Who Projected a Smiley Face On London’s Parliament Across From A Hospital Last Night?

An image of a smiley face was projected onto the Houses of Parliament to spread an uplifting message of positivity during tough times.

Any smile—but especially one that is 27 yards wide—can go a long way to cheering people up, especially when it’s directly across the river from a hospital.

The lipstick-wearing smiley was beamed onto the famous structure last night, on the eve of World Emoji Day.

The positive image was in full view of St. Thomas’s hospital, and it stood as a reminder of how good it feels to smile. Passersby who saw the images last night said it brightened up their evening considerably.

“Seeing the smiley made me laugh,” said Dave Crawford. It’s also opposite a hospital, and you hope that people get to look out and see it.”

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Everybody knows we need more smiles right now—especially because it’s hard to know if people are smiling behind their face masks.

SWNS

Another onlooker, Kate Sandison, said the projection was a great surprise. “It looks great and makes you feel good. It made me smile.”

Commissioned by the cosmetics company Ciaté London, founder and CEO Charlotte Knight said they designed a new range of Smileys that include lashes and lipstick, created in partnership with the originators of the concept.

“Particularly at times like this it’s important to see the positives in everyday moments by sharing smiles.”

WATCH the inspiring video below from SWNS…

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The Largest Urban Rooftop Farm in the World is Now Bearing Fruit (and More) in Paris

Getting fresh produce into the heart of a major city used to be done by a fleet of rumbling, polluting trucks—now it’s a matter of bringing it down from the roof.

The largest urban rooftop farm in the world uses vertical growing techniques to create fruits and vegetables right in the center of Paris without the use of pesticides, refrigerated trucks, chemical fertilizer, or even soil.

Nature Urbaine uses aeroponic techniques that are now supplying produce to local residents, including nearby hotels, catering halls, and more. For a price of 15 euro, residents can order a basket of produce online containing a large bouquet of mint or sage, a head of lettuce, various young sprouts, two bunches of radishes and one of chard, as well as a jar of jam or puree.

“The composition may change slightly depending on the harvest,” Sophie Hardy, director of Nature Urbaine, tells French publication Agri City. Growing on 3.4 acres, about the size of two soccer pitches, atop the Paris Exhibition Center, they are also producing about 150 baskets of strawberries, as well as aubergines, tomatoes, and more.

Speaking to the Guardian, Pascal Hardy, a sustainable development consultant and member of Agripolis, an urban farming firm, called the Nature Urbaine project in Paris “a clean, productive and sustainable model of agriculture that can in time make a real contribution to the resilience—social, economic and also environmental—of the kind of big cities where most of humanity now lives.”

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Sci-Fi Farming

Currently only a third of the total space on hall 6 of the expo center is utilized for Pascal’s alien-looking garden, and when the project is finished, 20 staff will be able to harvest up to 2,200 lbs (1,000 kg) of perhaps 35 different kinds of fruits and vegetables every day.

Photos by Agripolis

In plastic towers honeycombed with little holes, small amounts of water carrying nutrients, bacteria, and minerals, aerate roots which hang in midair.

As strange as the pipes and towers out of which grow everything other than root vegetables might seem, Hardy says the science-fiction farming has major benefits over traditional agriculture.

“I don’t know about you,” he begins, “but I don’t much like the fact that most of the fruit and vegetables we eat have been treated with something like 17 different pesticides, or that the intensive farming techniques that produced them are such huge generators of greenhouse gases.”

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“It uses less space. An ordinary intensive farm can grow nine salads per square meter of soil; I can grow 50 in a single tower. You can select crop varieties for their flavor, not their resistance to the transport and storage chain, and you can pick them when they’re really at their best, and not before.”

Agripolis

Breaking the chain

Agripolis is currently discussing projects in the U.S., the UK, and Germany, and they have finished several other rooftop farms in France including one on the roof of the Mercure hotel in 2016, which cultivates eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomatoes and cherry tomatoes, salads, watercress, strawberries, nasturtiums and aromatics all directly serving the hotel restaurant.

Growing on the roof and selling on the floor can play a big part in the production of carbon-neutral food because, according to Agripolis, fruit and veg on average travel by refrigerated air and land transport between 2,400 and 4,800 kilometers from farm to market.

The global transportation force is the largest of humanity’s carbon-emitting activities, and reducing the number of flights and truckloads of produce is a great place to start cutting the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere.

