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Top Inspiring Stories of 2023

If the world is to be healed through human efforts, I am convinced it will be by ordinary people, people whose love for this life is even greater than their fear.” ― Joanna R. Macy

Hey PEERS/WantToKnow.info community,

While there is much to grieve and stress about in this rapidly changing world, there is also much to celebrate. At PEERS, we fiercely believe in life’s goodness, and the qualities and conditions that bring out the best in humanity. As this year comes to a close, we’ve gathered 15 of the most inspiring news articles we’ve summarized this past year, from 2020 to 2023. They deeply touched us, and we wanted to share with you all. We hope you enjoy these stories below!

The world is good because it gives us all we need to create from it and with it. And, abiding in gratitude for that gift, we naturally desire to give in turn. We naturally desire to add our own creativity to creation, to make the world even more good, more alive, and more beautiful. — Charles Eisenstein

May you transition into the next year with insight, joy, and good health!

With faith in a transforming world,
Amber Yang for PEERS and WantToKnow.info

Note: Additional content and sections to our Inspiration Center are currently in the works. Stay tuned for all the creative projects we have in store!


Calling In: Loretta J. Ross's Antidote to Cancel Culture
Atmos
read on WantToKnow.info

What does it take to have a challenging conversation in the era of cancel culture? For MacArthur Fellow Loretta J. Ross, the answer lies in calling in: a communicative strategy rooted in compassion, accountability, and restorative justice. Cancel culture [is] a phenomenon whereby people deemed to be moral transgressors are publicly discredited on social media platforms, and in some instances, punished through cultural, social, and professional ostracism. Professor Ross thinks this readiness to cancel a person on the basis of their beliefs is toxic. Instead, she espouses empathy and stresses the importance of context in challenging conversations. Calling in is not what you do for other people–it's what you do for yourself. It gives you a chance to offer love, grace, and respect, and to showcase one's own integrity and one's own ability to hold nuance and depth. People mistakenly think that you're doing it because you're trying to change somebody else. That's not possible. And since we don't have the power to control and change others, the only power we're left with is self-empowerment. In this sense, calling in is a conscious decision to not make the world crueler than it needs to be. We're all capable of using a technique I call "the mental parking lot" where you temporarily put aside any visceral reactions you have to what others are saying. It's a technique that requires you not to pay attention to your reaction but rather to devote your focus and respect to the person you're talking to.

Note: Smith College Professor and civil rights activist Loretta Ross worked with Ku Klux Klan members and practiced restorative justice with incarcerated men convicted of raping and murdering women. Watch Loretta Ross's powerful Ted Talk on simple tools to help shift our culture from fighting each other to working together in the face of polarizing social issues.


After The Genocide, Author Witnessed How Rwandans Defined Forgiveness
NPR
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It happened 25 years ago - up to 800,000 people in Rwanda killed - mostly from the minority Tutsi community, all of that over the course of just a hundred days. Today the hundreds of thousands of people who carried out those killings live among their victims. Journalist and author Philip Gourevitch has witnessed the unique way Rwandans have defined and navigated forgiveness after the massacre. There was a lot of agency in the local level. And the experience of the genocide was extremely localized. People were killed by neighbors. It was intimate. They knew each other. And to simply ignore that wouldn't work. In order to navigate the aftermath of the genocide, the Rwandan government set up this nationwide reconciliation process. So they set up a system of community courts - without lawyers - to sort of repurpose a system that really had only been used for small claims mitigation in traditional Rwanda, called gacaca, and have open, communal - what we might call a town hall - format for trials. And then the idea was to hold people accountable and have a system of punishment. And this system banked very heavily on encouraging confession and rewarding it. But the confessions were supposed to be also verified by the community. The motto of the gacaca courts was, truth heals. Forgiveness doesn't require trust. Forgiveness simply means letting go of the idea of getting even, forgoing the idea of revenge. Right? Now, even that's a big ask. But it means accepting coexistence. There's never been as comprehensive a reckoning with such communal violence or mass atrocity. It was an ongoing, multi-year confrontation with the past in the communities.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Want Safer Streets? Cover Them in Art
Reasons to be Cheerful
read on WantToKnow.info

