Inspiring News Stories
Excerpts of Highly Inspiring News Stories in Major Media
Below are one-paragraph excerpts of highly inspiring news stories from the major media. Links are provided to the original stories on their media websites. If any link fails to function, click here. The inspiring news story summaries most recently posted here are listed first. You can explore the same list with the most inspiring stories listed first. See also a concise list providing headlines and links to a number of highly inspiring stories. May these articles inspire us to find ever more ways to love and support each other and all around us to be the very best we can be.
Evidence of our bloody history is not hard to find. Consider the genocides in the Old Testament and the crucifictions in the New, the gory mutilations in Shakespeare's tragedies and Grimm's fairy tales, the British monarchs who beheaded their relatives and the American founders who dueled with their rivals. Today, the decline in these brutal practices can be quantified. A look at the numbers shows that over the course of our history, humanity has been blessed with ... major declines of violence. The first was a process of pacification: the transition from the anarchy of the hunting, gathering, and horticultural societies in which our species spent most of its evolutionary history to the first agricultural civilizations, with cities and governments, starting about 5,000 years ago. On average, about 15% of people in prestate eras died violently, compared to about 3% of the citizens of the earliest states. Centuries ago, the great powers were almost always at war, and until quite recently. Western European countries tended to initiate two or three new wars every year. The cliche that the 20th century was "the most violent in history" ignores the second half of the century. Though it's tempting to attribute the Long Peace to nuclear deterrence, non-nuclear developed states have stopped fighting each other as well. Political scientists point instead to the growth of democracy, trade and international organizations - all of which, the statistical evidence shows, reduce the liklihood of conflict.
Note: The WSJ requires a subscription to read this article. You can find it free on the website of the author, Steven Pinker. Explore a treasure trove of concise summaries of incredibly inspiring news articles which will inspire you to make a difference.
The Better Angels of Our Nature takes a thesis I would love to believe; indeed, have casually believed for most of my life. It is that humans have grown less horrible with time. The 20th century, the century of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, of Mao in China and Mobutu in the Congo, was appalling, but the number of deaths by violence as a proportion of the total population remained modest compared with the ferocious cruelties of the wars of religion in the 17th century. The modern nation state – the Leviathan of the philosopher Hobbes – has had a civilising effect almost everywhere. Education has helped, as has the empowerment of women, and the idea, too, of human rights. Within the epic sweep of history from ice age hunter gatherers to modern suburban householders, [author Steven] Pinker examines both the big picture and the fine detail, with surprises on every page. Overall ... he finds examples of falling murder rates everywhere (including among male English aristocrats 1330-1829). Murder rates as a percentage of population were far higher among the supposedly peace-loving and cooperative hunter-gatherer communities – the Inuit of the Arctic, for instance, the !Kung of the Kalahari and the Semai of Malaysia – than in the trigger-happy US in its most violent decade. Unexpectedly, deaths in warfare, once again as a percentage of total population, were far higher among the Gran Valley Dani of New Guinea, or in Fiji in the 1860s, than in Germany in the whole of the 20th century.
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When four Republicans and five Democrats got together at a high-end condominium complex to talk for seven hours in San Francisco this fall it was such a curiosity that a crowd of more than a dozen gathered just to watch. The host was a nonprofit called Better Angels, which is putting on half a dozen events around the country every week through the election. The polarized were at a square table supervised by two moderators, a therapist and a retired psychiatrist. They were mostly in their 50s and 60s, and wore red and blue name tags to correspond with their political leanings. The moderators referred to them as the reds and the blues. The conservatives were surprised the liberals thought at all about religion. The liberals were surprised the conservatives were so anxious about being seen as racist. Over a lunch break ... the two groups stayed largely separate. Many of the blue side said they came just for the opportunity to meet and question someone who disagreed with them politically. “Outside of this group, I’ve got no Republican friends,” said Monty Worth. People on the red side said they came to the workshop to be in a safe space where they could be open about their politics and argue their case. After the 2016 election, [David Blankenhorn] and two friends got together and led the first Better Angels workshop in Ohio. Now more than 15,000 people have gone through one of their programs (8,000 have joined as dues-paying members), and the group has trained more than 620 volunteer workshop moderators.
