Inspirational Media ArticlesExcerpts of Key Inspirational Media Articles in Major Media
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Beneath our feet is an ecosystem so astonishing that it tests the limits of our imagination. It's as diverse as a rainforest or a coral reef. We depend on it for 99% of our food, yet we scarcely know it. Soil. Under one square metre of undisturbed ground in the Earth's mid-latitudes ... there might live several hundred thousand small animals. One gram of this soil – less than a teaspoonful – contains around a kilometre of fungal filaments. But even more arresting than soil's diversity and abundance is the question of what it actually is. Most people see it as a dull mass of ground-up rock and dead plants. But it turns out to be a biological structure, built by living creatures to secure their survival, like a wasps' nest or a beaver dam. Microbes make cements out of carbon, with which they stick mineral particles together, creating pores and passages through which water, oxygen and nutrients pass. The tiny clumps they build become the blocks the animals in the soil use to construct bigger labyrinths. Plants release into the soil between 11% and 40% of all the sugars they make through photosynthesis. They don't leak them accidentally. They deliberately pump them into the ground. These complex chemicals are pumped into the zone immediately surrounding the plant's roots, which is called the rhizosphere. They are released to create and manage its relationships. The rhizosphere lies outside the plant, but it functions as if it were part of the whole. It could be seen as the plant's external gut.
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Clean energy powered 100 per cent of California's electricity demand on Saturday – a first for the state, according to an environmental group. Much of the renewable power came from vast solar farms, south of Los Angeles. The milestone, set on 30 April, was celebrated by environmental groups. "California busts past 100% on this historic day for clean energy!" tweeted Dan Jacobson, co-founder of the activist thinktank EcoEquity. Daniel M Kammen, a professor of energy at UC Berkeley, also wrote: "California achieved 100% renewable energy today. Very clear we can achieve clean energy everyday before 2030 if we cut the fossil fuel subsidies and political inertia." According to the tracker app from the California Independent System Operator (CAISO), which oversees the state's power grid, energy demand reached 18,672 megawatts(MW) mid-afternoon on Saturday, with 37,172 MW available. The record was held for nearly 15 minutes, then dropped to 97 per cent of clean energy output. Solar power makes up the majority of California's renewables followed by wind energy then to a lesser extent, geothermal, biomass, biogas and small hydro. The state of California, the world's fifth largest economy, produces more renewable energy than any other US state, helped along by its near year-round sunshine. Governor Gavin Newsom's budget proposal for next year includes around $2bn to boost the transition to 100 per cent electricity. California has set a goal of achieving 100 per cent clean electricity by 2045.
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MIT researchers have developed a portable desalination unit, weighing less than 10 kilograms, that can remove particles and salts to generate drinking water. The suitcase-sized device, which requires less power to operate than a cell phone charger, can also be driven by a small, portable solar panel, which can be purchased online for around $50. It automatically generates drinking water that exceeds World Health Organization quality standards. The technology is packaged into a user-friendly device that runs with the push of one button. Unlike other portable desalination units that require water to pass through filters, this device utilizes electrical power to remove particles from drinking water. Eliminating the need for replacement filters greatly reduces the long-term maintenance requirements. This could enable the unit to be deployed in remote and severely resource-limited areas, such as communities on small islands or aboard seafaring cargo ships. It could also be used to aid refugees fleeing natural disasters or by soldiers carrying out long-term military operations. "This is really the culmination of a 10-year journey that I and my group have been on. We worked for years on the physics behind individual desalination processes, but pushing all those advances into a box, building a system, and demonstrating it in the ocean, that was a really meaningful and rewarding experience for me," says senior author Jongyoon Han, a professor of electrical engineering and computer science and of biological engineering.
