Places where the world saw progress, for the April 20, 2020 Monitor Weekly.

Points of Progress: Ireland will ban certain tobacco products, and more

1. United States

Disability representation and inclusion on U.S. television has increased over the past four years. Among the top 10 Nielsen-rated television shows, characters with disabilities played by actors with the same disabilities rose from 5% to 12% between 2016 and 2018. Shows like “Atypical” on Netflix and “This Close” on Sundance Now are two examples of shows with authentic casting. A report by the Ruderman Family Foundation, which looked at 284 shows across 37 networks and four streaming platforms, found that more than half of network shows and 42% of streaming shows included characters with disabilities in 2018. More recently, the new Netflix documentary “Crip Camp,” which tells the story of the disability revolution in the 1970s that successfully brought the subject center stage, has received strong reviews. (Disability Scoop, The Guardian)

2. Ireland

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Ireland is set to ban menthol and rolling tobacco May 20 as part of a four-year phasing-in period of the 2016 European Union directive on tobacco products. Menthol cigarette companies target younger people who are more prone to start smoking if offered flavored cigarettes, say tobacco experts. The EU directive sets out rules governing the manufacture, presentation, and sale of tobacco and related products with the intent of discouraging smoking. Branding of any kind has been outlawed already across Europe, and tobacco products are currently sold in plain packaging with prominent health warnings. All tobacco advertising, smaller packs of rolling tobacco, and 10-packs of cigarettes are also already banned. The European Commission estimates these regulations and laws will reduce the number of smokers across the EU by some 2.4 million. (Euronews, The Irish Times

3. Russia

Anton Vaganov/Reuters/File
Activists attend the Global Climate Strike in St. Petersburg, Russia, Sept. 20, 2019. The country’s government plans to address climate change.

Russia, for the first time, has announced a long-term, low-carbon development plan. The world’s fifth-largest emitter of greenhouse gases (after China, the U.S., the EU, and India) is showing political and economic motivation to curb climate change. According to the plan, Russia pledges to cut emissions by a third by 2030 from its 1990 level. The plan also aims to cut emissions by 48% by 2050, becoming carbon-neutral by the end of the century. Although climate experts say Russia’s strategy is not aggressive enough, it does show new willingness to address climate change concerns from one of the world’s biggest suppliers of fossil fuels. Russia officially joined the Paris Agreement in September 2019. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

4. Pakistan

Use of the hydraulic ram, a pump that doesn’t require electricity or fuel to operate, is turning barren land green in Pakistan. The inexpensive and eco-friendly pumps harness pressure from fast-flowing water to drive water uphill and deliver it to mountaintop crops, where irrigation was not previously possible. The pumps were installed two years ago under a project led by the International Center for Integrated Mountain Development. The positive results could be key in helping Pakistan’s mountain communities adapt to climate change-induced droughts and floods, say experts. So far, the pumps have revived about 60 acres of barren land and benefited 300 households. The United Nations Development Program has given Pakistan additional funding to install 20 more hydro-ram pumps in 12 villages. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

5. South Africa

Melanie Stetson Freeman/Staff/File
Dudu Duru harvests crops in one of the urban gardens at Victoria Yards, a multiuse complex under development in Johannesburg, on March 2, 2018.

A growing number of urban farms are taking root in Johannesburg, South Africa’s largest city. More than 40% of its population of 4.4 million is deemed food-insecure. Vegetable gardens are sprouting in schoolyards, outside clinics and churches, across rooftops, and in backyards. Not only are urban farmers using their land to grow food and feed their community, but they are also helping to introduce green spaces in areas known for high crime. “We may not have money, but we have land and food. And to garden here is our therapy,” said Refiloe Molefe, an urban farmer for 10 years. There are about 300 urban farms in Johannesburg. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)


Goddard Space Flight Center/NASA/AP
The purple and blue colors indicate the lowest concentration of ozone; yellow and red, the highest in this South Pole image of Earth captured Oct. 20, 2019. The ozone hole is at its smallest since it was detected in 1985.

Recent evidence shows that efforts to repair the hole in the ozone layer are helping the southern jet stream to return to a normal state. The southern jet stream is a powerful wind that shapes weather patterns and ocean currents in the Southern Hemisphere, affecting South America, East Africa, and Australia. Up until 2000, the jet stream had been shifting from its course as a result of ozone layer depletion. Scientists and experts credit the reversal to the Montreal Protocol of 1989, an international treaty to phase out chemicals that damage the ozone layer. Last September, satellite images showed the ozone hole’s annual peak had shrunk to 63.3 million square miles, the smallest extent since 1982. (The Guardian, Nature)

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article’s headline referred incorrectly to the content.

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