Inspirational News StoriesExcerpts of Key Inspirational News Stories in Major Media
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Finland has been named the happiest place in the world for a fourth year running, in an annual UN-sponsored report. The World Happiness Report saw Denmark in second place, then Switzerland, Iceland and the Netherlands. New Zealand was again the only non-European nation in the top 10. Data from analytics researcher Gallup asked people in 149 countries to rate their own happiness. Measures including social support, personal freedom, gross domestic product (GDP) and levels of corruption were also factored in. The country deemed the most unhappy in the world was Afghanistan, followed by Lesotho, Botswana, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. There was a "significantly higher frequency of negative emotions" in just over a third of the countries, the report authors said, likely pointing to the effects of the pandemic. However, things got better for 22 countries. Several Asian countries fared better than they had in last year's rankings, while China moved to 84th place from 94th "Surprisingly there was not, on average, a decline in well-being when measured by people's own evaluation of their lives," John Helliwell, one of the report's authors, said in a statement. "One possible explanation is that people see Covid-19 as a common, outside threat affecting everybody and that this has generated a greater sense of solidarity and fellow-feeling." Finland "ranked very high on the measures of mutual trust that have helped to protect lives and livelihoods during the pandemic", the authors said.
Portland joined Philadelphia and Amsterdam as the first cities to pilot the Thriving Cities Initiative. The Initiative is a collaboration between C40, the Amsterdam-based Circle Economy, which seeks to create zero-waste urban economies that support their residents, and the Doughnut Economics Action Lab, an organization mostly comprising volunteers working to implement systemic, society-wide economic change. At its most basic level, doughnut economics is a way of describing an economic system that extends beyond strictly financial measures, like gross domestic product, to include environmental sustainability and healthy, thriving communities. The Thriving Cities Initiative's model - and the expertise and resources it provided - dovetailed with Portland's existing momentum in tracking and reducing emissions that accounted for spending by government, businesses, and households. The model also pointed to ways to address the city's social issues, including more than 4,000 people in the metro area without stable housing. The pandemic ... forced Portland to scale back its Thriving Cities program. A five-year program that could have formed the basis for city council action was scaled back to a two-year in-house plan that the city's Bureau of Planning and Sustainability could follow on its own. Still, some existing programs already were in line with the goals of the Thriving Cities Initiative. In Amsterdam, the Doughnut Coalition and the city government are already looking toward next steps.
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Whether you took up gardening during the pandemic or have been a lifelong cultivator, we have good news for you – a recent study found that the outdoor hobby may do wonders for your wellbeing, mental health, and overall life satisfaction. According to the study, conducted by the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS), people who garden daily have wellbeing scores 6.6 percent higher and stress levels 4.2 percent lower than those who do not garden at all. It takes only two to three gardening sessions per week to reap these healthy benefits. "This is the first time the â€dose response' to gardening has been tested and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the more frequently you garden – the greater the health benefits," said study lead author Dr. Lauriane Chalmin-Pui. "In fact gardening every day has the same positive impact on wellbeing than undertaking regular, vigorous exercise like cycling or running." As part of the study, the scientists researched why residents engaged in gardening. They monitored 5,766 gardeners and 259 non-gardeners through an electronic survey distributed within the UK. The results revealed that six in ten people garden because of the pleasure and enjoyment they get from it. Just under a third of the participants claimed they garden for the health benefits. The findings also indicated that gardening may boost mental health, with those with health issues stating that the outdoor hobby reduced feelings of depression, boosted energy levels, and reduced stress.
