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Good News This Week: December 9, 2023 - Toys, Rhinos, & Girl Scouts

A photo collage of members of the Alliance Center for Independence, young girls from the Radical Monarchs, a night lamp, a white rhino, and a flatlay of the Goodnewspaper on a table

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 organization in New Jersey successfully created a replicable model to make emergency shelters for disabled communities

Following the challenges faced by disabled individuals during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Alliance Center for Independence (ACI) in New Jersey initiated a replicable shelter model to make temporary housing more inclusive for disabled people.

In response to life-threatening situations observed during previous disasters, ACI organized overnight shelter simulation exercises, bringing together disabled community members, emergency management professionals, and volunteers to practice every step of an emergency shelter experience.

The initiative has evolved into a successful model that not only familiarizes the disability community with emergency shelter experiences but also facilitates learning opportunities for emergency management personnel, effectively addressing the common problem of excluding disabled individuals from the planning process.

The model has been adopted by other New Jersey counties, with ACI providing resources and support to emergency management agencies interested in implementing similar simulations. These simulations have proven invaluable, offering insights into diverse needs, including mobility, language interpretation, medication requirements, and service animal assistance.

Through roundtable discussions, disabled individuals share their specific needs, contributing to the development of guidelines that enhance the inclusivity of temporary housing for disabled community members. Survey results from participants have indicated increased preparedness and knowledge about evacuation and shelter options, making the model a potentially valuable national approach to improving emergency shelter accessibility and inclusivity.

Why is this good news? ACI’s initiative addresses a critical issue concerning the accessibility of emergency shelters for disabled individuals — a group that has historically faced exclusion and challenges during disasters. By proactively organizing replicable shelter simulation models, ACI is not only raising awareness about the unique needs of the disabled community but also actively involving them in the planning process.

The success and adoption of this model by other New Jersey counties indicate its potential as a national model, offering a comprehensive and holistic approach to creating safe and accessible spaces for disabled individuals during emergencies. Ultimately, this initiative contributes to a more equitable and supportive disaster response system, reducing the vulnerability of disabled individuals and enhancing community resilience.

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Clean energy is attracting nearly twice as much investment as fossil fuels

The International Energy Agency's World Energy Outlook has highlighted a notable shift in global investment trends: Clean energy projects are now attracting almost double the funding compared to fossil fuels.

In 2023, clean energy projects are expected to receive over $1.7 trillion in investments, a stark contrast to the roughly $1 trillion directed toward fossil fuels, marking a significant change from just five years ago when the investment ratio between clean energy and fossil fuels was equal.

Why is this good news? The encouraging trend reveals a growing financial commitment to sectors like low-emissions power, energy efficiency, batteries, and electrification. Notably, most energy investment is directed toward low-emissions power (encompassing renewables and nuclear energy). The evolving landscape reflects a shift toward sustainability — efforts must be sustained (and increased!) to redirect financial resources toward sustainable and low-carbon alternatives.

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A social justice-focused alternative to Girl Scouts is gaining popularity

"Radical Monarchs," an emerging organization for Black and Brown youth aged 8 to 11, is gaining recognition as a progressive alternative to the long-established Girl Scouts of the USA.

Founded in 2014 in the San Francisco Bay Area, this unique troop, co-founded by Marilyn Hollinquest and Anayvette Martinez, is dedicated to fostering advocacy skills among children, empowering them to contribute positively to their communities and strive for a more just and joyful world.

The organization, now boasting 104 enrolled children in cities like Denver, Minneapolis, and Washington, has introduced a distinctive badge system. In contrast to traditional badges focusing on activities like first aid or painting, Radical Monarchs' badges delve into crucial social justice issues.

For instance, the "Radical Roots" badge encourages historical exploration, with troop members in Richmond, California, visiting the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park to learn about the contribution of Black women during World War II. Other badges cover topics such as consent, self-defense, and fostering respect for individuals who are plus-size or disabled.

