Good News This Week: July 29, 2023 - Glasses, Beavers, & Clean Energy

A photo collage of a pair of TranscribeGlass glasses, bananas in a bowl, an oil pump in a field, a Maersk cargo ship at sea, and a beaver swimming in the water

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 —

Two Stanford students created glasses that provide real-time subtitles in real life

For folks who are deaf or hard of hearing, having closed captions isn’t a helpful bonus to a video-viewing experience, it’s a necessity. So, two students at Stanford decided to bring that caption technology off our screens and into augmented reality.

Connected to the world of assistive technology themselves, Tom Pritsky and Madhav Lavakare, founded TranscribeGlass, and the device itself is an AR wearable that attaches to a pair of glasses. It pairs with a transcription software to project real-time captions in front of your eyes.

It’s truly a game-changer, but don’t take our word for it: it recently caught the attention of millions of TikTok viewers, culminating in nearly six million views in just 24 hours.

Why is this good news? For folks who are deaf or hard of hearing, subtitles are not just a boost to their video-viewing experience — they are a necessity. And for others who face language barriers, captions and translations are a vital resource for connecting and understanding others.

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New research found eating a planet-friendly diet can reduce the risk of death from chronic illness by 25%

Scientists have found that people who followed a more sustainable diet — eating more plant-based foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and nuts — reduced their risk of death from cancer, heart disease, and other chronic illnesses by 25%.

Their research builds on existing research that these kinds of foods are also less harmful to the environment than red and processed meats. And based on their findings, the researchers developed a new score that uses scientific evidence to determine a food’s impact on both human health and the environment.

For impact on the environment, the research measures impacts like water use, land use, nutrient pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions.

What’s the nuance? It’s important to acknowledge that this research is only as good as these kinds of foods are widely accessible to everyone — both in availability and affordability. Food deserts, rising costs, and more leave people around the world without even the option to choose planet-friendly foods.

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In the first half of the year, wind and solar generated more power than coal in the U.S.

One-quarter of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. come from generating electricity — and coal is the dirtiest source. New data shows those dirty days were behind us, at least for the first half of the year.

Between January and June 2023, wind and solar produced 343 terawatt-hours (TWh) of electricity, while coal produced 296 TWh. That might not seem like a very notable difference — but it is when you compare it to just five years ago, when coal produced four times more TWh than wind and solar combined.

It’s an incredible milestone and point of progress to celebrate in the clean energy transition. And it comes just six months after a record-breaking year for carbon-free power generation: in 2022, all renewable sources (including hydropower and geothermal) out-generated coal.

Next up: lowering our dependence on gas.

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For the first time in decades, the U.S. is raising fees for drilling for oil on federal lands

For decades, the rules surrounding oil and gas extraction on federal lands haven’t changed — until now. The Interior Department recently announced major changes to protect public lands, save taxpayers money, and hold oil and gas companies accountable for cleanup.

Under the new rules, the minimum royalty rate increases to 16.7% (up from 12.5%), raises the minimum land lease bid to $10 per acre (up from $2), and increases the minimum bond to $150,000 per lease (up from $10,000). The rules also prioritize leasing where fossil fuel infrastructure already exists — which will leave space to develop more renewable energy capacity and protect wildlife habitats.

The increase in the minimum bond is particularly significant — that money is used to plug and clean up oil wells at the end of their life, and $10,000 was just a fraction of the cost. Many experts say it (along with the other, outdated rules) functioned as a subsidy for oil and gas companies.

What’s the nuance? While environmental groups are celebrating and welcoming these long-overdue changes, it comes with a caveat: it still leaves federal lands open to new drilling. And new drilling is something we desperately need to stop in the face of the climate crisis.

Still, new barriers for companies to implement new drilling is important, necessary progress.

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The first cargo ship in the world to run on green methanol just started its first voyage

By the end of the decade, Maersk (one of the largest shipping companies in the world) is looking to transport one-quarter of its ocean cargo ships using green fuels. Two years in the making, it just took the first major step towards reaching that goal.

The first cargo ship in the world to run on green methanol — made from methane captured from food waste at landfills — just started its first voyage from South Korea to Denmark. Maersk is also working to make 25 more ships and retrofit older ships to use green methanol.

The use of green methanol to fuel a cargo ship can cut its emission by up to 70% — which adds up to a significant amount considering the shipping industry is responsible for around 1 billion tons of CO2 emissions annually (about the same as the airline industry).

What’s the nuance? In short: green methanol can’t fully eliminate emissions. While not a perfect solution, it’s one that’s available right now to start making a (relatively significant) dent in reducing emissions — which is something the shipping industry must do to meet Paris climate goals.

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A new California policy will protect beavers an use their natural behaviors to help with water issues and wildfires

For a long time, beavers were considered a nuisance in California. Now, recognizing the environmental benefits of the animals, the state is changing its tune.

