Good News This Week: August 12, 2023 - Dogs, Divers, & Seaweed

A photo collage of a home made out of seaweed bricks, an EnFoil solar panel, two scuba divers holding seagrass, a woman fixing an object at the beach, and two people standing on a field

Every day the Good Good Good team collects the best good news in the world and shares it with our community. Here are the highlights for this week!

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The Best Positive News We’re Celebrating This Week —

An entrepreneur in Mexico makes bricks out of invasive seaweed to build homes that can withstand hurricanes

Sargassum is an invasive species of seaweed that washes up and rots on beaches all across North America every year. Exposure to the seaweed can both lead to respiratory issues and cost communities millions to clean up.

One entrepreneur saw the problem it was causing for his own community in Mexico and came up with a solution: using the plentiful and readily available seaweed to make bricks for housing construction.

Omar Vázquez Sánchez and his team collect about 40 metric tons of sargassum every day, grind it into a fine powder, mix it with dirt repurposed from construction sites, and add water to shape it into a brick that’s construction-ready. Sánchez says the “sargablocks” can withstand hurricane-force winds and weather — and are recyclable and reusable.

Why is this good news? In addition to providing a really impactful solution (and creative, new construction method) to a problem for his community, Omar also gives the bricks away for free to people in need — like those whose homes have been destroyed by hurricanes.

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Inner Sydney, Australia may become the first city in the world to end AIDS as a public health threat by 2030

Researchers believe that the central district of Sydney, Australia is close to becoming the first locality in the world to reach the UN’s target for ending transmission of HIV.

Specifically, new infections among gay men have fallen by 88% between 2010 and 2022. In fact, there were only 11 new HIV cases recorded in central Sydney last year, and almost all HIV-positive Australians are on antiretroviral drugs.

It is important to note that rates of infection have not fallen equitably across the country. In some outer Sydney suburbs, cases have only fallen by a third, where public health awareness, access to medical treatments, and testing new cases are more limited.

“Working in partnership with community and clinical organizations, effective research-based interventions have been designed and implemented. These numbers show us that virtual elimination of HIV transmissions is possible. Now, we need to look closely at what has worked in Sydney, and adapt it for other cities and regions across Australia,” Andrew Grulich, a member of the International AIDS Society, said.

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A Belgian company invented ultra-thin, flexible, durable, and lightweight solar panels

Traditional solar panels and solar cells come in one standard, flat, and fixed format, which greatly limits the ways they can be installed. To overcome that application hurdle, the Belgian company EnFoil has invented solar panels that are only one millimeter thick, flexible, and extremely lightweight.

These solar cells can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, and therefore have much greater flexibility in where they can be used, like truck roofs, swimming pool covers, and corrugated roof tiles.

And even though they’re really thin — they’re still really durable. In fact, it’s how thin they are that makes them more resistant to impact.

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More good solar energy news:

In the Baltic Sea near Germany, a program is training citizen divers to restore seagrass to fight climate change

Seagrass meadows act like massive, natural carbon sinks that can store millions of tonnes of carbon. Sadly, their numbers have dramatically decreased in the last century as a result of worsening water quality.

A project in Germany is looking to reverse that trend. The SeaStore Seagrass Restoration Project in Kiel trains citizens to restore seagrass meadows in underwater coastal areas that have lost them. In one weekend in July, a team of divers and land volunteers planted 2,500 shoots.

In addition to empowering citizens to autonomously make a difference for their community, because seagrass can store so much carbon, the project also hopes to make a difference for the whole planet by restoring ocean health and tackling climate change.

Why is this good news? Between the 1860s and 2016, Europe lost one-third of its seagrass areas. releasing carbon into the atmosphere and speeding up global warming. Seagrasses can store twice as much carbon per square mile than forests can on land, help support fisheries, and protect coastlines from erosion.

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Experts are using AI to learn about, protect, and save mangroves — and by extension, the whole planet

Last week, the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and Google.org (Google’s philanthropic arm) announced the launch of a project called ManglarIA. The new, three-year project will utilize artificial intelligence to understand how mangrove ecosystems — and their contributions to coastal communities — are affected by climate change.

Spanish for “AI for Mangroves,” ManglarIA will identify key indicators of the health of mangroves and provide conservationists with better information to protect them, creating scalable and measurable solutions that can be replicated in other coastal regions.

Google.org has invested $5 million in ManglarIA, choosing the project from hundreds of submissions as part of its Impact Challenge on Climate Innovation grant program.

Why is this good news? Mangroves are a uniquely resilient and helpful species. They’re able to store carbon at about four times the rate of other types of forests and are an essential nature-based solution to climate change, providing vital levels of carbon sequestration and biodiversity to coastal ecosystems and economies.

