Wrapped up in all the negativity that's on the news right now? Here's a friendly reminder of the awesome stuff that's also going on.
Life Returns to Still Glowing Bikini Atoll
Be careful if you visit the Bikini Atoll. The water cannot be drunk because of radioactive contamination, the seafood cannot be eaten, and plants cannot be farmed because of contaminated soil. But in the crater in the shallow ocean just off the coast, you will find a surprisingly healthy coral reef.


It’s surprising because back when nuclear bombs were new enough that we thought we needed to test them, the United States dropped 23 of them on what was once a tropical paradise. One of those bombs was over a thousand times larger than the bomb that devastated Hiroshima. It was the most destructive thing we have ever done to the ocean, yet the ocean is coming back to life.


Bikini Atoll was declared a nuclear wasteland after the bombings, and humans are still unable to live and work on the atoll, besides a few caretakers who bring food and water supplies with them, and keep up the islands facilities. Yet a diverse ecosystem of animal life appears to be thriving in and around the bomb crater, including coral “as big as cars”, hundreds of schools of fish including tuna, sharks and snapper, and coconut crabs that seems to have no qualms about munching on radioactive coconuts on the shore.


“The fact there is life there and the life there is trying to come back from the most violent thing we’ve ever done to it is pretty hopeful.”


Source: ‘Quite odd’: coral and fish thrive on Bikini Atoll 70 years after nuclear tests

Honeybees Are Making a Comeback

Bees have been having a rough time, but things are looking better for the world’s most important pollinators. Pollination is needed for plants to reproduce, and many plants depend on bees or other insects as pollinators — so it’s great news to see a rise in healthy colonies.


A variety of factors has been plaguing the bees. One of the worst is the varroa mite, a parasite that lives only in beehives and survives by sucking insect blood. First seem in the U.S. in 1987, it has been devastating the bee population in recent years. Last year it was reported in 42 percent of commercial hives in the US, a 53 percent reduction over the previous year.


Other major factors harming the bees are pesticides, mites and pests other than varroa, and diseases. Minor factors are starvation, insufficient forage and other reasons. All of these are on the decrease, largely due to increased efforts by beekeepers to keep their hives healthy and a reduction in the use of pesticides shown to affect bee health.


Weather is a constant variable — a long, cold winter can decimate hives in northern climates. There is little that can be done about it, although the impacts of global climate change are starting to be felt more and more, and whatever you may have heard about climate change, we are totally to blame for it.


Colony Collapse is another issue. It’s when bees spontaneously flee their hives for no apparent reason and don’t come back. It’s not a main cause of loss, but it’s weird. Even it’s less common these days than it was just a few years ago.


Source: Honeybee Population Increase

Cities Vow To Switch To 100% Renewable Energy

A key battleground in the fight against climate change is the urban sprawl, because the world’s cities produce about 70% of the world’s energy related carbon emissions. Some are not waiting until things get seriously dire to get a start on it.


At least 100 cities worldwide get 70% or more of their power from renewable sources, and around 40 get all of it from renewables. Many more have committed to do the same. In total, nearly 200 cities now have solar energy in their electricity mix, while the same number report that they source wind energy.


Burlington, Vermont, is an inspiration. It only uses 100% clean electricity, and it does it without increasing household energy bills. They key to success is a diversified renewable energy mix – including wind, solar, hydro and biomass – which has other positive impacts beyond the reduction in carbon emissions. In switching to renewables, the city has also been able to support local industries, such as solar installation, and helped its residents to generate their own power too.


Location plays a huge factor, as cities make use of their specific geographies to harness the power of renewables. Reykjavik, Iceland has abundant sources of geothermal energy to supply its electrical grid and heat network. Buoyed by this success, it aims to make all cars and public transit fossil-free by 2040.


To achieve the goal of 100% clean energy, cities must encourage electric utilities to offer it, and prompt businesses and citizens to start switching. In some regions, solar and wind are now competing on price with existing coal power stations. New construction should meet clean specifications, and use renewables. San Francisco mandates that 15%-30% of new roof-space has to incorporate solar panels or green roofs. Some cities are also offering households savings on their bills if they commit to clean energy instead of fossil fuels.


