Good News This Week: June 29, 2024 - Zoos, Trees, & Iberian Lynxes

A photo collage of a forest, a woman speaks before a crowd, an island in the middle of the ocean, an Iberian lynx, and an aerial view of Central Park and its surrounding buildings

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 —

In ‘the greatest recovery of a cat species ever achieved,’ the rarest wild cat in the world is now no longer endangered

The Iberian lynx is one of the rarest cat species in the world, and after 20 years of hard-won conservation efforts, it’s officially off the endangered species list.

In 2002, the species was brought to the brink of extinction, with only 94 Iberian lynxes remaining in Spain and disappearing entirely from Portugal, where it was declared locally extinct.

The main cause of the Iberian lynx’s decline was its disappearing food source, which was affected by agricultural production and disease, as well as by poaching and highway construction.

Why is this good news? The Iberian lynx’s recovery is proof of all the good that conservation efforts can do if we invest in them long-term. Conservationists focused on projects over the course of two decades and thanks to those efforts, the species’ population increased twenty-fold — so much that it was removed from the endangered species list entirely.

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The number of children who died before their fifth birthday reached a historic low in 2022

According to the latest estimates from the United Nations, 4.9 million children died before their fifth birthday in 2022 — fewer than ever before. And while that number is still heartbreakingly high, it’s incredible progress.

This historic achievement is thanks to “midwives and skilled health personnel helping mothers safely deliver their newborns, health workers vaccinating and protecting children against deadly diseases, and community health workers who make home visits to support families to ensure the right health and nutrition support for children.”

Thanks to decades of effort from individuals, communities, and entire countries, the global under-5 mortality rate has declined by 51% since 2000. Several countries, like Cambodia, Malawi, Mongolia, and Rwanda saw under-5 mortality reduced by more than 75%.

And it’s proof that we can make even more progress to end all preventable child deaths — progress which we desperately need to continue making.

Most of the remaining child deaths are due to preventable or treatable causes like birth complications and preterm birth, and diseases like malaria and pneumonia.

It can feel conflicting to celebrate achieving a milestone like this when so many children are still dying — but it’s important progress to celebrate as we continue working to reduce child deaths even more by ensuring equitable access to high-quality health care, maternal health care, vaccinations, disease diagnosis, and more.

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Achieving a major reforestation milestone, the Democratic Republic of Congo has planted 90% of its 1 billion trees goal

The Democratic Republic of Congo loses 500,000 hectares (1.2 million acres) of forest cover every year due to shifting cultivation, mining, and illegal and informal logging.

To address this widespread deforestation, a Congolese government program aspired to plant 1 billion trees between 2019 and 2023, aiming to strengthen climate resilience, alleviate poverty and protect biodiversity.

While they didn’t meet their goal, they reached a remarkable 90% of their target — and the organization behind the reforestation effort plans to continue planting more trees even after the government program comes to an end.

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More good tree news:

A university professor is using concrete and corals to help protect Miami during hurricane season

As part of a team of engineers, biologists, and social scientists, University of Miami professor Diego Lirman is developing a solution to protect Miami’s coastlines from the impacts of hurricanes — which are intensifying due to climate change.

And with 2024 predicted to be a record-breaking year for hurricanes, their solution couldn’t come at a better time.

The group is using a combination of “grey” and “green” infrastructure — combining concrete and coral to create the “Sea Hive,” a 12-foot-long stacked pyramid structure made of hexagonal concrete tubes placed in about 30 feet of water.

From the side, they look like beehives, and those openings allow water and wave energy to filter through them — collecting that energy in the Sea Hive rather than letting it make it to shore.

In their lab simulations, the structure reduced wave energy by 60 to 70 percent — and could prove to be a significant help for Miami’s coastlines, which are already seeing record flooding and erosion as storms intensify.

Alongside long-term solutions to reverse the impacts of climate change more permanently, these kinds of mitigation and climate resiliency solutions will be critical in protecting people and communities.

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In a dramatic reinvention, the Buenos Aires zoo went from showing animals for profit to protecting them

Before it closed its doors as a zoo in 2016, the Buenos Aires Ecopark prioritized making money over caring for its animals — keeping them in enclosures that hadn’t changed much since they were built in the late 1800s.

As public opinion shifted against showing animals purely for entertainment, the zoo closed its doors and began a reinvention process over the next seven years.

It involved relocating more than 1,000 animals to sanctuaries around the world and becoming a nationally important center for conservation. It’s now home to a state-of-the-art animal hospital that takes animals from all over the country and the largest biobank in South America.

