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    May 8, 2017

    16 Things That Prove The World Is Getting Better, Not Worse

    It's honestly not all doom and gloom. H/T Futurism and Wired.

    1. Twenty-four nations have come together to create the world's largest marine reserve in Antarctica.

    Xeni4ka / Getty Images

    It took years of negotiations, but in late 2016, 24 countries and the EU reached a historic agreement to protect a 600,000-square-mile swathe of Antarctica's Ross Sea, one of the last great wildernesses on Earth. All nonscientific fishing will be banned in the reserve, which is home to orca, penguins, minke whales, and seals.

    2. And Chile just converted an incredible 11 million acres of land into protected national parks.

    Martin Bernetti / AFP / Getty Images

    In 1991, US conservationist Doug Tompkins bought some land in Chile's Renihue Valley. In 2017, his widow Kristine Tompkins formally donated the land to Chile's government, which also pledged to protect a further 10 million acres.

    3. Giant pandas are no longer endangered.


    The giant panda was recently downgraded from "Endangered" to "Vulnerable" on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species; there's been a 17% rise in the number of pandas since 2004 thanks to a concerted effort by conservationists, local communities, and scientists. It's definitely cause for celebration. *does panda dance*

    4. Canada is trialling a basic income programme.


    Imagine you had a regular, catch-free cash injection that would keep you above the poverty line? You could work and top it up, or, if you couldn't work, you'd be fairly comfortable. That's universal basic income, a utopian idea that's surprisingly close to becoming reality. You can read all about the Ontario UBI trial here.

    5. Plastic-eating caterpillars could help cut pollution.

    Flickr: 26138378@N03 / Creative Commons

    One day, scientist Federica Bertocchini was removing some wax-eating moth larvae from her beehive. She put them in a plastic bag, and they ate it. Turns out, beeswax and plastic have quite a lot in common, so these little critters might be crucial in helping us reduce plastic pollution...if we can stop them pestering bees.

    6. And the world's growing pile of E-waste could become a thing of the past, too.

    Bao Lab

    The computing revolution has had a big impact on landfills, with more and more hazardous, long-lasting electronic junk making its way into the world each year. To combat this, scientists at Stanford University have invented biodegradable circuitry built on plant-based cellulose. It's as "flexible as skin", and light.

    7. Artificial intelligence might solve all our problems. / Touchstone Pictures / BuzzFeed

    Many scientists believe that an AI that outperforms human intelligence could be created in the next few decades. Once it exists, advocates say it will be able to replicate and exponentially increase its own intelligence until it becomes all-knowing, meaning it could solve all of our problems in the blink of an eye. There's also a chance that it might decide to destroy humanity, but let's look on the bright side.

    8. America has more trees now than it did in 1920.

    BBC / Giphy

    According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, "after two centuries of decline, the area of US forestland stabilised in 1920 and has since increased." The area consumed by wildfire each year has fallen by 90% as well, and populations of many wildlife species have dramatically increased as a result. Nice.

    9. Jaguars and ranchers are coexisting in Paraguay.

    National Geographic / Giphy

    The iconic, elusive jaguar has been threatened by extensive deforestation in Paraguay as vast swaths of forest have been transformed into cattle ranches. But thanks to a new initiative, conservationists and ranchers have been working together to create protected corridors of forests. They've also introduced a hunting ban to protect the jaguar's natural food source, with amazing results.

    10. 3D-printed homes may help solve the housing crisis.


    Huge 3D printers that can construct entire homes already exist; in fact, Dubai has already produced the first 3D-printed office, which was constructed by a robotic arm like the one above in just 17 days. Also, WikiHouse contains open-access plans that anyone can download and use as a template. The future is here.

    11. Artificial meat production has huge, positive implications for food security and animal welfare.

    Flickr: fabricedenola / Creative Commons

    The first burger made entirely from the lab-grown muscle cells of a cow was unveiled in 2013, and cost over $300,000 to create. Since then, various startups have been competing to bring lab-grown meat to supermarket shelves by 2022, with promising results. Proponents of this "ethical, cruelty-free" meat say that if it catches on, it will drastically cut greenhouse emissions from livestock farming.

    12. And vertical farms are helping to feed the world.

    Sky Greens

    Vertical farming is a revolutionary new method of growing crops in urban areas, often without soil, or even light. The vegetable beds are stacked vertically in climate-controlled buildings, largely fuelling their growth with carbon dioxide taken from the surrounding air. It's a win-win solution; you can read more here.

    13. Harvard scientists have genetically altered a bacteria that turns CO2 emissions into biofuel.


    The genetically modified bacteria can take CO2 directly from the air and, using sunlight, convert it to liquid methane fuel in a single step, making the fuel officially carbon-neutral. You'll be able to drive around all day without feeling guilty.

    14. India's energy minister has pledged to make sure every car in the country is electric by 2030.

    Indranil Mukherjee / AFP / Getty Images

    If they're successful, it will drastically reduce air pollution. Delhi in particular has over 13 times the annual limit of air particulate matter set by the World Health Organization, a level that causes between 10,000 and 30,000 deaths per year.

    15. Stephen Hawking is planning to send thousands of tiny ships into space to look for alien life.

    Breakthrough Prize Foundation

    "Breakthrough Starshot" is billionaire Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking's joint attempt to find extraterrestrial life (or a new, habitable world that could be home to humanity in the future). They hope to use ultra-light nanocrafts – miniature space probes attached to light sails – travelling at speeds of up to 100 million miles an hour, which could reach the Alpha Centauri system in around 20 years.

    16. And NASA says it's going to take humans to Mars.


    NASA recently unveiled its three-stage plan for putting humans on the surface of Mars by the late 2030s. In the accompanying blurb, NASA says: "we are well on our way to getting (to Mars), landing there, and living there."

    So the next time you claim that you "don't want to live on this planet any more", rest assured that it won't be long until you have at least one other option.

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