Good News This Week: January 13, 2024 - Cacao, Books, & Dogs

A photo collage of a woman posing in front of The Cacao Guardians' coffee beans, a close-up photo of a dog, a screenshot of Melt's lead vocalist, Veronica Stewart-Frommer in a TikTok video, three professional portraits of two dogs and one cat, and two members from St. Paul City's all-female council posing for the camera

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 —

A women-founded cacao business in the Brazilian Amazon promotes sustainable development and environmental conservation

The Cacao Guardians, a transformative initiative in the Brazilian Amazon, has emerged as a beacon of sustainable development, empowerment, and environmental stewardship.

Founded by women from the riverside community of Acará-Açu, the cooperative was born out of a chocolate-making workshop organized by a renowned Amazonian chocolatier. But what began as an experiment in someone's kitchen has evolved into a registered business with an artisanal factory producing 130kg of chocolate monthly.

The cooperative, situated on the banks of the River Acará, extends beyond chocolate, encapsulating various local projects that emphasize the interconnectedness of the community, territory, and their potential.

And the impact of Cacao Guardians goes beyond the realm of chocolate production. The initiative has prompted a reevaluation of the community's way of life, inspiring the creation of grassroots endeavors aimed at preserving the forest.

One such initiative is an agroforestry project led by a daughter of a Cacao Guardian, which involves nine families reforesting their smallholdings without pesticides.

The agroforestry approach integrates native trees and shrubs with crops, fostering biodiversity and moving away from the over-reliance on açaí berries that has led to the phenomenon termed "açaífication." The goal is to achieve food sovereignty, promoting a more sustainable and diverse agricultural model.

Why is this good news? The women involved in the cooperative not only achieve financial independence — reducing their reliance on their husbands for money — but also find companionship, empowerment, and a sense of purpose.

The cooperative envisions strengthening other communities, fostering empowerment, and contributing to broader environmental conservation goals. The women aspire to build similar spaces in other communities, continuing to empower women and communities in the pursuit of sustainable development and a harmonious coexistence with the Amazon rainforest.

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Conservation efforts in Europe have led to a significant resurgence of mammal populations

Conservation efforts in Europe are yielding positive results as mammal populations — once threatened by hunting and habitat loss — are experiencing significant comebacks.

The European bison, brown bear, elk, Eurasian badger, Eurasian otter, red deer, and Eurasian beaver are among the species that have seen substantial increases in their numbers over the past 50 years.

A decline in agricultural land use, coupled with effective protection measures (such as hunting bans, designated protected areas, anti-poaching patrols, and compensation for species reproduction) has contributed to the resurgence of these mammals.

Conservationists have played a pivotal role in these successes, advocating for wildlife protection policies, hunting quotas, and reintroduction programs. Long-term monitoring, though challenging, has provided valuable insights into population trends, with methods evolving over time.

The dedication of conservationists, from fighting for wildlife protection policies to spearheading reintroduction programs, underscores the importance of individual efforts in safeguarding and revitalizing mammal populations.

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A popular dog photographer launched a mental health fundraiser: Walk your dog, make a difference

Andrew Knapp, who is a popular dog photographer and devoted canine caretaker, has introduced a unique initiative called "Dollar Dog Walks" on his Instagram account, which boasts over 600,000 followers.

The premise is simple yet impactful: Followers can subscribe for $1 a month, and all the proceeds go toward supporting various mental health organizations.

Known for his captivating dog photography, Knapp has committed to embracing the outdoors daily alongside his canine companions throughout 2024. Following the loss of his border collie, Momo, in 2021, Knapp keeps her memory alive through shared adventures and images featuring his other furry friends, Yaya and Boo.

In a video announcement, Knapp passionately expressed the profound role dogs have played in his life, crediting them with potential life-saving impacts (“[dogs are] the reason that I’m here today, possibly,” he says) and being a key reason he actively engages with the outdoors.

