A Look Back at 12 Successes in 2012 (Winter 2013 Trust Magazine)


03/08/2013 - Pew's many accomplishments in 2012 are best summed up by the word diversity. Diversity of subjects. Diversity of partners. Diversity of thinking and imagination. From art to oceans, and sharks to school lunches, Pew used evidence-based analysis to protect the environment, advance public health, and strengthen democracy.

The Barnes Foundation Reimagined – President John F. Kennedy said, "I look forward to an America …which will steadily enlarge cultural opportunities for all of our citizens."  Dr. Albert
Barnes lived up to this challenge of increasing access to art and culture through his creation of the remarkable Barnes Foundation and its collection of Post-Impressionist and modern art. Pew worked with many partners to move the collection from suburban Merion, PA to its home on Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The reimagined Barnes campus preserves the original educational institution. Nothing was lost in the transition, and a wider and more diverse audience is enjoying the beloved Barnes collection.

Less Crime, Lower Cost – After nearly 40 years of uninterrupted growth, prison populations and costs are leveling off and, in about half the states, starting to drop.  Many people attribute this shift to budget pressures.  But Pew found a more compelling reason:  a new focus on letting hard data determine who gets sentenced to hard time.  Pew and its partners worked with six states – Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania – to develop policies that distinguish between violent and nonviolent offenders.  Violent and career criminals go to prison and nonviolent offenders go to drug courts and other proven alternatives to incarceration.  These data-driven policies will protect the public and save taxpayers millions of dollars.

Checking in Plain English – Checking account disclosure statements—intended to inform—too often do the opposite.  They obscure the rights and obligations of bank customers, using complicated language that is difficult to understand or explain.  The median length of the disclosure statements of America's 12 largest banks is 69 pages.  But Pew figured out a better way, developing a one-page disclosure statement that is written in plain English and easy to follow.  Pew's consumer-friendly form is already being used by 15 banks—with more progress to come.

Marine Reserves Down Under – Most people know about the 1,600 mile Great Barrier Reef off the northeast coast of Australia.  But Australia is surrounded by larger, more fragile marine habitats that are under serious threat from overfishing, extraction, and pollution.  Pew led a coalition of conservation groups to save much of these fabled waters, including the Coral Sea, site of an important allied victory in World War II.  The coalition succeeded in encouraging the government to fully protect 333,000 square miles of ocean as part of the largest network of marine parks in a single country—providing a haven for green turtles, sea lions, bigeye tuna, and 28 species of whales and dolphins.

Protecting Sharks – Sharks, unjustly cast in books and movies as relentless predators stalking our beaches, are now the prey.  Humans kill up to 73 million sharks every year, mostly for their fins that end up in overpriced soup.  Some shark populations have declined by as much as 80 percent.  Pew is leading a global movement to save these animals, which are critical to the health of ocean ecosystems. Partnering with government and community leaders from the Cook Islands and French Polynesia, Pew helped create the largest contiguous shark sanctuary in the world:  2.6 million square miles.  Pew also worked with American Samoa and Venezuela to enact shark protections, and the European Union Parliament took action to completely ban the cruel act of shark finning.

More Miles and Fewer Emissions – When Americans shop for automobiles, they want to know what is under the hood.  But they are not asking about horsepower; the No. 1 priority for new car buyers is fuel efficiency.  Pew helped lead a successful public advocacy campaign to increase U.S. fuel efficiency standards.  Starting in 2025, an automobile manufacturer's fleet must average 54.5 miles per gallon, nearly double today's average.  This will save consumers up to $8,000 over the life of a car purchased in 2025, compared to one purchased in 2010.  The environment benefits too.  Automobiles account for one-third of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.   Those emissions will drop significantly under the new standard.

Saving the Grand Canyon for Future Generations – We've seen this movie before:  Nature takes more than a billion years to create a natural wonder that is swiftly scarred, or even destroyed, through mining and overdevelopment.  This narrative was in danger of being repeated near the Grand Canyon, when a spike in uranium mining claims on a million acres of public lands at its border put the national park and the waters of the Colorado River at risk. But the threat was averted after the Obama administration, at the urging of a Pew-led group of scientists, historians, local officials, and tribes banned all new uranium mining for two decades, the longest moratorium allowed by law.  The ban will help protect the drinking water of 25 million people. 

Conserving Canada's Boreal Forest – The Canadian boreal is the largest intact forest and wetland ecosystem in the world and rivals the Amazon in size and ecological importance.  But the vital wilderness, which captures and stores twice as much carbon as tropical forests and teems with wildlife, is under threat from extraction industries.  Pew and Ducks Unlimited and their Canadian partners have worked with aboriginal communities to protect 185 million acres of the boreal as parks and refuges, including the newly created 6.5 million acre Tursujuq National Park in Quebec.  It is nearly three times the size of Yellowstone and will safeguard invaluable habitat and wildlife while preserving the cultural values of First Nations.

A School Lunch Rewrite – Obese ten-year-olds?  Diabetic teenagers?  Such are the public health challenges that Pew and its partners at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation are working to solve.   They provided evidence-based recommendations to schools and the Department of Agriculture on healthy childhood nutrition.  And now, after 15 years of too much salt, fat, and sugar, school lunch menus are getting a rewrite.  The changes, rolled out for the 2012-13 school year, give 32 million students more grains, fruits and vegetables, fewer calories, and a better chance for a long and healthy life.

A New FDA for a New Century – The Food and Drug Administration is our public health guardian, allowing safe and effective drugs and medical devices into the hands of doctors and consumers, and keeping dangerous ones out.  But that 21st-century mission ran up against 20th-century barriers to innovation:  out-of-date legislation, insufficient funding, time consuming reviews of drug applications, and globalization.  (Eighty-percent of drugs are imported from overseas.)  Pew worked closely with industry and consumer leaders to encourage Congress to include key measures in the bipartisan Food and Drug Administration Safety and Innovation Act.  This legislation will increase inspections of foreign drug facilities, boost medical device innovation and safety, and get new lifesaving antibiotics to patients faster.

Drug-free Livestock – It is illegal to buy an antibiotic without a prescription—unless you plan on feeding that antibiotic to a healthy animal that ends up in the food supply.  In that case, nothing stands in your way.  Seventy percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are put in animal feed, largely without any oversight from veterinarians.  This practice breeds antibiotic-resistant superbugs that can sicken or kill people, and now tops many lists as the greatest public health threat facing the globe.  At the urging of Pew and others, the FDA called on veterinarians to supervise the use of antibiotics by industrial farmers and moved to end the use of these drugs to make animals grow faster.

Helping Voters Vote – Politics is noisy, contentious, and expensive.  But when the campaigning and debating are over, Americans retreat to the quiet of the polling booth and exercise their sacred right to vote.  Pew wants every eligible voter to cast a ballot.  To help make that possible, Pew and its partners worked with major technology companies and election administrators to put voting information and tools online.   Looking for a polling place?  Don't know what's on your ballot? Not sure if you need to bring ID to the polls? Last year, 25 million voters found answers to these and other election questions because of Pew connecting the public and private sectors.

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