Why you should care
Because these days, any good news about the planet is good sh*t.
Every second Thursday night, at some unpredictable and ungodly hour, a cold-pressed shot of good news and intelligent optimism lands in my inbox from Melbourne, Australia. Fortnight after fortnight, the e-newsletter known as “The Crunch” has chipped away at my negative attitudes about tech and helped me realize that the world my kids will inherit ain’t so bad after all. Yes, really.
Currently in its 83rd edition, the newsletter already has 25,000 messianic subscribers (including Steven Pinker and Bill Gates) across the globe. It may seem strange that a simple curated list of approximately 30 current news stories can inspire such passion. But give it a few weeks and you’ll understand the appeal of being exposed to a regular smorgasbord of reliably informed examples of the ways in which science and technology are helping the planet. As fellow devotee Katie Gertsch puts it (in a website testimonial), “If you’re not already reading it, OH MY GOD why aren’t you?!?”
For example, the Crunch No. 80 offers good-news stories on the steady decline in dementia rates in Europe and North America; a prototype train in China that can carry passengers at 600 kilometers per hour; and a new scientific process that will give wood both the tensile strength of steel and incredible insulation properties. Every so often the newsletter features in-depth original content on a topic like a melanoma home-testing kit or making it to zero carbon.
In the first six months of 2019, sun, wind, water and biomass produced more electricity in the world's fourth largest economy than coal and nuclear combined. https://t.co/rXuTNrgHSV pic.twitter.com/2RWlwAv5YO
— Future Crunch (@future_crunch) July 25, 2019
The Crunch is but one arm of Future Crunch, “a conversation between science and social science” founded by political economist Angus Hervey and cancer scientist Tané Hunter after the two had “fallen in love with each other’s minds” during the installation of a 300-yard string of helium balloons at a psychedelic music festival in the Outback. Everything they do is informed by the idea that “the world is a far better place than you think it is,” says Hervey, “if you just look at the data.”
Their first public talk in June 2014 was a ruse to get Hervey — who’d been working in bars for 18 months despite holding a Ph.D. from the London School of Economics — a job. In a roundabout way the ploy has worked: The two are now highly sought-after public speakers who are scheduled to address approximately 70 gatherings in Australia and around the world this year. They hope to eventually get involved in education and ethical investing. Hervey has been full time on Future Crunch since 2017; Hunter will join him as soon as he completes his own Ph.D. later this year.
View this post on Instagram
19 African countries have reached gender parity in primary education for boys and girls within the past decade – i.e. there are as many girls being educated at a primary level now as boys in the following countries:⠀ ⠀ Malawi⠀ Uganda⠀ Tanzania⠀ Zambia⠀ Ghana⠀ Mauritius⠀ Seychelles⠀ Sierra Leone⠀ Kenya⠀ Burundi⠀ Madagascar⠀ Egypt⠀ Burkina Faso⠀ Rwanda⠀ Democratic Republic of Congo⠀ Equatorial Guinea⠀ Zimbabwe⠀ Gabon⠀ Tunisia⠀ ⠀ Source: @brookingsinst
Hervey, the wordsmith of the duo, started writing the newsletter in February 2015 after a podcast interview with Derek Sivers impressed upon him that it’s not what you know but what you do consistently that matters. “I realized that everything we’d read didn’t count for a thing if we weren’t sharing it with the world,” Hervey says. The pair’s choice of medium was deliberate. Email is “one of the last places” where you can communicate directly with your readers “without any algorithms getting in the way,” says Hervey. (That being said, Future Crunch is on social media.)
Despite the 25-to-30-hour fortnightly time commitment, the newsletter is free and will remain that way. (Hervey jokes about having “the worst business model in the world” because “good news is a shitty product to sell, and we give it all away for free.”) Some recipients feel so strongly about it, though, that they collectively donate around $2,000 per edition. True to form, the money is all given away to worthy causes like sending safe anesthesia machines (yes, this is a thing) to Mongolia and building biodigesters in Brazil.
“Next time someone tells you we’re all doomed,” Hunter chimes in, “you can tell them that by almost all accounts this is the best year in human history.”
Subscribe to The Crunch newsletter.