Crosswalks don’t work. According to various studies, only between five and fifteen percent of drivers slow down at pedestrian crossings. The vast majority of drivers simply don’t pay attention to them. America’s deadly streetscape is the subject of The Street Project, a new PBS documentary about citizen-led efforts to make streets safer. When filmmaker Jennifer Boyd started making it, she assumed distracted driving must be behind the alarming rise in pedestrian deaths. But as she soon learned, digital screens are less of a culprit than most people realize. “Less than one percent of pedestrian deaths involved portable electronic devices,” she found. Instead, she discovered that two of the biggest factors are speeding and bigger cars. If speeding and visibility are the problem and crosswalks can’t stop it, color might. The Asphalt Art Initiative, a program funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, provides grants to create art to modify dangerous streets. One of these projects is in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where artists and residents transformed a high-traffic commercial thoroughfare with a block-long asphalt mural, while students marked safe walking paths in the area with stencils and wheat paste. Overall, according to the Initiative, “the data showed a 50 percent drop in crashes involving pedestrians or cyclists and a 37 percent drop in crashes leading to injuries. Intersections with asphalt art saw a 17 percent reduction in total accidents."

Note: Don't miss the great pictures and video of public art available at the link above.


Building bridges in the midst of conflict: 12 organizations working for Israel-Palestine peace
Optimist Daily
read on WantToKnow.info

While the sad reality of violence and division dominates the media, countless grassroots organizations are working tirelessly to bring peace and reconciliation to the Israel-Palestine conflict. As the region continues to be ravaged by violence, Standing Together, Israel’s largest Arab-Jewish grassroots organization, brings together Jewish and Palestinian volunteers. They labor relentlessly to assist victims of continuous violence while also campaigning for peace, equality, social justice, and climate justice. Their message is clear: the future they envision is one of peace, Israeli and Palestinian independence, full equality, and environmental justice. The Parents Circle – Families Forum, which includes over 600 families who have lost loved ones in the conflict, is a symbol of reconciliation. This joint Israeli-Palestinian organization encourages conversation and reconciliation through education, public gatherings, and media participation, presenting a ray of hope for a future of coexistence. Integrated schools in Israel, where Jewish and Palestinian children attend classes together, serve as an example of a more inclusive future. Hand in Hand promotes understanding by bringing parents together for debate and shared study of Hebrew and Arabic. They are sowing seeds of oneness. Jerusalem Peacebuilders brings together Israelis, Palestinians, and Americans with the goal of developing tomorrow’s leaders. Their work highlights the futility of violent war and the critical need for nonviolence.

Note: A recent memorial service in Tel Aviv brought Israelis and Palestinians together in profound ways. As the article states, "Palestinians and Israelis almost never come into contact, except at Israeli military checkpoints on the West Bank, or when violent Israeli settlers attack their fields — or when Palestinian workers come to Israel to work in construction or in agriculture."


Why a game in which you look for a real, live pink elephant could help save the world
NPR
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Edgard Gouveia Jr., 58, says the key to solving the world's problems is games. "I use games and narrative to mobilize crowds," says the Brazilian game inventor and co-founder of Livelab. He's worked with schools, companies, government offices and slums. "Games that can make a whole town, a whole city or even a whole country play together." And now he's developing a global game called "Jornada X" whose goal is to get kids and teenagers to save nothing less than all life on the planet. Through games and playful activities, we create a field of trust. When you create abundance of connection, abundance of possibility, people sense it right away. It doesn't matter if for 30 or 40 years they were living in scarcity. By belonging to a group that we love and that's doing good in the world – these are ways of energizing our collective power, our collective meaning. When you do some good, you feel like you have an identity. [Jornada X] starts with young people. They receive a call that's like a Matrix video that says, "Humanity isn't doing well. Society is violent and nature is dying. But you are one of a group of special kids with superpowers – things like love, helping others, strength, and friendship. As soon as they sign up, the team starts to receive missions. We might say, "Look at your neighborhood. What's wrong?" By the end of seven weeks, they have to find a solution ... Kids play war games all the time. They collaborate to kill people. It's not that they like death, but they want to have this kind of adrenaline. What could be more exciting? My answer is saving the planet in a way that adults haven't been able to."

