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Compassion is Making a Comeback in America, Healing Alternatives to Cancel Culture, Solutions to Plastic Crisis
Inspiring News Articles
May 24, 2024

Hey wonderful friends,

Israeli-Palestinian Ceremony to Overcome Hate

Explore below key excerpts of inspiring news articles with information on evidence that compassion is making a comeback in the US, healing alternatives to cancel culture that involve calling people in with love and authenticity, how reconciliation processes are helping communities heal from major conflicts, solutions to the plastic crisis, and more.

Each inspiring excerpt is taken verbatim from the media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails, click here. The key sentences are highlighted in case you just want to skim. Please spread the inspiration and have a great one!

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

Quote of the Week: “Not every story has a happy ending ... but the discoveries of science, the teachings of the heart, and the revelations of the soul all assure us that no human being is ever beyond redemption. The possibility of renewal exists so long as life exists. How to support that possibility in others and in ourselves is the ultimate question.” ― Gabor Maté

Video of the Week: Watch our new 38-min inspiring video interview with peace activist and journalist Marina Cantacuzino. We explores how people heal and forgive, even in the face of war atrocities and other tragedies. May we amplify stories of human resilience and meaningful remedies to end the cycles of war and violence in our world!


Compassion is making a comeback in America
April 23, 2024, Vox
https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/24137520/americans-empathy...

Since the late 1970s, psychologists have measured empathy by asking millions of people how much they agreed with statements such as “I feel tender, concerned feelings for people less fortunate than me.” In 2011, a landmark study led by researcher Sara Konrath examined the trends in those surveys. The analysis revealed that American empathy had plummeted: The average US college student in 2009 reported feeling less empathic than 75 percent of students three decades earlier. A few months ago, [Konrath] and her colleagues published an update to their work: They found that empathy among young Americans is rebounding, reaching levels indistinguishable from the highs of the 1970s. Our biased minds tempt us to see the worst in people. The empathy decline reported 13 years ago fit that narrative and went viral. This decline is almost certainly an illusion. In other surveys, people reported on kindness and morality as they actually experience it — for instance, how they were treated by strangers, coworkers, and friends. Answers to these questions remained steady over the years. As with the decline, we might grasp for explanations for this rise. One possibility is collective suffering. Hard times can bring people together. In her beautiful book, A Paradise Built in Hell, Rebecca Solnit chronicles disasters including San Francisco’s 1906 and 1989 earthquakes, Hurricane Katrina, and 9/11. In the wake of these catastrophes, kindness ticked up, strangers stepping over lines of race and class to help one another.

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


Loretta Ross doesn’t believe in cancel culture
November 4, 2023, Boston Globe
https://www.bostonglobe.com/2023/11/02/magazine/loretta-ross-has...

[Loretta] Ross has worked at the forefront of the movement for reproductive justice. But recently she has become better known for championing “call-in culture,” a philosophy that approaches someone’s wrongdoing with accountability and, most importantly, love. In the summer of 2020 ... I felt myself crumbling. I called out snide comments by alumni of my college about Black Lives Matter protests, demanded people boycott the college newspaper ... and used Twitter to call out the behavior of fellow students. Each tactic left no room for discussion. Calling in, by contrast, asks us to always be the bigger person, even in the most hateful and painful situations. I ask Ross: Whose well-being are we prioritizing here? And why isn’t it our own? Ross tells me about another Black woman who asked the same question. “I’m confused,” Ross recalls the woman saying. “I don’t want to fall into the stereotype of the angry Black woman. But I feel like if I embrace the calling-in strategies you’re talking about, then I’m ... giving a pass to all this injustice. What should I do?” Ross responds with a question of her own: “Well, who are you inside? Go deep inside and find out who you are. What’s the emotion that you feel is true to you?” “Inside, I feel like I’m filled with love,” the woman replies. “Then, why aren’t you leading with your authentic self?” Ross asks her. Accountability and love are not mutually exclusive, Ross explains.

Note: Smith College Professor and civil rights activist Loretta Ross worked with Ku Klux Klan members and practiced restorative justice with incarcerated men convicted or 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. Explore more positive stories about healing social division and polarization.