For a culinary city like Paris, the Parisian mayor’s proposal to install an additional 320 acres (130 ha) of rooftop and wall-mounted urban farming space could significantly reduce the number of trucks entering the city, easing traffic and reducing pollution.

With rooftop farming being embraced from Detroit to Shanghai, the future is looking up.

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Photographer Captures Dazzling Images of a Lightning Storm Dubbed the ‘Night of a Thousand Forks’

These incredible photos managed to capture the beauty of 50 forks of lightning striking a Mexican city in just 5 minutes.

The amazing panoramic photos of the valley show the sky light up amidst a storm that is now being dubbed “The Night of a Thousand Forks” because of the sheer amount of lightning streaking across the length of the valley’s 165 square miles.

The intense electrical storm even saw a number of the lightning bolts crackling over the 12,000-foot tall Colima Volcano—the most active volcano in Mexico.

The volcano towers over the state of Colima, which is where the lightning storm hit on July 14th.

Rivera Cervantes / SWNS

“The night was crazy—all the locals are calling it the Night of a Thousand Forks,” said 37-year-old photographer Hernando Rivera Cervantes, who stitched 42 of his images together into a photo composition to show the full, dazzling impact of the storm.

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“It kept everybody awake all night, and there was lots of rain too. The sound was enough to keep the whole city awake,” he added. “Over five minutes, I captured about 40 to 50 lightning bolts—which was incredible. I have been fascinated by lightning since I was a child, it has always impressed me with its great energy and light.”

Self-portrait of photographer Hernando Rivera Cervantes in front of lightning strikes over Colima, Mexico. (SWNS)

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Teachers Visit a Bridge Everyday to Create a Classroom for Children of Migrant Workers Stuck in India’s Lockdown

For months during the pandemic, the people of India woke up to news regarding the plight of migrant laborers.

Stranded on their way home due to stringent lockdown restrictions and the lack of basic amenities brought us harrowing tales of human suffering.

However, the news also spurred heroes into action.

Under the bridge in the coastal state of Kerala, a heartening sight awaits those who are passing by in Kochi.

Underneath the Bolgatty-Vallarpadam bridge, teachers can be found engrossed with students of all ages, deep in study.

Ten children of migrant laborers had been living under the bridge with their families. Now that temporary ‘home’ is doubling up as a classroom, thanks to the dedicated teachers of St. John Bosco’s UP School.

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When the government ordered schools to close, and classes began commencing online, the teachers realized that some children had no means to attend online classes, and would likely discontinue their education if the situation persisted.

Armed with laptops and drawing sets, three teachers—Shamiya Baby, Neema Thomas and Susan Mable—and the school headmistress Elizabeth Fernandez, came to the rescue. Since the beginning of June, when online classes officially began, these teachers have been downloading classes on their laptops and heading over to the bridge to teach the children.

‘They also carry masks, biscuits and sweets for the young kids every day,” reports Mathrubhumi News.

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As technology seeps into the education sector, stories like this serve to underscore the undeniable value of human teachers—and their selfless kindness… Priceless.

We applaud our health workers and doctors, but let us also spare a thought for society’s teachers who help keep the lamp of hope brightly lit within the minds and hearts of its youngest citizens.

– Edited from an original article submitted by Gayathry Rajeev in India 

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Ex-Guerrillas Turn into Citizen Scientists Using Their Knowledge of the Colombian Jungle to Protect Biodiversity

Reprinted with permission from World at Large, an online journal focused on travel, foreign affairs, health and fitness, and the environment.

After 2016, when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) signed a peace agreement with the Colombian government, scientists realized that it was suddenly safe to explore the rainforests, mountains, and savannas from which FARC waged a 50-year guerrilla war—and these areas are counted among the most biodiverse and least-explored places on earth.

A few biologists who longed to journey to the heart of these places also seized the opportunity as the perfect way to bring 14,000 former guerrillas back into society in a meaningful way that could benefit not only them, but the country’s stunning biodiversity.

Colombia is often referred to as the world’s most biodiverse country. Although this is a hard thing to designate, since many species around the world of all kinds remain undiscovered, she does lay claim to the most bird species anywhere on earth—both endemic and migratory.

Who better to help protect Colombia’s wild spaces than those who know them best, pondered Jaime Góngora, a wildlife geneticist at the University of Sydney who is originally from Colombia.

Góngora now leads a group of researchers from the United Kingdom, Australia, and 10 different Colombian scientific institutions in a program that trains ex‑guerrillas to study Colombia’s native plants and animals—a program which to date has uncovered nearly 100 previously-unknown species.