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Thousands of potentially harmful chemicals could soon be prohibited in Europe under new restrictions, which campaigners have hailed as the strongest yet. The EU's "restrictions roadmap" published on Monday was conceived as a first step to transforming this picture by using existing laws to outlaw toxic substances linked to cancers, hormonal disruption, reprotoxic disorders, obesity, diabetes and other illnesses. Industry groups say that up to 12,000 substances could ultimately fall within the scope of the new proposal, which would constitute the world's "largest ever ban of toxic chemicals", according to the European Environmental Bureau (EEB). Tatiana Santos, the bureau's chemicals policy manager, said: "EU chemical controls are usually achingly slow but the EU is planning the boldest detox we have ever seen. Petrochemical industry lobbyists are shocked at what is now on the table. It promises to improve the safety of almost all manufactured products and rapidly lower the chemical intensity of our schools, homes and workplaces." The plan focuses on entire classes of chemical substances for the first time as a rule, including all flame retardants, bisphenols, PVC plastics, toxic chemicals in single-use nappies and PFAS, which are also known as "forever chemicals" because of the time they take to naturally degrade. All of these will be put on a "rolling list" of substances to be considered for restriction by the European Chemicals Agency. The list will be regularly reviewed and updated.
Between vast almond orchards and dairy pastures in the heart of California's farm country sits a property being redesigned to look like it did 150 years ago, before levees restricted the flow of rivers that weave across the landscape. The 2,100 acres (1,100 hectares) at the confluence of the Tuolumne and San Joaquin rivers in the state's Central Valley are being reverted to a floodplain. That means when heavy rains cause the rivers to go over their banks, water will run onto the land, allowing traditional ecosystems to flourish and lowering flood risk downstream. The Dos Rios Ranch Preserve is California's largest single floodplain restoration project, part of the nation's broadest effort to rethink how rivers flow as climate change alters the environment. The land it covers used to be a farm, but the owners sold it to the nonprofit River Partners to use for restoring wildlife habitat. The state wants to fund and prioritize similar projects that lower risks to homes and property while providing other benefits, like boosting habitats, improving water quality and potentially recharging depleted groundwater supplies. By notching or removing levees, swelling rivers can flow onto land that no longer needs to be kept dry. For projects like Dos Rios, land that farmers no longer want to manage is being turned into space where rivers can breathe. Farther north, barriers on the Feather River have been altered to allow more water to flow into an existing wildlife area.
Scientists have discovered a way to capture solar energy and store it for nearly two decades, before releasing it when it is needed. Using a system called molecular solar thermal energy storage (MOST), researchers at Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden and Shanghai Jiao Tong University in China developed an ultra-thin chip to act as a thermoelectric generator. "This is a radically new way of generating electricity from solar energy," said Kasper Moth-Poulsen, a professor at the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering at Chalmers who led the research. "It means that we can use solar energy to produce electricity regardless of weather, time of day, season, or geographical location." The MOST system uses a specially designed molecule that reacts to sunlight in order to capture the Sun's energy. After loading it with solar energy in Sweden, Chalmers University sent it to their colleagues in Shanghai where they were able to convert it into electricity. "Essentially, Swedish sunshine was sent to the other side of the world and converted into electricity in China," said a statement released by Chalmers University. The researchers hope the technology can lead to self-charging electronics that use stored solar energy on demand, as well as holding the potential to transform renewable and emissions-free energy production. More research and development is required before the system can be implemented at scale, thought Chalmers University said it has already attracted "great interest worldwide."
In Rambouillet, a small French town around 30 miles (50km) south-west of Paris, a soft blue light emanated from a row of cylindrical tubes. Members of the public ... were invited to bathe in the glow for a few minutes. Soon, the same azure glow will illuminate the nearby, tree-lined Place AndrĂ© ThomĂ© et Jacqueline ThomĂ©-PatenĂ´tre, located just across from the aptly named La Lanterne performance hall, at night. These ethereal experiments are also underway across France. But unlike standard streetlamps, which often emit a harsh glare and need to be hooked up to the electricity grid, these otherworldly lights are powered by living organisms through a process known as bioluminescence. This phenomenon – where chemical reactions inside an organism's body produce light – can be observed in many places in nature. Organisms as diverse as fireflies, fungi and fish have the ability to glow through bioluminescence. The turquoise blue glow bathing the waiting room in Rambouillet ... comes from a marine bacterium gathered off the coast of France called Aliivibrio fischeri. The bacteria are stored inside saltwater-filled tubes, allowing them to circulate in a kind of luminous aquarium. Since the light is generated through internal biochemical processes that are part of the organism's normal metabolism, running it requires almost no energy. "Our goal is to change the way in which cities use light," says Sandra Rey, founder of the French start-up Glowee, which is behind the project in Rambouillet.
