Thursday, January 31, 2008

112: sustainable chocolate

This story has been knocking around for a few days. Today's linked article, from The Namibian, summarizes it pretty well. On Monday, Cadbury Ltd, one of the world's biggest manufacturers of chocolate products, announced that it would invest $87 million in improving the efficiency of Ghanaian cocoa farming, alongside that of other countries in Asia and the Caribbean. Later this week, President Kufuor of Ghana urged the company to begin processing cocoa in Ghana, instead of just extracting raw product. Most Cadbury chocolate lovers don't realize that the taste of their Flake or pack of Buttons is dependent on the taste of one commodity - the Ghanaian cocoa bean. Cadbury know this, however, and when faced with declining productivity in the sector had no choice but to invest in Ghana's cocoa farming communities. So enlightened self-interest has, in this case, helped deliver access to clean water and education as well as improved farming practices. A business model for the 21st century perhaps?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

111: free cleaning of Freetown

I'm sharing another photo-journalism piece today (the previous one being Day Forty-Three's great story about the taxi sisters) - a very interesting montage of pictures from Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone. Compiled by the BBC, the slideshow documents an initiative to clear the city's streets of waste and grime. Every Saturday, between 5am and 12pm, vehicles are banned from city streets and all residents muck in (as it were) to clean up. The new government is behind the initiative, keen to regenerate the city after years of civil war, which has left many citizens living in grinding poverty. It seems from the BBC piece as if most of Freetown's residents support and participate in the Saturday cleanings, proud to do their bit to rebuild their country - though they work alongside paid refuse collectors as well. Their efforts certainly command respect. It's probably the most effective way to cut disease, too...

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

110: ear we are

This is a great little story. It seems to have captured people's hearts and minds worldwide too, since this version of the article comes from Turkish news site 'World Bulletin' though the original was in the UK's Daily Mail... An eleven-year-old boy from Wales, who had been unable to hear in one ear for nine years, suddenly regained his hearing last week - when a wax-laden cotton bud popped out of his ear! Having searched for an explanation for their son's lack of hearing for many years, his parents now believe he pushed the cotton bud down into his ear canal when he was two and then pulled the plastic stick out leaving the bud behind. They are, of course, amazed that none of the doctors or specialists they have consulted were able to find the bud. Sadly, the boy, Jerome Bartens, has struggled with school due to his poor hearing - but thankfully he will now be able to learn and play more easily. And he'll have no excuse for ignoring his parents! (If you have a strong stomach, do go to the linked article and check out the photo of the old cotton bud!)

Monday, January 28, 2008

109: rare tortoises rescued

I found this heartening story from Madagascar on BBC online today, about the numbers of rare and endangered tortoises that have been rescued from smugglers of late. In one of the most recent seizures, a single Nigerian man was arrested with 300 tortoises in his possession! Most smuggled tortoises find their way into the exotic pet trade, selling for as much as $10,000. However, experts believe that the rarest species, the ploughshare tortoise (pictured here), could be extinct within 10 years if smuggling continues at its present rate - there are just 1000 left in the wild. So the success of the Madagascan authorities' recent efforts is critical, though it must be sustained if these beautiful creatures are to survive.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

108: keeping yourself happy

It's a cold and gloomy Sunday here in New York, so I thought I'd post something universally upbeat and not-too-serious today - an article I found in this week's Newsweek. It summarizes recent research, captured in a new book entitled 'The How of Happiness', which suggests humans are more in control of their happiness than many of us assume. Indeed, as much as 40% of our state of mind may depend on what we allow ourselves to think. The book goes on to suggest several evidence-based strategies that can be used to increase happiness levels. My personal favourite is 'cultivating optimism' - basically, spending time with family (or friends) each evening, discussing the best bits of the day. Sounds a lot better than the usual 'How was your day?' to which the kids' stock answer is 'fine' and an adult's is a list of the day's frustrations! Worth trying, at least...

