Home » Island hopping: LGBTQ+ rights in the Caribbean, climate funds in Indonesia

Island hopping: LGBTQ+ rights in the Caribbean, climate funds in Indonesia


1. United States

A potential remedy to the problem of some “forever chemicals” lies in two naturally occurring soil bacteria. Scientists at the University of California, Riverside found that the bacteria are able to cleave the strong carbon-chlorine bonds of a subgroup of per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, which then leads to further breakdown of the chemicals. Since the 1940s, PFAS compounds have been used in consumer products for their resistance to water, heat, and lipids. Evidence of their negative health and environmental impacts has accumulated since.

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on In our progress roundup, recognition comes to communities that often struggle for it. In the Caribbean, more LGBTQ+ people gain rights to privacy. And in Indonesia, direct climate funding for local groups signals the importance of Indigenous knowledge.
In March the Environmental Protection Agency proposed its first national drinking-water standard to limit six specific PFAS. This past January, five European countries took the first step toward banning all PFAS, which if passed would be the largest ever substances ban in Europe.
Joshua A. Bickel/AP
A PFAS test is conducted at the Environmental Protection Agency Center for Envi- ronmental Solutions and Emergency Response.
While the two bacteria can’t address PFAS that don’t contain chlorine, “now, we know who they are,” said Professor Yujie Men, a co-author of the paper. “We can use the pure cultures to further understand the degradation mechanisms, which enzymes are involved, and whether we can manipulate or modify those to make them better.” Sources: University of California, Riverside; Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment

2. Caribbean

After three court decisions across the Caribbean in the past year, only six countries in the Americas still criminalize same-sex relations. While the laws promising lengthy imprisonment are rarely enforced, advocates say that their persistence exposes LGBTQ+ people to discrimination and violence, and that the human right to privacy is violated by these laws. In December, Barbados became the latest country in the region to make reforms. The United Kingdom had decriminalized sodomy by 1982, but its former colonies bore its earlier influence even after independence. Legal cases are pending in Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In the region, only Guyana has no LGBTQ+ rights challenge in progress. Nearly a decade ago, activists began working on the Caribbean’s anti-LGBTQ+ laws. In 2016, the Supreme Court in Belize ruled unconstitutional the criminal code against same-sex relations. “That created a starting point for the entire region,” said Téa Braun of Human Dignity Trust. “It demonstrated that the courts are an effective vehicle for challenging this type of discriminatory law.” Sources: Human Dignity Trust, Eastern Caribbean Alliance for Diversity and Equality, Xtra Magazine, Bloomberg

3. Spain

A village in Spain is adapting to climate change by fostering a culture of innovation. About 8,000 people live in La Almunia de Doña Godina, which was named a “city of science and innovation” in 2022 by the Spanish government. The village has its own public university focused on engineering and research. One recent graduate had designed a machine that could make wastewater treatment more efficient. He now works for the water plant. “Life is better in a village if you are able to find a job with a high level of satisfaction,” says Jesús Sancho. A local startup converts methane from hen droppings into biomethane that could power farm vehicles. Hen droppings are also redistributed for use as fertilizer. When electricity prices were driven up by the war in Ukraine, fruit farmers began installing solar-powered pumps to water their orchards. Inspired by the farmers, Mayor Gracia Blanco initiated a communal solar system atop municipal roofs so families lacking space to install their own panels could buy into a solar grid. And at the local preschool, the underfloor heating is solar powered. “The children like to touch the floor and lie down,” says teacher María José Díaz. Source: The New York Times

4. Indonesia

Indonesia’s Indigenous peoples and local communities (IPLCs) will get millions of dollars in funding to address climate change. The $3 million Nusantara Fund launched in May, with the goal of raising $20 million over the first five years to finance locally driven climate initiatives.
Garry Lotulung/NurPhoto/AP
Byak Karon Tribe members in Indonesia prepare for a festival in Emaos village, March 23, 2023.
The fund is backed by international philanthropies, including the Ford Foundation. It will be managed in partnership with three organizations on the ground: AMAN, which represents 20 million Indonesians; KPA, the country’s largest agrarian reform organization; and WALHI, Indonesia’s largest environmental group. They will prioritize establishing education centers, mapping Indigenous land, registering land ownership rights, restoring degraded regions, and developing the economy based on sustainable use of natural resources. In one of eight villages served by the fund’s pilot phase, coffee farmer Asep Rohimat has switched to organic fertilizers, boosted yields, and found higher prices for his arabica beans. The United Nations estimates 80% of the world’s biodiversity is managed and protected by IPLCs – yet they receive less than 1% of foreign aid to address climate change. Indonesia is one of 17 species-rich “megadiverse” countries, which are considered vital to protect. Sources: Context, Ford Foundation


Global suicide rates dropped by a third in the last three decades. Large declines occurred in India (15%) and China (over 60%) – the two most populous countries. Experts attribute much of the decline to “means restriction”: reduced access to suicide methods. In China, for instance, economic shifts meant large numbers of people moved into cities and away from rural communities, where pesticides – the leading method of death by suicide in China – were readily available. With pesticides no longer on hand, the suicide rate dropped.
David Parry/PA/AP/File
The word “STAY” features on the West End’s Piccadilly Lights, part of a campaign to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, Sept. 10, 2021.
Sri Lanka, which had the world’s highest rate of suicide in 1995, saw a 70% reduction when pesticides were restricted in that country. In the United States, however, rates have jumped, up 35% from 2000 to 2018; over half of all suicides in the U.S. involve a firearm. Reducing the suicide mortality rate is a U.N. Sustainable Development Goal, and suicide remains a major pubic health concern worldwide. Since economic disadvantage generally puts people at greater risk of suicide, some health policy experts recommend a focus on reducing socioeconomic inequalities, as well as addressing root causes for individuals. Sources: Wired, The British Medical Journal, World Health Organization
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