by 2050. (The Economist)

Nigeria

Through the African Clean Up Initiative, parents recycle plastics and pay for their children’s school fees at the same time. ACI is a Nigeria-based organization focused on environmental stewardship and finding solutions to the country’s sanitation issues. Data from 2017 indicates that Nigeria is among the top global contributors to plastic pollution. Plastics often go straight to landfills. And according to UNICEF, only 61% of Nigerian children ages 6 to 11 attend school regularly – one of the highest disparities in the world. Five schools in Lagos are participating, with more than 1,000 schoolchildren enrolled through the initiative. Parents say they can now afford once-neglected items such as shoes and school bags. (CNN)

Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters/File
More plastic is being recycled in Lagos, Nigeria, thanks to the African Clean Up Initiative and local partnerships.

Peru

Small farmers in Iquitos, Peru, are learning how to increase yields and prevent deforestation in the Amazon. Illegal logging in Iquitos is at one of the highest rates in decades. And for hundreds of years, small farmers have prepared fields by destructive slash-and-burn techniques. Now, the Chaikuni Institute is working with farmers on how to incorporate indigenous farming techniques. The agroforestry method requires selective pruning, and planting a variety of crops among the trees, which helps retain soil nutrients and moisture. With a diversity of crops and healthier soil, harvests occur throughout the season and yields are larger overall. (Deutsche Welle)

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