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Gabriel Baron first heard about Crisis Kitchen through a call for support he saw on Facebook. The mutual aid group was providing free meals around Portland, Oregon, to combat food insecurity exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. "I'm a believer in local communities supporting local communities," Baron says. So he volunteered to deliver meals for the kitchen. As he did so, he started having conversations with folks in the organization. Baron, a filmmaker, decided to bring his camera to the Crisis Kitchen. He said he was interested in demystifying mutual aid for viewers. It's not an unwieldy and hierarchical institution. It was as simple as laid-off restaurant employees asking to use the kitchen to prepare food for people in their community. And the effort has snowballed from there. The group now delivers about 1,000 free, restaurant-quality meals around the city every week. Crisis Kitchen is one of a network of mutual aid groups in Portland working to build a more supportive and just community. In the film, Adrian Garcia Groenendyk, the co-founder of Crisis Kitchen, says mutual aid demonstrates what can be done to meet people's needs and help them thrive in our society. Long-term, he says this critical work shouldn't be dependent on community donations. The goal should be to take money out of institutions of violence and put it into institutions of care, like Crisis Kitchen. Baron continues to deliver meals for Crisis Kitchen every week.
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For decades, Nepal's endangered rhino population has dwindled to near extinction. But recently, thanks in part to travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, the population has soared. The nation's count of endangered one-horned rhinoceros has increased by more than 100 over the past six years. Officials are hailing the rise a "conservation milestone." The rhino population across four national parks in the southern plains rose to 752 – up from 645 in 2015, according to the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation. That's the highest it's been in decades. The area was once dominated by thousands of one-horned rhinos, but rampant poaching and habitat loss reduced their numbers. In the 1960s, there were only about 100 left. Nepal has conducted a rhino census every five years since 1994 in an effort to conserve the species after it was listed as vulnerable. That year, the Himalayan nation recorded 466 rhinos. Ever since, the government has stepped up its anti-poaching and conservation initiatives. But this year, the lack of tourists in the country left the habitats undisturbed, allowing for even more growth. "Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, the tourist pressure was reduced drastically that resulted in the undisturbed habitat of rhinos," [information officer Haribhadra] Acharya told CBS News. "In that scenario, the wildlife recovery might have taken momentum." Last month, hundreds of enumerators, soldiers and veterinarians worked for about three weeks to count this year's rhino population.
The discovery of a newborn blue whale on West Australia's south coast is a "game changer", according to scientists studying the ocean giants, who say the species has no known breeding grounds in Australian waters. The juvenile was spotted with its mother just a few hundred metres off the coast near Bremer Bay, about 500 kilometres south-east of Perth, at the weekend. It may be the first blue whale born in Australian waters. Marine biologist Brodee Elsdon said the subspecies pygmy blue whales were often spotted migrating along the west coast, but rarely during this time of year, so close to shore or with a recently born calf. Pia Markovich, who was on board the vessel which spotted the pair, said the calf appeared to be very young. "Seeing a blue whale is one thing, but to have a mother and calf [is] next level," she said. "And for the calf to be so small, well that's like winning the wildlife lotto. "At first glance, puzzled passengers looked to the crew to understand the significance of this encounter. "Our faces would have said it all, jaws dropped and minds blown." Ms Elsdon said the sighting could help develop scientists' understanding of blue whale migration and breeding. There are no known breeding grounds for these giants in Australian waters. "We predict the breeding grounds for pygmy blue whale are all the way in Indonesia waters, so to have one born this early and in the Southern Ocean, changes everything we know," she said.
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Sitting in a barrel chest-high in ice cubes seems more like torture than a birthday treat. But not for Wim Hof. His techniques, combining hypoxic breathing with ice baths and cold showers, have been adopted by a cult following. Scientists are studying his almost superhuman ability to eliminate fear and control his immune response. Now, a lot of regular people are taking his advice. Amanda Henry, a mother and sixth-grade teacher ... says the stress of distance learning pushed her into 5 a.m. cold showers and Wim Hof breathing. She says the practice helps her to keep her patience. For years, the Iceman, as Mr. Hof is called, gained publicity–and some ridicule–for daredevil feats such as sitting for hours on bare ice. In 2013, researchers ... found that 12 people trained by Mr. Hof and then injected with E. coli had milder flulike symptoms than an untrained control group. In 2019, tests indicated a significant decrease in inflammation in 13 people suffering spinal arthritis over eight weeks of training in breathing, meditation and cold exposure. Mr. Hof's career was born out of tragedy. He was in the Pyrenees working as a mountain guide when his wife died by suicide in 1995. "That's the way it actually began–the real trial of my life," he says. "We were left behind with broken hearts, four kids and no money." Swimming in icy cold water had for years been a pastime. Now, he found it stopped the rumination and pain. Cold water causes you to be in the moment, he says. "Going into the cold brought ... stillness in my mind."
