Good News This Week: October 7, 2023 - Vaccines, Havens, & Gen Z

A photo collage of a group of Gen Z teenagers, a female crash-test dummy, a set of pills, a Black woman attending to another woman, and a view of the ocean and a cliffside

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 —

Despite challenges, a new Gallup poll found that Gen Z is overwhelmingly optimistic about the future

Based on questions related to health, schooling, and personal fulfillment, results from a new nationwide poll found that 76% of Generation Z are optimistic about the future and 82% believe they’ll achieve their goals.

Notably, despite struggling more with their mental health than previous generations, the study posited that “more than three in five Gen Z members” who rated their mental health as “only fair” still had optimism for the future.

Additionally, though younger members of Gen Z said they wanted to pursue higher education — they still felt unprepared for the future. However, “feeling prepared” trended upwards again for college-age Gen Z members.

Why is this good news? When we take on this kind of optimistic outlook — one that’s decidedly not toxic positivity — we're better able to pay attention to the heartbreak, pain, and injustices of the world, and play an active role in creating solutions to those problems.

We've already seen so many times Gen Z has stepped up to make a difference — and this data points to even more to come.

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Rooftop solar capacity has increased by an unprecedented 349% in South Africa in just over a year

South Africa is currently experiencing a crisis in its electricity system, with rolling blackouts since 2007 due to aging coal power plant infrastructure. Seventeen coal power plants provide the majority of the country’s electricity, and the older plants regularly break down and have unplanned outages.

Meanwhile, businesses and citizens — frustrated by the unreliability of the country's electricity system — have been leading an unprecedented investment in renewable energy.

New data shows that rooftop solar capacity in South Africa has increased from 983 megawatts in March 2022 to 4,412 megawatts as of June 2023 — a 349% increase in just over a year. The shift has already helped residents avoid the blackouts and have reliable electricity.

The South African Government is also backing the energy transition, with a rebate that allows folks who install panels to claim rebates for 25% of the cost of panels.

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Researchers and engineers just unveiled the first-ever crash test dummy modeled after a woman’s body

In an effort to manufacture vehicles in a way that’s safer for more people, researchers just unveiled the first-ever prototype of a crash test dummy made in reference to a woman’s body.

Up until now, crash test dummies were created based entirely on the average man’s body, with a “slightly smaller” version used to represent a woman’s body. The research team believes this could contribute to women being 73% more likely than men to be injured in an accident, according to a 2019 study.

While there are a number of factors that contribute to vehicle safety, the team of researchers believes that crash-testing cars with dummies that more accurately represent the nuances of a woman’s body could lead to safer seats and features for everyone who drives a car.

What’s the nuance? It’s important to acknowledge that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, and have all kinds of unique intricacies and differences. While no single crash test dummy could account for this in developing safer cars, it’s good progress that the industry is moving toward a model where safety features aren’t based on a single body type.

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Johnson & Johnson says it will not enforce its patents for a lifesaving tuberculosis treatment in 134 low- and middle-income countries

Johnson & Johnson just made a major, life-saving announcement: it does not plan to enforce patents on a treatment for tuberculosis in 134 low- and middle-income countries.

The treatment is called bedaquiline, and it’s essential in treating “multidrug-resistant” TB, a particularly deadly form of the virus that impacts half a million people every year. For years and for millions of people, the drug has been out of reach since J&J’s patents prevented affordable, generic versions of it from being created.

This announcement from J&J — which could reduce the price of bedaquiline by at least 50% — is being celebrated by TB activists and global health organizations who have long been pushing for the company to end its patents and make the treatment affordable and accessible where it’s most needed.  

Why is this good news? The World Health Organization estimates that 10 million people across the globe fall ill with TB every year. And, although it is a highly preventable and curable disease, 1.5 million people still die each year because of it — making TB the world’s top infectious killer.

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The World Health Organization just recommended a second malaria vaccine specifically for young children

Global health leaders are celebrating the World Health’s Organization’s approval of a second vaccine against malaria — one that’s specifically intended for children between 5 and 36 months old, who are among the most vulnerable to the disease.

The first malaria vaccine was approved two years ago, and while people have been living with the disease, the goal is to avoid infection entirely. And the new vaccine’s trials showed incredibly encouraging results to reach that goal: there was a 75% reduction in malaria cases in the year after vaccinating young children.

The second vaccine will also help address a shortage of the first, and comes at a time when there's been a growing resistance to an anti-malaria drug that had been a powerful tool in combating the disease for decades.

Why is this good news? In 2021 an estimated 619,000 people died of malaria across Africa — most of them children. Experts estimate that by adding this new vaccine to their toolkit, “tens of thousands of children’s lives will be saved every year.”

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In just a few years, a tiny Caribbean island was transformed from a barren “rock” to a wildlife haven

Before the launch of an eco-restoration project, the island of Redonda in the Caribbean was home to invasive black rats that preyed on reptiles and birds’ eggs and goats from early colonists that ate up any vegetation.