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When Stephanie Walsh and her husband were looking to buy a home in Atlanta, GA, they had a pretty unusual set of qualifications for their new home: They wanted to have access to local, organic produce (and not just from the grocery store); they wanted a neighborhood that was easily walkable; and they wanted to be true friends — not just smile and nod acquaintances — with their neighbors. On a whim, she searched the internet for “ecofriendly neighborhoods near Atlanta” and happened upon the website for Serenbe, a community of 270 “green” homes and 30 retailers planned around a 25-acre organic working farm and 15 miles of trails. “I fell in love immediately,” she says. They’ve now lived in Serenbe for over four years, and Walsh says they hardly ever leave. Serenbe is what’s known as an “agrihood,” a community that is usually planned around a farm and offers access to unblemished landscapes, locally grown food, and homes built to environmentally friendly standards. The planning of agrihoods is done in a way that fosters community and interaction between the people who live there. In Arizona’s Agritopia, fences aren’t any higher than 5 feet, making it very easy to have a conversation with the family next door when you see them in their backyard. “Every house has a front porch, and the houses are closer to the street,” says resident Katie Critchley. “You can be sitting on your porch and be able to have a normal-decibel-level conversation with someone walking their dog. It forces you to say hello.”
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Another trend has entered the urban agricultural scene: agrihoods, short for agricultural neighborhoods. The Urban Land Institute defines agrihoods as master-planned housing communities with working farms as their focus. Overwhelmingly, they have large swaths of green space, orchards, hoop houses and greenhouses, and some with barns, outdoor community kitchens, and environmentally sustainable homes decked with solar panels and composting. Agrihoods, which number about 90 nationwide, are typically in rural and suburban areas. Within the city of Detroit, home to nearly 1,400 community gardens and farms, there is one officially designated agrihood, Michigan Urban Farming Initiative. The Michigan initiative is a 3-acre farm focusing on food insecurity in one of Detroit’s historic communities that was once home to a thriving Black middle class. Now the median home value is under $25,000, and about 35% of the residents are homeowners. The Detroit agrihood model plans to provide a Community Resource Center with educational programs and meeting space across from the garden, a café, and two commercial kitchens. “For us, food insecurity is the biggest issue,” says, Quan Blunt, the Michigan initiative’s farm manager. “The closest [fresh] produce store to this neighborhood is Whole Foods [4 miles away in Midtown], and you know how expensive they can be.” At MUFI, produce is free to all. The farm is open for harvesting on Saturday mornings.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Wednesday that feeding the homeless is “expressive conduct protected by the First Amendment.” The decision revives a challenge brought by a local chapter of Food Not Bombs, which sued Fort Lauderdale, Florida for requiring a permit to share food in public parks. Originally started in the early 1980s by anti-nuclear activists in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Food Not Bombs protests war and poverty. Today, this network of social justice pacifists claims over 5,000 chapters worldwide. Writing for the court, Judge Adalberto Jordan explained that for the Fort Lauderdale chapter, “providing food in a visible public space” is “an act of political solidarity meant to convey the organization’s message.” But in October 2014, Fort Lauderdale enacted an ordinance that bans sharing food in public parks, unless the hosts obtain a “conditional use permit” from the city. In February 2015, Food Not Bombs sued the city. Having ruled that Food Not Bombs does have a First Amendment right to share food, the 11th Circuit sent the case back down to the lower court. “The court’s opinion recognized sharing food with another human being is one of the oldest forms of human expression,” said Kirsten Anderson, litigation director at the Southern Legal Counsel and lead attorney on the case. “This decision strengthens our message to cities across the country that they need to invest in constructive solutions to homelessness instead of ... punishing people who seek to offer aid.”