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A pilot project in a California town is paying homeless residents to tidy up their living areas, and it's changing the culture of the city. The idea stemmed from a conversation with one of the city's police sergeants, said Sarah Bontrager, the housing and public services manager for Elk Grove, a city of 174,000 people located 15 miles south of Sacramento. "We got together to talk about homelessness, and from my prospective I wanted to build better relationships with people who were experiencing homelessness, and he wanted to address some of the complaints that come to his officers," Bontrager told CNN. The number one complaint surrounding homelessness was the amount of trash. "Our public works staff were previously doing cleanups out at encampment sites ... and just spending a lot of time and money doing it. We also wanted a way to reduce interactions at the early stages of Covid," she said. So they came up with the idea to offer an incentive to those who live in the homeless encampments to clean up their area. "We distribute trash bags, and we go out every two weeks to pick up the trash, and if they have it bagged, they are eligible for up to $20 in gift cards to a grocery store," Bontrager said. The recipients can use the gift cards on anything but cigarettes and alcohol. Bontrager said that they usually use them for food or hygiene items. Many of the homeless residents have expressed how thankful they are to be able to go pick out items themselves instead of relying on shelters.
Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby says the city will no longer prosecute for prostitution, drug possession and other low-level offenses. Mosby made the announcement on Friday following her office's one-year experiment in not prosecuting minor offenses to decrease the spread of Covid-19 behind bars. "Today, America's war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction, said Mosby. The experiment, known as The Covid Criminal Justice Policies, is an approach to crime developed with public health authorities. Instead of prosecuting people arrested for minor crimes ... the program dealt with those crimes as public health issues and work with community partners to help find solutions. The program has led to decreases in the overall incarcerated Baltimore population by 18%. Violent and property crimes are down 20% and 36% respectively. Mosby said her office will no longer prosecute the following offenses: drug and drug paraphernalia possession, prostitution, trespassing, minor traffic offense, open container violations, and urinating and defecating in public. The state's attorney's office is also working with the Baltimore Police Department and Baltimore Crisis Response Inc. (BCRI), a crisis center dealing with mental health and substance abuse issue, to offer services instead of arresting individuals.
The number of American bald eagles has quadrupled since 2009, with more than 300,000 birds soaring over the lower 48 states, government scientists said in a report Wednesday. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said bald eagles, the national symbol that once teetered on the brink of extinction, have flourished in recent years, growing to more than 71,400 nesting pairs and an estimated 316,700 individual birds. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, in her first public appearance since being sworn in last week, hailed the eagle's recovery. "The strong return of this treasured bird reminds us of our nation's shared resilience and the importance of being responsible stewards of our lands and waters that bind us together,'' said Haaland, the first Native American Cabinet secretary. Bald eagles reached an all-time low of 417 known nesting pairs in 1963 in the lower 48 states. But after decades of protection, including banning the pesticide DDT and placement of the eagle on the endangered species list in more than 40 states, the bald eagle population has continued to grow. The bald eagle was removed from the list of threatened or endangered species in 2007. The celebration of the bald eagle "is also a moment to reflect on the importance of the Endangered Species Act, a vital tool in the efforts to protect America's wildlife,'' Haaland said, calling the landmark 1973 law crucial to preventing the extinction of species such as the bald eagle or American bison.