A lucky Frenchman has decided to dedicate most of his record-breaking $217 million lottery jackpot to a nature foundation he created. The winner, nicknamed "Guy" by French lottery group FranĂ§aises des Jeux (FDJ), won the sum in December 2020. "From my point of view, the priority today is saving the planet," Guy [said]. "We must act. It is an absolute emergency. If nothing is done in this regard, all other actions will be in vain. We will no longer exist." Revisiting the moment of his win, Guy [said] he could still remember his doubts and disbelief. After it became clear he was indeed the winner, he said, he made up his mind to put the money to good use. "The minute I found out I was the lucky winner of the EuroMillions, I had the will to share my luck," he said. He was already determined to create his own foundation at the time of his win. The result of Guy's determination is Anyama, a foundation named after a town in CĂ´te d'Ivoire where he spent several years during his childhood. "I have passed on most of my prize money and will gradually give away almost all of it," he said. The Anyama foundation website explained it was Guy's memory of watching trucks loaded with trees in CĂ´te d'Ivoire which motivated him to create an environmental foundation. "This procession of trucks left a deep impression on me and filled me with outrage," he said. The lottery group FDJ welcomed Guy's decision to donate most of his prize to saving the environment ... calling it an exceptional and generous gesture.
Even though the Biden administration's plan to make community college tuition-free for two years was stripped from the federal Build Back Better bill, the push for free college is alive and well in many parts of the country. While the White House has turned its focus to extending the student loan payment pause, states have been quietly moving forward with plans to pass legislation of their own to make some college tuition-free. Most recently, New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham, a Democrat, signed the New Mexico Opportunity Scholarship Act, establishing the most extensive tuition-free scholarship program in the country. Like New York's Excelsior Scholarship, it covers four years of tuition, including career training certificates, associate and bachelor's degrees. But New Mexico's Opportunity Scholarship goes a step further by opening up access to returning adult learners, part-time students and immigrants, regardless of their immigration status, in addition to recent high school graduates. Maine's Gov. Janet Mills ... has proposed a plan to make two years of community college free for recent high school graduates. If passed, that would bring the total number of statewide free-college programs to 30, which means 60% of states would have free tuition opportunities. "If we get to 50, it's mission accomplished," said Morley Winograd ... of the Campaign for Free College Tuition. Most are "last-dollar" scholarships, meaning students receive a scholarship for the amount of tuition that is not covered by existing state or federal aid.
We've all heard stories about extraordinary climbers. These are people who defy the stakes in an attempt to beat the odds every time they summit a mountain that others have only seen in photos. Whereas the average hiker has seen upwards of only 10,000 feet, extreme athletes and professional alpinists have explored the summits of mountains towering well over 18,000 feet. For some, the ultimate summit sits at a harrowing height of 29,032 feet. It's unimaginable: A temperature so cold that few living organisms can survive its inhospitable conditions. A lack of oxygen at its highest peak, where not even a helicopter can reach those who might be stranded. Despite all of those dangers, one woman holds the world record for surviving this not once, but nine times. That remarkable woman is Lhakpa Sherpa, a Nepali native born in the small Himalayan village of Balakharka who is about to reset her own record this year. Lhakpa Sherpa currently holds the Guinness World Record for the female climber with the most successful ascents of Everest to date. This is a record that she has held consistently for more than two decades now. Lhakpa is one of 11 children, five of whom have summited Everest. It was here that her love began, and it would become a lifelong affair with the mountains that she grew up admiring every single day. As an adult, Lhakpa is a single parent of three children, with whom she also shares her love for mountain climbing and hiking.