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Peace with Nature

Peace with Nature now unites scientists with guerillas to help protect Colombia’s biodiversity and aid in the post-conflict situation for thousands of people, 84% of whom, according to Góngora, are interested in pursuing, of all things, river habitat restoration as their post-conflict career path.

Góngora and his colleagues are only too happy to help, and Peace with Nature began hosting citizen scientist workshops to help train eager folks to find, identify, catalogue, and study wild plants, insects, birds, amphibians, and more.

The preparation work was long and hard – between 15 and 18 months according to Góngora.

“We did the first regional workshop last March in a remote ex-combatant village named Charras in the province of Guaviare at the interface of three major ecosystems in Colombia: Andes, Orinoquia, and Amazon,” says Góngora, in an interview with Science Magazine.

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“There, we did a more comprehensive workshop and inventory of an ecotourism trail identifying more than 120 plant and animal species, which were uploaded to iNaturalist”.

iNaturalist is an app used by citizen scientists around the globe, that allows naturalists to document their country’s biodiversity inventories and to inform and highlight potential ecotourists of attractions in their communities.

“In some of the workshops, we have the presence of the police and military forces along with the ex-combatants,” explains Góngora. “I think what has surprised me most is the opportunity that biodiversity offers for reconciliation and healing after an armed conflict. These workshops have been spaces for a respectful dialogue about biodiversity and nature”.

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Wild Bison Are Returning to England’s Forests For First Time in 6,000 Years

A relative of the iconic beast that roams the American Great Plains is going to be released in an ancient forest in Kent, England—where they haven’t resided for 6,000 years.

But the four animals won’t be arriving by way of South Dakota or Wyoming because Europe has their own subspecies—the European wood bison.

The project is slated to begin in Spring of 2022, when a single male Bison bonasus and three females arriving from Poland and the Netherlands will be allowed to roam and reproduce naturally in the remaining wilds of Britain—and it is hoped that their presence will ignite a chain reaction throughout the forest.

Bison have the power to change a forest in dramatic ways; ways that humans don’t have the time or manpower for, and they are being considered as a possible solution to species loss in Great Britain.

The project called Wilder Blean, named for the reintroduction site, West Blean Woods, was organized by the Kent Wildlife Trust (KWT). The experiment isn’t just about bringing the bison back for the sake of something to look at, it’s part of a controlled trial to see if the large herbivore can reinvigorate forest ecosystems more productively than conservationists.

“European bison are being used in this project because they are ecosystem engineers, meaning that they are able to change their environment through their natural behaviors,” explains the KWT on their website. “Bison can change woodlands in a way that no other animal can.”

WATCH: 800-Pound Bison Performs Adorable ‘Happy Dance’ in Celebration of the First Day of Spring

Once ranging across the continent since the last Ice Age, European bison were hunted to extinction in the wild, but have since been reintroduced from captivity into several countries—mostly the forests of Poland, with smaller populations spread out across eastern and southern Europe.

European bison in Germany – Michael Gäbler, CC license

Known as a keystone species, similar to krill in the ocean, tigers in India, or bees in a meadow, bison provide services that allow the ecosystems they live in to operate at a much higher capacity in terms of ecosystem activity. In conservation terms, a keystone species is one that plays a role in the preservation of other species, and the ecology as a whole.

Bison are the forestry experts

Bison kill weak or dead trees by eating their bark or rubbing against them to remove their thick winter fur. This turns the tree into food and habitat for insects, which in turn provide food for birds. The resulting pocket of sunlight allows new plants to grow, replenishing the woodland.

In an unexpected way, the attempted restoration of bison in the English ecosystem is more about halting England’s current species loss than it is about restoring some kind of Stone Age ecology to the island, and while the KWT anticipate a keystone species like Bison bringing additional eyes upon the value of conservation and the health benefits of interacting with great nature, the purpose of the project is to create healthier English forests that can support larger numbers of animals.

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“Using missing keystone species like bison to restore natural processes to habitats is the key to creating bio-abundance in our landscape,” said Paul Hadaway from the KWT.

European bison with calves – Pryndak Vasyl, CC license

Funded by the People’s Postcode Lottery Dream Fund, which donated £1.1 million, Wilder Blean will cover 500 hectares (1,236 acres) of the largest area of ancient forest in the UK. Once the bison are established within a 150 hectare parcel, the KWT hopes to reintroduce “iron age pigs” and free-roaming longhorn cattle, in order to make West Blean Wood as near to the original product as possible.