The genesis of Radical Monarchs can be traced back to co-founder Martinez's reluctance to enroll her daughter, Lupita, in a local Girl Scouts troop due to its lack of diversity. Wanting an organization that centered on the experiences of young girls of color and awarded badges based on social justice issues rather than conventional activities, Martinez, supported by Hollinquest, initiated the Radical Monarchs troop.

As Radical Monarchs prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary in 2024, the founders are actively considering expanding to new locations, with applications received from cities like Columbus, Ohio; Long Beach, California; and Brooklyn, New York.

Why is this good news? Radical Monarchs addresses the need for greater inclusivity and representation in youth organizations. By specifically catering to Black and Brown children aged 8 to 11, the organization ensures that girls of color see themselves reflected in leadership roles and activities, fostering a sense of belonging. Radical Monarchs continues to provide a vital and empowering experience for young girls of color, offering hope for a more inclusive and equitable future.

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Occupational therapy students helped make toys more accessible for children with disabilities

Occupational therapy students at Thomas Jefferson University, under the guidance of adjunct professor Zach Samalonis, recently undertook a project to enhance the accessibility of toys for children with disabilities.

Their focus was on a dome-shaped lantern with intricate light projections activated by small, hard-to-press buttons. Recognizing the challenge this presented for children with limited dexterity, Samalonis and his students embarked on a mission to transform these toys into inclusive and user-friendly devices.

The solution involved disassembling the lanterns and replacing the original buttons with large, 3D-printed alternatives that could be easily activated with minimal force. To execute this project, the students utilized open-source plans provided by Makers Making Change, a nonprofit organization based in British Columbia.

The collaborative effort extended further as the modified toys were handed over to representatives from TechOWL, an assistive technology program at Temple University, for distribution to children in the Philadelphia area.

Tynesa McArthur, one of the occupational therapy students involved in the project, expressed her enthusiasm, stating, "I'm not an engineer, so this is cool." The sentiment was echoed by other students, who highlighted the unique and gratifying experience of actively contributing to the creation of assistive devices.

Why is this good news? This collaborative effort between Jefferson students, Makers Making Change, and TechOWL exemplifies the intersection of education, innovation, and inclusivity, making strides toward creating a more accessible and equitable environment for children with disabilities during the festive season and beyond.

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2,000 white rhinos bred in captivity will be rewilded across Africa to protect the species

In a significant rewilding effort, a project in Africa is set to release 2,000 white rhinos bred in captivity into national parks over the next decade.

The initiative, spearheaded by the nonprofit organization African Parks and supported by the South African government, comes as a response to the identified risk factors outlined in the World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report 2023, which emphasizes the impending threats of biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse.

The 2,000 rhinos, originally bred at a large-scale farm dedicated to conservation, were at risk due to financial challenges, prompting the intervention of African Parks, which secured the farm through emergency funding. Over the next 10 years, the rhinos, released in groups of approximately 300 per year, are expected to contribute to biodiversity and ecosystem health, aiding in nutrient cycling, carbon storage, and generating tourism revenues for local communities.

The rewilding initiative reflects a broader commitment to address the pressing global concerns of biodiversity decline, aligning with the recommendations of the Global Risks Report that emphasize community resilience and local adaptation for effective biodiversity preservation and climate change mitigation.

Why is this good news? This initiative represents a proactive response to environmental challenges, fosters biodiversity conservation, and showcases collaborative efforts for the well-being of a critically endangered species and the ecosystems it inhabits. It marks a positive step toward the conservation and protection of the species, which has faced near-extinction threats in the past century. The project not only aims to boost existing rhino populations but also create new ones, contributing significantly to biodiversity in the region.

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A Native-led company is installing solar farms for tribal nations across the U.S.

Cody Two Bears, a member of the Sioux tribe in North Dakota, founded Indigenized Energy, a native-led energy company with a unique mission—installing solar farms for tribal nations in the United States.