Many dog parents already know their pets communicate with them, but what EXACTLY are they trying to say? A speech-language pathologist with an 18-month-old dog is working to find out, and she’s already discovered that her dog Stella can literally tell her things — like she’s tired after playing and now would like a nap, or that instead of playing at this moment she would prefer to eat, and that she would like to go outside, specifically to the park. It’s all possible through the use of an adaptive device Christina Hunger, 26, devised to help Stella communicate not only words but her thoughts and feelings too. When the Catahoula/Blue Heeler mix wants to “talk,” she steps on buttons corresponding with words Hunger recorded and programmed into the device. And Stella is already putting her language skills to work. One day, the pup was whining at the front door and started pacing back and forth. Hunger assumed that she needed to go outside. Instead, Stella walked to her device and tapped out, “Want,” “Jake” “Come” then stood in front of the door until Hunger’s fiancé, Jake, came home a few minutes later and then Stella immediately pressed “Happy” and rolled over for a belly rub. Hunger, who works in San Diego with 1- and 2-year-old children, many of whom also use adaptive devices that help them communicate, began teaching Stella words when the canine was about 8 weeks old. The 50-pound dog now knows at least 29 words and can combine up to five words to make a phrase or sentence.
Note: Watch a video of this amazing feat at the link above and an CNN interview with the owner.
Standing Bear was born sometime between 1829 and 1834 in the Ponca tribe’s native lands in northern Nebraska. In 1876 ... Congress declared that the Poncas would be moved to Indian Territory in Oklahoma. More than a third of the Poncas died of starvation and disease — including Standing Bear’s sister and his beloved son. Standing Bear and his burial party evaded capture while they traveled home but were caught and detained after visiting relatives at the Omaha reservation. The man who caught them, Brig. Gen. George Crook ... was moved by Standing Bear’s reasons for leaving the Indian Territory and promised to help him. The civil rights case that resulted was called Standing Bear v. Crook. The U.S. attorney argued that Standing Bear was neither a citizen nor a person. On the second day, Chief Standing Bear was called to testify, becoming the first Native American to do so. He raised his right hand and, through an interpreter, said: “My hand is not the color of yours, but if I pierce it, I shall feel pain. If you pierce your hand, you also feel pain. The blood that will flow from mine will be the same color as yours. The same god made us both. I am a man.” The judge agreed, ruling for the first time in U.S. history that “the Indian is a ‘person’ ” and has all the rights and freedoms promised in the Constitution. The judge also ordered Crook to free Standing Bear and his people immediately. Standing Bear ... buried his son alongside his ancestors. When he died there in 1908, he was buried alongside them, too.
With 17 million residents and 23 million bicycles, the Netherlands already has more bikes than people. Now, it wants to get even more cyclists on the roads - and will pay people to do it. The Dutch government recently announced that it will invest $390 million (€345 million) in cycling infrastructure to get 200,000 more people commuting by bike in three years' time. Fifteen routes will be developed into "cyclist freeways" (highways that cater to those on bikes), 25,000 bike parking spaces will be created and more than 60 bike storage facilities will be upgraded, according to the Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management. "My ambition is to ensure that people can easily get to work or school, or visit family and friends," says Stientje van Veldhoven, state secretary for that department, who is spearheading the project. To get people to ditch their cars, money is being laid on the table. The Netherlands currently rewards commuting cyclists with tax credits of $0.22 (€0.19) per kilometer. Companies and employees would agree on the distance of a person's cycling route. However, this is currently a little-known benefit not supported by many employers, according to the infrastructure ministry. That's something the government is hoping to change by better promoting the scheme and getting more companies on board. There are already 11 major employers in the Netherlands committing to measures such as financing employees' bikes.
Jacinda Ardern’s sudden, spectacular rise to the position of New Zealand’s prime minister in 2017 propelled her into headlines around the world. Deservedly so. In an era defined by the emergence of populist leaders who are often authoritarian, reactionary, and male, Ardern stands out as progressive, collaborative, and female. In New Zealand, Ardern’s commitment to fighting child poverty and homelessness has come as a relief after years of relentless increases in both. Whereas the world’s right-wing populists stigmatize and stereotype marginalized people, Ardern has established kindness as a key principle for government policy and has worked to promote inclusion and social cohesion. A family tax package that took effect last July is forecast to reduce the number of children living in poverty by 41 percent by 2021. She has extended her values-based approach to foreign policy as well—most dramatically by offering New Zealand as a home for 150 of the refugees currently stranded in camps run by Australia in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. Ardern has also identified climate change as the defining issue for her generation. On April 12, a little more than five months into her term, her government declared an end to new permits for oil and gas exploration in New Zealand’s waters, making it clear that the country was prepared to lead the way in this critical struggle.
