Bring on 2024

Bring on 2024

Amidst the political turmoil, climate disasters and other world problems that loomed large in 2023, it can be difficult to find good news. But—let’s be clear—the hunt is worth it. We’re talking about stories that give us hope and confidence in the future. If medical research discovers the promise of effective therapies for individuals that have long suffered with chronic illnesses, let’s hear about it!

If organizations and experts across the world come together in a crisis to strategize, pool resources, and save human life as they did in India recently when 41 miners were pulled to safety following 17 days trapped in underground tunnels in the Himalayas, let’s share this terrific example of international cooperation!

The bottom line is that when good people combine forces with technology, research, other organizations, as well as each other—and accomplish great things—we all benefit. We gain the conviction and strength to welcome in the New Year in anticipation of further progress, collaboration, and possibility. Of the many large and small developments that made up 2023, which ones succeeded in bringing us hope?

Hope for Ecological Systems at Risk

Rapidly growing urban areas—and the needs of the people that live there—can wipe out forests and functioning ecosystems with machine-like efficiency. Vast wild spaces, many of which represent the last remaining habitat of wildlife species, are clearly under threat. But campaigns that are fighting deforestation are growing in numbers. The international organization, Canopy, for example, has worked for the last twenty years to protect the world’s forests in a particularly unique way. The organization works to provide an alternative to the world’s massive appetite for wood pulp and their work to date has already brought about a significant shift in demand in certain regions.

Restore Local is yet another influential group with ambitions to restore 100 million hectares of Africa’s most threatened ecosystems; the network of active nonprofits expands yearly to include groups at all scales of action—local, regional, and national. Consider the example of countries like Thailand whose Gross National Product is reaping significant monetary benefits from a thriving ecotourism sector. This country is setting an important example for others to follow. Each year, resourceful groups develop innovative ways to protect threatened natural systems. Stories like this prove that for every significant ecological threat out there, there’s an intensely motivated group of people working to counter it. That is good news.

Hope for Innovative Thinking and Scientific Research

Water temperatures off the coasts of Florida, Australia and Belize hit record highs during the summer of 2023, which led to negative impacts on fragile nearshore ecosystems. The world-wide decline of coral reefs is directly related to warming waters. Corals are small aquatic invertebrates with flexible tube-like bodies and tentacles that filter food from the water. The individual polyps that make up a coral reef are small, but their survival is highly dependent on a specific kind of algae that helps filter food and remove waste. If water temperatures rise to extremes, the algae begin to produce a toxin that harms its host. The coral expels the toxin-producing algae, but this leads to the coral’s decline, most evident by wide-spread bleaching.

Through the work of a high-tech lab off the Florida coast, research is underway to expose coral to a variety of stressors like high acidity and high temperature with the goal of developing a more climate-resistant breed of coral. By experimenting with “booster” shots and other techniques designed to help coral not only grow faster, but withstand a variety of conditions, scientists are trying to save an iconic nearshore species. Early research findings are promising.

Hope for Missing Children

Nothing is as important as how communities care for their most vulnerable citizens. The police force in Mumbai rescued some 5,000 minors in a short eight-month period through a mission known as Operation Muskaan. News of a missing or runaway child is always heartbreaking. However, this initiative, which has succeeded in locating more kids in less than a year than in the past five years combined, makes use of a collection of tools—from transit route footage to online databases and WhatsApp groups that post key information about the missing child, to tracking a child’s online “footprints”—and the numbers show the approach is working. Once located, the child and family are linked up with programs that help address underlying problems and fortify bonds between child and family, reducing any future risks.

Hope for Renewable Energy

Back in 2009, the International Energy Agency projected that due to the high costs of solar power, it would likely not be a viable player in the renewable energy sector. Evidence shows, however, that already in 2022, four fifths of new energy projects were solar based. Early subsidies provided necessary early funding, but then continuous advances in the technology, coupled with manufacturing on a massive scale, created even greater cost efficiencies. In fact, costs associated with solar power dropped by roughly 90% between 2009 and 2023, paving the way for even greater numbers of projects across the globe.

These stories represent just a sampling of the good news that is out there if we take the time to look for it. People have an enormous capacity to do good work and make the planet a better place—one idea, project and step at a time. What will we—and you—accomplish in 2024?