As universities across the United States face steep enrollment declines, New Mexico's government is embarking on a pioneering experiment to fight that trend: tuition-free higher education for all state residents. After President Biden's plan for universal free community college failed to gain traction in Congress, New Mexico, one of the nation's poorest states, has emerged with perhaps the most ambitious plans. A new state law approved in a rare show of bipartisanship allocates almost 1 percent of the state's budget toward covering tuition and fees at public colleges and universities, community colleges and tribal colleges. All state residents from new high school graduates to adults enrolling part-time will be eligible regardless of family income. The program is also open to immigrants regardless of their immigration status. Some legislators and other critics question whether there should have been income caps, and whether the state, newly flush with oil and gas revenue, can secure long-term funding to support the program beyond its first year. The legislation, which seeks to treat college as a public resource similar to primary and secondary education, takes effect in July. Although nearly half the states have embraced similar initiatives that seek to cover at least some tuition expenses for some students, New Mexico's law goes further by covering tuition and fees before other scholarships and sources of financial aid are applied, enabling students to use those other funds for expenses such as lodging, food or child care.
Evan, a middle-class Black man, doesn't come across as a psychedelic enthusiast. He's a 23-year-old quantitative economics graduate student who takes pride in steaming his sweater vests to maintain a studious appearance. In 2015, Evan's father was arrested for misdemeanor drug possession. A teenager at the time, he swore off drugs forever. But six years later, magic mushrooms have become Evan's remedy to cope with racial trauma. Like most Americans, Evan followed the widespread media coverage of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor's deaths in 2020. And like many Black Americans, he experienced traumatic-stress symptoms triggered by the constant exposure to cases of police brutality and racial discrimination. Debilitating panic attacks incapacitated him multiple times a day; insomnia drained his ... energy. After unsuccessfully trying three different anti-anxiety medications, he finally stumbled upon a study on psychedelics for racial trauma. He wondered: could psychedelic therapy be the solution? Psilocybin, the active compound in magic mushrooms, has been found to mitigate acute anxiety among patients with life-threatening cancer. A state-sponsored study in Texas is investigating psychedelics as a treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder in veterans. But one lesser-known benefit has been documented by researchers at the University of Ottawa: psychedelics may alleviate symptoms of race-based traumatic stress.
In this troubled time of war and pandemic, the World Happiness Report 2022 shows a bright light in dark times. According to the team of international researchers, including McGill University Professor Christopher Barrington-Leigh, the pandemic brought not only pain and suffering but also an increase in social support and benevolence. "COVID-19 is the biggest health crisis we've seen in more than a century," says Professor John Helliwell of the University of British Columbia. "Now that we have two years of evidence, we are able to assess not just the importance of benevolence and trust, but to see how they have contributed to well-being during the pandemic." Helliwell adds "We found during 2021 remarkable worldwide growth in all three acts of kindness monitored in the Gallup World Poll. Helping strangers, volunteering, and donations in 2021 were strongly up in every part of the world, reaching levels almost 25% above their pre-pandemic prevalence. This surge of benevolence, which was especially great for the helping of strangers, provides powerful evidence that people respond to help others in need, creating in the process more happiness for the beneficiaries, good examples for others to follow, and better lives for themselves." For the fifth year in a row Finland takes the top spot as the happiest in the world. This year its score was significantly ahead of other countries in the top ten. Denmark continues to occupy second place, with Iceland up from 4th place last year to 3rd this year.
The Kindness Test involved over 60,000 people from 144 different countries around the world, making it the largest public study of kindness ever carried out. You can listen to the full rundown of the results in the three-part BBC Radio 4 documentary, The Anatomy of Kindness, airing this month. The research will also soon be submitted for publication so their findings can be used to forward research in the future. Here are a few interesting findings from the test. Kinder people, or simply people who are more aware of kindness experience higher levels of life satisfaction and wellbeing. Two-thirds of participants believe the pandemic has made people kinder, perhaps by giving us a collective struggle that increased our empathy for each other. The study also found that nearly 60 percent of the people who partook in the research claimed to have received an act of kindness within the previous day. "It is a big part of human nature, to be kind – because it's such a big part of how we connect with people and how we have relationships," says Claudia Hammond, study collaborator. "It's a win-win situation, because we like receiving kindness, but we also like being kind." The overarching trend from the data is that your personality determines how kind you are to others and also how kind they are to you. People who are open to new experiences, agreeable, like talking to strangers, or are extraverted all reported higher levels of kindness in their lives.
