Now For Something Different

I spend a lot of time on this blog bemoaning the negatives–and there are certainly plenty of negatives to bemoan and warnings that really must be issued and heeded. But it is also the case that–along with the seeming avalanche of threats and reminders of our collective deficits, many good things are occurring.

I get a weekly newsletter titled “Good News for Humankind,” which helps me balance out all the Bad News for Humankind. (I think the actual title is Spark of Genius, and I don’t have a link–but I assume a Google search will lead to a subscription opportunity.)

The most recent newsletter reported the following items:

Nepal has now become the first country in South Asia to recognize a same-sex marriage,  after issuing a formal recognition of a marriage from 1997.

The U.S., Czech Republic, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, Iceland, Kosovo and Norway all formally joined the Powering Past Coal Alliance. The Alliance was launched in 2017 by the U.K. and Canada. The new members have committed to not developing new unabated coal power plants and to phasing out existing unabated coal plants. I hadn’t previously encountered the term “unabated” in this context; according to Dr. Google, it means “the use of coal, oil and gas without substantial efforts to reduce the emissions produced throughout their life cycle.”

In other good news for the environment, a court of appeals in Brussels ordered Belgium to cut its planet-heating pollution by at least 55% from 1990 levels by 2030. Evidently, as of 2021, Belgium had cut its emissions by a bare 24%. The court rejected government arguments that minimized the importance of the country’s efforts, arguing that Belgium’s impact on the climate crisis was limited by its small size.

More good news for the environment–and for drivers–comes from a very promising experiment in Detroit. Detroit became first city in the United States to install a wireless-charging roadway. The experiment will begin with the use of a Ford E-Transit fitted with a receiver to gather data; that is part of a five-year pilot project intended to perfect the technology “in real-world settings” and to study its potential for public transport applications. The report said that there are also plans to open the electric road system to the public within the next few years.

Other “good news” items:

Massachusetts became the fifth state  to make prison calls free.

“Ensuring that individuals in state and county prisons can keep in contact with their loved ones is key to enhancing rehabilitation, reducing recidivism, and improving community safety,” Governor Healey said in a written statement.

There are also positive stories from the Good News Network. A small sample of items having an environmental impact:

In the Bay Area of California, home of San Francisco, San Jose, Santa Clara County, and Silicon Valley a famous Pacific resident is heading home for the holidays—up newly-cleaned creeks to spawn.

Who could have thought that the cradle of 21st-century civilization, with its problems and advancements, would have space for wild river ecosystems capable of supporting salmon runs?

But here they are, reports KTVU, as large as 30 pounds, as long as 35 inches, running up the Guadalupe River Watershed by the hundreds.

Google may be defending against anti-trust accusations, but the company with a former “do no evil” motto is also doing good.

An advanced geothermal project funded and developed by Google has begun pumping carbon-free electricity onto the Nevada grid to power the company’s data centers there.

Geothermal energy was once confined in theory to areas of geothermal activity, but if one drills deep enough, there’s extreme heat from the planet’s core essentially everywhere to be harnessed to make steam and drive turbines to create carbon-free electricity 24 hours a day when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining.

For this reason, Google made an early bet on this enhanced geothermal technology, and partnered with the Utah-based Fervo Energy, which uses drilling techniques from the oil and gas industry to create a first-of-its-kind power plant in Nevada.

GNN reported that initial tests in July showed that the technology was working, in which the hypothesized 3.5 megawatts were indeed being delivered.

When I am particularly depressed by political turmoil and climate change, I try to remember that there are thousands of people around the globe who are working to understand and hopefully solve our most pressing problems. We owe them not only our gratitude, but our own efforts to improve our political and natural environment–beginning with our votes for sane lawmakers next November.


  1. Yes – there are smart people doing good work. Some of them are perfecting the clean production of Hydrogen for use in energy storage, manufacturing and propulsion of trucks, busses,, ships, airplanes and passenger cars. New discoveries and projects are coming at an amazing pace. Stay tuned. Link below

  2. Life is both a joy and a struggle, full of great joy and sorrow with so much in between. We all continually make and remake ourselves and those around us in widening circles until they encompass all mankind.