‘Healing spaces’ in post-conflict societies
March 1, 2024, Christian Science Monitor
https://www.csmonitor.com/Commentary/the-monitors-view/2024/0301/Healing...

The Afghanistan Memory Home is a growing online archive of testimonies of endurance by ordinary Afghans during years of conflict and repressive rule under the Taliban. The virtual museum is an example of the kind of community-led initiatives that Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has described as “healing spaces” – local sites of nation-building where the traumas and resentments of war are salved through traditional forms of civic engagement based on cultural values, spirituality, and listening. These projects in reconciliation quietly persist almost everywhere people seek freedom from conflict or repression, from Afghanistan to Yemen. They often supplant the work of national transitional justice initiatives stalled by political disagreements or lack of cooperation. They also underscore that “justice isn’t just punishment or prosecution and presenting evidence against perpetrators,” said Ruben Carranza, an expert on post-conflict community healing. In South Sudan, for instance, a local peace and reconciliation process called Wunlit gave grassroots strength to a 2018 national peace agreement. Led by tribal chiefs and spiritual leaders, the “peace to peace” dialogue defused cattle raids and abductions between the Nuer and Dinka communities. In Iraq, the Ministry of Human Rights has relied on tribal, religious, and civil society leaders to help forge local support for a national dialogue on reconciliation. History has “taught us that relying solely on military force will not bring about lasting peace and stability,” Hodan Ali, a Somali presidential policy adviser, wrote. The more durable work of peace involves empowering individuals and communities to tell their own stories – and listen to each other.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the war machine.


Watch these hungry waxworms eat through plastic and digest it too
April 24, 2024, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20240419-the-worms-that-eat-through-plastic

At first glance there's nothing particularly remarkable about waxworms. The larval form of wax moths, these pale wriggling grubs feed on the wax that bees use to make their honeycomb. For beekeepers, the pests are something to swiftly get rid of without a second thought. But in 2017 molecular biologist Federica Bertocchini ... stumbled on a potentially game-changing discovery about these creatures. Bertocchini, an amateur beekeeper, threw some of the waxworms in a plastic bag after cleaning her hive, and left them alone. A short time later, she noticed the worms had started producing small holes in the plastic, which begun degrading as soon as it touched the worms' mouths. The worms were doing something that we as humans find remarkably difficult to do: break down plastic. Not only that, but the worms appeared to be digesting the plastic as though it was food. Bertocchini and her fellow researchers began collecting the liquid excreted from the worms' mouths. They found this "saliva" contained two critical enzymes, Ceres and Demeter – named after the Roman and Greek goddesses of agriculture, respectively – which were able to oxidise the polyethylene in the plastic, essentially breaking down that material on contact. Bertocchini is now chief technology officer at bioresearch startup Plasticentropy France, working with a team to study the viability of scaling up these enzymes for widespread use in degrading plastic.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


Plastic-eating bacteria can help waste self-destruct
April 30, 2024, BBC News
https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-68927816

Scientists have developed a "self-digesting plastic", which, they say, could help reduce pollution. Polyurethane is used in everything from phone cases to trainers, but is tricky to recycle and mainly ends up in landfill. However, researchers have come up with a sci-fi like solution. By incorporating spores of plastic-eating bacteria they've developed a plastic that can self-destruct. The spores remain dormant during the useful lifetime of the plastic, but spring back to life and start to digest the product when exposed to nutrients in compost. There's hope "we can mitigate plastic pollution in nature", said researcher Han Sol Kim, of the University of California San Diego, La Jolla. And there might be an added advantage in that the spores increase the toughness of the plastic. "Our process makes the materials more rugged, so it extends its useful lifetime," said co-researcher, Jon Pokorski. "And then, when it's done, we're able to eliminate it from the environment, regardless of how it's disposed." The plastic is currently being worked on at the laboratory bench but could be in the real world within a few years, with the help of a manufacturer, he added. The type of bacteria added to the plastic is Bacillus subtilis, widely used as a food additive and a probiotic. Crucially, the bacteria has to be genetically engineered to be able to withstand the very high temperatures needed to make plastic.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


Toward truly compostable plastic
February 27, 2024, Knowable Magazine
https://knowablemagazine.org/content/article/technology/2024/compostable...