What’s the nuance? The ethical arguments surrounding zoos are valid. At the same time, when operated with the animals as a key priority, they can play a critical role in endangered species conservation, animal rehabilitation, and in helping humans tap into empathy and care for animals and species from all over the world.

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In a landmark ruling, a UK judge said that proposed new fossil fuel projects must account for future impacts

The UK’s supreme court just ruled that the impact of burning coal, oil, and gas on the climate must be considered when deciding whether or not to approve new fossil fuel projects.

The decision sets and important precedent for taking into account the “inevitable” future greenhouse gas emissions associated with new fossil fuel extraction — and the impact of those emissions on the climate crisis.

Advocates are celebrating the ruling, calling it a “huge win in the fight for a livable climate.” The ruling is also expected to impact other active lawsuits against fossil fuel extraction projects.

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More good climate news:

One of the first in the world to ban certain single-use plastics, a small Pacific island nation has now dramatically reduced pollution

While residents of the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu tried their best to collect and properly dispose of plastic littering its surrounding waters, the country’s government took action to stop pollution at the source.

In 2018, Vanuatu became one of the first in the world to outlaw the sale and distribution of certain single-use plastics, including a world-first ban on plastic straws.

The results have been staggering: they rarely see thin, plastic shopping bags at all anymore, food is served in banana leaves instead of styrofoam takeout boxes, and more. Items banned in 2018 used to make up 35% of the island’s waste — now it’s less than 2%.

Why is this good news? Small island nations face unique challenges when it comes to waste since they’re often dependent on plastic-intensive imports, are at the mercy of ocean currents carrying debris, and don’t always have adequate recycling or waste management on the small strips of land. So this is an especially notable achievement — and one that was led by the people of Vanuatu.

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A queer Methodist bell ringer played a popular queer anthem on the church’s bells to kick off Pride Month

On June 1, residents of Durham, North Carolina were greeted with the sound of church bells played to the tune of Chappell Roan’s hit song “HOT TO GO!” thanks to volunteer bell ringer Katelyn MacDonald.

MacDonald is a queer transgender woman, has a masters of divinity, and is on track to become an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church.

And now, she’s a viral sensation. Her performance gathered more than 7 million views and 1.5 million likes, including from Roan herself.

While MacDonald said bell ringers at the church enjoy the freedom to play “whatever they want” on the bells — she chose this particular song for a couple of reasons.

One, practically it’s easy to play within the bells’ 10-note limit. And two, more personally to (literally) ring in Pride Month: “It felt important for me to ring out a song that would show the community and loudly proclaim who we are.”

Comments quickly flooded the viral post thanking MacDonald for loudly proclaiming acceptance in a place queer folks don’t normally find it.

MacDonald also hoped the extra attention would encourage other churches to reflect on ways they can be more inclusive of the LGBTQ+ community, too.

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More good news of the week —

Despite their reputation as destructive pests, new research reveals that armadillos support dozens of other species. Their burrows are used by at least 64 other species, like foxes, raccoons, skunks, frogs, and snakes — ​​and they could even support human life.

Scientists finally pinpointed a fungal virus harming frogs and toads, significantly aiding their conservation efforts. The mysterious fungal virus has been harming over 500 amphibian species on nearly every continent for decades.

Three million shipwrecks around the world have become thriving habitats for marine life, from microbes to sharks. Shipwrecks like the RMS Titanic and RMS Lusitania conjure tales of human courage and unsolved mysteries, but there’s another angle to their stories that doesn’t feature humans.

Taking the Canadian province from 80% coal power to zero, Alberta’s last coal plant just powered down. Years ahead of schedule, the phaseout was due largely to natural gas taking over most electricity generation — which still comes with its share of emissions, but far less than coal.

In Finland, the number of teenage abortions fell by 66% after it started giving free contraception. Showing that we can reduce the number of abortions without removing access through equitable access to contraception, Finland also made sex education mandatory in schools.

South Australia just introduced a first-of-its-kind bill to ban political donations from its elections. Under the proposed bill, the state would provide funding to allow parties and candidates to challenge elections, run campaigns, and promote political ideas instead of private donors.

Groundbreaking new AI technology is helping reduce wildlife collisions on roadways — ​​and it was invented by teen girls. A project created by four teen girls in Colorado uses AI and infrared technology to alert drivers of oncoming wildlife.

The size of Las Vegas, Australia’s newest national park is home to 12 different endangered species. Cameroo Station is set to open to the public in late 2024, is home to 158 native species, including 109 bird, 22 reptile, 13 frog, and 14 mammal species in total.

A group of gamers made an in-game decision to save children, so the game’s creator made a donation to Save the Children. Rather than unlock “new ways to blow things up,” Helldivers 2 players chose to save survivors trapped in a children’s hospital, so the game’s creator made a $4,311 donation in their honor.