    Nudge what, when, where, and who you can towards better, but gently, as shoving doesn’t have a lasting effect. It diminishes both sides of the push.

  3. Sheila, good news doses are like a good cup of tea/coffee; a jolt that calms, restores, and energizes. Wuhoo! Thanks for showing that there are lots of ways to carry the load of our 21st century lives.

  4. Thank you for the positive note today, I need it.
    Another example of people doing good work today is the Rights of Nature movement, which is having some success in defending our natural environment and defeating destructive developments. Here is a quote from their homepage:
    “Successful lawsuits and constitutional changes in several countries, alongside a widely supported draft legal definition for “ecocide” by prominent International Criminal Court jurists, indicate that the “rights of nature,” a concept rooted in Indigenous worldviews, is being extended into criminal law. Courts and legislatures are increasingly extending legal personhood to rivers, water tables and oceans, forests, wildlife, and whole ecosystems, granting them a defendable right not to be harmed and placing them on the same legal footing as corporations. This could increase the amount and severity of litigation brought against companies by civil society, accusing them of degrading the environment, and present them with a new enforceable duty of care towards nature.”

  5. Okay, I’m getting on board…some.
    James, I’m glad to hear of the Rights of Nature movement. Even if corporations were not afforded personhood, Mother Nature ought to be, as she is, after all our Mother!
    I believe that hydrogen cell use in cars will be getting a serious test, next year, in a major race with 2 entries at Daytona I believe.
    Thank you Sheila.

  6. Seeing the reactions…can’t resist (on a rainy day) to be the cynic…This “good news” just don’t cut it on the scales of peace, justice and truth….

    Just sayin’

  7. My retirement religion has involved preaching/teaching the gospel of climate change. As you know, we “early ons” failed to move the needle in time to miss the bullet, but that first one only hit us in the leg. But at present, we still have the gun pointed at the future us.

    Will we pull the trigger more times?

    I don’t know, but thank you for your hard work all of you evangelicals out there spreading that gospel. .

    Of course, then there are the wars. The particulates that used to be buildings will shade the earth somewhat to slow the global warming, but think of the extra fuel and flesh remains adding to our carbon budget?

    When will we ever learn?

  8. Pete – Indeed! “Where have all the flowers gone?” Now, perhaps, “short time passing…” A sad nod to another Pete who tried to tell us…

  9. Innovations in alternative energy have been with us for as long as I can remember. I remember the carburetor for traditionally-fueled cars having its patent purchased by the auto/oil industries. They made the inventor rich, but then shelved the great invention for the sake of profits. The efficiency gain was something like 300% over what was being sold in the ’50s.

    Therein lies the rub: Will short-term profit mongers work to destroy these innovations before they can reach the scale where they will actually reverse the trends to our own destruction? There are SO MANY environmental pooches that need unscrewing, but until we change the profit model for the oil companies not much will change.

    Have you noticed how everything is wrapped, bottled and packaged in plastic? Plastic is made from oil. The out-gassing products of plastic poison the ocean and everyone’s water supplies.

    Back in my graduate school days (70s) I wrote a paper on the use of geothermal energy use for exactly what the essay describes today. My point is: Will there be enough time for all these great things to be implemented such that they work to save the life on this planet from being destroyed by cost accountants and stock brokers?

  10. If you look hard enough, you can see good things and people, doing good things, everywhere. We just need to be reminded to look every now and then. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. I have hope that we will be able to create/innovate something that collects micro plastics from the environment. I’m also hoping though that we can find an alternative to using so much concrete which contributes to greenhouse gases.

  12. It’s great there are efforts to promote green technology, but that green technology is not going to change people’s opinions or behavior for that matter.

    An electrified roadway, sounds great, but where is the power coming from? If they’re just plugging into the existing grid, well, that’s defeating the whole purpose. It would probably be beneficial to make that roadway powered by solar energy. Possibly by solar mirror platforms along the way, or, like a solar guardrail system that would power the roadway. And of course you need batteries to produce enough current after sunset.