When 6-year-old Eddie Writes decided the world needed a little more kindness, he did the only thing he thought would work ― he wrote to his city’s mayor and asked for help putting on an annual “Kindness Day.” Much to Eddie’s surprise, Wellington Mayor Justin Lester wrote back. On Nov. 16, New Zealand’s capital city will be holding its first Manaaki Day (manaaki being the Maori word for kindness), taking Eddie’s ideas of how to encourage and celebrate charitable acts ― “We can buy toys for children that don’t have any,” for example ― to improve the social well-being of citizens. The mayor’s support for the new holiday is part of a new wave of progressive, child-centred politics sweeping New Zealand, led by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, herself a new parent. Ardern was met with thunderous applause at the United Nations last month for her speech calling for kindness and cooperation from world leaders. Watched by her partner and their then 4-month-old daughter, Ardern pledged New Zealand would be “a kind and equitable nation where children thrive, and success is measured not only by the nation’s GDP but by better lives lived by its people.” Ardern also has her sights on New Zealand’s growing housing affordability problems. The country’s housing market is heated, with home prices rising more than 60 percent in a decade. Ardern blamed speculation from overseas buyers. The government responded with a law that took effect Monday banning foreign buyers from purchasing existing properties.
A growing number of smaller companies are adopting a four-day workweek. Now the results of a recent trial at Microsoft (MSFT) suggest it could work even for the biggest businesses. The company introduced a program this summer in Japan called the "Work Life Choice Challenge," which shut down its offices every Friday in August and gave all employees an extra day off each week. The results were promising: While the amount of time spent at work was cut dramatically, productivity — measured by sales per employee — went up by almost 40% compared to the same period the previous year, the company said in a statement. In addition to reducing working hours, managers urged staff to cut down on the time they spent in meetings and responding to emails. They suggested that meetings should last no longer than 30 minutes. Employees were also encouraged to cut down on meetings altogether by using an online messaging app. The effects were widespread. More than 90% of Microsoft's 2,280 employees in Japan later said they were impacted by the new measures, according to the company. By shutting down earlier each week, the company was also able to save on other resources, such as electricity. Microsoft ... says it will conduct another experiment in Japan later this year. It plans to ask employees to come up with new measures to improve work-life balance and efficiency, and will also ask other companies to join the initiative.
Lual Mayen sits in a modern office space, set in a trendy Washington, D.C., neighborhood. As a newborn in his parents’ arms, Mayen endured a 225-mile trek from his war-torn home in South Sudan to a refugee camp in Northern Uganda. Mayen was born into war, but his mission is peace. Now 24 years old, he is a video game developer residing in the United States, leading his own company and using the experiences from his past to inform his products: games aimed at peace-building and conflict resolution. He created the first version of Salaam, which means “peace” in Arabic, while still living as a refugee. In the game’s new version, players adopt the role of a refugee who must flee falling bombs, find water and gain energy points to ensure the character’s survival as the player’s country journeys from a war-torn present into a peaceful existence. If the player’s character runs out of energy, the player is prompted to purchase more food, water, and medicine for their character with real-world money. The funds go beyond the game to benefit a living refugee through Junub’s partnerships with various NGOs. Mayen is aiming to have Salaam ready to launch in December, determined to grow the category of social impact gaming to give back to his community. “Peace is something that is built over time,” Mayen said. “It’s not about people coming together and signing cease-fires and so on. It’s a generation of change. It’s a change of mindset. It’s a change of attitude toward each other."