Note: The latest US Air Force recruitment tool is a video game that allows players to receive in-game medals and achievements for drone bombing Iraqis and Afghans. What world do we want our youth to live in? Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


This Minecraft library is making censored journalism accessible all over the world
The Verge
read on WantToKnow.info

Minecraft has established itself as a cultural phenomenon for many reasons: it’s creative, collaborative, and sufficiently facile as to be considered accessible to almost anybody. These benefits ... form the perfect vehicle for Reporters Without Borders’ Uncensored Library, a virtual hub housing a collection of otherwise inaccessible journalism from all over the world, with specific sections devoted to Russia, Egypt, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, and Vietnam. “In Egypt there’s no free information,” Reporters Without Borders media and public relations officer Kristin Bässe tells me. Mexico is the country where journalists are most at risk, she adds, with governmental and cartel interference often culminating in the death of those voices deemed dissident. “It’s a different form of censorship,” Bässe explains. “People don’t want to publish because they’re scared.” “In the Mexico room we built memorials to 12 Mexican journalists who have been murdered,” [said Blockworks managing director James] Delaney. Delaney tells me that the forms of censorship in Egypt are more blatant. “The articles you see in this room are actually banned,” he explains. “If you live in Egypt you’re unable to access them unless you come to our Minecraft server.” This is the case for the Russian, Vietnamese, and Saudi Arabian sections, too. “The content you find in these rooms is illegal, but we can see from the server logins that we’ve already had people from all five of these countries join and read up on this information,” he says.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


How Peace Activists Are Beating the U.S. Military at its Own (Video) Game
The Progressive
read on WantToKnow.info

In 2018, the military, struggling to meet enlistment goals, began invading gaming communities as part of a larger, digital-first strategy. Recruiters who had once stalked school assemblies and shopping malls began streaming games on social media and competing in tournaments to court new enlistees online. Since then, the military’s online recruiting strategy has expanded to the Amazon-owned streaming platform Twitch, which attracts 140 million active users per month. The Army, Navy, and Air Force churn out hours of Twitch content per week, including streams of popular first-person-shooter games. The Armed Forces claim their gamers ... aren’t technically recruiters. But anti-war advocates say they might as well be. To counter this, [Marine veteran Chris] Velazquez became a community developer for Gamers for Peace (GFP), the first peace organization formed to mirror the military’s online recruiting practices: While streaming popular games like Halo and Rocket League, its members—many of them veterans—offer career advice and mentorship to teens, talk politics, and discuss the realities of war. They also share information about online military recruitment tactics at in-person gaming conventions such as PAX Unplugged. These initiatives, members say, give prospective recruits the tools and knowledge to see other options and reconsider enlisting. The group has already accrued nearly 600 Twitch followers as well as 400 members on the popular messaging service Discord.

Note: The latest US Air Force recruitment tool is a video game that allows players to receive in-game medals and achievements for drone bombing Iraqis and Afghans. For more on this topic, read an article we've summarized about how one of the best-selling video games, Call of Duty, is a carefully constructed piece of military propaganda.


Private Banks Are In Crisis. What If They Were Public Banks?
Vice
read on WantToKnow.info

Public banks are typically operated by government or tribal authorities and, in theory, would be chartered to achieve social good and invest in communities. Only two public banks currently operate in the United States: the Bank of North Dakota, founded in 1919, and the Territorial Bank of American Samoa, founded in 2018. Organizations pushing for a public banking option exist in 37 states, according to the Public Banking Institute. In contrast to private banks, which are responsible to their shareholders, public banks are responsible to their boards and are chartered to invest in public needs. The Bank of North Dakota, for instance, is chartered to offer a “revolving loan fund” to farmers, and profits from loans are directed back into the fund to keep interest rates low. The modern movement to invest in public banks grew out of the 2008 financial crisis and was galvanized during the pandemic, fueled by a populist distrust of the banking and finance sectors. In October 2020, Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib introduced the federal Public Banking Act, which would allow state and local governments across the country to create public banks. In the first two months of 2021 there were sixteen bills across the country designed to pave the way for public banks. Supporters of public banks are hoping that any deposits from state and local governments can be used to fund community-based projects that have trouble getting funded by private banks.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


How Taiwan's 'civic hackers' helped find a new way to run the country
The Guardian (One of UK's Leading Newspapers)
read on WantToKnow.info

