Cars, Trees, & Clean Energy - Good News This Week: February 25th 2023

A photo collage of Hank & John Green's livestream, a man standing in front of documents laid out on a table, three cyclists, a house with a balcony, and solar panels on a roof

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 —

Hank and John Green’ annual livestream just raised $2.9 million for charity in 48 hours

Over the weekend, a celebration of community, fandom, and doing good for the world has raised $2.9 million for charity — the latest feat in the sixteen-year legacy of the Project for Awesome.

​​​​​​​​The Project for Awesome (or P4A, as its viewers know it) is an annual livestream project for charity hosted by Hank Green and John Green. And true to its reputation, the 2023 P4A provided no shortage of the goofy antics and heartwarming moments that have become its reputation — as countless people tune in, create inside jokes, and raise money for organizations making a meaningful difference in the world.

But at its core, the P4A is a livestream to raise money for charity. Viewers make donations and/or purchase perks, with donations going to the Foundation to Decrease World Suck, a nonprofit organization founded by Hank and John specifically for the P4A. ​​​​​​​​

Why is this fundraiser especially good news? ​​​​​​​​Rather than supporting a single cause, the Foundation distributes funds among various charities — money raised during the first 24 hours of the P4A is split between Partners In Health and Save the Children, and the second 24 hours to organizations voted on by viewers! ​​​​​​​​

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A community college’s guaranteed income program is supporting students who are also parents

Austin Community College (ACC) recently launched a new guaranteed income pilot program for student parents, helping support them and their children while they continue their education.

Participants in the program receive $500 a month for two years with a few conditions: They must enroll in nine credits each semester and attend monthly meetings with other student parents.

A growing body of research shows cash transfer programs can have a particularly big impact on young kids by providing family stability during children’s first few, formative years. This is likely due, in part, to a reduction of parental stress — which trickles down to their kids.

Why is this good news? While continuing education can hold the promise of a higher-paying job upon graduation, the financial burden can be one that especially students who are parents are simply not able to take on. And it’s not just a matter of “getting by” until graduation.

Constant stress or exposure to adverse childhood experiences like food and housing insecurity can lead to trauma and even cause changes to young children’s brains, making them less able to cope. But that harm can be mitigated if children’s basic needs are met and their parents have financial security — and guaranteed income programs can help.

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The clean energy transition is full steam sun ahead: The U.S. is adding the most utility-scale solar in a single year in 2023

Researchers from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) are forecasting add up to 29.1 GW of solar and up to 9.4 GW of energy storage in 2023 — around 70% of the 54.5 GW of new planned generating capacity.

If all capacity is indeed added as planned, in December we’ll be celebrating the most utility-scale solar capacity added in a single year — more than double the current record of 13.4 GW added in 2021.

And aside from a dip in 2022 due to supply chain and other challenges, this good news follows a trend of rapidly rising utility-scale solar capacity since 2010. The EIA says the largest new solar developments are planned in Texas and California.

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Cities from San Francisco to Dublin closed streets to cars during the pandemic — and are now making them a permanent fixture

When you close down a city street to cars, more people come out to do things like walking, biking, strolling, running, skating, and frolicking in the space normally reserved for motor vehicles. Car-free advocates even say that as greenhouse gas emissions and traffic violence go down, happiness and connection go up.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, cities around experimented with this idea, and over two years later, some of these experiments were so popular that they are here to stay.

In San Francisco, for example, JFK Drive (now known as JFK Promenade) has been historically closed to cars on Sundays since 1967 — during the pandemic, that changed to seven days a week. Visits to the park increased 36% since being closed to cars, and the city just passed a resolution to make it permanent along with some accessibility improvements for disabled people and seniors.

Are there any downsides to going car-free? Opponents of closing streets to cars argue that businesses will suffer (evidence shows the opposite!), congestion will increase (it doesn’t!), and disabled and elderly people will have less access to public space (fully solvable!). We already mentioned cleaner air, and more community connection… so in short, nope. No downsides.

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Over the last 10 years of his retirement, an Australian man restored a plot of land with 150 types of native trees

Bob Newby knew he needed to have “something to keep myself occupied” during his retirement. An entomologist, he not only had been witnessing the declines in biodiversity and natural habitats, he knew how to bring them back.

With a bias “towards things that were unusual or rare or threatened,” Newby cleared the land across from his home and began introducing new species of native trees, which can host dozens of species of butterflies.

He’s now planted more than 150 types of native trees, and thanks to the “more favorable” habitat, butterflies, birds, and other wildlife have returned to the restored bushland. The area is also used to teach and train conservation students on restoring suburban bushland.

