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Good News This Week: January 20, 2024 - Knitting, Lower Crime Rates, & Instagram for Good

A photo collage of a woman holding a quilt, another woman holding an octopus, a woman sewing using a sewing machine, a screenshot of Sharon's fundraising post on Instagram, and an aerial view of a factory.

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 —

The U.S. experienced a significant decline in homicides in 2023, with some cities on track to record the fewest murders in decades

There was a significant decline in homicides across the United States in 2023 (following a surge in murders after the start of the pandemic). Cities like Detroit, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles are on track to record the fewest murders in decades.

The decline in crime extends beyond homicides, covering various violent and property crime categories. Contrary to perceptions fueled by social media, crime overall is falling nationwide, including in cities previously labeled as “dangerous.”

In Detroit, a dedicated effort to revitalize the criminal justice system is credited for the remarkable decline in homicides. Los Angeles saw a reduction in murders of people experiencing homelessness, contributing to the overall decline.

What’s the nuance? The decrease in gun violence is a positive trend, but the numbers are still higher than pre-pandemic levels. Despite the positive trend, some cities, like Washington, D.C. continue to experience rising crime rates. Community activists in Philadelphia point to the lack of civic resources at the pandemic's onset as a factor contributing to violence, emphasizing the importance of programs and resources. While encouraged by the decline in violent crime, law enforcement officials acknowledge the need for continued efforts to address remaining issues.

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Volunteer knitters are completing unfinished projects left behind by deceased loved ones

Dedicated knitters Jennifer Simonic and Masey Kaplan have founded a heartwarming nonprofit initiative called the Loose Ends Project. Recognizing the sentimental value of handmade gifts and heirlooms, the organization aims to complete unfinished projects left behind by late loved ones.

Established in 2022, the Loose Ends Project has rapidly grown, boasting a network of over 19,000 volunteers from every state in the U.S. and 63 other countries.

Simonic and Kaplan noticed a recurring need among friends who often asked for assistance in finishing blankets, sweaters, and various other projects initiated by deceased loved ones. To address this poignant demand, they established the project in the hopes of bringing closure and comfort to grieving families.

The process is simple yet profoundly impactful: Surviving families and friends can submit incomplete projects on the Loose Ends website, where they are matched with volunteers possessing knitting, crocheting, quilting, rug hooking, and crafting skills in various textile mediums. These skilled volunteers offer their services free of charge, completing the projects and returning them to the recipients.

Some volunteers generously offer to provide how-to lessons, empowering recipients to continue working on their loved ones' projects independently. The ethos of the Loose Ends Project is rooted in the belief that handmade items are gestures of love, embodying time, expense, and skill that are immeasurable.

In an effort to make these projects more accessible, Loose Ends has recently initiated a partnership with JOANN, a renowned craft and fabric store. This collaboration provides exclusive discounts to volunteer finishers and in-kind product donations. JOANN locations across the country will serve as designated "meet-up" spots, facilitating the exchange of projects between loved ones and finishers.

Since its inception, the Loose Ends Project has successfully completed over 2,000 projects. The recent partnership with JOANN is expected to catalyze further growth, allowing the organization to continue easing grief, fostering community, and inspiring generosity.

Why is this good news? The nonprofit provides a heartwarming and compassionate solution by connecting volunteers globally to complete unfinished projects left behind by deceased loved ones, offering closure to grieving families and preserving the sentimental value of handmade items as meaningful mementos. The completion of these projects by dedicated volunteers ensures that the tangible, handmade expressions of love are not lost, donated, or discarded but instead finished as intended and returned to be used and cherished.

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An innovative clothing line makes human labor visible on every garment

An innovative clothing line called HUMAN TOUCH aims to make human labor visible on every garment. The creators, Juliet Seger and Christina Albrecht, use a technique called "paint-sewing," where the person sewing the garment has paint on their hands, leaving visible marks on both the sewing machine and the clothing.

This process makes the human labor involved in clothing manufacturing evident and unique for each item. For consumers, it serves as a conceptual marvel with a thought-provoking final product. The uniqueness of each item captures the human essence behind the creation of clothing.