    They’ve found 18 million tons of lithium at the bottom of the sultan Sea. But they have to drill for it. Now, remember, that the Salton Sea was created by accident around a century ago. Colorado River breached and flooded that entire area. So, they have to drill, and this will affect groundwater for that entire region. And they need an oceans worth of water to separate the lithium from the sodium. That seems to be a non-starter.

    Did you know that anyone can heat and cool their home by thermal energy? Cooling is one of the easiest, run a zig zag PVC pipeline through your backyard, about 10 to 12 ft deep. The temperature of the air coming out of that pipeline would be around 45°. A soft floor of air being dispersed inside of a home would keep that home very pleasant without having to use a grid’s worth of power.

    Heating works the same way, but you have to get much deeper. Certain forms of limestone can get extremely hot by interacting with water. It doesn’t have to be fresh water, it can be salt water. There’s a lot of ways to generate energy, without destroying the environment. Nuclear fusion would be a next generation game changer. Not only would it provide unlimited energy, it would create unlimited propulsion on earth and in space.

    A self-perpetuating form of power, a limitless supply if done properly. A perpetual motion engine, these things should be fairly simple for physicists to produce. So why aren’t they? You’re not fighting to save the planet, you’re also fighting against capitalism.

  13. At the very end of his fascinating book, (“Symphony in C–Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything” ) finished moments ago, Robert M. Hazen, executive director of the Deep Carbon Observatory based at the Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory and the Clarence Robinson Professor of Earth Science at George Mason University, writes:
    “Humans have learned to impose their own urgent themes and ever-accelerating tempi on this ancient score. We strip Earth of its minerals. We flood air with our waste. We harness fire to satisfy our wants and needs. We exploit the teeming, living sphere of Water, often careless about which species live or die.
    We must , each of us, step back from the urgency of our desires to see our precious planetary home as a unique, but vulnerable, dwelling place. If we are wise, if we can temper our wants with a renewed sense of awe and wonder, if we can learn to cherish our rhapsodically beautiful carbon-rich world as it so urgently deserves, then we may hope to leave an unrivaled, priceless legacy for our children, their children, and all the generations to come.”

  14. Thanks, Sheila. We need to hear of some good news now and then to help us bear the weight of SO much the beyond bad stuff.
    Here’s some more good news:
    The Arab Republic of Egypt has become the first country to achieve the “gold tier” status on the path to elimination of hepatitis C as per WHO criteria. This means that Egypt has fulfilled WHO’s programmatic coverage targets that will set the country up to achieve the reduced incidence and mortality targets of full elimination before 2030. 
    And, this:
    RIP Medical Debt is a Long Island City based 501(c)(3) charity focused on the elimination of personal medical debt. Founded in 2014 by former debt collection executives Jerry Ashton and Craig Antico, the charity purchases portfolios of income-qualifying medical debt from debt collectors and healthcare providers, and then relieves the debt. The charity converts every dollar contributed into $100 of purchased medical debt relief.,elimination%20of%20personal%20medical%20debt.
    Almost $10B in medical debt has, to date, been wiped out by this charity (4 star rating by Charity Navigator) for millions of lower income Americans struggling with medical debt.

  15. On the caution side, recent articles in Science have warned of the potential dangers to the environment from leakage of hydrogen and ammonia based fuels sources. A lot of chemistry, but in essence, too much leakage would create more greenhouse gasses (nitrogen based and methane for a chain of reactions with hydrogen).

    On the good news side, several other articles on new plastics that are actually recyclable. They can be broken down into their basic components (monomers), separated by type, and put back together so that the same carbon is reused (and not left in the environment) – still in the laboratory stage.

    Also, new modeling suggests that once we do reach zero emissions, the planet will not keep warming, as previous models had suggested.

    As for the wireless charging roadways, the idea is that frequent recharging while driving increased range. Increased range means that smaller (or less) batteries are needed, and that means less resources being used up. The first target is local delivery trucks and public transportation (per Car & Driver).

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