Saturday, January 26, 2008

107: more than just the news from Uganda

Since October 2007 - indeed, around the same time that I started this blog - the UK's Guardian newspaper has been reporting regularly on life in the Ugandan village of Katine. The Guardian has partnered with Amref and Farm Africa to provide access to water, healthcare and other basic needs for the people of Katine, raising funds from its readers that are matched by Barclays Bank. Every one or two weeks, Ugandan journalist Richard M Kavuma (sponsored by Panos) and Guardian staff journalists update readers on the project's progress. Today I've linked one of the articles, which documents work to start drilling boreholes so that villagers can benefit from fresh, clean water - without having to walk for 4 hours to get it! The Guardian's initiative is a great example of the way links can be formed between communities (in this case, Katine in Uganda and the Guardian's largely UK-based readership) using mass media, supported by compelling photo-journalism and by partners from across the private and voluntary sectors. The kind of initiative that brings hope to those that desperately need it, whilst enhancing the understanding of those far away. (To find out how you can get involved, click here.)


Thanks to RTBH reader, Iain, for sending in a really great article from The Economist this week, which documents some key areas of global progress over recent decades. Its argument is similar to the one underpinning this blog's creation: though collectively we face many challenges, good things do happen and the trajectory of human development is positive - but it helps to remind ourselves of this every now and again!

Friday, January 25, 2008

106: mirror, mirror...

... on the wall, who is the greenest of them all? It was interesting to see today that the geopolitical contest for environmental credentials seems to be underway, with Japanese Prime Minister Fukuda planning to set out his stall in Davos tomorrow (Saturday), hot on the heels of the EU's new climate change proposals (see post 105 from yesterday). Today's linked article from Yomiuri confirms that Japan is proposing a 30% improvement in global energy efficiency by 2020 and is offering to transfer Japanese technologies to other countries to help this happen. Consistent with announcements post-Bali (see post from Day Eighty) Fukuda is also attempting to drum up support for a new $10 billion fund to support poorer nations in coping with climate change impacts. As G8 chair this year, Japan's environmental leadership could be significant, with Fukuda's speech at Davos a clarion call to other G8 nations. Hopeful for sure. Plus Davos continues until Sunday, so there is still a chance for others to step up to the plate...


Speaking of contests (!) 'Reasons to be Hopeful' would love your vote in the Blogger's Choice Awards 2008! If you haven't voted yet, you can use this link: - but please register before you cast your vote, or it doesn't count... :-( Thanks to all of you who have voted so far!

Thursday, January 24, 2008

105: EU steps up on climate change

As yet more evidence emerged today regarding the faster than expected pace of global warming, and the Brazilians resorted to enlisting their armed forces in forest protection, it was something of a relief to see the EU take some leadership on climate change. Today's linked article from the UK's Guardian newspaper sets out new plans agreed yesterday in Brussels, which would include 21% cuts in carbon emissions for many EU countries and a target for 20% of energy to come from renewable sources, both by 2020. The aim is for the EU to lead not only in tackling climate change but in developing green technologies. Some feel that progress should - and could - in fact exceed these targets. Certainly, the EU has thrown down the green gauntlet. Perhaps 2008 will see the world's regions compete to do the most for the environment?! Now THAT would be a good news story...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

104: a road to hope in the Congo?

I'm exhausted tonight, so this won't be a long post. But I did want to acknowledge the deal signed today by the Congolese government and rebel forces. This has been widely reported, but I am linking the BBC article as carried on 'Congo Planet' - worth a browse to get a feel for Congolese culture and current affairs (well, there are lots of music ads). Today's deal has to be welcomed, fragile as it is, given the extent of pain and suffering that is being experienced by people in Eastern DRC right now. The International Rescue Committee recently estimated that as many as 5.4 million people may have died in the violence there, and the horrific acts being meted out on women and girls in the DRC are well documented (if not fully acknowledged) across the world. So today's first step gives cause for hope that the violence will end, though it must be followed through. The next few days and weeks will be critical - and will reveal whether today's optimism is well-founded.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

103: an unusual family reunion

A simple but very touching tale of hope today, from the BBC. I suspect it has been widely reported elsewhere too. It's a classic good news story, about a Vietnamese woman who, having found out on her wedding day that she was adopted, went off in search of her Taiwanese father. Tran Thi Kham went to Taiwan and in a bizarre twist ended up working as her father's maid - though neither knew who the other was at the time. She left his employment, but then realized she had left some of her possessions in his home - including a photo of her father as a young man and a ring that he had given to her mother. She contacted the police, who prompted her father to seek out her possessions and he was shocked to then recover a photo of himself - upon which he travelled to meet his long lost daughter, for an emotional reunion. Theirs really is the most incredible story - a real-life fairy tale, in fact... A family life starting over... (Photo courtesy AFP from BBC online.)