Thousands of years ago, auroch—an enormous species of wild cattle, extinct as recently as the 1600s—would also have roamed the English countryside, and the longhorn cattle are ideal for attempting to replicate the unique effects that the aurochs no doubt had upon the landscape.

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In fact, European bison are likely hybrids of both the extinct subspecies called steppe bison and the auroch, because scientists have analyzed their DNA and found that the animals possess up to 10% of the genetic code of the auroch.

“The partners in the Kent project have long dreamed of restoring the true wild woodlands that have been missing from England for too long,” said Paul Whitfield, of Wildwood Trust, a conservation charity that will monitor the health and welfare of the bison.

“People will be able to experience nature in a way they haven’t before, connecting them back to the natural world around them in a deeper way.”

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Downtown Sydney is Now Powered By 100% Renewable Energy Thanks to Historic Deal

In the middle of Australia’s largest city the downtown business borough is now officially powered by 100% green energy thanks to the “largest standalone renewables agreement for an Australian council to date.”

The City of Sydney, which is home to a quarter-million people, has begun sourcing all of its energy from two solar farms and the largest wind farm in all of New South Wales.

The transition was facilitated through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with electricity retailer Flow Power. Although the historic deal costs AU$60 million, the initiative is expected to save AU$500,000 every year, according to Euronews.

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The initiative is also expected to purge roughly 20,000 tons of CO2 from the city’s carbon footprint—roughly 70% of its total output—before 2024, which is several years earlier than its original goal.

“Cities are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, so it is critical that we take effective and evidence-based climate actions,” said Sydney Mayor Clover Moore.

“The City of Sydney became carbon neutral in 2007, and were the first government in Australia to be certified carbon neutral in 2011,” she added. “This ground-breaking $60 million renewable electricity deal will also save our ratepayers money and support regional jobs in wind and solar farms in Glen Innes, Wagga Wagga, and the Shoalhaven.”

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How an Indian Architect is Sucking Carbon Emissions Out of the Air and Turning it into Stylish Tiles

An Indian architect has developed a revolutionary new way to serve the housing needs of a population, while also fighting air pollution.

Tejas Sidnal is the mastermind behind Carbon Craft Design: a Mumbai-based startup that specializes in capturing carbon emissions from the air and turning it into stylish tile.

Using a device called the AIR-INK, the company is able to draw CO2 out of the polluted city air, combine it with a mixture of marble chips and powder, and then press it into elegantly-designed tiles.

Since Sidnal says that India is in need of maintaining the world’s third largest housing industry, his sustainable tile recipe can help meet the industry demand for building materials in an eco-friendly way.

(WATCH the Great Big Story video below)

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Caribbean Island is On Track to Become the World’s First ‘Hurricane-Proof’ Country

When a category 5 hurricane makes landfall, few things borne of our civilization can resist the power of the winds and surging, violent waves.

Yet the tiny nation of Dominica—which is even smaller than its neighbor Dominican Republic—is on course to hurricane-proof its country after being devastated by Hurricane Maria.

The cat. 5 that struck the island two years ago, destroyed 226% of the country’s GDP and 90% of the structures.

Describing the project as creating the first “climate resilient” nation, Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit addressed the UN general assembly in the aftermath of Maria’s landfall, asking for the funds to create such a nation—one that cannot only resist powerful storms physically, but also economically and spiritually.

“In the past, we would prepare for one heavy storm a year. Now, thousands of storms form on a breeze in the mid-Atlantic and line up to pound us with maximum force and fury,” he said to the UN.

Skerrit’s plan is to create cities of hurricane-proof structures that won’t leave mountains of debris behind after storms.

“The challenges are not just related to infrastructure. Resilience in our view is how vulnerable you are in the first place,” Pepe Bardouille told National Geographic.

That’s why they are starting with the building codes.

By Hugh Fiske, CC license

A CREAD to live by

Bardouille is CEO of the government’s Climate Resilience Execution Agency of Dominica (CREAD), and he believes that building a climate-resilient nation starts with every person considering how the planning decisions they make will hold up under winds higher than 150 mph.

CREAD has been charged with establishing uniform building codes, geothermal energy plants, a hurricane-proof hospital and healthcare system, and improving public transit.

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“How to keep a society and economy in a small country with a limited tax base and a huge number of climactic challenges running on a shoestring. Those are the challenges,” Bardouille says.

But the Prime Minister’s vision also includes a prosperous ecotourism industry that could replenish the state’s coffers before and after storms deplete them.