A new documentary called Writing With Fire ... profiles Khabar Lahariya (Waves of News), India's only major news outlet run by women from marginalized communities. It focuses on rural reporting through a feminist lens and is led by chief reporter Meera Devi. Khabar Lahariya began as a small Hindi language newspaper in 2002 in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Many of its reporters are Dalits, formally called "untouchables" – people at the very bottom of India's ancient 4-level caste system, that are considered by higher castes to be so impure, they should not be touched. The Indian constitution bans discrimination on the basis of caste but it still persists. Two-thirds of rural women and about half of rural men practice untouchability. That could mean they refuse to eat with lower caste people or don't let them enter their kitchen. Untouchability is more common in rural India, where Meera and her colleagues live and report. The documentary ... follows Meera and two other colleagues as they find workarounds to challenges like power outages while reporting, interviewing unyielding, patronizing elected officials. And all the while, many of the reporters' families are pressuring them to marry because that is what is expected for many women in India. Meera says, "When future generations ask us, 'What were you doing when the country was changing and the media was being silenced?' Khabar Lahariya will be able to say proudly that we were holding the powerful to account."
We all have things we don't need. For Canberra resident Zoe Bowman, it is melon ballers. "Someone asked for a melon baller to make some melon balls for a kid's party, and I looked in the drawer and I had three," she says. "I don't need three melon ballers!" The request was made on a Facebook page that she manages, one of the thousands of local pages that make up the "buy nothing" movement. Part zero-waste movement, part community-building project, "buy nothing" has taken off in Australia's affluent inner-city suburbs as a way to rehome unwanted goods and avoid unnecessary purchases – like a third melon baller. The "buy nothing" project began in the United States as an attempt at creating a cashless economy. The aim was that communities would distribute goods according to need, which meant group members had to explain why they needed a particular item in order to receive it. It was a slightly problematic beginning, says Bowman, and the secret Facebook group where "buy nothing" page admins gather has since gone through a decolonisation and anti-racism process that led to it losing some of its original fans. In Australia the tone is lighter but the rules remain. Giving an item away to the first person who replies, like you would on a buy/swap/sell page, is far too transactional for the "buy nothing" community. "The whole aim of the thing is actually community building, not getting rid of stuff," Bowman says.
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About fifty years ago, Dr. Bruce Greyson was eating pasta in the hospital cafeteria when his beeper went off. Greyson, a psychiatrist, was urgently needed in the ER to treat a college student who had overdosed. He called her name – "Holly" – and tried to rouse her. But she didn't stir. The next morning, Greyson returned to work at the hospital. Holly stirred. "I remember you from last night," she mumbled. "I saw you talking with Susan, sitting on the couch." Suddenly Holly opened her eyes, looked Greyson in the face and added, "You were wearing a striped tie that had a red stain on it." Greyson began studying these so-called near-death experiences (NDEs) from a scientific standpoint, collecting hundreds of stories from those who've had them. He discovered that ... many people who survive the jaws of death report strange out-of-body experiences. Since meeting Holly, Greyson has published hundreds of academic papers. His search for answers is chronicled in his new book "After: A Doctor Explores What Near-Death Experiences Reveal about Life and Beyond." Near-death experiences are fairly common. Some 10 percent to 20 percent of people who come close to death report them – about 5 percent of the population. So what is going on? Greyson, who grew up in a scientific household and is not religious, says he doesn't know. "But I think the evidence overwhelmingly points to the physical body not being all that we are," he says. "There seems to be something that is able to continue after the body dies."