The Dollar Dog Walks initiative aligns with Knapp's belief in the healing power of nature and the positive influence of dogs on mental well-being. Knapp has consistently shared content that touches on mental health, including a "guided meditation for dogs" and a heartfelt video addressing the challenges of coping with pet loss.

Why is this good news? The initiative has already gained traction, with Knapp sharing on his Instagram broadcast channel that he garnered nearly 50 subscribers within a single day. In his announcement video, Knapp expressed the hope that this project could make a meaningful contribution to addressing prevalent issues related to mental health struggles, addiction, and mental illness.

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An indie-soul band is making "danceable protest songs" about climate change to bring impactful messages to a mainstream audience

In the current landscape of indie music, TikTok has become a powerful platform for artists to showcase their new releases and gain exposure. New York City-based indie-soul quintet Melt has taken a distinctive and earnest approach on TikTok, using the platform to convey a powerful message.

The five-member band, composed of lead vocalist Veronica Stewart-Frommer, vocalist and keyboardist Eric Gabriel, guitarist Marlo Shankweiler, bassist Lucas Saur, and trombonist Nick Sare, has positioned itself as a unique force in the indie scene since its formation in 2017.

One of Melt's standout tracks, "Walk to Midnight," featured in their TikTok content, is more than just an upbeat and catchy tune. The song carries a poignant message, calling out individuals in positions of power who have played a role, either directly or indirectly, in the degradation of the planet.

The lyrics, sung energetically by Stewart-Frommer, confront those complicit in environmental destruction: "Do you know what you did? / Did you have a good time while you threw it away? / You wanted to own it / own it / honey, it ain’t yours to take."

In another TikTok video, the band provides additional context for the song, describing it as touching on themes of nuclear war, climate change, relationships, and the inevitable loss of precious moments as individuals grow older.

In addition to their music, Melt has also engaged in community-building initiatives by partnering with organizations like Headcount to register voters. Stewart-Frommer firmly believes that musicians have always been activists and advocates, operating in a language of love that extends beyond the notes and lyrics to inspire social change.

As Melt continues to create what they call “danceable protest songs,” they contribute to a growing movement of artists using their platform to drive meaningful conversations and promote positive change.

Why is this good news? Melt's decision to create "danceable protest songs" reflects a broader trend of musicians using their art to address pressing social and environmental issues. While Melt isn't the first to incorporate environmental activism into music, their emphasis on making these protest songs "danceable" underscores a desire to bring intentional and impactful tunes to a mainstream audience.

Drawing inspiration from past examples like English band The 1975, which featured leading climate activist Greta Thunberg in a song, Melt aims to infuse everyday contexts with heavy-handed yet accessible messages about climate change and related issues.

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A photography company is capturing adoption photos for shelter animals, resulting in increased adoptions and fundraising for over 50 shelters

AGoldPhoto, a pet photography venture founded by Adam and Mary Goldberg in Tampa Bay, Florida, has emerged as a beacon of hope for shelter animals seeking forever homes.

Their innovative "Second Shot" program focuses on capturing professional adoption photos, showcasing the unique personalities of these animals to potential adopters.

The journey began when Adam, managing the social media and website for the Humane Society of Broward County, realized the transformative power of quality pet photography. After teaching himself the art of photography, Adam excelled in putting pets at ease and highlighting their lovable traits, significantly accelerating the adoption process. His success led to training other volunteers in the art of animal photography.

The Goldbergs' commitment to the cause led them to quit their jobs and embark on a nationwide tour, conducting pet photo shoot fundraisers for various shelters. Over three years, they raised an impressive $250,000 for over 50 animal shelters, rescues, and charities, marking a tangible impact on the lives of countless animals.

The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted a shift in their strategy. Unable to continue their travel schedule, Adam and Mary decided to establish a pet photo studio in Tampa. While their days are now primarily spent capturing the joy of pets in loving homes, a crucial aspect of their work remains the "Second Shot" program.