A new litter of endangered black-footed ferrets was recently born at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute. Black-footed ferrets are North America’s only native ferret species and were thought to be extinct in 1979.

In a milestone for critically endangered species, a baby California condor hatched earlier this year at the San Diego Zoo. The California condor is the largest bird in North America and went extinct in the wild in 1987.

Eleven endangered Humbolt penguin chicks were born at the Chester Zoo in the UK for the first time in a decade. It was the most during a single hatching season for the breed that’s “most at risk” of extinction.

In just one year, Colorado used an estimated one billion fewer single-use plastic bags. The organization Eco-Cycle helped support Colorado’s Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, a law that is now phasing out the use of single-use plastic bags in the state.

Scientists are hopeful a new “game changing” test could predict Parkinsons seven years beforethe first symptoms appear. With help from artificial intelligence, researchers have identified a biological signature of Parkinson’s disease they hope could lead to a simple blood test for the condition.

One of just three sites like it in the world, the U.S. just got its first official “quiet trail” in Nebraska. Quiet Parks International is recommending parks, trails, conservation areas, and even hotels across the globe that are easy on the ears.

President Biden just pardoned thousands of LGBTQ+ veterans who were convicted for their sexual orientation. Thousands of service members were convicted over the six decades that military law formally banned consensual homosexual conduct.

High school students in Colorado are raising and preserving the razorback sucker, an endangered species of fish. Thanks to a science teacher, the students have been “a part of bringing a species back from almost extinction” for years.

A UK teenager with severe epilepsy just became the first person in the world to receive a seizure-controlling brain implant. The breakthrough medical device has reduced his daytime seizures by 80%.

Singer-songwriter Noah Kahan has quietly used his latest tour to raise more than $2 million for rural mental health. Kahan launched The Busyhead Project specifically to reach communities that have historically been unable to access mental health resources.

After decades of advocacy, 18 acres of land will be returned to the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe by the state of Minnesota. The move comes after lawmakers passed legislation to formally return state trust lands inside the boundaries of the Mille Lacs Band’s reservation.

[Related good news: LANDBACK is a larger movement aimed at returning stolen lands to Indigenous people.]

A new Colorado law will ban household products that contain toxic “forever chemicals.” Per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS are incredibly durable, making them great ingredients in things like waterproof clothing and nonstick cookware — but not so great for the planet or human health.

Responding to backlash from her Pride Month post, children’s creator Ms. Rachel reminded people to love their neighbor. The next generation’s Mister Rogers, Rachel Accurso’s sing-songy voice and sunny smile have won her 10 million followers on her Songs For Littles YouTube channel.

Philadelphia kicked off Pride Month by setting a Guinness World Record for the world’s largest drag story time. An “important statement” as states try to ban drag story hours, 263 people attended the event to kick off Pride Month.

Thailand became the first Southeast Asian country to legalize same-sex marriage. The new law gives same-sex couples the ability to have children through IVF and make emergency medical decisions for their spouse.

A transphobic politician made Dylan Mulvaney the butt of a joke on Cameo — now she’s saving lives on the same platform. Mulvaney is donating all her Cameo profits made over the next month to Save The Children, which is bringing humanitarian relief to children in Gaza, Sudan, Ukraine, and more.

[Related: Speaking of Dylan, all proceeds earned during Pride Month from her new single supported The Trevor Project.]

More than 120 faith groups attended 50 Pride events this June to de-escalate extremist anti-LGBTQ+ protests from hate groups. Experts with the Interfaith Alliance and the Southern Poverty Law Center helped train religious organizations to protect Pride events nationwide.

Under new federal rules in the U.S., LGBTQ+ employees can no longer be misgendered or denied bathrooms at work. It was the first time in 25 years that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued new rules on workplace discrimination.

Sam Smith launched a new LGBTQ+ charity to give queer artists a “safe space” to be themselves. Called The Pink House, Smith said it will “be a useful resource for all queer people, to work towards helping secure a happy home for all.”

Making history in a number of ways, a trans woman was crowned Miss Maryland USA. Bailey Anne Kennedy broke almost every barrier that existed in the state’s pageant history, including being the first married, Asian American, and trans woman winner.

A federal judge struck down a Florida ban on providing medical care to transgender youth. The judge sided with advocacy groups and three families who had said that the law stripped them of parents’ rights to make medical decisions for their transgender children.

President Biden just pardoned thousands of LGBTQ+ veterans who were convicted for their sexual orientation. Thousands of service members were convicted over the six decades that military law formally banned consensual homosexual conduct.

Article Details

June 29, 2024 5:00 AM
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