The payoff is more than just saving the world, although that’s a pretty good payoff. The benefits are also felt within the cities themselves, as switching to clean-energy revolution transforms them into centres of innovation.


Sources: Growth of Cities Using 100% Renewable Energy, Cities Are Harnessing the Power of Renewable Energy

One Million Wheelchairs And Still Rolling

The Free Wheelchair Mission gave away its the first wheelchair in India in 2001, and since then 1 million wheelchairs have been donated to 93 countries around the world.


“Each wheelchair represents a life changed, someone who can now go to school or to work and can enjoy a life of mobility,” says the organization. “It also represents a great network of generous supporters and committed partners dedicated to giving back and creating opportunity for people in great need around the world.”


The first wheelchair was given to a boy with cerebral palsy. Before then, the boy’s family had to carry him everywhere because he could not control his arms or legs. Giving him a wheelchair not only helped the boy, it helped everyone around him live a better life.

Now multiply that by a million.

The cost of transforming so many lives is a paltry $80 per chair, although it costs the recipients nothing. The cost is entirely covered by donations and fundraising in the U.S.

Giving someone a wheelchair helps get them off the ground, and gives dignity, grace and hope back to a person in need.


Source: One Million Wheelchairs

3D Printed Skull

Christopher Cahill from New Brunswick, Canada, suffered an injury to the frontal lobe in early nearly killed him. His brain swelled so much that emergency surgery was needed, that resulted in an infection in the skull. A large chunk of the skull had to be removed.


Until recently, the best option for Cahill would have been a metal mesh to replace missing pieces, but innovations in 3D printing offered an even better solution to replace the missing skull bone.


More and more, 3D printing has become increasingly popular in the production of medical devices because of its precision and accuracy. For Cahill, a customized cranial skull implant was made of a special plastic called polyetheretherketone (PEEK), which it ideal because it’s strong, stable, does not cause an inflammatory reaction; there are no known allergies to it, and it is not rejected by the body. Implants made from it are also impact- and fracture-resistant, and do not erode or dissolve, and can be custom made to be an exactfit because it is created using the patient’s CT scan.


As 3D printing develops further, the possibilities for its use in all aspects of life are staggering and exciting.


Source: A New Era in Medicine


Saving 2 Million Kids From Malaria

In 2005, President George W. Bush started the President’s Malaria Initiative, raising donation in the United States to help fight malaria in Africa. Since then, the mosquito nets, house sprays, and malaria pills have saved the lives of two million children.


There is a myth surrounding foreign aid that says it has no effect; the reason why more children survive each year is because of the inevitable unrelated improvement of global economies. However, countries helped by the malaria initiative had 16 percent fewer deaths in children.


The President’s Malaria Initiative costs about $500 million a year. Total health-related foreign aid amounts to less than a penny of every taxpayer dollar spent, but has huge impacts. Not only does it save millions of lives, and improves millions more, but it also helps shine a positive light on the United States on the international stage, where its reputation has been somewhat fluid of late.


Source: Fighting Malaria

11 Million Acres of New Parkland in Chile

At a time when it seems the whole world is beset by a campaign to destroy is, acre by acre, Chile has set aside 11 million acres of land for national parks in Patagonia, the southern tip of South America.


The result will be a network of 17 national parks will be created in an effort to “rewild” Patagonia and revert the results of decades of development and deforestation to pristine wilderness.

The protected areas are so vast they include a number of completely different ecosystems ranging from deserts to volcanoes to rainforests. The addition of this much national park acreage puts Chile much higher in the ranks in countries with the highest percentage of protected land, on par with Costa Rica. The protected area is larger than the nation of Denmark and three times larger than the combined size of Yosemite and Yellowstone National Parks in the US.


It is expected that the parks will be a boon to ecotourism, generating $270 million per year and creating over 40,000 jobs for local Chileans.


Source: 11 Million Acres of Parks

Arctic Waters Protected

One of the most ecologically sensitive regions of the Canadian Arctic — a massive area of the northern sea — was designated a protected zone.


The new national marine conservation area spans more than 131,000 square kilometres of ocean in a region called Lancaster Sound, sometimes called the Serengeti of the Arctic because of the incredible diversity in life found there. It is ten times bigger than any of the other four national marine conservation areas, more than twice the size of any other protected area on land or sea, and more than doubles the area of Canada’s marine protected waters.


