Good News This Week: December 23, 2023 - Art, Manatees, & Marine Conservation

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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 —

China is repurposing former quarantine centers into affordable housing units

In response to the economic aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, China has initiated a unique strategy to repurpose former state quarantine centers into affordable housing units targeted at young workers.

These centers, initially designed for medical triage and quarantine during the pandemic, have undergone significant transformation as part of a broader effort to address housing affordability issues and stimulate economic growth.

The decision to convert these facilities into housing units reflects a proactive approach by Chinese authorities to maximize the utilization of public infrastructure. The transformation is particularly notable in populous cities like Beijing, where the goal is to bridge the housing affordability gap between soaring real estate prices and the relatively low salaries of young workers.

One prominent example is the Jinzhan Colorful Community in the northeast corner of Beijing, near the airport, which was formerly a quarantine facility and now offers more than 4,900 units.

The rebranded community aims to provide affordable housing options for young graduates, offering amenities such as a canteen where residents can access inexpensive meals before or after work. Additionally, another facility in the city of Jinan has been repurposed into 650 units within an industrial park.

The affordability aspect is a central theme in this initiative, with rental prices for the repurposed units in Beijing being notably low, contributing to the overall appeal for tenants.

Local authorities view these initiatives as instrumental in restarting economic growth and supporting small businesses, particularly after nearly three years of challenging lockdowns. Authorities say they also symbolize a shift from containment to growth.

Why is this good news? The decision to repurpose these structures into housing units signifies an innovative approach to providing affordable living spaces for young workers, acknowledging the economic challenges posed by the pandemic. The efforts to repurpose these facilities extend beyond merely providing housing, as they represent a multifaceted approach to economic recovery. By converting these facilities into affordable living spaces, Chinese authorities aim to support the younger workforce, stimulate economic growth, and redefine the narrative of these spaces from symbols of containment to contributors to the nation's development.

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President Joe Biden has made historic strides in judicial appointments, moving toward a more representative and inclusive judiciary

President Joe Biden has made historic strides in judicial appointments, with nearly two-thirds of his appointed federal judges being women and from racial or ethnic minority groups, according to a Pew Research Center analysis.

As of November 5, Biden had appointed 145 judges, with over 66% being women, surpassing any other president at the same point in their term. Additionally, over 66% of Biden's appointed judges are from racial or ethnic minority groups.

The combined diversity, including gender and race/ethnicity, shows that 42% of Biden's appointees are women from minority backgrounds. Notably, Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court, is among Biden's appointees.

Why is this good news? The appointments reflect a commitment to increasing diversity and representation within the federal judiciary. By appointing more women and individuals from racial or ethnic minority groups, the judiciary better mirrors the diversity of the American population — and a judiciary that is more representative of the population it serves can contribute to increased public trust in the legal system. Plus, a diverse judiciary is crucial for promoting a more inclusive and fair legal system. Judges from various backgrounds bring different perspectives and experiences to the bench, enhancing the understanding of complex legal issues and ensuring a more comprehensive and just interpretation of the law.

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Wisconsin's only recovery high school is saving lives and transforming students facing substance use and mental health challenges

Horizon High School, Wisconsin's only recovery school, is changing the lives of students facing substance use and mental health disorders. The school, established in 2005, has a unique focus on supporting students in recovery.

The school employs a personalized approach with small staff-to-student ratios, weekly drug testing, group therapy sessions, and immediate attention to mental health crises. And they’ve seen positive outcomes: improved attendance, reduced suspensions, and a 62 percent graduation rate for students attending from 2017 to 2021.

To address the growing need for mental health and substance abuse support, new state funding of $500,000 in grants, included in the 2023-25 state budget, could support Horizon and potentially enable the establishment of more recovery schools across the state.

The Association of Recovery Schools also provides technical support to communities aiming to build such schools, recognizing their value in preventing dropouts, legal issues, and medical costs associated with substance abuse.