There is one landfill on Dominica, and it’s nearly full. Cleaning up plastic waste and switching to biodegradable items like bottles, food packaging, and more will be key to CREAD’s strategy of helping the country look nicer for travelers. Plastic trash is whipped around in powerful storms and scattered hither and yon, despoiling the natural beauty of the country.

In 2018, GNN reported that Skerrit had enacted a ban on plastic and other debris such as single-use straws, and Styrofoam food items to try and aid in creating the image of a pristine Caribbean island that will attract tourists with deeper pockets. The following year, the Climate Resilience Act went into full force, and gave birth to CREAD.

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The economy has since grown by 9 percent. Tourists are back on the beaches, and children are back in the classrooms. A new state-of-the-art hospital opened in August of 2019, while construction around the island has created five hundred new homes with another 1,000 on the way.

Described as “The Nature Island”, tropical rainforests filled with colorful birds encircle volcanoes looming above coral reefs and beaches of white, brown, and even black sands—things which typify Dominica as not just a place for margaritas and sunny days in a resort, but adventure and exploration.

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As with so many countries, Dominica represents a great place for a vacation—and a vacation represents a way to directly and effectively support the climate-resilient economy.

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In a Victory for the Environment Germany Bans Single-Use Plastic and Styrofoam

Germany is making major strides towards trying to practice what she preaches in terms of environmentalism.

The country announcement yesterday that it will be implementing a ban on the sale of a multitude of single-use and disposable items in a bid to reduce the amount of plastic and polystyrene waste in the environment.

This includes things like plastic straws, polystyrene cups and boxes (think Cup-O-Noodles), single-use cutlery, plates, and stirring sticks.

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German Environmental Minister Schulze said the move was part of an effort to move away from “throw-away culture,” according to AP.

The government’s ban will go into effect next year on July 3, 2021.

The new plan also legislates the closure by 2022 of eight brown-coal operations—mostly located in economically depressed regions—as the number of jobs in renewable energy, which already generates 50% of Germany’s power, increase in those regions.

RELATED: New Plant-Based Bottles and Cups Backed by Coca-Cola And Dannon Can Degrade in a Year

(Photo by Swansea University)

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Once the Epicenters For COVID-19, New York and Italy Reach Single Digit Numbers

They were the epicenters of disease in America and Europe, but now New York and Italy have both reached single-digit daily numbers for fatalities attributed to COVID-19 and plummeting hospitalization rates after valiant efforts to stop the spread.

The Ministero della Salute in Italy reported last week transmissions of just 5.86 per 100,000 inhabitants, while some news sources place the nationwide death rate as low as 6 on June 29th, down by 22 from just the day before.

While some clusters—particularly in the north where the virus has been the worst, and the south, where many Italians go on vacation—have appeared recently, the country is still recording the lowest numbers since mid-February.

Similarly, New York has achieved a complete turnaround, recording 5 deaths last Saturday, according to AP, the lowest since March 15th—down from 13 the day before.

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“We are on the exact opposite end,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press.

Hospitalizations for COVID-19 have plummeted, as well. Compared to 18,000 patients in March to under 900 last weekend.

Aljoscha Laschgari

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How a Crowded Slum of One Million People Contained the Coronavirus to Only 2,000 Cases

Since the COVID-19 outbreak began, examining the spread, the rate of infections, the international response, and how these things have varied nation-to-nation has been a source of nothing less than bewilderment.

The cramped bazaars and streets of the Medinas in Morocco are relatively fine compared to some cities in the richest nations on earth.

The amount that is known and unknown has led to all kinds of approaches and guesswork, but perhaps nothing could be considered more astonishing than the containment of the now-infamous virus in one of the most crowded slums in Asia—in Dhravai, Mumbai, where one million people live in a labyrinthine-neighborhood of tightly packed shacks and one-room houses where social distancing is impossible.

The largest city in India, Mumbai is the epicenter of COVID-19 in India, and it has so far registered 500,000 cases.

But, while the city at large has seen maxed-out hospital beds, Dharavi, the setting of the Oscar-Winning film Slumdog Millionaire, has reported just 2,000 cases and 79 deaths overall, with just 274 in June.

How did they do it?

A proactive response was initiated, with 2,450 health workers assigned to Dharavi who started going door to door every morning at nine AM to test people.

After the first person tested positive in the slum—a 56-year-old garment worker who died the same day—the local and civic task forces identified the 5 highest-risk areas of the slum and started hunting the disease down, using contact tracing to find people who were at risk of being infected.