Chung Sun-hee finely crushes eggshells, dries and saves her coffee grounds, and separates large vegetable offcuts into smaller pieces. Later, the 55-year-old professional translator will bury them in her backyard, in rotating plots. Chung is one of a growing number of city dwellers who are getting into urban farming, not just to grow their own vegetables, but also as an exercise in waste reduction. Her new habits reflect a larger change underway in South Korea’s densely populated capital. Once a city where unsightly and foul-smelling landfills loomed over entire neighborhoods, Seoul now operates one of the most rigorous food waste recycling programs in the world. The South Korean government banned sending food to landfills in 2005 and, in 2013, also prohibited the dumping of garbage juice (leftover water squeezed from food waste) into the sea. Today, a staggering 95 percent of food waste is recycled ― a remarkable leap from less than 2 percent in 1995. On Chung’s street, residents emerge at dusk to deposit small yellow bags into designated waste collection buckets. Since 2013, South Koreans have been required by law to discard food waste in these biodegradable bags, priced according to volume and costing the average four-person family about $6 a month. This tax pays for roughly 60 percent of the cost of collecting and processing the city’s food waste, according to government data.
The pioneering conservationist behind the world’s most ambitious rewilding project has revealed “game-changing” plans that could transform tourism in Chilean Patagonia. After 25 years of strategic land acquisition by Kristine Tompkins and her late husband Douglas – which led to the creation last year of five new national parks in southern Chile – Tompkins said the next challenge was to encourage 60 communities across the region to develop tourism ventures that will help protect the biodiversity on their doorstep. Speaking in London at the European launch of the 1,700-mile Route of Parks, a marketing initiative encompassing 17 national parks throughout Patagonia, Tompkins said: “We want local people to have a sense of ownership and pride. They will become the first line of defence in conservation.” The launch of the route ... follows the creation of five new national parks and the expansion of three others, all in Chilean Patagonia after the Tompkins Foundation handed over a million acres to the Chilean state – the largest private donation of land ever. The handover was ... aimed at returning farmed land to its natural state and creating wildlife corridors. The Foundation also owns land in Argentina, where its flagship rewilding project is seeing species being reintroduced to the newly created Iberá national park in the north-west. In total the Tompkins’ philanthropic work amounts to $345m. To date the Foundation has helped protect 5.75 million hectares across Chile and Argentina.
A typical American funeral usually involves a few hallmarks we’ve come to expect: an expensive coffin, lots of flowers, an embalming for the deceased and a number of other add-ons. But how necessary are those embellishments? Enter the “green burial.” The specifics of a green burial vary widely, but typically they require far fewer resources for the care of the body and skip a number of the traditional steps, making them better for the environment. Plus, they can save families on funeral costs. Interest in these pared-down, eco-friendly options has grown as people look for ways to cut their carbon footprint. 72 percent of cemeteries are reporting an increased demand. The Green Burial Council’s steps for minimizing negative environmental effects include forgoing embalming, skipping concrete vaults, rethinking burial containers and maintaining and protecting natural habitat. Choices can be made at each step of the death care process to limit waste, reduce the carbon footprint and even nourish the local ecosystem. Embalming, vaults and coffins can be expensive. Replacing them with other options or scrapping them altogether can save money as well as the environment. The extent of how “green” a burial can be is up to the individual; the service can be as simple as wrapping the deceased in a cotton shroud before lowering them into the ground. The services can also [involve] a memorial ceremony and burial in a conservation park like Washington’s Greenacres.
Each year, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) compiles a World Giving Index, and the 2017 rankings list Kenya as the third most generous nation behind Myanmar and Indonesia. The rankings are based on three data points from Gallup's World Poll: the percent of respondents who have donated, volunteered and helped a stranger in the previous month. Overall, the survey found that global giving was down, led by a decline in developed countries. The United States dropped from 2nd to 5th but still gives the largest percentage of its gross domestic product — 2.1 percent. But as reflected by Kenya's rise from 40th five years ago to number 3, there is a bright spot in the new rankings. And it's not just a Kenyan trend. "The big story this year is the amazing rise in giving across Africa," says Sir John Low, CAF's chief executive. Kenyan Caroline Teti is the external relations director of GiveDirectly, which gives direct cash transfers in impoverished communities in Kenya. There's only one word on the Kenyan coat of arms — "harambee" — she says. It's Swahili, meaning: "all pull together." "I think the harambee spirit has inculcated in Kenyans a strong sense of giving," Teti wrote by email, "[P]eople traditionally view individual pressure as a matter that should concern the whole community. In many communities in Kenya, people gave materially to other community members under distress. This took [on] a totally new dimension as people looked to improve the education of their clansmen and the larger community."