This initiative arises from the historical reliance of Native Americans on the U.S. government for power, a paradigm that is gradually shifting. The spark for Two Bears' vision ignited during the Standing Rock protests in 2016, where he witnessed the arrest of a fellow protester during efforts to prevent the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline on sacred tribal land. Disturbed by the status quo, Two Bears decided to channel his activism into action and create tangible change.

His company, Indigenized Energy, addresses a critical issue faced by many reservations: poverty and lack of access to basic power. Reservations are among the poorest communities in the country, and in some, like the Navajo Nation, many homes lack electricity. Even in regions where the land has been exploited for coal and uranium, residents face obstacles to accessing power.

Renewable energy, specifically solar power, is a beacon of hope for tribes seeking to overcome these challenges. Not only does it present an environmentally sustainable option, but it has become the most cost-effective form of energy globally, thanks in part to incentives like the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022. Tribal nations can receive tax subsidies of up to 30% for solar and wind farms, along with grants for electrification, climate resiliency, and energy generation.

And Indigenized Energy is not focused solely on installing solar farms — it also emphasizes community empowerment through education and skill development. In collaboration with organizations like Red Cloud Renewable, efforts are underway to train Indigenous tribal members for jobs in the renewable energy sector. The program provides free training to individuals, with a focus on solar installation skills. Graduates, ranging from late teens to late 50s, receive pre-apprenticeship certification, and the organization is planning to launch additional programs to support graduates with career services such as resume building and interview coaching.

Why is this good news? The adoption of solar power by Native communities signifies progress toward sustainable development, cultural preservation, and economic self-determination, contributing to a more equitable and environmentally conscious future. These initiatives are part of a broader movement toward "energy sovereignty," wherein tribes strive to have control over their own power sources. This movement represents not only an economic opportunity and a source of jobs for these communities but also a means of reclaiming control over their land and resources, signifying a departure from historical exploitation and an embrace of sustainable practices deeply rooted in Indigenous cultures.

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This Yale student created a device that could improve communication for people with hearing impairments

A 23-year-old computer science student at Yale University, Madhav Lavakare, developed an innovative augmented reality (AR) device that attaches to any pair of glasses and aims to assist people with hearing impairments by projecting real-time subtitles in their field of vision. Lavakare was inspired to create TranscribeGlass after a friend with hearing loss faced challenges in communication and dropped out of school.

Unlike previous attempts at assistive technology, TranscribeGlass is an attachment device that can pick up speech or audio from a distance, making it versatile for various settings, such as lecture halls.

The AR device, weighing less than 15 grams, can be affixed to any glasses and connects to a mobile app, allowing users to customize preferences such as font size and text-scrolling speed. The device's beta version is priced at $55, with the final version expected to cost around $95. The TranscribeGlass app supports English for early users, with plans to expand language support in the near future.

While existing assistive technologies like hearing aids and cochlear implants have limitations, TranscribeGlass aims to provide a comprehensive solution by offering real-time captions directly in the user's field of view. The glasses introduce an affordable and versatile solution to improve communication for individuals with hearing impairments and enhance their overall quality of life.

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More good news of the week —

A Swedish company has introduced an autonomous weeding robot that uses AI-powered machine vision to identify and pluck weeds with metal fingers, reducing the need for herbicides. In trials, the robot allowed farmers to grow onions with 70% fewer herbicides — plus the integration of 5G technology contributes to sustainable farming practices, with the first "5G onions" showing extended shelf life and improved taste.

Massachusetts just became the fifth state in the U.S. to make prison and jail calls free. Advocates argue that this move is crucial for enhancing rehabilitation, reducing recidivism, and improving community safety, addressing the financial burden on families and racial inequities exacerbated by the high costs of prison communications.