Monday, January 21, 2008

102: governing the future

I decided to go with a 'big' story today. 'Big' in the sense that it deals with global scope and long-term trends. Many media outlets have covered UK PM Gordon Brown's speeches in China and India of late, but I rather liked the way that Brown's message was framed in today's linked article from The Manila Times entitled "British PM calls for ‘new world order‘". Although many newspapers have picked up on his urging of UN, World Bank and IMF reform, I think Brown has highlighted something much more profound - namely, that the world's centers of political and economic power are evolving rapidly, that this will impact every aspect of our collective lives, and that we must all ready ourselves for these changes. Part of this readiness is about making sure global institutions - not just the UN and multilateral agencies, but financial institutions, for example - are 'fit for purpose' and stay ahead of the curve. This is a sage warning. In previous eras, such institutions have evolved not in anticipation of but in response to (often violent) realignment of global powerbases. Now, we have a chance to learn from the past and to avoid tension and aggression, with the UN and others facilitating a more peaceful evolution of the world order - not just mopping up afterwards. If the world's leaders can refocus themselves on this task, including at Davos this week, then that would definitely be cause for hope...

Sunday, January 20, 2008

101: restoring Kabul

I found this lovely story from AP today, about the restoration of Kabul's old districts. Several charities are facilitating the restoration, which includes repairing old wood and timber houses and cleaning the narrow streets. Last year, the removal of layers of mud mixed with garbage from these streets resulted in them dropping down several feet - so street-level doors and other structures had to be lowered as well! The restoration is all the more welcome for local residents given that, from 1979 until 2002, the city masterplan had their old homes marked for demolition. The preservation of Kabul's history also seems poignant following so many years of war, suggesting the city is moving on from an era of day-to-day survival, to one in which the past is celebrated and a hopeful future anticipated. (Photo from AP - there is a great slideshow on their website.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

100: nations truly united?

Reasons to be Hopeful is one hundred days old today. So that means we've found and shared one hundred positive stories - plus the other little bits and pieces you find here! I guess that's good news in itself. I have certainly been heartened so far by the fact that, most days at least, finding hopeful stories to post doesn't take an age - and that there are plenty of different newspapers and broadcast websites worth searching. Your support has also been amazing. Thank you for reading! I hope you keep coming back...

(By the way, as of today, I'm changing the RTBH post title format slightly - anything above 'Day One Hundred' is going to get pretty cumbersome, so a simple number will have to do!)

So, to today's story. Well, it's an opinion piece really, from Gulf News. It discusses the UN Alliance of Civilizations, the new Forum for which had its inaugural meeting this week. The UNAOC was the brainchild of Spanish PM Zapatero, who proposed it shortly after the Madrid train bombings in 2004, and it was established in 2005 by the governments of Spain and Turkey. The Alliance is designed to proactively facilitate cross-cultural understanding, tolerance and co-operation - particularly between those of different faiths. It announced several new initiatives with that objective this week. As the Gulf News columnist implies, such efforts seem to fit the UN's role and mandate better than many others in which it has become embroiled - and personally I feel that any serious effort to reduce polarization, tension and extremism across the world should be welcomed. You can find out more by browsing the UNAOC website. Enjoy!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Day Ninety-Nine: love is like a boomerang

I found this nice little tale in the New Zealand Herald today, about a US man who stole a boomerang about 25 years ago from a (now defunct) Australian museum and has now finally returned it. It seems he saw the error of his ways - and perhaps was no longer able to bear the guilt. The man, known only as 'Peter' from Vermont, mailed the boomerang to the museum, with a note explaining that he had taken it when he was "younger and dumber". (He also enclosed a cheque.) Thanks to his honesty, this is a story that will end right where it began... well, almost: the local council are now trying to find the boomerang's original owner, which may take some time, though hopefully not another 25 years!