A remote and unique indigenous population in the Bolivian Amazon called the Tsimane (pronounced chee-MAH-nay) sparked the interest of scientists when they were found to show almost no cases of age-related heart disease. Since then, scientists have carried out various studies into the Tsimane community due to their exceptional health even in old age. In 2017, researchers from The Tsimane Health and Life History Project were astonished to find that the elderly Tsimane experienced unusually low levels of vascular aging, and a study in The Lancet reported that the average 80-year-old Tsimane adult demonstrated the same vascular age as a 55-year-old American. Researchers are now looking into the brain health of the Tsimane community, in particular the prevalence of dementia. Only five cases of dementia were detected, which equates to about one percent of the population studied–significantly below the 11 percent of the equivalent American population known to be living with dementia. Researchers also studied 169 individuals hailing from the Moseten community, a community genetically and linguistically similar to the Tsimane. The Moseten also showed very low levels of dementia, even though they lived in closer proximity to modern Bolivian society. "Something about the pre-industrial subsistence lifestyle appears to protect older Tsimane and Moseten from dementia," says Margaret Gatz, lead author of the study.
Note: The profoundly inspiring documentary "Alive Inside" presents the astonishing experiences of elderly individuals with severe dementia who are revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music that meant something to them in their earlier years. Featuring experts including renowned neurologist/best-selling author Oliver Sacks and musician Bobby McFerrin, this beautiful portrait of senile patients coming back to life was the winner of Sundance Film Festival Audience Award.
Congress passed a bill last week explicitly prohibiting federal law enforcement officers from having sex with people in their custody, closing a loophole that previously allowed them to avoid a rape conviction by claiming such an encounter was consensual. The legal loophole gained widespread attention in 2018, after an 18-year-old woman in New York, Anna Chambers, said that two detectives raped her inside their police van. The detectives, who have since resigned, said she consented. Prosecutors ultimately dropped the sexual assault charges, and the men were sentenced to five years of probation after pleading guilty to bribery and official misconduct. In February 2018, BuzzFeed News reported that laws in 35 states allowed police officers to claim that a person in their custody consented to sex, and that of at least 158 law enforcement officers charged with sexual assault, sexual battery, or unlawful sexual contact with somebody under their control from 2006 to 2018, at least 26 were acquitted or had charges dropped based on the consent defense. Last week ... the Closing the Law Enforcement Consent Loophole Act passed the House and Senate as part of a broader appropriations bill. The act also requires states that receive certain federal grants to annually report to the Department of Justice the number of complaints alleging a sexual encounter between a local law enforcement officer and a person in their custody. The ... Act applies to the 100,000 or so law enforcement officers across all federal agencies.
Pools and streams and springs course and seep and drip. The waters sparkle with clarity and are achingly cold. Moisture glazes the rocks with an ineffable shine. The air is scented with wet, the tread underfoot softened with it. The tiered branches and filtered light create a realm of soft sounds and the feeling of a living dream of green, blue and brown, one ridge and hill of forest easing to the next. There are trees from sprouts to the ancients that have gained a look attained only at great age. Their bark flakes and shreds, and trunks soar to an apse raised over centuries. The soil is darker than coffee grounds, inky, sweet and redolent of fructifying forest funk. "This is the gold," [forest ecology professor Suzanne] Simard said, as she crumbled the soil in her hands, and teased apart filaments within it, finer than a human hair. These are fungal threads. Simard discovered in pioneering research they wind through these soils in a web of connections from tree to tree, sharing nutrients and water. Simard and others have revealed that trees also can recognize their own kin in seedlings they preferentially shuttle nutrients to, through the fungal network. In research published in the New Phytologist in 2016, Simard and her collaborators demonstrated carbon transfer – crucial food – was three to four times greater in kin than in nonkin pairings of Douglas fir seedlings. Kinship increased both the likelihood of establishment of a symbiotic relationship between kin linked by a fungal network, and its robustness.