A speech language pathologist collaborated with the Virginia Beach Parks and Rec Foundation to introduce communication boards at 11 parks and recreation centers in Virginia Beach, promoting inclusivity. The large boards feature pictures illustrating playground equipment, emotions, actions, and more, benefiting families with nonverbal family members.

Electric and hybrid vehicle sales in the U.S. reached a record high in the third quarter of 2023, comprising 17.7% of all vehicle sales, while gas-powered vehicle sales hit an all-time low of 82%. The surge in EV sales is attributed in part to declining prices, with the average cost of a battery-powered vehicle dropping to just over $50,000.

Virgin Atlantic has completed the first transatlantic flight using sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) in a Boeing 787 filled with 50 tonnes of SAF derived from waste fats and corn production residues. The flight, from London's Heathrow to New York's JFK airport, is seen as a significant milestone in the aviation industry's efforts to reduce emissions, with airlines aiming to achieve 10% SAF use by 2030 as part of the UK government's plan to address aviation emissions.

Indonesia has launched a $20 billion investment plan to accelerate its power sector decarbonization and aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the on-grid power sector to 250 million metric tons by 2030. Indonesia, one of the largest greenhouse gas emitters globally, plans to increase the share of renewable energy in its power generation to 44% by 2030.

Dominica is establishing the world's first marine protected area for sperm whales, designating nearly 300 square miles on the western side of the Caribbean island as a reserve. The reserve will not only protect the whales but also contribute to fighting climate change by preserving the nutrient-rich defecation of sperm whales, which creates plankton blooms capturing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Bioarchitects in Mexico are turning to traditional clay adobe building techniques to create modern structures and reduce the ecological footprint of the construction industry. Imagina cultural center in central Mexico is one such building, constructed mainly from locally dug clay adobe and designed to demonstrate bioconstruction principles and the potential to significantly reduce carbon emissions from the construction sector by minimizing cement use.

Electrifying all health care facilities in developing countries using solar energy could eliminate the risk of deaths due to power outages. The proposal will be presented at Cop28, with Salvatore Vinci from the World Health Organization emphasizing the feasibility of achieving this goal within five years.

Detroit is projected to have its lowest homicide rate in 60 years, with city and county leaders attributing the success to a partnership formed by Detroit Police Chief James White in 2021. The coalition aimed to restore the criminal justice system in Detroit and Wayne County to pre-Covid operations, addressing issues such as reducing the felony gun case backlog with key strategies including state funding, virtual dockets, hiring visiting judges, and efforts to increase pay for prosecutors.

A 17-year-old is spreading holiday cheer by delivering her signature Silly Socks to seniors in nursing and assisted living facilities. As the founder of Socks 4 Seniors, the teen started the initiative in seventh grade and has since sent socks to 92 facilities across 48 states, aiming to bring color and fun to seniors' feet during the holiday season.

Microsoft's Seeing AI app, aimed at assisting blind and low-vision individuals, has expanded to Android devices, offering features like detailed image descriptions and document question-answering. The app, designed to improve the quality of life for the over 3 billion Android users globally, reads text, identifies objects, and recognizes people, among other functionalities.

Chemists at Northwestern University have developed a new catalyst that can break down Nylon-6 — a durable plastic found in fishing nets, carpets, and clothing — in a matter of minutes. The catalyst, which does not require toxic solvents or extreme conditions, can recover 99% of the plastic's original building blocks in a process that could play a crucial role in upcycling Nylon-6 waste into higher-value products, offering a more sustainable solution for the global plastic problem.

A report reveals that 83% of new power capacity created in 2022 was renewable, with solar and wind contributing the most. Currently, approximately 40% of the world's power generation is from renewable sources, thanks to rapid increases in the past decade.

The federal government has allocated $110 million in grants to fund 19 wildlife crossing projects across the United States, with the aim of reducing deadly crashes between animals and cars. The funding, part of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will support projects that construct wildlife crossings near busy roads, add fencing, and employ tracking and mapping tools.

Article Details

December 9, 2023 5:00 AM
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