Why is this good news? The school's focus on recovery and providing a supportive environment has helped students overcome substance use and mental health challenges. The support from state funding signals a step toward addressing these issues more comprehensively and signifies a commitment to providing resources to address the mental health and substance abuse issues faced by high school students.

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An organization in Philadelphia is using art as a tool for connecting individuals affected by dementia and their caregivers

For the past decade, ARTZ Philadelphia, under the leadership of founder Susan Shifrin, has been at the forefront of using art as a medium to foster connection and engagement among individuals affected by dementia and their caregivers.

One of their flagship programs, ARTZ @ The Museum, brings participants to local museums and art centers, providing a unique platform for exploration and discussion of artworks. In a recent session at The Barnes Foundation, Shifrin encouraged participants, primarily people affected by dementia and their care partners, to engage with a large oil painting, sparking an organic and inclusive conversation.

The program, characterized by its emphasis on shared experiences in the realm of art, serves as a respite from the daily challenges of doctor's appointments, medications, and concerns that individuals with dementia and their caregivers often face. By leveraging creative expression, ARTZ seeks to restore a sense of community for those who may have lost it due to the progression of their illness.

ARTZ's impact extends beyond museum visits — it also encompasses online communities, mentorship programs for health care professionals, relief-focused gatherings for care partners, and art-making workshops for residents in care communities dealing with dementia. Over the years, ARTZ has reached approximately 10,000 individuals in Greater Philadelphia, providing avenues for creative expression and social interaction.

The overarching goal of ARTZ @ The Museum is not only to offer relief and engagement for individuals with dementia but also to build empathy within museums and art centers.

Shifrin emphasizes the importance of institutions valuing the individuals served by ARTZ, hoping that this commitment becomes shared. As the organization looks ahead, it aims to continue its mission of making Philadelphia a place where people with dementia and their families feel as welcome as anyone, fostering a society that embraces inclusivity and understanding.

Why is this good news? ARTZ Philadelphia's innovative use of art to connect individuals affected by dementia and their caregivers provides a meaningful experience. The programs offer a break from the daily struggles associated with dementia, creating a welcoming environment for participants in public spaces and fostering a sense of community through the transformative power of art.

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A program in Philadelphia led to a remarkable 91% reduction in in-school arrests over less than a decade

The Philadelphia Police School Diversion Program, implemented in 2014, has successfully diverted students away from the legal system and disrupted the school-to-prison pipeline.

The program, led by then-Deputy Police Commissioner Kevin Bethel, involves pre-arrest diversion for offenses like marijuana possession, allowing students to remain in school while school personnel address their behavior through alternative means such as counseling or suspension.

The evaluation of the program over its first five years revealed an impressive 91% reduction in in-school arrests in Philadelphia, with the annual number dropping from nearly 1,600 in 2013 to 147 in 2022.

The program not only reduced arrests but also decreased serious behavioral incidents without compromising school safety. Additionally, social workers successfully engaged with 74% of diverted students' families, with 90% accepting referrals to community-based services.

Comparisons between diverted and arrested students showed that those in the program were less likely to face suspensions, expulsions, or school transfers in the year following the incident. Long-term outcomes indicated that arrested students were more likely to be re-arrested within five years, emphasizing the positive impact of the diversion program.

Furthermore, a cost-benefit analysis demonstrated that the program saved taxpayers millions of dollars. Due to its success, other cities and counties in Pennsylvania are replicating the program, contributing to a broader movement aimed at keeping students in their communities and out of the legal system.

Why is this good news? The program's emphasis on pre-arrest diversion for minor offenses demonstrates a successful alternative to dealing with school-related incidents. It keeps students in the educational system while addressing behavioral issues through counseling and support rather than resorting to arrests. Additionally, the program contributed to reducing the likelihood of re-arrests within five years, highlighting its potential in breaking the cycle of the school-to-prison pipeline.