As nationwide interest in outdoor preschool programs increases, Washington is now the first state in the nation to officially license them. Washington's Department of Children, Youth and Families began to establish the pilot licensing standards in 2017 for outdoor preschools, nature-based early learning and child care programs. Outdoor preschools have been around for decades in places like Germany, Norway and Denmark. These programs were designed as a response to the trend of children spending very little time outdoors. "There's a beauty in being able to see kids run outdoors and look at slugs and take care of plants and animals," Hannah Kinney, outdoor preschool educator, told The Seattle Times. "You do see students that need that space to move their bodies and feel like they have that choice and ownership of their learning." Most outdoor preschool children spend the majority of their time outside, though many of the schools have an indoor option for a place to convene or emergencies. The children are outfitted at the beginning of the year with appropriate gear for every kind of weather. Activities can include daily hikes, identifying plants and animals, exploration and community-building. "They are learning all kinds of valuable principles about gravity, and texture, and shapes and colors and all the things you might expect to see in a preschool curriculum," the late Erin Kenny, founder of Cedarsong Nature School, [said]. "They are just doing it outdoors and at their own pace."
Banks with more than $47 trillion in assets, or a third of the global industry, adopted new U.N.-backed “responsible banking” principles to fight climate change on Sunday that would shift their loan books away from fossil fuels. Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, and Barclays were among 130 banks to join the new framework on the eve of a United Nations summit in New York aimed at pushing companies and governments to act quickly to avert catastrophic global warming. “These principles mean banks have to consider the impact of their loans on society not just on their portfolio,” Simone Dettling, banking team lead for the Geneva-based United Nations Environment Finance Initiative, told Reuters. Financing for oil, gas and coal projects has come under particular scrutiny as climate scientists step up calls to change the global economy’s deep reliance on fossil-fuels. The principles, drawn up jointly by U.N. officials and banks, require lenders to: Align their strategies with the 2015 Paris Agreement to curb global warming and U.N.-backed targets to fight poverty called the Sustainable Development Goals, set targets to increase “positive impacts” and reduce “negative impacts” on people and the environment, work with clients and customers to encourage sustainable practices, [and] be transparent and accountable about their progress. The principles’ main backers say the norms will encourage banks to pivot their loan portfolios away from carbon-intensive assets and redirect capital to greener industries.
Ingka Group, which owns most IKEA stores, will by year’s end exceed its 2020 target to produce as much renewable energy as the energy it consumes, Ingka Chief Executive Jesper Brodin said. Ingka Group has spent 2.5 billion euros ($2.8 bln) over the past decade on wind farms, rooftop solar panels on its stores and warehouses and, most recently, on its first-ever off-site solar parks. It announced this week the acquisition of a 49% stake in two U.S. solar parks due to come into operation in coming months. Ikea is the world’s biggest furniture group; Ingka Group owns most of its retail operations. Brodin told Reuters that Ingka plans to go on investing in wind farms and solar parks. “Being climate smart is not an added cost. It’s actually smart business and what the business model of the future will look like ... Everything around fossil fuels and daft use of resources will be expensive,” he said. Brodin urged companies and government leaders at Monday’s United Nations-hosted Climate Action Summit in New York to commit to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 Fahrenheit), as called for by scientists. More than 400 firms including IKEA, H & M, Coca-Cola and Sony have committed to a U.N.-backed initiative to help limit global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius. Ingka said its renewable energy power now equals more than 1.7 gigawatts (GW)of power - spread over 920,000 solar modules on its sites, 534 wind turbines in 14 countries and the 700,000 solar panels under construction in the United States.