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Two Maryland police officers are being credited for helping calm down a man having a behavioral health crisis. Hyattsville police received a call Saturday about an agitated, angry man inside the convenience store at a Sunoco gas station. Officers Edgar Andrickson-Franco and Mancini Gaskill responded. "When we first arrived, he appeared to be incoherent," Andrickson-Franco said. "He wasn't making much sense." "We engaged in conversation with him and we didn't want to be too overbearing," Gaskill said. Andrickson-Franco sat down on the floor with the man. He said at times the man became verbally abusive, but he refused to react. "Me reacting the way he was reacting wasn't going to get us anywhere," Andrickson-Franco said. "If anything, it would have worsened the situation." The officers were understanding, built trust, and the man calmed down. He eventually handed over his phone. The officers called his relatives, and they picked him up at the gas station. The encounter is an example of what the Hyattsville Police Department is teaching in their new pilot program called Mental Health and Wellness Program. "It feels really good to know that they were able to deescalate that situation," said Hyattsville police spokesperson Adrienne Augustus, a manager of the program. "Not everyday situation you have to arrest somebody, right?" said. "That's not our job. Our job is to help." Next month the department will have a Mental Health and Wellness Day focusing on mental health and domestic abuse training.
A team of scientists led by Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a device that can deliver electrical signals to and from plants, opening the door to new technologies that make use of plants. The NTU team developed their plant 'communication' device by attaching a conformable electrode (a piece of conductive material) on the surface of a Venus flytrap plant using a soft and sticky adhesive known as hydrogel. With the electrode attached to the surface of the flytrap, researchers can achieve two things: pick up electrical signals to monitor how the plant responds to its environment, and transmit electrical signals to the plant, to cause it to close its leaves. Scientists have known for decades that plants emit electrical signals to sense and respond to their environment. The NTU research team believe that developing the ability to measure the electrical signals of plants could create opportunities for a range of useful applications, such as plant-based robots that can help to pick up fragile objects, or to help enhance food security by detecting diseases in crops early. Lead author of the study, Chen Xiaodong ... said: "Climate change is threatening food security around the world. By monitoring the plants' electrical signals, we may be able to detect possible distress signals and abnormalities. When used for agriculture purpose, farmers may find out when a disease is in progress, even before full blown symptoms appear on the crops."
Note: The pioneering Italian spiritual community Damanhur has been conducting sophisticated experiments on plant communication for decades with amazing results. Watch this amazing video showing how they have enabled plants to create music. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire yo to make a difference.
By his own assessment, Dick Hoyt wasn't in racing shape the first time his teenage son Rick, a quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, asked if they could participate in a 5-mile fund-raising race – father pushing son in a wheelchair. "I said, 'Yeah, let's go down there and try it.' I had no idea what would happen, and nobody else did, either," Mr. Hoyt later recalled. "Most people expected us to go down to the corner and come back, but we ended up doing the whole thing." From those first racing steps, the two became legends in running circles and inspirational worldwide as they participated in more than 1,000 competitions, including dozens of marathons and multiple triathlons. Mr. Hoyt ... was 80 when he died of heart failure Wednesday. Though Mr. Hoyt and Rick posted a best time of 2:40:47 in the Marine Corps Marathon – a pace many marathoners will never touch running alone – the teaming of father and son was, for both, more important than all else. "When we're out there," Mr. Hoyt told the Globe in 1990, "there's nothing I feel I can't do with Rick." "Dick started this whole movement of duos, and Team Hoyt inspired thousands of people around the world," said longtime Boston Marathon race director Dave McGillivray. "He helped open the door to people believing in themselves, and the walls of intimidation crumbled." Most runners would be too intimidated to even try what Mr. Hoyt did over and over again – push a wheelchair carrying a boy, who became a grown man, up and down hills for 26.2 miles.
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Aki Ra thinks the bomb could have been lying in rural Siem Reap, Cambodia, for 40 years. If it hadn't been found, it may have added another death to the approximately 20,000 people killed by explosives laid in the country from the late 1960s to the 1990s. Ra, founder of Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD), and his team have found about 100 explosives in the two months they've been sweeping this 23-acre (9.5-hectare) site in Chi Kraeng district. Despite handling the devices every day since 2008, when the CSHD was formed, none of its workers have been injured by them. Ra's mine-clearing team offers basic medical help to poor villagers they work near, as an extra service to those who can't afford to travel to hospitals or buy medical equipment and medicine. With 40 employees working across 10 provinces, the CSHD, which says it has cleared 175 minefields in the country since forming in 2008, targets villages overlooked by larger NGOs and the government's Cambodian Mine Action Authority. "Another village needs us soon," says Ra, as his team breaks for a quick meal of rice and fish. "If we stay too long, other villagers aren't happy. So we have to move." Ra cleared mines with the UN when it sent peacekeeping forces to Cambodia in the early 1990s. "The UN showed me that the outside world has schools, hospitals, food. Then I understood. I threw out the bad things of the past. I wanted to make my country safe." With funding from US charity Landmine Relief Fund, Ra founded the CSHD.
