Points of Progress: Mountain gorilla population grows, and more

Jerome Delay/AP/File
A baby mountain gorilla is seen in Virunga National Park, near the Uganda border in eastern Congo. Once endangered, mountain gorilla populations are showing signs of growth.

Uganda and Congo

Data gathered in 2018 in Uganda and Congo suggest the population of endangered mountain gorillas has grown to more than 1,000, even as human-made threats to the species remain. Local tourism and conservation projects have helped spur the change, with ecotourism benefiting both the environment and nearby communities. “Slowly but surely a solid future for mountain gorillas is emerging, proving that long-term, collaborative conservation efforts can pull species back from the brink of extinction,” said Anna Behm Masozera, director of the International Gorilla Conservation Program. (The London Economic)

Thailand

Soe Zeya Tun/Reuters
A woman uses a cloth shopping bag at a shopping center in Bangkok. Beginning in January 2020 the Thai government has banned single-use plastic bags at major stores.

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.

Thailand is continuing a campaign to limit its plastic waste with a ban on single-use plastic bags at major stores that begins this year. Aiming for a complete ban in 2021, the country is relying on conservation efforts by the government and major retailers. Last year, Thailand used 2 billion fewer plastic bags than the year before, helping the country drop from sixth to 10th place among the top countries that dump waste into world oceans, according to the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. (Reuters)

Sudan

A set of weirs, or low-lying dams, built on Sudan’s Wadi El Ku river is making more of the valley’s land fertile. That’s allowing former foes to partner through shared work – in one area creating opportunities for 3,850 more workers to make a living off the land. More than a decade ago, the brutal conflict in Darfur was labeled the world’s first climate change war. Since then, the crisis has worsened social inequality and displaced millions. Now, a climate solution is helping mend the ties broken by the war. The community-centered work has also given women, who do the bulk of farming work, opportunity to sit on decision-making committees. (The Guardian)

Worldwide

Danish Siddiqui/Reuters
Schoolchildren ride in a cycle rickshaw through a market in the old quarters of Delhi, India.

Over the past 20 years, life has improved for at least 280 million children. Numbers of children who experience childhood marriage, labor, and violence continue to drop, according to Save the Children’s third Global Childhood Report. In particular, 115 million more children have access to schooling, and 94 million fewer children are forced into labor. There are also 3 million fewer births to teen mothers each year. Much of the change has come in the developing world and is a product of increased gender equality and technological advances. (Good News Network, Save The Children)

Papua New Guinea

An expanding bus system in Papua New Guinea’s two largest cities provides safe transport for around 170,000 women and girls each year. Designed to help women avoid sexual harassment and theft in public transportation – a widespread problem in the country – the Meri Seif (Woman Safe) bus system is a haven for those traveling to work and school. Since its founding in 2014, the program has added 10 buses and five more routes. “When the buses came, it showed us that there are people who are willing to help women and girls in the city,” said Joanna Oala, a member of the U.N. Women youth group Sanap Wantaim (Stand Together). “It gives us hope that change is happening.” (Stanford Social Innovation Review)

Washington

A new homeless shelter in Seattle aims to reduce the disproportionate rates of homelessness experienced by the city’s indigenous residents by exclusively serving Native Americans. Eagle Village, a $3 million government-funded project, can house 30 people – helping ease the burden for Seattle’s more than 1,000 Native residents experiencing homelessness. Eagle Village is considered  “culturally responsible housing,” in that it includes space for community meetings, drum circles, and plans for a medicine garden. It’s also an opportunity to restore trust in government institutions for a group long underserved by the United States, says Colleen Echohawk, executive director of Chief Seattle Club, which runs Eagle Village. (NPR)

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