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In total 47,500 people were tested in the opening salvo. “That gave us a head start,” Anil Pachanekar, a private doctor and head of a local physicians’ association, told the LA Times. “If [those cases] had slipped through, it would have wreaked havoc.”

Credited for insuring the low rates of infection, these Mumbai health workers endured severe heat and humidity, walking through crowded streets wearing protective plastic body suits that didn’t allow for bathroom breaks.

Along with the disease, the task force encountered the paranoia and misconceptions about it. “When we went around Dharavi, we also started educating people about it,” he said. “We told them it is not a crime to be tested positive for coronavirus.”

Fear is a killer

Alleviating the fear of COVID-19 in people, especially as it related to the fear of visiting a clinic or medical office for testing, ended up being a very effective way to treat the disease.

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By April 20th, nineteen days after exposure, the door to door testing stopped, and 350 private clinics there were allowed to reopen. By then, the education efforts had paid off, and lines of people looking to get tested were forming outside of testing centers.

Meanwhile, city officials began converting buildings like wedding halls, schools and community centers into quarantine shelters with food and healthcare provisions. People who tested positive were quarantined in their homes while volunteer “COVID warriors” ensured those who were quarantined could get the medical supplies or groceries they needed.

With less than 20 deaths recorded in the slum during June, it seems like the worst is over for the residents of Dharavi—but what is being called the “Dharavi method” stands as a model for the future.

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It demonstrates that no situation is too dire for human resolve and ingenuity, and that even people living in squalor have something to teach the world.

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Stunning ‘Bubble Hotel’ Under the Icelandic Stars is Truly the Perfect ‘Socially Distancing’ Destination

A secluded retreat in South Iceland caters to guests who want to be surrounded by nature—and you will be literally immersed in it, staying in your own private bubble nestled in the forest.

You can sleep under the vast sea of twinkling stars and be entirely enclosed in the glass bubble—and if you are lucky, you’ll get a once-in-a-lifetime view of the aurora borealis over your head.

Robert Robertsson, the owner and managing director of the Buubble project based in Reykjavík summed it up saying, “Some childhood dreams stay with us for our whole lives.”

“Sleeping under the stars or watching the aurora borealis dance is one of those lifelong dreams.”

The entrepreneur created the Bubble concept to fulfill those dreams. And, now with COVID-19 cases down to one or two per day in Iceland, it might be the perfect pandemic getaway.

“Forget the city, forget work, and enjoy watching the aurora borealis dance for you. We can‘t guarantee you will see the lights, but if they show up you will have a magical night.”

Licensed as a travel agency, Buubble.com has two location in South Iceland.

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Up to 2 guests can stay in the bubbles, with children under the age of 6 can staying in the bed with the parents.

SWNS

The regular cost is $830, but Robertsson is offering a COVID-19 discount which would bring the amount down to $618, and allow you to book anytime using the open ticket in the next five years.

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Cher Sheds Tears of Joy as Pakistan’s ‘Loneliest Elephant’ Wins Bid For Freedom

An elephant at the Murghazar Zoo in Islamabad, is set to be freed thanks to a May 21 ruling by the Pakistan High Court.

Pop icon Cher, who advocated for four years on his behalf, calling him “the world’s loneliest elephant”, is celebrating the news.

“THIS IS ONE OF THE GREATEST MOMENTS OF MY LIFE,” she tweeted.

Since at least 2016, animal rights groups have worked tirelessly for the release of Kaavan, a 33-year old Asian elephant from Sri Lanka, whose only playmate died eight years ago in the zoo.

To facilitate the court’s ruling, Pakistan’s Islamabad Wildlife Management Board (IWMB) is working to—at last—find him a “suitable sanctuary”.

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“The pain and suffering of Kaavan must come to an end by relocating him to an appropriate elephant sanctuary,” the court wrote in its ruling.

The world was mobilized into action, sending petitions to the Pakistani government, after photos showed the elephant living in terrible conditions, sometimes chained.

Friends of Islamabad-Zoo Facebook Page

The IWMB has assembled an eight-member committee to arrange the relocation of Kaavan. Members include WWF senior director Rab Nawaz, biodiversity specialist Z.B. Mirza, an Islamabad Zoo veterinary officer, IUCN’s Nilanga Jaysinghe, and co-founder of Save the Elephant Foundation Derek Thompsan, according to a June 6 report by Gulf News.