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Day Ninety-Eight: dissecting the Wii

Never did I think I would post a 'good news' story about video games! When my family plays them, they all go into some kind of trance that lasts for hours, and all communication channels go down. No hope there. However, today's linked article (from BBC online) gives a compelling example of some benefits that may arise from playing on a Wii - it appears they may help improve the accuracy of surgeons and others who need to use fine motor skills. Not through playing virtual tennis or bowling, you understand, but by playing games that require delicate movements, such as moving a ball through a maze. Such games are now under development, so they may be used by many surgeons as a 'warm up' prior to theatre in future and could even be used to train surgeons in developing countries. Note to any family members reading this: NO, we are still not getting one... train to be surgeon first!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day Ninety-Seven: an Indian craft comes of age

As parents in Europe and North America shy away from 'suspicious looking' plastic and metal toys, wooden toys are experiencing something of a revival. And, according to today's linked article from the BBC, the positive spin-offs from this trend are being felt not just by BRIO but in Channapatna, India. This town near Bangalore is a traditional manufacturing centre for wooden toys, popular across India but until now unheard of internationally. But local toymakers have seen their business revitalized, as their simple wooden toys - which are coloured with vegetable dyes - have been noticed and marketed by international companies, particularly green and organic brands. Some in Channapatna are not convinced that the toys' new-found popularity will be sustained. But for now the trade is bringing hope (and money) to families engaged in the toymaking craft - and those who had left for the city in search of work are returning. Personally, I think the toys sound lovely - and I suspect this old industry has a lot of growth potential! (Photo from BBC online.)

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Day Ninety-Six: miraculous recovery for 'dead' swimmer

This is quite an extraordinary story. Today, South Africa's Cape Argus newspaper reported that a man pulled from the water off a Cape Town beach last week, and thought to have drowned, is now making a good recovery. The man, John Deeks, was visiting from the UK. His story is quite miraculous - he is not a good swimmer and cannot recall how he got into difficulty, but he was found 'lifeless' in the water by two men and then attended to by a doctor who happened to be on the beach. Paramedics arrived and took him to hospital. By this time, he had not taken a breath for about an hour! Amazingly, he was resuscitated - to the huge relief of his mother, who had already been informed by police of his death... Deeks now faces a new challenge, namely finding and thanking the two men who rescued him - who are, as yet, unidentified...


Thank you to Reasons to be Hopeful reader, Catherine, who sent me this interesting website. It outlines the plans of six cyclists who will travel the full length of the African continent in a 'Carbon Neutral Cairo to Cape Town Challenge' to raise money for the charity Millennium Promise, which supports selected African villages in addressing the full range of development challenges they face. (To date there are 79 villages supported via this (somewhat controversial) approach.) The cyclists plan to arrive in Cape Town in June this year. Pretty impressive stuff! They are also covering all their own costs, so any funds they raise will go directly to charity.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Day Ninety-Five: all quiet on the Iraq front?

There seems to be less news coming out of Iraq these days. It's hard to know how to interpret this. Is no news good news? Or have the eyes of the world moved on (to the incessant US election coverage, perhaps...)? Well, it's probably a bit of both - from here, it certainly seems there are more stories of Iraqi refugees returning home and of sectarian divisions being addressed. Today's linked article, from Time magazine, gives a more specific example of progress in rebuilding Iraq - physically and psychologically. It tells of efforts to restore the Baghdad neighbourhood of Dora, led by US generals and local volunteers. It's expensive, entailing massive investment in infrastructure, and there is still a long way to go - but already the district has seen many shops and other businesses (re)open, streets have been cleaned, and a school and and a clinic have been upgraded. Most importantly, levels of violence have dropped and residents seem to be sticking around. Banking on more good news to follow, perhaps...