It came to be known as the Sunflower movement, a sudden three-week stand-off in 2014 between the government and Taiwanese protesters. Months later, government officials arrived at a ... university campus to ask for the help of a group that few knew even existed: the civic hackers. Taiwan's civic hackers were organized around a leaderless collective called g0v (pronounced "gov zero.") Many believed in radical transparency ... and in the idea that everyone who is affected by a decision should have a say in it. They preferred establishing consensus to running lots of majority-rule votes. These were all principles, incidentally, that parallel thinking about how software should be designed – a philosophy that g0v had begun to apply to the arena of domestic politics. As g0v saw it, the problem of politics was essentially one of information. They needed a way not to measure division, but construct consensus. The hackers' answer was called vTaiwan. The platform invites citizens into an online space for debate that politicians listen to and take into account when casting their votes. As people expressed their views, rather than serving up the comments that were the most divisive, it gave the most visibility to those finding consensus. Soon, vTaiwan was being rolled out on issue after issue, especially those related to technology, and each time a hidden consensus was revealed. The system's potential to heal divisions, to reconnect people to politics, is a solution made for the problems of our age.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


‘Dead’ Electric Car Batteries Find a Second Life Powering Cities
Reasons to be Cheerful
read on WantToKnow.info

Last month, a small warehouse in the English city of Nottingham received the crucial final components for a project that leverages the power of used EV batteries to create a new kind of circular economy. Inside, city authorities have installed 40 two-way electric vehicle chargers that are connected to solar panels and a pioneering battery energy storage system, which will together power a number of on-site facilities and a fleet of 200 municipal vehicles. Each day Nottingham will send a combination of solar-generated energy — and whatever is left in the vehicles after the day’s use — from its storage devices into the national grid. What makes the project truly circular is the battery technology itself. Funded by the European Union’s Interreg North-West Europe Programme, the energy storage system, E-STOR, is made out of used EV batteries by the British company Connected Energy. After around a decade, an EV battery no longer provides sufficient performance for car journeys. However, they still can retain up to 80 percent of their original capacity, and with this great remaining power comes great reusability. “As the batteries degrade, they lose their usefulness for vehicles,” says Matthew Lumsden, chairman of Connected Energy. “But batteries can be used for so many other things, and to not do so results in waste and more mining of natural resources.” One study ... calculated that a second life battery system saved 450 tons of CO2 per MWh over its lifetime.

Note: Learn more about the amazing world of marine mammals.


How mud boosts your immune system
BBC
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"Don't get dirty!" was once a constant family refrain, as parents despairingly watched their children spoil their best clothes. Today, many parents may secretly wish their children had the chance to pick up a bit of grime. According to recent research, the dirt outside is teaming with friendly microorganisms that can train the immune system and build resilience to a range of illnesses, including allergies, asthma and even depression and anxiety. Certain natural materials, such as soil and mud ... contain surprisingly powerful microorganisms whose positive impact on children's health we are only beginning to fully understand. Our brains evolved in natural landscapes, and our perceptual systems are particularly well suited to wild outdoor spaces. Supporting this theory, one study from 2009 found that children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) were better able to concentrate following a 20-minute walk in the park, compared to a 20-minute walk on the streets of a well-kept urban area. People who grow up on farms are generally less likely to develop asthma, allergies, or auto-immune disorders like Crohn's disease [due to] their childhood exposure to a more diverse range of organisms in the rural environment. Michele Antonelli, a doctor from Italy ... has researched the ways that mud therapies can influence health. People with [skin] disorders ... seem to have an impoverished community of organisms. "These microorganisms can play a major role in many major chronic diseases," he says.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


Revolutionary Music Therapy Helps Paralyzed Man Walk and Talk Again – It 'Unlocked the Brain'
Good News Network
read on WantToKnow.info

A patient who was left almost completely paralyzed from a rare disease is now walking and talking again, after a music therapist prescribed mindful listening to his favorite song every night–in this case, a tune by The Carpenters. 71 year-old Ian Palmer was struck down with Guillain-Barre syndrome last June, forcing him to spend seven months in a hospital where he was unable to walk or speak properly. The rare condition happens when a person's own immune system attacks their body's motor nerves, causing muscle weakness and sometimes paralysis. But when Ian was transferred to Sue Ryder Neurological Care Centre, a state-of-the-art care unit in Lancashire, England, clinicians used music therapy techniques to overcome 'near total paralysis of his body'. His specialist, Clare, taught him mindfulness techniques using his favorite records–and he began listening to The Carpenters each night. Ian was admittedly skeptical, but he can now walk 2 miles a day (3k) and have conversations with his family after the exercises "opened up" his brain. He's never been very musical, so when Sue Ryder first suggested music therapy he said, 'What good is that going to do?' "I'm a typical Northern man, and I thought, 'What's a girl with a guitar going to do for me–get me to the gym.'" "But it really worked. Clare sat me down and explained the process. I learned that music is very unlike other therapies, as it opens up all of the brain."