Note: Watch a great TED Talk by this intrepid scientist showing how forests are much more interconnected than we might imagine. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
What is it, exactly, that makes us kind? Why are some of us kinder than others – and what stops us from being kinder? The Kindness Test, a major new study involving more than 60,000 people from 144 different countries, has been looking into these and other questions. It is believed to be the largest public study of kindness ever carried out in the world. The results, which are currently the subject of a three-part Radio 4 documentary The Anatomy of Kindness, suggest that people who receive, give or even just notice more acts of kindness tend to experience higher levels of wellbeing and life satisfaction. Other encouraging findings are that as many as two-thirds of people think the pandemic has made people kinder and nearly 60% of participants in the study claimed to have received an act of kindness in the previous 24 hours. Luke Cameron, dubbed the "nicest man in Britain", once spent a year doing a good deed every day. It taught him that sometimes offering some help, reassurance or a kind word can make a huge difference. "It's made me more aware of things that happen in front of me. If someone falls over in the street, there's always going to be people who go and help and others who stand back. It's made me one of those people who go and help. Consciously, I now just do it." He became that person, he says, after a "mindset shift" where he realised: "Actually, if it was me, I'd want somebody to help me. That makes you think differently about how you are with people."
Amid a crush of heavy news from around the world, who couldn't use some sage advice right now? Call a new hotline, and you'll get just that – encouraging words from a resilient group of kindergartners. Kids' voices will prompt you with a menu of options: If you're feeling mad, frustrated or nervous, press 1. If you need words of encouragement and life advice, press 2. If you need a pep talk from kindergartners, press 3. If you need to hear kids laughing with delight, press 4. For encouragement in Spanish, press 5. Pressing 3 leads to a chorus of kids sounding off a series of uplifting mantras: "Be grateful for yourself," offers one student. "If you're feeling up high and unbalanced, think of groundhogs," another chimes in. Peptoc, as the free hotline is called, is a project from the students of West Side Elementary, a small school in the town of Healdsburg, Calif. It was put together with the help of teachers Jessica Martin and Asherah Weiss. Martin, who teaches the arts program at the school, says she was inspired by her students' positive attitudes, despite all they've been through – the pandemic, wildfires in the region and just the everyday challenges of being a kid. "I thought, you know, with this world being as it is, we all really needed to hear from them – their extraordinary advice and their continual joy," she said. Martin says she hopes the hotline will give callers a little respite from whatever it is they're going through, which – judging from the thousands of calls the hotline gets each day – is quite a lot. So the next time you need a little boost, dial Peptoc at 707-998-8410.
2022 is set to be a record year in terms of the scale at which the switchover from fossil fuels to renewable sources will take place. It's also a year in which we will see new and exotic sources of energy emerge from laboratory and pilot projects. Artificial intelligence (AI) is having transformative effects across energy and utilities. It is used to forecast demand and manage the distribution of resources, to ensure that power is available at the time and place it's needed with a minimum of waste. Hydrogen is the most abundant material in the universe and produces close to zero greenhouse gas emissions when burnt. Green [hydrogen] is created by a process involving electrolysis and water, and generating the required electricity from renewable sources like wind or solar power effectively makes the process carbon-free. This year, a number of major European energy companies, including Shell and RWE, committed to creating the first major green hydrogen pipeline from offshore wind plants in the North Sea throughout Europe. In solar, companies including Dutch startup Lusoco are finding new ways to engineer photovoltaic panels using different reflecting and refracting materials – including fluorescent ink - to concentrate light onto the solar cells, leading to more efficient harvesting of energy. This results in panels that are lighter as well as cheaper, and less energy-intensive to produce and install. New materials are also being developed that convert energy more effectively.
Important Note: Explore our full index to key excerpts of revealing major media news articles on several dozen engaging topics. And don't miss amazing excerpts from 20 of the most revealing news articles ever published.