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Day Ninety-Four: just not paying

I found this fascinating story tucked away in the Southern Oregon Mail Tribune today - about how businesses across Sicily are banding together and refusing to pay protection money to the local mafia. Apparently, this collective action was spurred by a website set up to build an online community of business owners, so they would feel some 'safety in numbers' when refusing to pay up. I know nothing about Sicily - or the mafia - but it's certainly a striking tale of peaceful resistance. And according to the Mail Tribune article (by AP) it seems to be having an effect, if only in restoring some dignity and hope to the local community... which is no small achievement.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Day Ninety-Three: striking a note of hope

This is a bit of a heartwarmer. Aging British rock star Billy Bragg (who I realize may not be so famous internationally...) has apparently started a scheme whereby musicians and others donate instruments to UK prisons, to enable inmates to explore and express their creativity. Bragg and other musicians also perform in the prisons, with inmates occasionally joining in. This is not just a one-off uplifting experience for the inmates - many of whom are depressed and engage in self-harm - it also appears to have a longer-term impact on their self-esteem. According to the article linked here from The Independent newspaper, inmates from the first prison to engage in the scheme, Guy's Marsh, are demonstrating a significantly reduced re-offending rate following parole (10-15% compared to a national average of 61%). It's hard to ascertain exactly what's going on here, but it's certainly interesting... Best to end with the words of Billy Bragg himself, I think, who was keen to stress that, for the inmates concerned, "these instruments aren't presents, they're a challenge, a challenge for them to try to make something of themselves. My hope is that they will see this as an opportunity to take that first step on the path back to society."

Friday, January 11, 2008

Day Ninety-Two: hopeful plastic!

This article really got me thinking today. After all the discussion about 'nasty plastic' (i.e. shopping bags) that has dominated the news - and this blog - over the last few days, this story seemed particularly apt. According to the New Scientist, EU investment has facilitated the development of plastic optical fibers that can carry ultra-high-speed broadband. They are cheap, easy to install, and allow a speed of connection around 50 times that of ASDL. They have many other advantages over the usual copper wires too, being more flexible, tougher (the same lack of biodegradability that makes plastic such a menace in bag form, one presumes!) and very easy to install. All of which made me think that this might be good news not just for Europeans but for others too - offering new potential to improve communication and access to knowledge via broadband in developing countries. Question: When is 'nasty plastic' in fact 'good plastic'? Answer: when it's in the right place at the right time for the right reason!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Day Ninety-One: bye-bye baggie

Well, the dominoes are falling. Today, Australian environment minister Peter Garrett (and former Midnight Oil band member, I gather!) confirmed that he will press ahead with his plan to ban plastic bags. This has been mooted for some time, but appears to have gathered pace in light of yesterday's Chinese announcement. As today's linked article from the Sydney Morning Herald outlines, there has been plenty of complaint from retailers, but Garrett has said a complete ban is the right answer and that the nation should 'get cracking on it'. Of the 4 billion plastic bags produced in Australia every year, most end up in landfill currently. Meanwhile, as The Gothamist reports today, New York City has not moved to ban plastic bags but it is trying to do something about the landfill issue, by demanding that all large stores carry recycling bins so that shoppers can drop off their bags to be recycled into other plastic goods. It's something, at least. Meanwhile, I'll keep forcibly preventing shop assistants from putting my purchases in yet another plastic bag (or sometimes, inexplicably, in two bags, one lining the other)... every little bit of waste-reduction helps!

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Day Ninety: plastic bags on their way out?

Yesterday, China became the most recent - and the largest - country to introduce a ban on plastic bags. It will take effect from June this year, according to coverage from BBC online. Not only is this an important move for China domestically, given its urgent need to improve local environmental sustainability and public health, it has also raised the stakes internationally. First to react was the Canadian city of Toronto. The article from the Toronto Star newspaper linked here (click on the post title above) asks the question on many people's lips: if a relatively poor nation of 1.3 billion people can see a way to break its plastic bag addiction, why can't the richer countries of the world do the same? Quite probably, they will, in the not too distant future. And if China begins to take radical, positive steps on other environmental issues - such as air and water pollution, CO2 emissions and chemicals in food - that would be even more significant. For China, and for the world as a whole.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Day Eighty-Nine: scout's honour

This story, about an instinctive act of heroism, grabbed my attention today. An attempt on the life of the Maldives' President, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, was foiled today - by a 15-year-old boy scout. The boy, Mohamed Jaisham, was in scout uniform at the time. Apparently, a 20-year-old youth stepped forward and tried to stab Gayoom with a kitchen knife as he walked through a crowd. Jaisham reacted swiftly, grabbing the knife and suffering some cuts to his hands - but leaving Gayoom unscathed. The knife wielder was arrested. According to today's linked article from the Hindustan Times (click the post title above) President Gayoom - Asia's longest serving leader and a somewhat controversial figure - has said he owes his life to Jaisham. Certainly, it was an extraordinarily brave and selfless act by the teenager. And according to more recent reports, his hand injury is not too serious, which is a blessing... Let's hope he recovers quickly.


