This post won’t be about placemaking or urban planning, but I think it’s a great fit for my blog because there’s literally no other “place for everyone” than our planet. Earth is the one place that all of us call home, and this post focuses on saving our home!
In these incredibly tense, severely divided times, there actually is some really GOOD news happening throughout the world that almost never gets covered by content providers in the U.S.; they know that “click bait” and “if it bleeds, it leads” provide much more revenue.
So, below are just a few of what were many super encouraging developments that happened in the past year alone. The list was supplied by the folks at Breathing for Peace. I checked every fact and then added some further explanation/clarification where needed.
I also added what is possibly the most important scientific breakthrough yet–and it was made by a teenager who attends school six miles from my home in downtown Portland.
Note: Following this first list are two *more* lists that are really fun and are sure to add many smiles to your day! OK–on to the first list! 🙂
- The Giant Panda is no longer an endangered species. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) announced the downgrade of the panda’s status from “endangered” to “vulnerable” in September 2016 in its Red List of Threatened Species.
- An invention by a Dutch teen named Boyan Slat has begun cleaning up plastic from the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup Array could remove half of the Pacific garbage patch in just 10 years.
- Another teen (gotta love these brilliant teens!)–the aforementioned one from Portland–intends to do nothing short of changing the world. “My name is Chaitanya Karamchedu, but you can call me Chai,” as told in a KPTV story. He just might finally crack the code to making desalination economically feasible. Intel (which is just down the road from his school), MIT and other high-level outfits are now supporting his research.With 1 in 8 not having access to clean water, Chai decided to address the crisis himself. By experimenting with a highly absorbent polymer, he discovered a cost-effective way to remove salt from ocean water. “It’s not bonding with water molecules; it’s bonding to the salt,” he said, seeing what others ignored. While scientists were concentrating on the 10% of water that’s bonded to salt in the sea, his focus was instead on the 90% that was salt-free. If his breakthrough is implemented on a massive scale, billions of lives will be impacted in the long term.
But Chai is not done. He’s now working on an idea to kill cancer cells from the inside out. “Some problems seem like impossible problems, but to call them impossible problems is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more you think about it as impossible, the more impossible it becomes sometimes,” said Karamchedu.
OK, back to Breathing for Peace’s great list!
- An August 2016 report found that U.S. veteran homelessness has declined by 50% since 2010.
- What many people did NOT read about the famous (or infamous to many) ALS Ice Bucket Challenge was that the donations led to isolating a genetic cause of the disease–a major advancement in ALS research.
- The Columbian Government and FARC rebels signed a peace agreement, ending a war that left 7 million people dead or homeless.
- A drone called Juno flew over 800 million miles to orbit Jupiter and learn about the origin of our solar system.
- Canada just protected 85% of the world’s largest temperate rainforest. The February 2016 accord crafted between the provincial government, 20 aboriginal First Nations bands, environmentalists and the timber industry created 144 protected areas along the coast of British Columbia totaling 6 million acres.
- Measles has been eradicated from every country in the Americas: North, Central and South America and the Caribbean. A 22-year vaccination campaign finally eliminated this historic virus. This means that no more measles cases are originating in the Americas. Measles cases that do occur here would come from sources in the Eastern Hemisphere; they’re called “imported cases.”
- 20 countries created 40 protected marine reserves that cover an area the size of the U.S.
- Israel produces 55% of its freshwater from the sea. One of the driest countries on Earth now *makes more freshwater than it needs*! Again, all of this has occurred in the past year alone!
- An Ebola vaccine was developed by Canadians, and it has a 100% success rate.
- Einstein’s theory of gravitational waves was finally proved correct, after more than a century of attempts to prove it. Scientists call it a literal “moon shot” of achievement.
- A solar-powered airplane flew across the Pacific Ocean for the first time ever, ushering in a new era of energy possibilities.
- Costa Rica’s *entire electrical grid* ran on renewable energy for over half of 2016 (including 76 consecutive days), and their renewable capacity continues to grow.
- India planted 50 million trees in a single day, breaking the previous 24-hour world record by a factor of 10. 24 hours. Over 800,000 volunteers participated.
- And, of course, the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years. That alone is reason to celebrate for millions of people. 🙂
So…Let’s focus on things that are SOLVING problems rather than CREATING more problems. We really CAN make change on a literally global scale!
For good measure, here are some fun facts from 2016, brought to you by the folks at Interesting S-Word:
- The first 3D-printed organ, a baby’s ear, was transplanted onto a mouse. The ear was able to create its own cartilage and even blood vessels!
- Google began floating giant Internet balloons into the atmosphere. “Project Loon” will extend Internet connectivity to every square inch of the planet.
- Evidence of a second Viking settlement was found in Newfoundland, Canada. The settlement was discovered using satellite archaeology. The discovery may rewrite the history of Vikings in the New World.
- The private company SpaceX successfully landed a rocket vertically. This sets the stage for spacecraft to make return trips to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.
- A massive coral reef was found beneath the mighty mouth of the Amazon river. The reef is 160 times the size of the island of Manhattan.
- An iron knife in King Tut’s tomb was shown to be made from a meteorite. (once again–all discoveries made in 2016 alone!). The meteorite has high levels of cobalt and nickel, and it has not rusted in 3300 years.
- A Greenland shark was found to have lived over 400 years. The species’ average lifespan is 272 years. The sharks reach sexual maturity at age 150.
- Scientists found sub-surface ice deposits on Mars that contain as much water as Lake superior. This helps us understand the history of Mars, as well as providing a possible resource for future astronauts.
- The amazing discovery of a dinosaur tail preserved in amber proves some dinosaurs had feathers. The piece of amber was 99 million years old. Again, all of these are true and really did happen in 2016 alone.
- The list ends with a nice quote from Andre Gide: “You cannot discover new oceans unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
And if that wasn’t enough: here are even more fun (as in funnier) facts, this time brought to you by the folks at Curiosity. Hopefully they will bring many smiles to your day:
- A snail takes 115 days to travel a mile.
- Spiders have transparent blood.
- Cats cannot taste sweet things.
- A pigeon’s feathers weigh more than its bones.
- Dolphins have bigger brains than do humans.
- The “sound of the ocean” you hear in a seashell is actually the echo of your blood pulsing in your ear.
- 80% of people who read the word “yawn” or see someone yawning feel the urge to yawn. Did it work on you? Are you yawning now? 🙂
- A specialized reflex action enables a rattlesnake to bite you up to an hour after it has died.
- A bee uses 22 separate muscles to sting you. And stinging is literally the very last thing a bee wants to do.
- The average lifespan of a U.S. dollar bill is just 18 months.
- Glass gets stronger the longer it is under water. It is the only known substance to do so.
- Elephants can be pregnant for almost 2 years.
- Leonardo da Vinci could write with one hand and draw with the other—at the same time.
I hope you enjoyed the lists and that you feel more inspired to spread joy and humor and, of course, to create better places for everyone!! 🙂