Good News This Week: January 6, 2024 - Bikes, Birds, & Butterflies

A photo collage of a close-up of a shirt, leaves inside a net, two parrots up close, a 'Proud Blood Donor' sign, and two butterflies on a plant

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 social justice-focused apparel company stands out by exclusively hiring individuals impacted by incarceration, aiming to provide healing and resources

For Everyone Collective, a social justice-focused apparel company, is making an impact by specifically hiring individuals who have been impacted by incarceration and their families.

Started by Skyler Rich, the company aims to provide healing, community, and resources to those affected by incarceration. In the U.S., nearly 2 million people are incarcerated, and upon release, they often struggle to access essential needs such as employment, health care, nutritious food, and housing.

For Everyone Collective not only employs formerly incarcerated individuals but also creates products that reflect their experiences. Best-selling items include a hoodie featuring an Angela Davis quote and a T-shirt with a message emphasizing safety, healing, accountability, housing, health care, education, food, water, and abolition for everyone.

The company also recently opened its first brick-and-mortar store in Grand Rapids, Michigan, offering signature designs, custom screen-printing, and a gathering space for customers and supporters.

The business operates on a worker-owned model, with its 11-member team co-owning the brand. The values and actions outlined on the brand's website include paying above living wages, providing free health and life insurance, using sustainable materials, offering unlimited paid time off, featuring art from incarcerated artists, rejecting systems of policing and incarceration, and hosting community events and teach-ins.

Why is this good news? For Everyone Collective actively addresses the challenges faced by individuals impacted by incarceration by providing them with meaningful employment opportunities. The company's commitment to promoting healing, community, and resources for this group, along with its worker-owned model and emphasis on ethical practices, contributes positively to social impact and transformative justice.

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Activists and scientists in Hong Kong are collecting discarded oyster shells to restore damaged oyster ecosystems, promote biodiversity, and reduce pollution

In an effort to address the degradation of Hong Kong's oyster habitats caused by urban development, water pollution, and over-harvesting, a group of activists and scientists have launched a unique initiative.

They’re collecting and recycling discarded oyster shells from restaurants and hotels to restore damaged oyster ecosystems, promote biodiversity, and reduce pollution in the city's bays.

The shells undergo a meticulous process — including sun-drying for a year to eliminate any remaining bacteria — before being reintroduced into selected areas of the bay to create a surface for oyster larvae and other marine organisms to settle.

The project, led by the Nature Conservancy (TNC) in Hong Kong, collaborates with oyster farmers and businesses to collect approximately 870 kg weekly from various establishments.

The depletion of Hong Kong's natural oyster reefs has not only impacted local biodiversity but has also affected the ability of oyster farmers to sustainably cultivate their products. The initiative aims to revive the city's 700-year oyster farming tradition, recognized by Unesco as an "intangible cultural heritage."

By strategically placing recycled oyster shells in areas identified as having the potential for ecosystem restoration, the project seeks to encourage the repopulation of oysters and contribute to overall biodiversity in the region.

Why is this good news? Despite challenges in convincing smaller enterprises to participate in the recycling initiative, this project holds promise for both environmental conservation and the sustainability of Hong Kong's long-standing oyster farming tradition. The success of the initiative could serve as a model for similar projects globally, emphasizing the importance of nature-based solutions and community collaboration in restoring and preserving coastal ecosystems.

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The U.S. experienced a record-breaking year in solar power in 2023

The year 2023 proved to be a record-breaking period for solar power in the U.S., as nearly 33 gigawatts of solar capacity were projected to be installed by the year’s end.

This substantial increase from the 21 gigawatts installed in 2022 marks the largest annual addition of solar power in the nation's history, according to the Solar Market Insights report from the Solar Energy Industries Association and Wood Mackenzie.

The solar industry, representing the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S., has accounted for nearly half of all new power capacity during the initial three quarters of 2023, contributing to a total installed solar capacity of approximately 161 gigawatts – enough to generate around 5 percent of the country's electricity.