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An eco-enterprise is providing a sustainable alternative to shark fishing in a collaboration that empowers former shark fishermen with a new livelihood

In an inspiring collaboration, shark conservationist Kathy Xu has teamed up with former shark fishermen on Indonesia's Lombok Island to establish The Dorsal Effect, an innovative eco-enterprise that goes beyond traditional conservation efforts.

Launched in 2013, The Dorsal Effect engages ex-shark fishermen in an initiative that seeks to transform their lives and contribute to marine conservation simultaneously. The Dorsal Effect offers a unique educational experience by taking tourists, schoolchildren, and university students to explore off-the-grid locations, including pristine coral reefs around Lombok.

The former shark fishermen, now guides, share their intimate knowledge of the sea, fostering a deep connection between visitors and the marine environment. Beyond the tourist experience, The Dorsal Effect has developed a comprehensive five-day program for schools, providing students with a profound understanding of the shark trade and local conservation efforts.

This educational initiative allows students to interact directly with the ex-shark fishermen, gaining insights into their lives and experiences. The program also includes contributions from NGOs like the Wildlife Conservation Society, marine biologists conducting nightly lectures, and field surveys to enhance the students' understanding of marine ecosystems.

By focusing on both the realities of the fishing trade and the conservation efforts of the local community, The Dorsal Effect aims to provide a balanced perspective.

For the participating schools, such as the ISS International School in Singapore, this program offers a unique opportunity for students studying environmental systems and societies. The immersive experience includes visits to Pink Beach, snorkeling adventures, and excursions to Tanjung Luar fish market, where students witness firsthand the impact of the shark trade.

The Dorsal Effect emphasizes a blend of fun and gritty realism, encouraging students to engage in beach trash cleanups, collect data on marine life, and create research papers based on their experiences.

Why is this good news? The Dorsal Effect empowers former shark fishermen by offering them an alternative and sustainable source of income. This transformative change in career paths improves their livelihoods while preserving their connection to the sea. The organization also actively contributes to marine conservation in a shift away from shark fishing that helps protect marine ecosystems and biodiversity, particularly in Lombok, a region rich in marine diversity. The Dorsal Effect demonstrates a successful model of conservation that prioritizes community well-being, environmental sustainability, and education, offering a beacon of hope and inspiration for similar initiatives around the world.

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A collaborative network in Colombia is saving manatees through community-based monitoring

In response to the challenges faced by manatees in Colombia, a collaborative network has been established, bringing together environmental agencies, NGOs, and local fishing communities, all working toward the common goal of rescuing manatees.

The initiative, known as the Red de Varamientos de Manatíes (RVM), focuses on responding to emergencies involving stranded manatees in the Magdalena Medio region. Threats such as cattle ranching, marsh draining for agriculture, and climate variability have led to reduced water levels, increasing the risk of manatees becoming stranded.

The Antillean manatee, which is classified as endangered, also faces challenges such as habitat destruction and the use of trammel nets, which restrict their movement and access to feeding areas.

A crucial aspect of the initiative is the establishment of a 24-hour emergency response contact number, allowing anyone to report a manatee in distress. Between January 2010 and July 2023, environmental organizations responded to 40 emergencies involving stranded manatees.

The RVM network incorporates a community-based monitoring program involving over 50 community monitors supported by NGOs. The monitoring initiative, conducted during fishing activities, provides valuable data on manatee presence, feeding areas, and habitat conditions. The community monitors, trained to recognize indirect traces of manatee presence, contribute to a deeper understanding of manatee population patterns in relation to water levels.

This collaborative effort not only aids in rescuing stranded manatees but also fosters community engagement and awareness. The communities involved in the RVM network demonstrate a growing sense of ownership and interest in manatee conservation, showcasing the importance of community-led initiatives in safeguarding endangered species.

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More good news of the week —

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has initiated the process of developing federal rules to make technology preventing drunk and impaired driving a standard feature in new cars, aiming to address a problem that causes thousands of deaths annually in the U.S. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) supports the move, emphasizing the importance of saving lives.