The impact of the program goes beyond the lens. Sherry Silk, CEO of the Tampa Bay Humane Society, attests to the difference it makes, especially for animals that are challenging to place or have spent an extended time in the shelter. By investing time in each animal, the Goldbergs create a connection that can be the decisive factor in finding them a loving home.

Why is this good news? As Adam aptly puts it, "At the end of the day, it's not about the photos, it's not about the shares on social media. It's about connecting pets and people." AGoldPhoto continues to exemplify the transformative power of photography, turning moments captured through their lens into opportunities for animals to find their forever homes.

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The St. Paul City Council made history by inaugurating its first all-female council, marking a turning point for the city's political landscape

In a groundbreaking moment for St. Paul, Minnesota, the City Council has achieved a milestone by swearing in its first all-female council. This historic event materialized after a group of seven women, including incumbents Mitra Jalali, Rebecca Noecker, and Nelsie Yang, campaigned together and secured their victories in the mid-November elections.

Not only is this council exclusively composed of women, but it also stands out as the youngest and most racially diverse in the city's history, with all seven members being under 40 years old, and six representing diverse ethnic backgrounds.

The momentous achievement reflects a significant shift in St. Paul's political landscape, tracing its roots to demographic changes over the past few decades. The city, once a stronghold of Irish-Catholic political influence, experienced a transformation in the 1980s with the influx of immigrant communities. Additionally, the shift from at-large elections to representation by ward in 1980 paved the way for a more representative political leadership.

This groundbreaking council is not only a testament to changing demographics but also an outcome of a coalition formed by newcomers Anika Bowie, Cheniqua Johnson, Hwa Jeong Kim, and Saura Jost, who, along with the three incumbents, joined forces to campaign collectively. Their shared vision and diverse backgrounds, ranging from former teachers and nonprofit executives to community organizers and a civil engineer, promise a fresh and multifaceted perspective on addressing the city's challenges.

Why is this good news? The inauguration of the first all-female St. Paul City Council, with members under 40 and representing diverse ethnic backgrounds, reflects a step toward more inclusive and diverse political representation, breaking historical gender and age barriers and fostering a broader range of perspectives to address the city's challenges.

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A "radical street librarian" is bringing reading to book deserts by organizing free pop-up book fairs

Araba Maze, a self-proclaimed "radical street librarian," is actively combating book deserts in Baltimore, Maryland, through her organization, Storybook Maze.

Recognizing the limitations of traditional libraries in reaching underserved communities, Maze has adopted a unique approach by hosting free pop-up book fairs and curating a diverse selection of culturally significant books to provide children with engaging and relatable reading material.

Araba Maze's journey began when she noticed a lack of books in her community during impromptu "Stoop Storytimes." As a librarian, she realized that the children who needed her assistance the most were not always the ones accessing library services. To bridge this gap, Maze decided to bring the library to the children by organizing pop-up events and offering free books.

Recognizing the impact of positive reading experiences, Maze aims to create enjoyable encounters with books for children who may find reading intimidating or stressful. She believes in finding the right book for every reader and ensures that her curated selection includes diverse characters and formats such as graphic novels, picture books, and audiobooks.

Through successful grant applications, Maze installed a book vending machine at a local YMCA, allowing children to select free books using tokens. Additionally, she received funding for her upcoming project, The Book Trolley, inspired by Mister Rogers, which will provide a mobile and sensory-rich reading experience for kids, including visits to literary landmarks in the area.

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More good news of the week —

The UK's use of gas and coal for electricity hit its lowest point since 1957, with a 20% decline in electricity generated by gas and coal power plants in 2023. Fossil fuels contributed about one-third of the electricity supplies, while renewables reached a record 42%, marking the third time this decade that renewables surpassed fossil fuels.