The growth has been particularly driven by utility-scale installations, which are expected to have expanded by 86 percent compared to the previous year.

While the solar industry is expected to face hurdles — such as grid congestion — Wood Mackenzie remains optimistic about its continued expansion, predicting that the total solar capacity installed in the U.S. will nearly double by 2027.

Why is this good news? The significant increase in solar capacity reflects a commitment to clean and renewable energy sources, contributing to a reduction in carbon emissions and addressing climate change. Additionally, solar power is now the fastest-growing source of electricity in the U.S. — making up almost half of all new power capacity! — signaling a shift toward sustainable energy solutions.

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A conservation foundation in Ecuador protects 10% of the world's bird species

The Jocotoco Foundation, established in 1998, has emerged as a formidable force in biodiversity conservation, particularly with a focus on avian species.

Originating from the critical need to safeguard the Jocotoco Antpitta, a bird species discovered in 1997, the foundation has grown to manage 15 reserves across Ecuador. These reserves are strategically positioned to protect areas of global significance for bird conservation, spanning from the Amazon rainforest to ecosystems in the Galapagos Islands.

Each reserve managed by Jocotoco plays a crucial role in preserving regionally and globally threatened plants and animals, contributing to the protection of an astounding 10% of the world's bird species. The organization adopts a dynamic and adaptive approach, analyzing specific threats faced by each species and assessing its capacity to make a positive impact.

Martin Schaefer, the head of Jocotoco, emphasizes the importance of tailoring strategies based on the unique circumstances and threats present in each locality, which can range from collaborating with local communities to prevent habitat loss to acquiring land to impede the progress of logging activities by industrial timber companies.

The foundation actively engages in ecotourism initiatives, fostering community involvement and education, and conducts scientific research and monitoring. By working closely with local communities, Jocotoco not only raises awareness about conservation but also promotes sustainable practices. The ecotourism programs implemented by Jocotoco not only generate employment opportunities but also contribute to the revenue of local communities surrounding the reserves.

Why is this good news? The Jocotoco Foundation stands as a beacon of hope and action in the conservation landscape, showcasing the power of collective efforts, adaptive strategies, and a holistic approach to preserving the rich biodiversity of Ecuador and contributing significantly to global bird conservation.

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A nonprofit in Chicago is making biking more accessible, affordable, and safe for Black and Brown communities

The Equiticity Racial Equity Movement, led by Olatunji Oboi Reed in Chicago, is dedicated to breaking down systemic barriers hindering cycling adoption within Black and Brown communities.

Recognizing complex associations tied to biking, such as safety concerns, police harassment, and infrastructure disparities, Reed and Equiticity focus on a holistic, systemic approach to foster a shift in transportation dynamics.

Reed's advocacy began with the launch of Slow Roll Chicago in 2014. Aimed at encouraging Black, Brown, and Indigenous individuals to embrace cycling for both recreational and transportation purposes, Slow Roll Chicago, under Reed's leadership, continues to strengthen community connections.

In 2017, Reed expanded his vision by establishing Equiticity in Chicago's River North neighborhood, focusing on creating bike libraries in the city's predominantly Black and Brown South and West Sides.

Equiticity has since evolved and expanded its programming, encompassing advocacy, social enterprises, and community mobility rituals that involve biking, walking tours, public transit excursions, group scooter rides, and open streets festivals.

Notably, Equiticity launched the Mobility Opportunities Fund in November 2022, supported by a grant from ComEd. The fund provides financial assistance for purchasing conventional bicycles, electric bicycles, electric cargo bicycles, and even electric vehicles, with the aim of making biking more accessible and affordable for Black and Brown riders.

Equiticity's ongoing advocacy includes the Free 2 Move Coalition, addressing police harassment and pushing for biking infrastructure improvements. Improving biking infrastructure is integral to Equiticity's mission of making biking a safe and viable option for Black and Brown communities.

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The FDA's new approach for blood donation marks a significant step toward LGBTQ+ inclusivity and addresses previous discriminatory restrictions

The FDA has recently approved a groundbreaking change in blood donation policies, ending restrictions for gay and bisexual men and making the process more inclusive.

