Points of Progress: Urban farming takes off in Seattle, and more

Places where the world saw progress, for the Dec. 21, 2020 Monitor Weekly.

1. United States

Urban farming movements are gaining momentum in Seattle, especially among Black and Indigenous communities. This is in part because of years of lobbying by community leaders and city policies that prioritize urban farming equity. This year, the city had already allotted land to 439 new gardeners by July, with 45% going to “underrepresented community members,” and has offered more than $50,000 in plot-fee aid since January. Amid increasing gentrification, the pandemic, and anti-racism protests, these farms have seen an increase in volunteers and support. One urban farming coalition, Black Star Farmers, sprouted from a single planting six months ago at this summer’s activist hub in the city, the Capitol Hill Organized Protest. The group relocated when CHOP was cleared by authorities. Now teeming with life, the garden is helping communities “reclaim their ancestral foodways,” according to the organization’s website. (Crosscut, Black Star Farmers)

2. Chile

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.

Scientists and park rangers have observed a 40% increase in breeding pairs of pink-footed shearwaters on a critical Chilean archipelago, offering hope that concerted efforts can restore other ecosystems degraded by human development. The vulnerable sea bird is native to the Juan Fernández Islands in Chile, considered one of the most threatened ecological regions in the world.

For decades, officials at the Juan Fernández Archipelago National Park have led efforts to mitigate the damage of invasive species and protect the island chain’s unparalleled biodiversity. A meticulous rabbit-culling operation in the early 2000s, for example, allowed for pink-footed shearwater populations to rebound in recent years. But the birds’ nests, which are burrowed in the ground and often contain a single egg, are still vulnerable to invasive rodents, feral cats, and livestock. To continue the species’ recovery, conservationists are building a fence around a vital and remote nesting area, making the shearwater the first marine bird protected under a national conservation plan. (Mongabay)

3. United Kingdom

Scotland has become the first country to guarantee universal access to free menstrual products at all public facilities. In an expansion of a 2018 effort that began in schools, Scottish lawmakers approved the Period Products bill on Nov. 25, requiring local authorities to ensure that free pads and tampons are available at an estimated cost of £8.7 million ($11.7 million) a year. Backed by a wide coalition of trade groups and women’s organizations, the bill is considered an important milestone in the global fight against period poverty. Monica Lennon, who introduced the measure to Parliament last year, said the unanimous vote is “a signal to the world that free universal access to period products can be achieved.” England and New Zealand began offering free sanitary products in schools in 2019 and 2020. (CNN)

4. Kenya

Community groups are using sustainable activities to combat illegal logging and development in Nairobi’s forests. Conservationists say the once lush Thogoto forest – considered valuable for its proximity to the capital – had become sparse as the result of unlawful encroachment driven by rising demand for charcoal and timber. Now, several grassroots initiatives are coalescing to help restore and defend these lands. Local farmers are planting bamboo to help fill gaps in the forest, while young people who might otherwise turn to logging for income are being recruited as tour guides. Older women are also establishing beekeeping businesses among the trees. Not only are these activities environmentally and financially sustainable, but the steady flow of tour guides, beekeepers, and farmers also act as forest monitors, deterring illegal activity. Together, these efforts are helping reverse deforestation, protect underground springs, and increase food security. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

5. China

China will now require restaurants, delivery companies, and e-commerce platforms to report their single-use plastic consumption and submit recycling plans as part of a nationwide effort to tackle plastic pollution. China produces the most single-use plastic of any country, with much of that waste ending up in landfills or rivers.

Tyrone Siu/Reuters
A restaurant worker handles an order in Hong Kong July 29, 2020. Plastic bags are being banned in major cities in China.

The new requirements follow a series of specific product bans, which targeted plastic products such as disposable eating utensils and a kind of agricultural film used to keep crops moist. Critics say the bans will help address the most visible levels of plastic pollution, but that expanding recycling programs is also necessary. (Reuters)


Fuel producers in the Oil and Gas Methane Partnership committed to better transparency toward the goal of reducing methane emissions across their entire supply chain. Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, with a shorter life span than carbon dioxide but 80 times the heat-trapping power, according to some estimates. Recent analysis highlights methane leaks in the oil and gas industry as a key source of overall emissions. The 62 companies involved – including BP, Royal Dutch Shell, and Total – represent 30% of the world’s oil and gas production. None of the largest producers in the Americas, Russia, or the Middle East, except for those in the United Arab Emirates, participate. The partnership is backed by the United Nations, the European Union, and the Environmental Defense Fund. The group aims to reduce the sector’s methane emissions by 45% by 2025, and by at least 60% over the next decade. (Reuters)

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