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A Navajo farmer started using traditional methods to make baby food — he's now helped feed thousands

Following the birth of their son in 2021, Zach and Mary Ben were shocked to see a lack of fresh, local, traditional baby foods available near the Navajo Nation.

Wanting to do something about it, the duo drew on their experience — Nick, a sixth-generation Navajo farmer and Mary, with a background in public health — to start growing their own crops to make baby food. Implementing traditional and permaculture farming methods, they now grow produce for their baby food company, Bidii Baby Foods.

They started with a line of Navajo white corn-based dehydrated baby cereals, and ever since, they’ve fed 6,000 children nationwide — and they just got funding to help them feed 10,000 more.

Why is this good news? In addition to meeting an urgent need in their community — healthy, accessible, quality baby food — by utilizing permaculture and traditional farming practices (long practiced by Indigenous communities), the Bens are also preserving the quality of the land for decades to come.

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A car dealership in Las Vegas drives therapy dogs to people in need of mental health support

Subaru of Las Vegas has added a new feature showroom: a pack of therapy dogs. The dealership recently partnered with local charity Michael's Angel Paws, a Nevada-based organization that trains service and therapy support dogs for community members facing physical or emotional challenges.

Through Subaru’s larger philanthropic work, the Las Vegas location has raised over $64,000 for Michael’s Angel Paws, but Vitale said the employees — a team of dog lovers themselves — didn’t want to stop there. In addition to hosting adoption events right at the dealership, employees volunteered to train their own dogs as therapy dogs with the help of Michael’s Angel Paws.

The dealership’s five dogs have since been on a number of out-of-office expeditions, reading books to children in elementary schools, visiting patients at a local children’s hospital, delivering toys to families in need during the holidays, and connecting with community members at a nearby assisted living facility.

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More good news of the week —

Thanks to conservation efforts, experts say shark populations off U.S. coasts are rebounding after decades of decline. And while there are more sharks in the water and more folks heading to the beach to beat the heat, the frequency of shark bites has not gone up.

Much faster than expected, infrastructure and green energy spending are having a positive impact on the U.S. economy. For example, business spending on infrastructure, like manufacturing plants and transportation equipment, rose 56% in the most recent quarter, accounting for 15 percent of the economy.

Helping an estimated 95,000 students, Taiwan is providing period products at all schools and universities. To help alleviate the physical and mental burden of period poverty, it will also provide additional subsidies for low-income students to purchase supplies they need independently.

California’s free prison calls policy is helping both with restoring relationships and with rehabilitation. Just the second state in the U.S. to mandate free calls in state prisons, the policy has made way for unrushed conversations, sharing memories, and deeper bonds.

A record-breaking number of sea turtle nests have been found on Palm Beach County beaches so far this summer. The 9.5-mile stretch of Florida beaches has seen 21,872 nests so far, up from 18,132 last year — with three months left in nesting season.

The Victorian government will ban gas hookups in new homes starting January 1, 2024. And effective immediately, all new public buildings, such as schools, hospitals, police stations, and government-owned buildings, that haven’t reached the design stage must also be all-electric.

A British battery startup created an ultra-fast battery that can charge in six minutes. The longer charging time for electric vehicles has been a drawback for consumer adoption, and this startup is working to find a solution.

As the first generation of solar panels reaches their end-of-life, solar panel recycling plants are opening to address the waste issue. Many panels can be recycled and reused, and there is a market for them — people around the world want refurbished panels for their affordability.

Once on the brink of extinction, Brazil’s golden monkeys have rebounded from yellow fever. With numbers reaching as low as 200, there are now around 4,800 golden monkeys — ​​more than any time since efforts to save the species started in the 1970s.

Libraries in The Netherlands have been seeing a surge in both membership and attendance at library events. In 2022, library membership grew to 1.3 million adults and 2.2 million youth members, and the number of borrowed physical books rose to 53.3 million, up from 39.8 million in 2021.

Surgeons and engineers invented a world-first bionic hand that allows amputees to effortlessly control each finger. The innovation could revolutionize the way prosthetic limbs are designed and used, with scientists hailing it as a “major breakthrough”.

Manchester just got approval to house the world’s largest battery storage project at the site of a former coal plant. The project will bring both economic opportunity to the community, and help it reach regional net zero emissions targets.

A new "access fee" for renewable energy companies in New South Wales will further support the communities they serve. Money generated from the access fees will go into a fund and can be spent on a range of programs, including health, housing, and First Nations projects.

Mental health professionals in the Philippines are utilizing decolonial strategies to fight climate anxiety among residents. According to a recent survey, climate anxiety impacts the daily functioning of 74% of young people in the Philippines.

A major UK charity just announced it would no longer bank with Barclays because of its oil and gas financing. The 78-year-old charity has kept its money with Barclays since 2015, which has financed around $190 billion in fossil fuel projects between 2016 and 2022.

Article Details

August 12, 2023 10:00 AM
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