Looking On The Bright Side…(NOT The Monty Python Version)…

I get tired of posting “gloom and doom” essays–and you are all probably just as tired of reading about the precarious state of national and global institutions.  Every so often, it’s a good idea to remember the old adage that “dog bites man isn’t news; but man bites dog is”–to remind ourselves that what is newsworthy is by definition not ordinary. So today, as we head into fall, I want to focus on the other side of the equation: hopeful news–evidence that the hostile and crazy people who provide fodder for our newsfeeds and generate our ulcers are not representative of humanity writ large.

Let’s start with climate change.

Yes, political barriers have delayed a rational, co-ordinated response. But as the evidence of that phenomenon becomes too powerful to ignore, so does evidence of efforts to abate it. Take, for example, reports about floating wind turbines.

In the stormy waters of the North Sea, 15 miles off the coast of Aberdeenshire, in Scotland, five floating offshore wind turbines stretch 574 feet (175 metres) above the water. The world’s first floating windfarm, a 30 megawatt facility run by the Norwegian company Equinor, has only been in operation since 2017 but has already broken UK records for energy output.

While most offshore wind turbines are anchored to the ocean floor on fixed foundations, limiting them to depths of about 165ft, floating turbines are tethered to the seabed by mooring lines.

Installing these turbines in deeper waters, where winds tend to be stronger,  promises  to generate huge amounts of renewable energy: reportedly, close to 80% of potential offshore wind power is found in deeper waters.

Then there’s new appreciation for algae. It can be used to make eco-friendly plastic and fertilizer,  it can be used as fuel–it can evidently even reduce the methane from cow farts ..

The World Wildlife Federation reports that low cost solar, wind, and battery technologies are on “profitable, exponential trajectories”–and if those trajectories are sustained, they should be enough to cut emissions from electricity generation in half by 2030.

Wind and solar energy now regularly out-compete fossil fuels in most regions of the world. Electric vehicle growth has the potential to reach a 90% market share by 2030 if sustained, but only if strong policies support this direction.

The Federation also reports that nearly half of the country’s largest companies–some of the world’s largest energy users–now recognize a responsibility to tackle climate change and preserve the planet for future generations. (Granted, a good deal of this “recognition” is PR–it’s up to us consumers to pressure the business sector to make good on those public promises.)

More theoretical, but the subject of current research efforts, is “carbon capture,” which wouldn’t simply reduce carbon emissions, but would allow for actually sucking carbon out of the air. (Think negative emissions.) Even the most recent IPCC report--with its dire, widely disseminated warnings–had some good news tucked in.

It isn’t just climate change.

Vox recently had a report, complete with charts, demonstrating a range of improvements that have made life better for humanity. It described the decline in global poverty, the rise in global literacy, a dramatic improvement in global health, and even–despite the current backlash being  waged by various populist movements–an increase in democracy and individual freedom.

Sometimes, taking the “long view” allows us to escape from the doom and gloom of the daily news. In my lifetime, I have seen city centers and historic neighborhoods revitalized. Women’s rights have dramatically expanded (prompting the hysterical backlash that most recently gave us Texas…). Gays have emerged from the closet and married. Membership in fundamentalist churches has declined. Despite the daily episodes of racist behavior caught by our ubiquitous cellphone cameras and the morphing of the GOP into the White Supremacy Party, the country has made considerable progress against racism, as evidenced by the multi-racial composition of last year’s Black Lives Matter marches.

And we should be heartened by the enormous negative reaction to Texas’ effort to empower anti-woman vigilantes. That anger promises an energized and expanded Democratic vote.

The bigots and assorted crazies in Washington can slow down human progress, but ultimately, reality will bite them. (Hopefully in time to avert disaster…)

If people of good will focus only on the problems we face and the threats posed by the hysterical people resisting progress, we will get too disheartened to work for the continuation of positive change. Google “good news,” take a deep breath, then volunteer with a group that is working to solve a  problem you care about.

And if you can, send money.

PS If you want the Monty Python version, here are the lyrics…..


  1. It is good to be reminded of those who are making the effort to do good in the world. To repair the world, or a small part of it.
    I find it helpful to find at least one thing to be grateful for each day. Not in some Pollyanna, rose-colored glasses way of blind optimism, but to look at the reality of the moment, realize what work is needed, then take a breath, and get to work on the problem of the day. To look for kindness and acts of self-lessness in the every day.

  2. As a huge Monty Python fan, I’d just like to say that the best thing we can do for ourselves and our sanity is to get a good laugh every day. “Blessed are the cheesemakers!”

  3. It does make you wonder if morality has a tipping point. But, on the other hand, you mentioned much good news, which I see daily on Twitter, and much of it is international or global progress.

    Meanwhile, the oligarchy controlling the Western empires is resistant to change except for innovators finding decentralized capital to fund their projects.