The area is a vital hunting ground for Inuit, and represents the eastern entrance to the famed Northwest Passage. There are five Inuit communities within the protected zone, who will be involved with the protection and management of the conservation area.


Although it is in the Arctic, the water does not freeze over in winter so Lancaster Sound is home to narwhal, beluga and bowhead whales, seals, walruses and polar bears, all of which have been part of the Inuit diet and traditions for hundreds of generations.


One of the reasons why the protected are is so vast is because marine areas do not stay in one place, but can migrate for huge distances. Understanding and protecting the paths of the species that live here is important.


Source: Arctic Waters Get Protection

We Are Defeating Leprosy

Leprosy has terrified people since biblical times, causing untold damage to lives as ignorance and fear forces communities to exile leprosy victims identified by their gnarled bodies and missing fingers, toes and sometimes feet.


Yet we are defeating leprosy. World leaders agreed to a plan that would see no more children deformed by leprosy by 2020. While that ambitious goal may not quite be reached, worldwide cases have dropped 97% since 1985.


This is due to a combination of three drugs that have been available since the 1980s, and which provide effective treatment. Once infected, it can take years before symptoms to show. Early identification is key to successful treatment. New methods of diagnosing leprosy include computer analysis of photographs of skin taken on smartphones, as well as more sophisticated blood tests. The BCG vaccine given for tuberculosis provides significant protection from leprosy, and new vaccines are also being researched.


Although leprosy is now less common, more than 200,000 individuals are diagnosed with leprosy each year and more than 2 million people still live with the disease, many with irreversible damage to nerves and limbs due to lack of treatment. In developing nations where the vast majority of cases are found, apart from your body being ravaged by the disease having leprosy means abandonment by family and ostracism by the community and the inability to work.


The progress against leprosy is part of a bigger campaign against poverty and other killer diseases and afflictions like malaria, diarrhea, and intestinal worms. Since 1990, more than 100 million children have been saved by vaccinations, improved nutrition, and medical care.


Sources: Good News, Leprosy On The Wane

Infant Mortality on the Decline

In 2000, the United Nations began an initiative to reduce the deaths of infants and pregnant women around the world. Infant mortality is often used as a key indicator of how healthy a country is, and is rated on the number of deaths of infants under one year old out of 1,000 births. In 2016, 4.2 million children died worldwide within the first year of life, which is 75% of all deaths of children under the age of five, and 42% of global child deaths occurred in infants less than one month old. The earliest days of life are the most dangerous.


Now, 4.2 million seems like a lot, and it is, but consider that global child death rates dropped by 48% between 1990 and 2016. Maternal deaths also fell significantly over the same period, although 293,000 women still died from pregnancy-related causes in 2016. Since the UN initiative, most countries have seen the number of maternal and child deaths drop rapidly, with child deaths declining by 3.5% per year since 2000 and maternal deaths by 2.7% per year since 2003.


The reductions aren’t the same across the board. Two-thirds of the global decline in child deaths since 2000 occurred in just nine countries: India, China, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. From 2000 to 2014, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. improved by about 16 percent, while the country average of comparable developed nations improved about 32 percent — the reason for this is thought to be barriers to access to healthcare in the US.


The countries suffering from the highest infant mortality are almost entirely African, with the glaring exception of Afghanistan, whose rate of 110.6 deaths per 1000 births is the worst in the world. Children in Africa have more than a 1 in 10 chance of dying before their fifth birthday. The mortality rate of the US ranks it 170th (5.4 deaths per thousand), Canada is 180th (4.5), and the lowest infant mortality rate in the world is Monaco (1.8).


A number of factors play into these numbers, key among them being maternal education, medical and public health innovations, and rising income. For each additional year of school mothers complete, child deaths drop by more than 8%. New drugs and vaccines help tremendously, new policies that reduce anemia and malnutrition, prevent malaria during pregnancy, provide calcium and micronutrient supplementation, and encourage skilled birth attendance will lead to even greater improvements in child and maternal health.


Source: Infant Mortality Rates on the Decline

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