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Community land trusts across the U.S. are building affordable, disaster-resilient homes

As climate change makes disasters like hurricanes, floods, and wildfires become more frequent, severe, and expensive, residents and policymakers are increasingly turning toward community land trusts (CLTs) — nonprofits that buy land to ensure community control, prevent displacement and ensure long-term affordability.

And now, they’re not only building affordable homes on the land— they’re building them with climate resiliency in mind, too.

The Houston CLT, for example, doesn’t buy homes or acquire land in environmentally hazardous areas — both for safety, and so new homeowners are not drowned in bills after a disaster. And in the Florida Keys, 27 cottages built by a CLT on 12-foot stilts with an airtight substance made from renewable materials that can withstand 200-mph winds were left largely unharmed by Hurricane Ian.

Why is this good news? Too often, developers build cheap homes in dangerous areas, which risks displacing vulnerable people who can’t afford to rebuild if their house is destroyed. Community-led initiatives put people over profit — prioritizing long-term community health and resiliency.

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Countries are decoupling from fossil fuels to reduce reliance on Russian oil

One major response to the invasion of Ukraine was for countries in Europe and around the world to divest from fossil fuel projects in Russia (60% of the country’s exports are oil and gas) and turn to renewable energy projects. Even before the military invasion, in response to Russia’s buildup of troops around Ukraine, Germany stopped the approval of Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline that would bring natural gas from Russia to Europe.

Germany also announced it would be accelerating its clean energy transition plans to reach 100% renewable energy by 2035 — 15 years ahead of schedule. Australia, Britain, the United States, and Canada also imposed bans on Russian oil purchases in the spring of 2022.

And now, nearly a year following the invasion, the European Union announced that it is cutting off imports of Russian oil products.

More hopeful stories in Ukraine from the past year:

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More good news of the week —

A new analysis shows an overwhelming majority of Americans support tracking and reducing highway emissions. The Department of Transportation is exploring an ambitious effort to reduce emissions, and 99.9% of people support their proposed plan.

Lawmakers from both parties are speaking out in support of Senator John Fetterman’s decision to seek treatment for depression. Fetterman’s depression reportedly became more severe recently, so he voluntarily and admirably checked himself in to receive treatment.

Pennsylvania’s governor just blocked the death penalty — and called for it to be permanently repealed. Governor Josh Shapiro said he will refuse to sign any execution warrants, and called on lawmakers to repeal the death penalty entirely.

More than 33 million kids have now been vaccinated against polio in several south African countries. The vaccination effort has been part of ongoing efforts to eradicate the infectious paralytic disease that has been largely contained in much of the world.

The first in the EU to do so, Spain just passed a “period pain” law allowing people who menstruate to take medical leave. Menstruators will be able to stay home for a few hours during the working day or take medical leave if pain prevents them from working.

Tyler Perry just donated $2.5 million to help older homeowners in Atlanta stay in their homes. Perry wanted to help prevent residents on a fixed income from losing their homes due to rising real estate taxes.

Scientists invented a way to engineer wood to make it both stronger and capable of capturing carbon dioxide. This good news comes as the world works to develop more sustainable, less carbon-intensive building materials.

A fifth person was just confirmed to have been cured of HIV. Four years after stopping his HIV medication following a stem cell transplant, the 53-year-old patient has no detectable virus in his body.

More than 25 gigawatts of solar capacity are being constructed in the U.S. right now. Literally, as you’re reading these words, 366 utility-scale projects are being built across the U.S. — adding to the existing 107.5 GW that currently exist.

The world’s largest four-day workweek trial is being celebrated as a “major breakthrough.” The results of the trial showed a significant drop in the rates of stress and illness among staff, and most companies say they plan to keep the shorter week.

A court in South Korea recognized the rights of same-sex couples for the first time. The court said a couple were discriminated against when they were denied health insurance.

Drawing on their past experience, sea turtle poachers are now protecting the endangered species in the Philippines. The poachers didn’t know it was illegal — once they learned the turtles were endangered, they stopped, and now earn a living protecting them.

A Ukrainian wedding planner has adapted her events to blackouts and curfews. Kyiv registered a massive 9,120 marriages in the first five months after Russia’s invasion — each a hopeful, defiant act of celebration despite the war.

When the conflict arose, a queer metal fabricator from Denver decided to go to Ukraine to serve as a front-line aid worker. Agatha Williams is helping provide humanitarian aid in places that few international groups know exist.

Despite protesters being been jailed or drafted into the war, the anti-war movement in Russia is alive — just a bit stealthier. The movement is now manifesting through disseminating accurate information about the war, acts of sabotage, resistance art, and more.

Article Details

February 25, 2023 5:00 AM
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