Humans have created 8 billion metric tons of plastic. More than half the plastic ever produced —some 5 billion metric tons — lies smeared across the surface of the Earth. Chemists were creating “synthetic” plastics decades before the oil industry took off, from, among other materials, waste oat husks and vegetable oil. One of the tacks toward more sustainable plastics is to turn back to such biological sources. The ideal materials are not just biodegradable but also compostable — a narrower category that indicates the material can break down into organic components that are harmless to plants and animals. Compostability, unfortunately, is not easily achieved. The natural world already supplies promising polymers that are all compostable, says David Kaplan, a biomedical engineer at Tufts University. [Physicist Eleftheria] Roumeli, for example, has mined the promise of algal cells. They’re small, and therefore easily manipulable; they contain large amounts of proteins, which are biological polymers, alongside other useful materials. She and her students took powdered algae and passed it through a hot presser. After several trials ... they found they could produce a material that was stronger than many commodity plastics. The material was also recyclable: It could be ground back to powder and pressed again. If it were to be carelessly tossed into the dirt, the material would break apart at the same rate as a banana peel.

Note: Explore more positive stories about healing the Earth.


If we can farm metal from plants, what else can we learn from life on Earth?
April 15, 2022, The Guardian (One of the UK's Leading Newspapers)
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/apr/15/farm...

For the past couple of years, I’ve been working with researchers in northern Greece who are farming metal. They are experimenting with a trio of shrubs known to scientists as “hyperaccumulators”: plants which have evolved the capacity to thrive in naturally metal-rich soils that are toxic to most other kinds of life. They do this by drawing the metal out of the ground and storing it in their leaves and stems, where it can be harvested like any other crop. As well as providing a source for rare metals – in this case nickel, although hyperaccumulators have been found for zinc, aluminium, cadmium and many other metals, including gold – these plants actively benefit the earth by remediating the soil, making it suitable for growing other crops, and by sequestering carbon in their roots. Hyperaccumulators are far from being the only non-humans that we might learn from. Physarum polycephalum, a particularly lively slime mould, can solve the “travelling salesman” problem – a test for finding the shortest route between multiple cities – faster and more efficiently than any supercomputer humans have devised. Spiders store information in their webs, using them as a kind of extended cognition: a mind outside the body entirely. A new conception of intelligence is emerging from scientific research: rather than human intelligence being unique or the peak of some graduated curve, there appear to be many different kinds of intelligence with their own strengths, competencies and suitabilities.

Note: This was written by James Bridle, an artist and technologist who was able to paralyze a self-driving car using salt and road markers. For more on his work, check out his fascinating perspective on how artificial intelligence technologies could be designed based on cooperation and relationships naturally reflected in living systems, as opposed to competition and domination.


Israel Loves Iran Campaign Gains Force
March 23, 2012, ABC News
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/headlines/2012/03/israel-loves-iran...

As diplomats and journalists dissect every word spoken by top Israeli, Iranian and American officials for signs of a potential Israeli military strike on Irans nuclear program, an online campaign to prevent just that has gained steam in Israel. The Israel Loves Iran campaign [was launched last week by] Israeli graphic designer Ronny Edry and his wife, Michal Tamir. For there to be a war between us, we must first be afraid of one another, we must hate, Edry says. Im not afraid of you. I dont hate you. I dont even know you. No Iranian ever did me harm. The site and its accompanying Facebook page are filled with photos of Israelis from all walks of life and the Iranians, We Love You slogan, with the subheader: We will never bomb you. On Friday evening, the page had almost 28,000 likes, and the campaign has raised more than $16,000 to print posters and keep the movement grow[ing]. Organizers say responses from Iranians around the world have poured in. Unfortunately, the stupid politicians in both countries are trying to separate these two rich cultures! wrote one responder. One of the more popular posts ricocheting around Facebook is of a man and woman kissing, with him holding up his Israeli passport as she flaunts her Iranian passport. Persian girls are sexy and adorable, the boyfriend wrote. Our cultures and backgrounds have never got in the way. We actually share the same ideals. According to a recent poll, [only] 19 percent of Israelis support a unilateral strike on Iran. Participant Talia Gorodess [commented], the more people join this campaign, the more, I hope, my government will think twice before doing anything foolish.

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


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