A nonprofit in Tempe, Arizona, is addressing the financial burden on teachers by offering access to a warehouse filled with low-cost or free supplies. Teachers, who often spend an average of $600-700 annually on classroom materials, can access items like pens, pencils, art supplies, and even recycled goods at a fraction of standard retail costs.

A study found that growing traditional African vegetables on living walls could enhance local household food production, help address climate change and urban challenges, and provide a more sustainable and resilient alternative to conventional soil-based agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa. These vertical growing platforms, including continuous and modular systems, were compared in terms of crop yields and health during the 2021-2022 growing season in Pretoria, South Africa.

Pope Francis has permitted priests to bless same-sex couples, signaling a more inclusive approach to LGBTQ+ Catholics. While acknowledging the move as a "real development," the Vatican emphasized that it aligns with Pope Francis's pastoral vision.

A survivor of female genital mutilation (FGM) and an activist in Senegal has won the Caine prize for African writing, along with her husband. The woman, who founded the Association for Keeping Girls in School in Senegal, has been actively working to end FGM, promote girls' education, and combat gender-based violence in the region.

Popular dog influencers embarked on a heartwarming holiday tradition by organizing a donation drive for shelter animals at the National Animal Welfare Trust Berkshire. The initiative garnered immense support, and the dogs delivered an impressive 2,000 gifts to the animal rescue organization, spreading joy to the animals in need.

A Dutch princess is leading the charge against child marriage through her nonprofit, VOW for Girls. Over the past five years, more than 8,000 couples' donations have directly impacted 260,000 girls, providing life-changing grants for education, health care, and career training.

Colorado is set to become the first state to extend automatic voter registration to Native American reservations through a new registration system. The initiative, part of a broader set of election reforms, aims to enhance voting access for Native Americans, particularly addressing historical challenges such as unequal access to voting facilities and election funding on tribal lands.

A Black-owned company aims to bring diversity to holiday celebrations with inclusive wrapping paper featuring characters like Papa Klaus and Nana Klaus. The business, born out of a shared love for Christmas and crafting, is now available in major retailers like Target, CVS, Walgreens, and Walmart.

A Detroit-based artist responded to the rising death toll in Gaza by drawing a heart for each life lost since the conflict began in October — and now she’s selling her work for charity. She compiled her drawings into a book titled "So Many Hearts," with all profits going to the Palestinian Children’s Relief Fund.

The White House has secured funding for the American Climate Corps (ACC), a federal program aimed at employing thousands of young Americans in clean energy, conservation, and climate resilience. The program, set to launch its first cohort next summer, draws inspiration from President Franklin Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps and will engage young people through virtual listening sessions to discuss priorities and implementation strategies based on regional climate realities.

Cities in the United States, including Cambridge, Massachusetts, are adding Native American translations to street signs to promote language and awareness. This initiative is part of a broader nationwide effort, with at least six states, including Iowa, New York, Minnesota, and Wisconsin, adopting similar practices to raise awareness about Native American communities, revive languages, and highlight tribal sovereignty.

A study from Oregon State University reveals that certain coral species can survive marine heatwaves by "remembering" past events, a phenomenon called ecological memory. The research suggests that recognizing the role of microbes in coral adaptation may influence coral gardening and planting, and a deeper understanding of microbial processes could aid in developing probiotics or monitoring protocols to enhance coral health.

A new collaboration between the Rwandan government and a private solar company will address the lack of power and internet access in remote schools by implementing the company’s newest product, which relies on solar-based satellite terminals. The initiative aims to quickly and affordably connect students to essential educational tools without relying on the national electricity grid.

Colorado has initiated its wolf reintroduction program by releasing five gray wolves in a remote part of the Rocky Mountains. The release marks the beginning of the most ambitious wolf reintroduction effort in the U.S. in almost three decades, aiming to address gaps in the species' presence in the western U.S.

Article Details

December 23, 2023 5:00 AM
A photo collage of a fisherman, vegetables, a Feel Good Fridge from Whirlpool, a chart about blood types, and solar panels

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