Then, in 2016, the people of Antigua and Barbuda launched an ambitious project to restore the island. After relocating the goats and rats, the island quickly showed signs of recovery — first, with vegetation and greenery, and then wildlife.

Today, the island is a biodiversity hotspot. It’s officially been designated as a protected area and is filled with threatened species, species found nowhere else in the world, seabird colonies that have global importance, endemic lizards, migratory bird nests, and more.

Why is this good news? The Redonda Ecosystem Reserve includes seagrass meadows and a coral reef and spans 74,000 acres — making it the largest marine protected area in the Eastern Caribbean and helping the country meet its goal to protect 30% of the planet for nature by 2030 as part of the larger Global Biodiversity Framework.

The effort is a testament to the hugely important conservation work that can be done right where you are — with what you have.

→ ​​Read more

Founded by a Black artist, an Instagram movement is helping change the way the world sees Black men

Black Men With Gardens is an Instagram page with over 153,000 followers, highlighting the magic in the mundane: the magic of a simple garden.

As you scroll the page, you’ll find joyous smiles of Black children playing in gardens, families on farms, and fathers and sons learning about the healing properties of plants together. And it’s a welcome dichotomy, as Black men too often appear on social media pages as memorials or tributes after another unnecessary, brutal murder at the hands of police.

The page’s founder, Nelson ZêPequéno wants to reverse that narrative about Black men, and says that his page’s portrayal is actually “the real, average Black man.”

In addition to showing that on social media, ZêPequéno actively brings resources and opportunities to his community in Los Angeles. His plant and gardening workshops foster a deeper sense of community while equipping people with the tools necessary to nourish their creativity and appreciation for sustainability and the environment.

Read more

More good news of the week —

President Biden and Congress passed a bill to keep the government open through mid-November. The bill temporarily avoids a government shutdown, which would have impacted thousands of government workers and services.

Six young people in Portugal are suing 32 countries across Europe for their inaction over the climate crisis. The activists are between the ages of 11 and 24, and argue that their rights to life and privacy without discrimination are being violated.

School districts across the country are introducing more plant-based, low-carbon meal options into school lunches. California in particular has introduced a number of policies to not only make lunch menus more climate-friendly, but healthier and more inclusive for diet restrictions and preferences.

Laphonza Butler will make history as the the first Black lesbian to serve in Congress in history. Butler was just chosen by California’s governor to replace the late Senator Diane Feinstein and is also the first openly LGBTQ+ senator from the state.

Thanks to investment in widespread treatment, new HIV cases in Amsterdam have dropped to nearly zero. The city has a goal of reaching zero new cases by 2026, and there were only 9 new cases in 2022 — down from 66 in 2021.

Engineers created a simple, inexpensive solar desalination system that converts seawater into drinkable water. Making drinkable water more easily, cheaply accessible, the scientists resolved issues from earlier systems to produce more even more safe drinking water, too.

California just banned school boards from rejecting textbooks based on their teachings about race and gender. The new law goes into effect immediately and prevents banning instructional materials or library books because they provide “inclusive and diverse perspectives in compliance with state law.”

A group of people in Germany is buying freedom for people jailed for not paying public transport fees. Freiheitsfonds (The Freedom Fund) has paid more than €800,000 to help around 850 people walk free after a discriminatory, Nazi-era law put them in jail.

Two scientists just won the Nobel Prize in medicine for their work that enabled the creation of mRNA vaccines against COVID-19. Hungarian-American Katalin Karikó and American Drew Weissman’s “groundbreaking findings ... fundamentally changed our understanding of how mRNA interacts with our immune system.”

After Florida restricted how schools could teach Black history, more than 260 churches started an effort to teach it “truthfully.” A nonprofit coalition called Faith in Florida created an 11-chapter tool kit to guide churches and suggest books, articles, and more through “the lens of truth.”

A global network of 1,700 volunteer photographers is giving free family portraits for stillborn infants. Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep was founded by a mother who experienced infant loss herself and understood the importance of creating lasting memories for grieving parents.

The Biden-Harris administration just approved student loan debt relief for an additional 125,000 people. The forgiveness adds up to $9 billion in student loans, bringing the total approved debt cancellation to $127 billion for nearly 3.6 million borrowers.

An alliance of 45 countries pledged to raise $12 billion to conserve and restore coral reefs. The International Coral Reef Initiative said it would secure public and private investment to protect coral ecosystems, which sustain a quarter of the world's marine species and more than a billion people.

An endangered Sumatran rhino was just born in a conservation area in Indonesia. A 2019 assessment of threatened species conducted by the Indonesian government found that there were just 80 Sumatran rhinos left in the world.

Claudine Gay just made history as the first Black person to be inaugurated as president of Harvard University. Gay is also the second woman ever to lead the university, and the outgoing president said she “will provide Harvard with the strong moral compass necessary to lead this great university.”

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October 7, 2023 5:00 AM
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