It just implemented a new policy to both protect and preserve beavers — and their nature-loving habits, which can be especially helpful in the face of climate change. Beavers can help restore biodiversity, improve groundwater supplies, and safeguard against wildfires.

Now, rather than immediately seeking a permit to kill them, people are being encouraged to try other methods of discouraging beaver damage to their property. The state also has two official relocation programs in place for those who need it.

Why is this good news? Right now, hundreds of permits are requested to kill beavers in California. While it’s unkown how many live in the state, an estimated 10 to 15 million total live in all of North America — it used to range between 100 and 200 million.

While beavers themselves aren’t endangered, they do create healthy habitats for species that are, like coho salmon.

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Thanks to the activism of two women, adult changing tables are now required under Minnesota law in all new public bathrooms

Linda Hood is a marathoner who lost the use of her legs from a virus. Last year, she become Miss Wheelchair Minnesota, and declared it her mission to get adult changing tables in public restrooms. Sarah St. Louis’ son Ezra has a traumatic brain injury, so she struggled to change him in public restrooms given he was too big for infant tables.

And like other disabled Minnesotans, being forced to use the floor of a public restroom to use the bathroom was a dehumanizing and disgusting experience — so they came together to make a change.

Working with two state Senators over the course of four years, they got a bill passed to mandate adult changing tables in all new public restrooms in Minnesota — and the governor recently signed it into law.

Especially good news to hear during Disability Pride Month, the new law is effective in January, and will mean that any large public buildings (movie theatres, malls, stadiums) must be built with adult changing tables. It also offers up to $20,000 in incentives for existing businesses to update their restrooms.

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More good news of the week —

Canada joined nearly 20 other nations calling for a moratorium on deep-sea mining. Proponents of the practice say it's less destructive, but countries more countries want to pause while the international community develops regulations around it.

Botanists are working to revive extinct plant species by using seeds from dry, preserved specimens. While they face many challenges to the task, it offers a glimpse of hope at resurrecting species that are important to biodiversity but were wiped out.

An organization sews reusable period pads for refugees and vulnerable communities. Ella Lambert started the Pachamama Project as a student in August 2020 and it's since grown into a global network of 2,000 volunteers who have sewn 100,000 pads.

With a record-setting $155 million on opening weekend, “Barbie” is now the biggest debut ever for a film directed by a woman. Greta Gerwig’s film made box office history, also becoming the largest opening weekend of the year so far.

A new California law will require incarcerated parents to be placed in the correctional facility closest to their child’s home. The “Keep Families Close” also applies to caregivers and legal guardians, and will have a positive impact on both children and people who are incarcerated.

The Women’s World Cup broke the previous ticket sales record ahead of this year’s tournament. Close to 1.4 million tickets were purchased for the 64 matches, surpassing the record total for the tournament eight years ago in Canada.

The U.S. will officially establish a national monument in honor of Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley. President Biden signed the proclamation yesterday, and the monument will be at three significant sites across Illinois and Mississippi.

Google Maps’ fuel-efficient driving routes have helped prevent an estimated 1.2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. Google released the feature in 2021 and said the emissions prevented would be like taking 250,000 cars off the road for a year.

The eight South American nations that make up the Amazon rainforest will adopt Brazil’s pledge to end illegal deforestation by 2030. It’s the most ambitious government effort yet to protect the world’s largest rainforest, whose preservation scientists see as key to helping avert climate change.

Michigan introduced a bill that would institute a “bill of rights” for those experiencing homelessness in the state. Introduced by Rep. Emily Dievendorf, the bill would offer the same rights to unhoused people as other members of society, like equal treatment, medical care, voting, and more.

A Texas oak tree thought to be extinct for a decade was just discovered in Big Bend National Park. As the climate has gotten hotter over the last thousand years, the Quercus Tardifolia oak tree has struggled to survive in the state.

The largest battery manufacturer just introduced an aviation division to develop electric airplanes. The aviation industry is notoriously polluting (see above), and recent breakthroughs in battery production have made them more commercially viable.

A 14-year-old’s eyesight was restored using gene therapy delivered through eye drops. Researchers believe this medical breakthrough could lead to similar therapies to treat millions of people with other eye diseases.

New energy efficiency standards on water heaters could save consumers $11 billion per year. The standards would also reduce more than 500 million metric tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions over 30 years, which is about equal to the combined annual emissions of half of U.S. homes.

With its largest investment in over 50 years, passenger rail could reach almost every major city in the U.S. in 15 years. Thanks to the federal infrastructure bill, Amtrak is proposing improvements to 25 existing routes, the addition of 39 new routes, and adding 20 million trips annually.

Article Details

July 29, 2023 5:00 AM
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