To curb our climate crisis, we need to end our dependence on fossil fuels and power the world with renewables. That may have seemed far-fetched a decade ago given the cost of installing wind and solar at the time, but the price of renewables has been falling fast. In 10 years, the price of solar electricity dropped 89%, and the price of onshore wind dropped 70%. Clean energy has already passed its economic tipping point. A 2019 report from the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute found that it was cheaper to build and use a combination of renewables like wind and solar than to build new natural gas plants. A 2020 report from Carbon Tracker found that in every single one of the world's energy markets, it's cheaper to invest in renewables than in coal. And now, graphs recently published on Our World in Data, an online science publication, in partnership with Oxford University, starkly visualize that decline. Comparing the price of electricity from new power plants in 2009 and 2019, one graph shows how the price of solar photovoltaic power (from solar panels) plummets from $359 per megawatt hour to $40, the cheapest of any of the power options on the chart and an 89% decrease. In 2009, building a new solar farm was 223% more expensive than building a new coal plant. Now, it's flipped: Electricity from a new coal plant is 177% more expensive than electricity from new solar panels. What caused the switch? Huge leaps in technological advancement.
Linda Tutt High School in Sanger opened up a grocery store inside the school. It's meant to help put extra food on the table for students and their families. But the store doesn't accept money, just good deeds. "How often can a school say they have a grocery store inside their walls?" said principal Anthony Love. With the help of local partners like Texas Health, Albertsons and First Refuge Ministries, the school was able to complete the grocery store in an extra room. Students can shop using a point system. "A lot of our students, they come from low socioeconomic families." Love said. "It's a way for students to earn the ability to shop for their families. Through hard work you can earn points for positive office referrals. You can earn points for doing chores around the building or helping to clean." Paul Juarez, the Executive Director of First Refuge Ministries said he hopes the idea is implemented in other rural areas. "These points were actually given by the students, so we walked through here and decided that a can of green beans was one point," said Juarez. "It gives us a picture of what can be. So if we can do this inside other schools it will do a whole lot to help other small towns." Students will learn about having sales when they have too much product, and of course, what to expect in their own first jobs. The store will also hold food drives weekly for the community and act as a supplement to other food insecurity programs in the area.
About 30 kilometers from Denmark's capital of Copenhagen, lies a small, but significant district called Musicon. Sit on a bench in Musicon, and you'll likely be sitting on slabs of concrete salvaged and repurposed from a demolition site nearby. Or bring your kids to the skatepark, and they'll be riding their scooters on concrete that used to be a basin and canals for collection of rainwater. Musicon was founded in 2007 on the premise that the old concrete factory that occupied the site should ... become the foundation for the new district's development. This meant that new construction projects would have to reimagine the old factory buildings in creative ways to create structures for living and working. This is one example of what is called a circular economy. To become fully circular means to avoid as much waste as possible, and to preserve as much value in what does go to waste. City planners have been cozying up to the idea of circularity in recent years, typically with the hope of combating climate change and resource scarcity, and many have begun embracing the approach. The CityLoops experiment ... aims to create sustainable city planning solutions based on the premise of circular economy. In several participant cities, including in Musicon, the circular economy takes the form of "banks" or "marketplaces," digital and physical, where salvaged materials are stored and offered up for use in other projects in the area, including anything from a birdhouse to an apartment block.
Important Note: Explore our full index to revealing excerpts of key major media news stories on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.