Seger founded HUMAN TOUCH as a project within her fashion label, Paid Vacation, and it was the focus of her 2020 dissertation at the University of Edinburgh. Her research examined the role of technology in the history of fashion and emphasized the need to reexamine the ethics of fashion by recognizing the essential human participation in clothing manufacturing.

HUMAN TOUCH is now a standalone project, and in addition to a line of clothing made-to-order in Berlin, the company engages in live sewing performances. The international line is set to debut in an online store in February, accompanied by a live sewing event during Berlin Fashion Week.

The creators position HUMAN TOUCH not just as a fashion brand but as a basis for fashion activism, redirecting attention to the artistry and humanity of garment workers while creating meaningful clothing. They aim to challenge the perception of sewing as a 'low-skilled' task and emphasize its importance in creating a better fashion system.

Why is this good news? The innovative approach of HUMAN TOUCH in making human labor visible on every garment through the paint-sewing technique not only provides consumers with a unique and visually impactful experience, but also aims to challenge stereotypes about sewing being a 'low-skilled' task and advocates for a more ethical and sustainable fashion industry by emphasizing the artistry and humanity of garment workers. Additionally, the project's focus on fashion activism during Berlin Fashion Week suggests a commitment to bringing positive change to the fashion industry.

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A chef in Turkey showcases the transformative power of food in promoting cultural exchange and positive change in the community

Chef Ebru Baybara Demir, based in Mardin, southeast Turkey, embodies the essence of a culinary entrepreneur whose impact extends far beyond the kitchen. Beyond managing her renowned restaurant, Cercis Murat Konaği, Demir engages in endeavors that intertwine gastronomy, cultural exchange, and humanitarian relief.

Demir's impact transcends the culinary world as she actively engages in humanitarian initiatives. She plays a crucial role in building bridges between locals and Syrian refugees, who make up approximately a tenth of Mardin's population. In a region marred by ongoing conflicts and instability, Demir's efforts foster community cohesion and cross-cultural understanding.

As the war in Syria led to an influx of refugees and increased instability in Mardin, Demir's commitment to social gastronomy became more pronounced. In 2016, she secured funding from the UN's refugee agency to empower women under her employment to teach culinary techniques to both locals and refugees.

Two years later, she founded an agricultural development co-op, offering employment opportunities in food production to both locals and refugees. This co-op not only cultivates crops but also produces olive oil soap, showcasing the diverse skills within the community.

Demir's dedication to humanitarian causes reached new heights when earthquakes struck southern Turkey. Promptly responding to the crisis, she operated "soul kitchens" in the affected area, preparing tens of thousands of hot meals every day for survivors.

Her commitment to quality ensured that the dishes sent to the survivors included both national favorites and local delicacies, reflecting her passion for preserving regional culinary traditions even in times of crisis.

In recognition of her impactful work, Demir received the 2023 Basque Culinary World prize. She will use the €100,000 prize money to open a cafe in Mardin run by Turkish and Syrian chefs, contributing to community development. Profits from the cafe will support operations for the soul kitchens, emphasizing the sustainable and cyclical nature of her initiatives.

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An Instagram community helped forgive the medical debt of over 140,000 families

In a heartwarming initiative, Sharon McMahon, widely recognized as "America’s Government Teacher" on Instagram, recently spearheaded a successful fundraiser with her dedicated followers, affectionately known as "the Governerds." The objective of the campaign, conducted in December 2023, was to support RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit organization focused on alleviating medical debt burdens.

McMahon, who boasts a substantial following of over 1 million on social media, engages with her audience on current events. In addition to her primary focus on education, including podcasts and "Government for Grownups" workshops, McMahon has a passion for philanthropy.

During the annual fundraiser, the Governerds generously contributed a remarkable sum of $1,079,369.10 to RIP Medical Debt. What makes this effort even more impactful is the organization's unique approach to purchasing medical debt at cost.

Leveraging the expertise of the debt industry, RIP Medical Debt efficiently transforms every $1 donated into relieving approximately $100 in medical debt. The organization specifically supports individuals earning less than four times the federal poverty level, with debts totaling 5% or more than their annual income.

McMahon shared screenshots revealing the astounding result of this collective effort — the Governerds' initial contribution of $1 million translated into an astonishing $170 million in forgiven medical debt. This transformative outcome significantly impacted the lives of 142,830 families who received notifications that their medical debts had been fully paid.