Previously, these individuals faced restrictions stemming from the early days of the HIV/AIDS epidemic — including extended periods of sexual abstinence — preventing them from donating blood.

Despite advancements in HIV testing for blood donations, a lifetime ban imposed on gay and bisexual men persisted until 2015 when it was replaced with a requirement for one year of sexual abstinence for men who have sex with men. In 2020, this period was reduced to 90 days. Critics argued that these policies were discriminatory and failed to align with scientific advancements.

In response to these concerns, the FDA announced a shift in policy, moving away from blanket bans based on sexual orientation to a more individualized risk assessment approach. This change, implemented in August, screens donors based on their risk of contracting and transmitting HIV, utilizing gender-inclusive and individual risk-based questions, with deferrals for those deemed at higher risk.

The updated policy, widely praised by public health experts and LGBTQ+ activists, acknowledges the importance of assessing individual risk factors rather than imposing restrictions based on identity.

Similar changes have been observed in other countries like the United Kingdom, France, Greece, and the Netherlands. The hope is that this new approach will encourage more donors to address the ongoing blood supply shortage, a concern highlighted by the American Red Cross declaring a national blood shortage in September.

What’s the nuance? While the response from the LGBTQ+ community has been positive, there is a call for further inclusivity, with discussions around expanding eligibility to individuals on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that prevents HIV infection. The overall sentiment is one of progress, with the new risk assessment approach not only addressing stigma and discrimination but also emphasizing the importance of education and participation in a scientifically sound risk assessment.

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A collaborative effort in Japan between a town, researchers, and a local agricultural cooperative aims to revive an endangered butterfly species

A collaborative effort between the small agrarian town of Iijima, researchers from the University of Tokyo, and the local Kamiina Agricultural Cooperative Association has been underway to revive the Reverdin’s blue butterfly (referred to as miyamashijimi in Japanese) and, in doing so, preserve the traditional Japanese landscapes known as satoyama.

The butterfly is currently facing the threat of endangerment in Japan. This decline is attributed to changing landscapes resulting from urban migration, an aging population, and increased reliance on food imports.

The partnership's focus involves creating sanctuaries for the miyamashijimi in abandoned grasslands within Iijima. These grasslands, designed to mimic the satoyama landscape, are situated near rice fields and woodlands, following a moderate maintenance schedule, aiming to provide an optimal environment for the butterfly's host plant.

The success of this conservation initiative is not only significant for the butterfly but also for the broader ecosystem. Maintaining a moderate level of landscape use in Iijima has the potential to support diversity and abundance of various insects and plants. This, in turn, can have positive effects on the pollination of crops such as buckwheat, contributing to the overall well-being of the community.

A crucial aspect of the partnership's approach is community-based governance. To foster local leadership, the collaboration prioritizes education by organizing courses and workshops on wildlife conservation in local schools.

The effort also aims to instill a sense of identity and pride within the community regarding the butterfly's presence. By disseminating updates on conservation efforts through various channels, including social networking services, town hall websites, and permanent displays, the collaboration seeks to engage the community in the ongoing conservation initiatives.

Why is this good news? The conservation initiatives in Iijima represent a multifaceted approach involving scientific research, community engagement, and education to protect the miyamashijimi and maintain biodiversity. As part of a global effort, these initiatives showcase the potential for communities to reintegrate with the environment and contribute to wildlife conservation. Early indications suggest success, with the discovery of new colonies near release sites, hinting at the potential for establishing new populations.

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More good news of the week —

AI tools are being used in Indian public schools to address learning gaps in subjects like English. These tools, developed by edtech firms, nonprofits, and tech giants, aim to assist teachers, create lesson plans, and identify students at risk of dropping out.

“Shark dust” will help identify threatened and protected shark species in Indonesia's fish trade. Researchers’ findings could help improve trade monitoring by providing insight into the variety of shark and ray species processed in specific locations, addressing the challenges of regulating and monitoring the country's shark and ray trade, which is poorly monitored and susceptible to illegal activity.