Thanks to RTBH reader, Iain, for sending me this really fascinating and uplifting video from the BBC today. It's about a man who has recreated his grandfather's wartime experience, by publishing his letters from the trenches, one by one - on a blog! It's a wonderful blending of history and modernity, telling a timeless story of the horrors of war - but also of the hopes that keep people going in such times. Thanks so much for sending it, Iain!


And finally... thanks to BBC Radio 4's "PM" programme for mentioning Reasons to be Hopeful on their website - and thank you to RTBH reader Paul for tipping them off! Presenter Eddie Mair included a link to RTBH in his blog - and my stats counter went wild!! Cheers, Eddie.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Day Eighty-Eight: Charles Taylor on trial

It's a critical moment for the United Nations, and for West Africa, as yet another high-profile UN-backed trial gets underway in the Hague. This time, former Liberian president Charles Taylor is in the witness stand, accused in relation to atrocities committed by the RUF (a rebel force that, prosecutors argue, had links to Taylor) in Sierra Leone. As with the UN-backed trial in Cambodia (on which I have posted previously) the 'Special Court for Sierra Leone' has been slow to begin its deliberations. The court was originally established in Sierra Leone, but was moved to the Hague due to security concerns, and further delays were caused when Taylor said he could no longer afford a defense lawyer and a replacement had to be found. Proving the case against Taylor will be difficult - much of the evidence linking him to RUF violence is circumstantial and not all witnesses will attend in person (some are under witness protection schemes). But many see the trial as hugely symbolic. It's an important step towards social justice and reconstruction in Sierra Leone. And it's also an important test of the UN courts system, which is cumbersome and expensive and needs to 'prove its worth' in many people's eyes. What is undoubtedly impressive, however, is the determination of those engaged in such trials - new obstacles are thrown in their way and they doggedly work through them. It makes me hopeful that, one way or another, the Taylor trial will run its course. (Picture and linked article from BBC online.)


You can follow the trial 'live' by logging on to the Charles Taylor Trial blog at The Open Society Institute has joined forces with the legal firm Clifford Chance and the International Senior Lawyers Project to develop and maintain the blog, which gives minute-by-minute summaries of the trial process in addition to expert commentary and some useful background information. It's justice in action, live on the web.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Day Eighty-Seven: top medical breakthroughs

I'm never sure about the merit of all the 'top 10 X of year Y' lists that come out around this time of year - in my mind, some are spot on, but others are way off... They are quite good at reminding us of some of the significant developments that have taken place in recent history, however. Time magazine has produced 50 (!!) top 10 lists for 2007, which seems a little over the top, though it is definitely encouraging to note that at least some of these lists were concentrated on positive events. I picked out one that is worth a read - that on medical breakthroughs. Some of these breakthroughs have had widespread media coverage. Some have provoked heated debate - e.g. the promotion of male circumcision as an HIV-prevention technique. Others had less media coverage when they were announced but are nevertheless significant and reassuring - such as the new vaccine that may help prevent an influenza pandemic in future (though I sincerely hope that once the US has stockpiled enough there is some to share with other countries). It's well worth a quick flick through the list, if only to remind oneself of the amazing things that humans can achieve - with surprising regularity. There will be at least another 10 major medical breakthroughs in 2008, no doubt, and that's definitely a reason to be hopeful.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Day Eighty-Six: Russian boat crew rescued

This story has been fairly widely reported. I picked up the AP version from the International Herald Tribune. It tells of a Russian fishing crew whose boats were wrecked about 3 months ago, but who managed to subsist on a few supplies of their own plus those they found in an abandoned military base. When their meagre supplies began to run dry, five of them set off on foot to seek help. Several days later they stumbled upon another military base - this time, thankfully, it was manned. Rescue services were called and helicopters carried them all to safety. Amazingly, it seems that none of the crew suffered any serious health effects - despite having survived on a diet largely consisting of fried flour pancakes for the best part of 3 months! Just shows what can be done with determination - and an iron constitution!

