Places where the world saw progress, for the April 13, 2020 Monitor Weekly.

Points of Progress: Tapirs return to Brazilian forest, and more

1. United States

The Pentagon is working to diversify American military leadership by focusing on minorities in its recruiting and mentoring strategies. In January, President Donald Trump announced an initiative to expand ROTC programs at the nation’s 102 historically black colleges and universities. While African Americans make up nearly 1 in 5 of the enlisted ranks, they account for only 9% of officers. Military officials say they are increasingly pushing young officers of color into jobs that aren’t their first choice to give them a better shot at career advancement. Fewer than 10% of young black officers chose “combat arms,” which primarily generates top generals in the Army, as opposed to 25% of white officers, according to the Military Leadership Diversity Commission. Virtually all U.S. combat brigade commanders – a steppingstone to becoming a general – are white. Click here to read more.

2. Brazil

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.

The first birth of a wild tapir in Rio de Janeiro’s Atlantic Forest in over a century is “more than just symbolic,” biologists say. A second is possibly on its way. The reintroduction project, eight years in planning and implementation, is working to bring back the animal to Brazil’s most endangered ecosystem. Experts say the tapir’s return will help accelerate restoration of the Atlantic Forest, just like wolves in Yellowstone and beavers in the United Kingdom. The tapir, a piglike animal often described as a “forest gardener,” plays an important role in distributing seeds through its dung and could make reforestation quicker and cheaper. The Atlantic Forest, which suffered from deforestation, now covers only 7% to 15% of its once more than 386,000 square miles. (The Guardian)

The tapir is an endangered species. A new arrival in Brazil’s Atlantic Forest in January is welcome news for that degraded ecosystem.

3. Britain

A new national forest will run the length and width of Wales at an expense of £25 million ($30 million), the government has announced. By connecting ancient woodland with new patches of tree plantings, the forest will be an ecological network that addresses biodiversity loss and protects existing woodland areas. In planting the trees, the Welsh government aims to improve air quality, build resilience against flooding, and increase tourism. The national forest will be an addition to the 870-mile-long Wales Coast Path that has already proved to be popular with tourists. Constructing and supporting the national forest will be a collective effort among government, communities, farmers, and organizations. (South Wales Guardian)

4. Lithuania

Lithuania now recycles plastic at a record level, thanks to a deposit refund program. Almost three-quarters of plastic packaging waste was recycled in 2017, the highest proportion in Europe. The deposit refund program, introduced in 2016, returns a €0.10 surcharge on drink containers when the empty bottles are fed into reverse vending machines. From there, the bottles go to recycling centers. By the end of 2017, nearly all bottles and cans sold in Lithuania were being returned (92%), close to triple the amount before the program began. The overall plastic packaging recycling rate increased by almost 20%. (The Economist

Hassan Ammar/AP/File
A member of a Saudi female soccer team practices in Riyadh on May 21, 2012. Only recently were they allowed to practice in public.

5. Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia has launched the country’s first women’s soccer league, Saudi Women’s Football League (WFL), two years after women were allowed in soccer stadiums for the first time. Through a string of gender reforms – from granting women the right to drive in 2017 to allowing women to travel abroad independently and ending segregation in restaurants in 2019 – the ultraconservative kingdom has continued a pursuit of modernization under Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Saudi women have only recently been allowed to practice sports in public. The new league is not part of Saudi Arabia’s national soccer federation, according to the Saudi Sports for All Federation, but will consist of regional competitions. The winners will compete for the WFL Champions Cup, with a prize set at more than $133,000. (CNN)

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