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have developed an efficient process for extracting ammonia from livestock manure, potentially reducing the environmental impact of manure application on farm fields. The captured nutrients can then be released through an electrical charge and dried for use as fertilizer, with additional benefits including the creation of hydrogen for fuel or hydrogen peroxide as a disinfectant.

Researchers at North Carolina State University have developed a biodegradable film that resembles plastic but is more environmentally friendly, made from reinforced seaweed-derived polymers. The researchers believe that this innovation could be a sustainable alternative to petroleum-based plastics commonly used in items such as food packaging, contributing to efforts to reduce plastic waste and its environmental impact.

California is set to adopt regulations allowing sewage to be extensively treated and transformed into pure drinking water delivered directly to taps. This move represents a milestone in the state's efforts to address water scarcity by recycling more water, with the regulations permitting "direct potable reuse" to incorporate highly treated water into the drinking-water system.

The New York City Council has voted to ban most instances of solitary confinement in city jails, passing a measure with enough votes to override a potential veto from Mayor Eric Adams. The move comes amid scrutiny over deaths at the Rikers Island jail complex and is part of a broader national trend to restrict or eliminate the use of solitary confinement in correctional facilities.

California is set to implement two new laws this month to combat the fentanyl crisis by making drugs like naloxone, which reverse opioid overdoses, more accessible and providing liability protection to those administering them. The bill updates the state's good Samaritan law to shield anyone administering Narcan (naloxone) from liability in most cases during opiate overdoses.

The "fairy lantern," a bioluminescent plant species called Thismia kobensis, has been rediscovered after being presumed extinct for 30 years. The fairy lantern, which relies on parasitizing underground organisms rather than photosynthesis, is characterized by its cryptic nature, with most of the plant remaining underground and colorful flowers barely rising above the forest floor.

The Utah State Legislature has unanimously passed a bill enshrining into law a ban on LGBTQ+ conversion therapy. The bill, which received support from Equality Utah after modifications, now awaits Governor Spencer Cox's approval, signaling a permanent ban on conversion therapy for minors in the state.

President Joe Biden has issued a federal pardon for all Americans who have used marijuana in the past, including those who were never arrested or prosecuted, covering both personal use and convictions for similar federal crimes. The move aims to address the impact of criminal records on employment, housing, and education opportunities, with thousands eligible for pardons.

Major insulin manufacturers have implemented measures to lower insulin costs to $35 for many patients, reducing list prices significantly. The moves, which went into effect January 1, include monthly caps on out-of-pocket costs and reductions in list prices, providing relief to the approximately 8.4 million Americans who rely on insulin, while also benefiting the companies by potentially saving them hundreds of millions in Medicaid rebates.

Illinois has introduced 320 new state laws for 2024, including a ban on semi-automatic weapons with features like restricted gun capacities and mandatory registration for previously purchased guns. Other notable changes include a prohibition on state funding for libraries that indiscriminately ban books, mandated paid time off for workers, and regulations on issues such as videoconferencing while driving, indoor vaping, deepfake pornography, and restroom accommodations.

An aviation company has developed jet fuel entirely from human sewage, with chemists turning waste into kerosene. Independent tests show the sewage-based fuel has a nearly identical chemical composition to standard fossil jet fuel — with a 90% lower carbon footprint.

A study suggests that people over 50 living alone may counter cognitive decline by having a pet. Pet ownership, particularly of dogs and cats, is linked to higher trust levels, a tighter bond with humans, and increased levels of oxytocin and dopamine, which are feel-good hormones.

Cities across the U.S. are discarding off-street parking minimums in an effort to promote affordable housing, improve transit, and create walkable neighborhoods. Over 50 other cities and towns, such as Anchorage, Alaska, and San Jose, California, have eliminated their minimum parking requirements, citing their arbitrary nature and negative consequences like increased housing costs and congestion.

Article Details

January 6, 2024 5:00 AM
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