This isn't the first time McMahon's community has rallied for a cause. Three years ago, their inaugural RIP Medical Debt fundraiser raised $560,000, demonstrating the enduring commitment to making a positive impact.

What’s the nuance? Medical debt is involved in over two-thirds of bankruptcies in the United States, and McMahon’s fundraiser brings attention to the need for collective efforts in addressing the systemic nature of medical debt. The good news, though, is this example of community-driven philanthropy demonstrates the transformative impact that collective action can have on the lives of individuals and families facing financial hardships due to medical debt.

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Hawaii replaced its last coal plant with a huge battery

Hawaii has achieved a significant milestone in its commitment to cease burning fossil fuels for electricity by 2045 by replacing its last coal plant with the innovative Kapolei Energy Storage system.

The battery comprises 158 Tesla Megapacks that began commercial operations on the industrial west side of Oahu before the end of December. The battery has a remarkable 185-megawatt instantaneous discharge capacity — equivalent to the coal plant's output — but with a much quicker 250-millisecond response time, contributing to a more responsive grid.

This pioneering project is not just a replacement for the coal plant — it represents a novel approach to maintaining grid reliability during the transition from fossil plants to renewable energy sources.

The old coal plant played a crucial role in providing energy, capacity, and grid services. The Kapolei battery effectively replaces the latter two, matching the coal plant's maximum power output and delivering essential grid services to keep the grid operating within optimal parameters.

And the battery works collaboratively with the island's vibrant solar sector, enabling the grid to integrate more clean renewable energy. The battery also offers "black-start capability," serving as a power source to restart the grid in the event of a disaster, such as a cyclone or earthquake.

The system's capabilities, including capacity, grid services, and black-start functionality, make it one of the most advanced battery energy storage facilities globally. Its central role in Oahu's grid, constituting about 17% of the island's peak capacity, demonstrates the necessity for advanced technologies to maintain grid stability amid the increasing integration of renewables.

Why is this good news? Hawaii's transition to clean energy has positioned the state at the forefront of the energy transition, marked by its early adoption of mass rooftop solar and utility-scale solar-battery projects. The Kapolei battery exemplifies a model for a reliable clean-energy grid, showcasing how critical grid functions can be effectively shifted from fossil-fueled plants to clean energy sources.

As the energy landscape continues to evolve, the success of projects like Kapolei provides valuable insights and practical examples for scaling similar initiatives nationwide.

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“Mama Octopus” leads a group of women in octopus fishing, contributing to economic well-being and marine conservation

Amina Ahmed, affectionately known as "Mama Pweza" (Mama Octopus), is spearheading a transformative initiative in the Lamu archipelago of Kenya. Leading a group of women from the Shanga-Ishakani village, Ahmed is challenging traditional gender roles by engaging in octopus fishing, a practice typically reserved for men. This endeavor not only aims to enhance the economic well-being of the participating families but also plays a crucial role in the conservation and preservation of ocean ecosystems.

The women's foray into octopus fishing is particularly significant in the context of local customs that have long dictated that men are the primary fishers while women stay at home to care for children. These pioneering women have successfully demonstrated the economic benefits of their octopus fishing activities, leading to greater acceptance from the male members of their community.

The success of the initiative is evident in the numbers, as exemplified by the experimental fishing closures in the Pate conservancy. After a four-month closure between January and April 2019, the women caught 186kg of relatively small octopuses over five days. Subsequent openings between May and September 2019 yielded an impressive 868kg of octopuses over five days, showcasing the effectiveness of their conservation-oriented approach.

Beyond their contributions to marine conservation, the women's association is saving funds for community development. For every octopus sold, 30 shillings are set aside, leading to the construction of a nursery school and the acquisition of two fishing boats to access offshore fishing grounds. Ahmed envisions breaking gender stereotypes further by having women assume leadership roles as boat captains, a move that challenges established norms in the male-dominated fishing industry.

Why is this good news? Mama Pweza and her team exemplify the transformative power of community-led conservation initiatives that not only empower women economically but also contribute to the sustainable management of marine resources, creating a harmonious balance between human activities and the delicate ecosystems they rely on.

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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 20, 2024 6:00 AM
January 25, 2024
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