As the coronavirus spreads around the world, so does the public’s fear and angst. What doesn’t help the situation is that it seems to be all that people can talk about, offline as well as online.
It is times like this that our editors recognize the importance to shed light on some of the positivity occurring in today’s world.
Here are four news stories to give you a bit of a mental and emotional break from the coronavirus news flooding our screens and minds. And yes, despite the surge in cases – the unfortunate fatalities, social distancing, the self-quarantine – there is still good news out there.
And no, we didn’t have to look that hard.
Thai Monks collect 40 tonnes of plastic alone to create robes
In terms of land size, Thailand represents only about 1/18 the land size of mainland China and inhabits 67.7 million people while 1.4 billion people live in the economic powerhouse. However, despite these contrasts, Thailand, alongside China, is a top contributor to plastic pollution to today’s planet, contributing just above 3% of the world’s total of mismanaged plastic disposal.
In recognition of the environmental harm and in alignment with his religious teachings, Phra Maha Pranom Dhammalangkaro has found a way to help Mother Earth at his temple.
Speaking to Reuters, devotees said they offer plastic waste rather than food and other conventional temple donations in exchange for Buddhist blessings. A large recycling machine then processes the plastic into large bales, where the monks deliver to recycling plants to be further processed into polyester fibers.
The polyester fibers are then dyed into orange and transformed into orange robes.
When the majority of the Thai population is Buddhist, it sets a positive and powerful precedent. “Donating one kilogram (2.2 pounds) of plastic bottles can help make a full set of monk robes, which has a high return value, both in terms of money and merits,” said the temple’s abbot, Maha Pranom. Pranom added that if the plastic isn’t collected, it ends up severely harming the environment and wildlife.
In just two years of operating, the temple has produced more than 800 sets of the raiment. With the proceeds, the operations continue with the support of a group of staff consisting of volunteer housewives, retirees and disabled persons.
Hudson Link continues granting inmates degrees
Hudson Link, a not-for-profit organization has partnered with multiple prisons around New York state, including the Sing Sing Correctional Facility, to offer inmates degrees while they’re still serving time.
The organization’s website states that it costs $60,000 every year to incarcerate an individual compared to the $5,000 it costs to provide them with an education for the same period of time, saving New York State taxpayers more than $21 million every year – a figure that is also rising.
Furthermore, the charity says that with their program, recidivism is under 2 percent, whereas across the states, the figure hovers at around 67 percent.
Sean Pica, the founder of Hudson Link, created the organization after serving his own prison sentence of 16 years in 1998.
“I think a lot of our prisons in this country were built on an effort of punishment. But when you punish somebody, there’s got to be something about rehabilitation and second chances, and that’s what we’re doing in these prisons,” Pica told Freethink.
Hudson link consists of over 50 percent of formerly incarcerated men and women and to date, have awarded 700 degrees to inmates, with an additional 600 students enrolled.
Wales is building a nationwide forest
The Welsh government has recently announced a plan to build a forest spanning the breadth and size of the nation, with plans to start planting 4,900 acres a year and later increasing it to 10,000 acres per year.
The program, led by Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford, stated that the government “(has) a responsibility to future generations to protect nature from the dangers of our changing climate, but a healthy natural environment will also offer protection to our communities from the dangers we ourselves face.”
The project was reportedly inspired by the nation’s famous Wales Coast Path hiking trail that attracts millions of international tourists every year. Over $10 million has been pledged towards the completion of the project as well as the tree planting programs required.
A blue whale population sighted for the first time since 1980
South Georgia Island, off the coast of Antarctica, was previously a popular spot for multiple species of whales, including blue and humpback whales. However, after losing around 97% of the blue whale population to decades of whaling, there have been minimal sightings of the species recorded and only one sighting recorded in 2018.
This year, the British Antarctic Survey ventured out again and recorded a whopping 36 sightings back in South Georgia, marking a major achievement since the enactment of the international moratorium on whaling in 1982.
“For such a rare species (blue whale), this is an unprecedented number of sightings and suggests that South Georgia waters remain an important summer feeding ground for this rare and poorly known species,” reads a press release on the organization’s website. “It is clear that protection from whaling has worked,” says team leader Dr. Jennifer Jackson, a whale biologist at the BAS.
According to economist Dr. Ralph Chiami and whale biologist Michael Fishbach, whales are instrumental in combating the climate crisis, especially blue whales. Each whale is estimated to be worth $2 million, a value that represents the storehouses of carbon they can potentially hold. Furthermore, their feces feed the proliferation of the marine algae that breathe half of the oxygen into planet earth.