    The US and IMF are desperately trying to capture cryptocurrencies and decentralized currencies, “disrupting” banks and central banks. However, circumventing the existing financial system is being done intentionally.

    Many more decentralization projects are taking place around the globe that are essentially democratizing our “centralized institutions of control.”

    Meanwhile, the US Oligarchy and their puppet politicians seem to be moving in the opposite direction, which will make them obsolete. I’m not convinced with the “carbon capture” movement since this may be a Big Oil reactionary project where they want government funding to capture their own pollution. My understanding is the tech doesn’t exist, but rather it’s another stalling tactic to maintain the status quo.

    As I have said before, the world is accelerating forward (progress) while the US struggles with losing control and its status. Or, should I say, the Western empires are struggling. Four years of Trump was good in many respects because his lack of political skill exaggerated many of our weaknesses. Still, the Koch network’s control over the GOP political process and Wall Streets plundering at record levels hamper our ability to innovate to keep up.

  4. On carbon capture, I recommend the documentary, “Kiss the Ground.”. It shows vividly how regenerative agriculture, if widely implemented, could not only sequester the same amount of carbon currently being generated, but could draw it down to safer levels. It’s very well done! Narrated by actor/environmentalist Woody Harrelson and available on Netflix. Regenerative Agriculture would also restore soil fertility, improve drought resistance, increase nutrient density, and so improve human health and biodiversity dramatically. It’s a no brainer! There’s just the problem that agribusiness could no longer make billions from expensive inputs of toxic weed and pest killers plus proprietary bioengineered seeds that can endure the poisons!

  5. Thanks Carol Francis Johnston. That is good news from my gardener’s point of view. And thank you Sheila for today’s piece; it gives me heart.

  6. Thanks Carol for the recommendation and thanks Professor for the upbeat essay! I’ve wondered flushing racist, homophobic and misogynistic beliefs and behaviors out into the open for all to see is actually healthy for our society, if it doesn’t rip us apart first before the Overton Window shifts.

    The Texas vigilante-enforced anti-abortion bill is a good example – it tells its opponents exactly what extremes its supporters will go to achieve their agenda. It also exposed the kernel of the conservative majority of SCOTUS for what it is, a bunch of political hacks. And, as Perry Bacon, Jr. recently wrote in the Washington Post, it requires a political response that is as inevitable as it is objectionable – expand the court by four seats.

  7. On the bright side, Sheila, did you really mean “floating wind turbans” in your lead-in to the quotes from The Guardian? It would be interesting to see those turbans floating off people’s heads into the sea. 🙂

  8. I have often been impressed with how these postings are so free of typos; however, I saw two today. Perhaps it is a proofreader’s holiday. I mention this only because one of them, “wind turban,” added mirth to the column’s good news. I imagined myself sitting here wearing a velvet hat adorned with a turbine that captured wind energy and passed it down a wire that went into my pocket charging my cell phone. Why not? A sort of adult beanie with propeller blades.

  9. Echoing everyone else, Sheila, I needed this….after the happenings in the past few years. So depressing. I will also say that if you had been my teacher, I might have made something of myself! ha. Talked to two people yesterday who follow you as well and we all said “If only she had been my teacher.” Thanks…..

  10. It is so wonderful to read about good news today, Shiela. It’s a wonderful accompaniment to my morning coffee and my sweet cat who is sitting on my lap. ( Oh no that sort of rhymes.) I hope you do this more often. I would love to read more about those who are actually genuine servant leaders like Pete G. who just adopted 2 children with his husband. I watched a YouTube video comparing hydrogen with electric cars and the pro’s and con’s of each. It included which of these cars had a lower carbon footprint in its production.

    I have discovered there is actually fertilizer generated by fish excrement that I can buy on YouTube which will allow me to fertilize my lawn in a way that supports Mother Earth.

    As a lesbian woman, I have been amazed at the decrease in homophobic attitudes and policies in my life time. I did not think we would get to marry before I died. I certainly did not think I would have an openly gay Senator representing me in our state legislature nor an openly gay man on the President’s cabinet.

    There have now been evidence based studies that Renee Fleming has been a part of that definitley prove that music helps heal people. I am so happy that medicine is now taking music therapy seriously. It appears that the whole brain lights up when we are hearing or playing music!!

    Have a lovely Labor day, y’all!

  11. I love today’s posting and the comments! It is exactly what I needed to read after the past few weeks. I did miss the wind turban, Nancy’s post gave me a lovely mental picture! I would order my turban inn brocade.

  12. I was just informed by a robot at The Courier Journal that no paper is published on holidays. Following your example of scattering sunshine, I recall the CJ’s Sept. 4 story about the Piarist School in Eastern Ky. “For 30 years Father Tom Carroll has watched every graduate go on to college.” And it charges no tuition.