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The court had also directed that all the other remaining animals be moved to temporary sanctuaries within 60 days—including brown bears, lions and birds—while the zoo improves its standards, reported Al Jazerra.

Kaavan first came to Pakistan at the age of 1, as a gift for the country’s leader at the time. Since his companion Saheli died in 2012, he has not been able to enjoy the company of other elephants. His release will give him the opportunity to live out his life among a social group of his peers.

WATCH: Orphan Elephant Conquer His Fear of Water With Help From His Loving Human

Cher sent one of her representatives to the zoo in 2016 to advocate for Kaavan. That same year, she also advocated for human rights by delivering water to Flint, Michigan, during its drinking water crisis.

The pop star is incredibly thankful that hers and others’ efforts have paid off. “It’s so emotional for us that I have to sit down,” she wrote.

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Tiny Forests Are Springing Up All Around Europe, Inspired By Japan, to Help Restore Biodiversity

Using the methods of Japan’s most famous botanist, European countries are beginning to dot their urban landscapes with tiny forests, as productive and biodiverse as any in wilderness areas, yet sometimes only as big as a tennis court.

The idea is that volunteers can plant densely-packed clusters of seedlings from indigenous plants to create a small functional ecosystem that can restore soil, protect resources like water and air quality, and act as a biodiversity hotspot that can have a measurable effect on both the local and regional environment.

Akira Miyawaki was the botanist who in 1970 observed that trees around Japan’s Shinto and Buddhist shrines tended to be native species, well-adapted to the soil and climate of the islands of Japan.

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He later found that only 0.06% of contemporary Japanese forests were indigenous forests, with the sizable remainder populated by non-native tree species, or planted in unnatural ways.

He pioneered a method of restoring indigenous forests on degraded or deforested land which had been devoid of humus. It came to be known as the Miyawaki method. Using this formula he created over 1,700 forests throughout Asia, 96.7% of which developed into a resilient ecosystem within ten years.

Miyawaki in Europe

Growing more than 10x faster, and possessing up to 20x more biodiversity potential than contemporary forests, the Miyawaki method is perfect for organizations like Urban Forests in France and Belgium, and the Tiny Forest initiative in Holland, with their strong desire to prevent the worst of climate change upon their nations’ relatively small landmass.

Urban Forest in Belgium – Instagram @urbanforestsbelgium

On March 2nd Urban Forests finished a 22-species, 1,200-tree Miyawaki forest in Toulouse, France, planted on 400 square meters—the first such forest in Toulouse.

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“The plantations are made in a very dense way, in order to favor the cooperation between the species,” Audrey, one of Urban Forests’ volunteers explained to Actu Toulouse. “It captures more CO2 and trees grow up to ten times faster than in a conventional forest.”

It’s just one of many Urban Forests’ projects, and the fifth that the nonprofit has completed this year. In total their Miyawaki forests across Belgium and France consist of 21,000 trees over 7,000 square meters.

The Tiny Forest Initiative started in 2015 in the Dutch city of Zaandam by the Institute for Nature Education and Sustainability (IVN), has created 100 Miyawaki forests across the country, and had planned an additional 30 for the first three months of 2020.

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In 2017, ecologists at Wageningen University in Holland examined the newly planted mini-forests and concluded that tiny forests “increase the biodiversity compared to the nearby forest. Both the number of species groups and the number of individuals is generally higher than in the reference forests.”

They also found that biodiversity was improved because sunlight was able to reach more species of local plants known to local pollinators. The forests also provided “more variety in food and shelter for a higher diversity of animals like insects, snails, butterflies, amphibians, bugs, grasshoppers.”

“This is a great thing to do,” said wildlife researcher Eric Dinerstein in a recent scientific publication. “So this could be another aspect for suburban and urban areas, to create wildlife corridors through contiguous ribbons of mini-forest.”

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In Show of Solidarity, Morocco Sends 8 Million Masks to 15 African Nations

King Mohammed VI of Morocco has sent 8 million masks and millions of other pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE) to 15 different African nations.

Including almost one million facial visors, 600,000 plastic hair caps, and 60,000 gowns, the aid will be distributed between Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Comoros, Congo, Eswatini, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Malawi, Mauritania, Niger, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Senegal, Tanzania, Chad and Zambia, according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

COVID-19 has been slow to arrive in Africa, but as many European and Asian countries are beginning to reopen, the pandemic is on the move in many countries on the continent.