The long-awaited suicide prevention barrier at the Golden Gate Bridge has been completed, marking the end of a decade-long project. The completion comes after years of advocacy by families who lost loved ones at the iconic structure.

Two large offshore wind projects in the U.S., the Vineyard Wind off Massachusetts and the South Fork Wind off New York, have started sending electricity to the grid for the first time. The Vineyard Wind project, with 62 turbines, and the South Fork Wind project, with 12 turbines, mark a significant milestone in the development of the American offshore wind industry.

Architects are addressing the issue of building collisions that kill up to a billion birds annually in the U.S. Innovations include patterned or coated glass, green roofs, and structures serving as bird perches, offering both aesthetic appeal and bird safety in city skylines.

Scientists have discovered a way to get Alzheimer’s drugs into the brain faster with a new ultrasound tool, potentially improving the efficacy of Alzheimer's drugs. An experiment resulted in a 32% greater reduction in Alzheimer's plaque levels in treated areas compared to the opposite side of the brain, according to PET scans.

A dog rescue in Ohio collaborated with a local tattoo shop for an annual fundraiser, where customers could choose pet-related tattoo designs, with all proceeds directly supporting the rescue's efforts to cover shelter, housing, food, and vet costs. The nonprofit shelter has been creatively raising funds for its operations, including an upcoming "Emo Prom,” aiming to raise funds for dogs in need through an emo-themed formal wear event.

A study of African elephant populations shows stabilization in southern heartlands after significant losses over the past century. The researchers advocate for conservation efforts that not only protect elephants but also focus on reconnecting fragmented habitats to ensure long-term stability.

California has enacted a law that facilitates out-of-state doctors — especially those affected by abortion restrictions — to obtain up to 90 days of in-person abortion training in the state, aiming to become a sanctuary for individuals from states where abortion is limited. With 18 states restricting or banning abortion and affecting the training of 20% of OB-GYN medical residents, California's initiative is seen as vital in addressing the impact of abortion bans on medical education.

A telecommunications company plans to convert old street cabinets used for broadband and phone cabling into electric vehicle (EV) charging points, with the first installation expected in Scotland within weeks under a pilot program. The initiative aims to address the shortage of EV chargers in the UK, with the company hoping to convert up to 60,000 cabinets nationwide.

The capital of Slovakia is pioneering a novel approach to recycling cigarette butts by collecting them in specially designed containers and using the discarded material to create asphalt for roads. The initiative aims to contribute to cleaner streets, promote recycling, and address the environmental impact of discarded cigarettes.

Juneau, Alaska, is addressing its carbon footprint from tourism by encouraging visitors to pay a few dollars to the Alaska Carbon Reduction Fund, which installs heat pumps for local residents relying on oil heating systems. The fund has installed 41 heat pumps since 2019, estimating they will prevent 3,125 metric tons of carbon emissions over their 15-year lifespans, with contributions from nearby businesses and tour operators.

In 2023, the world witnessed a surge in renewable energy, with record-breaking solar output and a significant increase in battery production. China, Europe, and the U.S. set solar installation records, with China leading the way with additions between 180 and 230 gigawatts.

The use of portable X-ray machines is on the rise, with the devices proving valuable in remote locations, battlefields, roadsides, and disaster zones. These devices are capable of producing images of a similar standard to larger, fixed machines in hospitals, enabling screenings and diagnostic procedures to be carried out more efficiently in various settings.

Poland's new climate minister, Paulina Hennig-Kloska, has announced a half-year moratorium on logging in 10 of the country's most valuable forests. The move is the first step in limiting logging and fulfills a promise made in the government's coalition agreement to protect 20% of the country's forests.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced that over 500 gun purchases have been blocked since the implementation of a bipartisan gun law in June 2022, which mandates stricter background checks for individuals under the age of 21. The law, enacted after several mass shootings, includes additional checks for young buyers, involving state and local officials along with FBI databases.

Article Details

January 13, 2024 5:00 AM
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