Friday, January 4, 2008

Day Eighty-Five: lovely little lizard located

Oh, I had fun with that title... A really encouraging little story from the BBC today, about 3 new species of salamander that have been discovered in Costa Rica's La Amistad national park. The smallest, a 'dwarf salamander', is around an inch in length! (See the amazing photo here, courtesy of BBC online.) The 3 new species were identified by researchers from London's National History Museum working with Costa Rican scientists and officials. They have undertaken several expeditions to the area recently, funded by the UK's Darwin Initiative. Further trips are now planned, and the team expect to find yet more previously unknown species in due course. It's so great to hear news like this, when we hear so many other tales of species wiped out or threatened with extinction (often due to mankind's carelessness). And well done Costa Rica, yet again, for doing a better job than most in protecting the planet's biodiversity.

(ps - I do realize that someone is about to comment that salamanders aren't lizards or similar... wait for it...)

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Day Eighty-Four: political prisoners granted amnesty in Venezuela

I decided to head off to the Caribbean today - must have been the FREEZING weather here at the moment - though the story I found relates to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan President. According to this article from Caribbean Net News, Chavez recently granted amnesty to a group of 'political prisoners' and others being prosecuted for 'political crimes', a move that has been welcomed by the Organization of American States as a move along the "path of democratic progress". True enough. This was an important move for Chavez domestically - those granted amnesty include those put on trial for their involvement in a coup that briefly ousted Chavez from power in 2002 and any residual tension around that may dissipate with this move. But it's also important to Chavez's credibility beyond Venezuela's borders and specifically in relation to his role in negotiations with FARC rebels in Colombia. Many would say there can be no justification for imprisoning people for 'political' reasons, just as there can be no justification for taking hostages for 'political' reasons. It seems as if Hugo Chavez agrees.


IF YOU LIKE REASONS TO BE HOPEFUL please vote for it in the 'Bloggers Choice Awards'. You can do so by clicking on the award button to the right. You need to register first, which is pretty quick and straightforward, and then you can vote! Thanks in advance for considering Reasons to be Hopeful!
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And finally... Thank you to Adam Kamerer from for writing a really nice little article about Reasons to be Hopeful. Visit to read the article, entitled 'Looking for Some Good News?', and all Adam's other posts - on a wide range of hopeful subjects, ranging from 'financial success' to 'creativity', from 'manifesting positivity' to 'living courageously' and more. I've started a blogroll and include a link for your ease in blog surfing!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Day Eighty-Three: Indian PM urges political reform in Burma

Some low-key but potentially significant news today, from the Times of India. The Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, met with the Burmese Foreign Minister today to discuss relations between the two countries. As the article linked here reports, Singh raised political matters alongside those relating to trade and regional co-operation. Specifically, he urged the Burmese to engage in political reform with 'greater urgency' and in a way that involves all sectors of society - including pro-democracy campaigner and opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi and all of Burma's various ethnic groups (some of which suffer significant discrimination and oppression). It is important that all the world's leaders maintain the pressure for political reform and protection of human rights in Burma. But it matters more when that pressure comes from one of Burma's neighbours and major trading partners. Let's hope that others follow in Singh's footsteps, before the shocking images of 'Burma 2007' fade from memory.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Day Eighty-Two: les non fumeurs


It was a quiet day for good news today. But there are many that will find cause for celebration in the smoking ban introduced in France's restaurants and cafés today. Not everyone, of course - there are some smokers that will assert their right to light up. But today's press coverage suggests that many smokers will use the opportunity to quit (as they have elsewhere in the EU) and that non-smokers will welcome the clean air. I think there is more to the story than that, though. It really is an amazing example of rapid social change - along a positive trajectory. It seems unbelievable that something so fundamental to France's café culture could be abandoned for the sake of public health. It does make you wonder what else might be possible, not just in Europe but elsewhere.