  13. Here’s another bit of good news: by all accounts, Larry Elder will be the next governor of CA on Sept 14, 2021. Racism is dead

  14. Heather Cox Richardson, in honor of Labor Day, reprinted a wonderful piece about Frances Perkins and the response to the tragedy of the Triangle Shirtwaist fire. The upshot was much of the humane labor laws and social safety net programs that we take for granted (well, some of us non-Libertarian types) today.
    Given the tragedy blazing its way through the country, and the world, perhaps this culture, and more, can come together to rationally, finally, deal with the natural threats that viruses, and so on, pose to the human, and other species.
    Reportedly, increasing numbers of people have recently been, at long last, accepting that evolution is a real thing. I’m guessing that that is because they are witnessing new strains of Covid developing. this might tell them that species are NOT immutable, that mutations are the working bits of evolution, that they’ve been fed mythology dressed up as, in effect, “alternative” facts.
    On the “Bright Side,” FEMA just changed document rules for assistance to assist families living on heirs’ property. This may not sound earth shattering, but, a piece of structural racism, one that I’d never known about, in any case, was just rectified. This addresses FEMA’s long history of not responding to people whose families and been resident, for generations, on family property, but had no “paperwork” to show that the property was, indeed, theirs. Most of these folks are, as i understand it, poor Blacks in the South.
    Yes, Peggy, the cheesemakers!
    As Patrick has pointed out, we now have a clear sense of how low the reactionaries will go, and that ought to provide a grounding for political action to counter their rancid agenda.

  15. Becky, “…racism is dead,” is utterly ridiculous! It is just a new bit of gaslighting, coming from you, this time.

  16. A little rain on agriculture and power generation. The prime reason the world has enough corn to feed the billions requires the deadly herbicides. A half century ago, farmers cultivated soil to control weeds-this requires ‘wide’ distance between corn rows. The distance has been halved/no cultivating, herbicides with planting and double the corn output per acre. Now to the only problem with solar energy as the sole source of electricity is the insufficient ability to store the energy when the sun doesn’t shine. While battery technology has improved(life of cellphones/laptops/etc., the size of batteries required for commercial energy storage does not yet exist. Lots of exploration by various brilliant people as the winner will make lots of $$$$$$, nothing proven yet.

  17. My chance to be today’s curmudgeon! The Texas abortion law will bring out the DEM vote? LOL. Women already vote strongly DEM, especially suburban women – little add there. Most Blacks who vote are older and are religiously/socially conservative. Many Latinos who vote are older and are religiously/socially conservative. Young people don’t often vote, especially in primaries/off-year elections and are much more concerned about climate change and racial injustice. So where are these extra votes gonna come from???

  18. As civilization works its wonders, complexity and specialization both increase, and if you add in increasing population, the increases become exponential. Unfortunately, we’ve found that when human knowledge gets too unequally distributed, those who can solve problems get weighed down by suspicion that can come from those in the shortest supply of the knowledge required to accept the progress necessary to keep the solutions moving faster than the growth of problems. Apparently, progress has reached such a plateau until education gets those of us in the slow lane in now necessary specialties caught up.

    Like always though, now is temporary, but a little breathtaking for those of us lucky to have been born in the early stages and best places for the best of times.

    We just don’t know, and so endlessly speculate on the possibilities of the plateau turning into a precipitous decline in these best of times before turning around. Certainly, the decline is very apparent in some of the specialties in human knowledge.

    In the long picture of the evolution of life, history tells us that the odds are good for an eventual return to social stability but it’s not necessarily a sure bet. There may be dragons in these waters.
    Will they slay us or us, them?

  19. Thanks so much, Sheila, for the wonderful ray of sunshine on an otherwise bleak landscape. Please do it more often.
    Todd, Lester and Dan — we didn’t need you to be today’s rain cloud/curmudgeon — take a day off, PLEASE!!
    Thanks to everyone who said this was a good post & left it at that.
    Becky, why are you on here? Is this you “owning” the libs? LMAO!!

    KEEP 53.0% – REMOVE 42.6%

  21. Been feeling kinda gloomy. Those old fools made me laugh. I sang along.

    Thanks for reminding me of Monty Python and other positives. I needed that.

  22. Do you get tired of waiting for your government to do the right things? Please check out http://www.drawdown.org, 100 Carbon-Capture Solutions that communities can inact when willing and able. I am an American citizen living in central Mexico and, with friends, have started a non-profit to see which of the solutions are applicable here. Do we need nation states acting on Big Solutions, like shutting down fossil fuel? Yes, we do. But a willing and able community can check out these measured(in gigatons of carbon drawdown, and in Cost), and apply some of them. Si, se puede.

  23. Sheila, do something about Becky.
    Becky throws a ‘wrench’ into the comments and everyone bristles and sets off to argue with her
    Becky is ‘gaslighting’ us all

  24. My 15 year old grand daughter reminded us that she and her friends will be voting in the next presidential election. She further said that this gives her hope.

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