Note: Watch a profoundly touching documentary about a man who takes on the broken healthcare system to demonstrate music's ability to heal, combat memory loss, and awaken the soul and the deepest parts of humanity. Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The Surprising Role of Blind Women in India's Health Care System
Reasons to be Cheerful (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
read on WantToKnow.info

On a sunny March morning in Bengaluru, Ayesha Banu and Noorunnisa walk up to the stage of Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology. Their white canes folded and held aside, they speak to a packed hall of students and teachers about their work as Medical Tactile Examiners (MTEs). "We assist doctors in detecting the early signs of breast cancer in women," Banu speaks into the mic. "Using the first two fingers of both hands, we examine women's breasts for abnormalities." She explains that blind women like herself and Noorunnisa are especially well-suited to this profession because of the "high tactile sense in our fingertips, which helps us find tiny lumps in the breast." Tactile breast examinations, or TBEs, are clinical breast examinations specially designed for blind women trained as MTEs. Employing MTEs for routine breast cancer screening – and reaching women in their communities and workplaces – could help in the early detection of cancer and save lives, says Dr. Poovamma CU, the breast specialist under whom Banu and Noorunnisa work. Studies prove that in the absence of sight, blind people's brains can develop a heightened sense of touch, as well as hearing. Through the MTE training, a woman with vision impairment is able to empower another woman, by offering her preventive health care. In a recent Indian study where two MTEs conducted TBEs on 1,338 women, their success rate of detecting malignant cancers was over 78 percent, and the miss rate, only one percent.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


The Theory That Men Evolved to Hunt and Women Evolved to Gather Is Wrong
Scientific American
read on WantToKnow.info

The influential idea that in the past men were hunters and women were not isn’t supported by the available evidence. Women are physiologically better suited than men to endurance efforts such as running marathons. This advantage bears on questions about hunting because a prominent hypothesis contends that early humans are thought to have pursued prey on foot over long distances until the animals were exhausted. Furthermore, the fossil and archaeological records, as well as ethnographic studies of modern-day hunter-gatherers, indicate that women have a long history of hunting game. Females are ... dominating ultraendurance events such as the more than 260-mile Montane Spine foot race through England and Scotland, the 21-mile swim across the English Channel and the 4,300-mile Trans Am cycling race. In 2018 English runner Sophie Power ran the 105-mile Ultra-Trail du Mont-Blanc race in the Alps while still breastfeeding her three-month-old at rest stations. Observations of recent and contemporary foraging societies provide direct evidence of women participating in hunting. The most cited examples come from the Agta people of the Philippines. Agta women hunt while menstruating, pregnant and breastfeeding, and they have the same hunting success as Agta men. They are hardly alone. A recent study of ethnographic data spanning the past 100 years ... found that women from a wide range of cultures hunt animals for food.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


'It's a beautiful thing': how one Paris district rediscovered conviviality
The Guardian (One of the UK's most popular newspapers)
read on WantToKnow.info

A 215-metre-long banquet table, lined with 648 chairs and laden with a home cooked produce, was set up along the Rue de l'Aude and those in attendance were urged to openly utter the most subversive of words: bonjour. For some, that greeting led to the first meaningful exchange between neighbours. "I'd never seen anything like it before," says Benjamin Zhong who runs a cafe in the area. "It felt like the street belonged to me, to all of us." The revolutionaries pledged their allegiance that September day in 2017 to the self-styled Republique des Hyper Voisins, or Republic of Super Neighbours, a stretch of the 14th arrondissement on the Left Bank, encompassing roughly 50 streets and 15,000 residents. In the five years since, the republic – a "laboratory for social experimentation" – has attempted to address the shortcomings of modern city living, which can be transactional, fast-paced, and lonely. The experiment encourages people ... to interact daily through mutual aid schemes, voluntary skills-sharing and organised meet ups. A recent event at the Place des Droits de l'Enfant allowed neighbours to celebrate reclaiming the public space. A lifeless road junction ... no longer performed its role as an "urban square" – a place for life, interaction and meetings. But after residents were consulted about what they thought the square should become, it was cleaned, pedestrianised, planted and had street clutter removed with a grant of nearly 200,000 euros from the City of Paris.

Note: Explore more positive stories like this in our comprehensive inspiring news articles archive focused on solutions and bridging divides.


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