RELATED: Startup in Uganda Recycles Plastic Bottles into PPE Face Shields For Hospitals

Having seen successful examples of beating COVID-19 in countries like South Korea, Germany, and New Zealand, Morocco and other African nations already have case examples and best-practices to base defense strategies on—and it’s this that Morocco hopes to encourage and support in other nations.

It also came just days after Morocco showed its desire to construct the headquarters of the African Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the country under the auspices of the African Union.

MOREGhanaian Man Invents Solar-Powered Hand-washing Basin During Lockdown to Encourage Sanitary Habits

Registering its first case on March 2nd, Morocco has seen only 200 deaths and around 9,000 infections.

Along with making masks compulsory in public, Morocco has painted masks onto the fronts of their train cars and buses as a cute way to raise awareness.

WATCH the video from Africa News… (King of Morocco photo by MehdiBitw98, CC license)

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Startup in Uganda Recycles Plastic Bottles into PPE Face Shields For Hospitals

Killing two birds with one stone, two Ugandan entrepreneurs working to up-cycle plastic waste into building materials have altered their production to tackle the shortages of personal protective medical equipment (PPE) in hospitals dealing with the country’s COVID-19 patients.

After the government ordered all non-essential businesses closed, Peter Okwoko and his colleague Paige Balcom, co-founders of Takataka Plastics, continued working in their plastics processing facility.

But, instead of things like roof tiles, they began recycling plastic waste into face shields for medical workers.

After posting an image of their prototype on social media, the pair got a surprising call from a regional hospital asking for 10 face shields because they didn’t have enough.

Using locally-sourced moulds for molten plastic, the two finished the order and delivered them, before getting a call later in the afternoon from the very same hospital asking for more because “the first ones worked out so well for them,” Okwoko, 29, told Reuters.

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PPE and Plastic Recycling

PPE shortages have occurred world-wide, and Ugandan hospitals are are no exception, but Takataka Plastics has, so far, made 1,200 face shields. Even more inspiring, the company’s staff of 14, includes six employees who were homeless, jobless youth.

Around 500 of the shields have been sold to NGOs and privately-managed health facilities at a low cost and the other 700 were donated to public hospitals.

RELATED: South Korea Sends 10K Masks to Navajo Nation to Honor Their Service as ‘Code Talkers’ During Korean War

Takataka hopes to build upon the success of the face shields and expand its operations into a more appropriate plastic processing and recycling facility. Currently their location can reduce around 132 pounds (60 kgs) of plastic per-day, but they are aiming to establish a monthly capacity of 9 metric tons.

Uganda sees hundreds of tons of plastic thrown away annually, and their innovative solution to the PPE crisis has pushed these entrepreneurs to dream bigger.

Need more positive stories and updates coming out of the COVID-19 challenge? For more uplifting coverage, click here.

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Buried Roman City Mapped in Stunning Detail Using Ground-Penetrating Radar

For some years now, archaeologists have been employing a technology called ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to discover what lies beneath their feet without the risk of damaging ancient artifacts and structures with shovels and trowels.

Over the years the technology of GPR has advanced, and it was recently used to produce a map of an entire Roman city buried underground without overturning a single grain of soil.

The GPR produced images of the roman city of Falerii Novi in stunning detail, revealing the existence of a market, roads, a temple, monuments, and a bath complex with a network of underground pipes suggesting a sophisticated plumbing system.

The team, from the University of Cambridge and Ghent University, were able to map the city in layers, and deduce how it changed over time; something that could only be done previously with risky, costly, and laborious excavation processes.

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“The astonishing level of detail which we have achieved at Falerii Novi, and the surprising features that GPR has revealed, suggest that this type of survey could transform the way archaeologists investigate urban sites, as total entities,” said Professor and author of the discovery’s corresponding paper, Martin Millett from the University of Cambridge in a statement.

Furthermore, different kinds of radio waves can be thrust into the ground to create even more detailed images—including catching anomalies that not have been detected by other forms of radar. The forum tabernae (shop units) appear, for example, in an earlier magnetometer survey, but not in the GPR survey.

L. Verdonck, Cambridge

One small problem with the technology was encountered however: the sheer amount of data required for such detailed imagery necessitates around 4.5GB and 20 hours of manual computer work per-hectare surveyed, and the authors suggest that assistance from new computer processing programs may be needed in the future.

What was Falerii Novi like?

GPR works like regular radar, bouncing radio waves off objects and using the ‘echo’ to build up a picture at different depths. By towing their GPR instruments behind a quad bike, the archaeologists surveyed all 30.5 hectares (90 acres) within the city’s walls, taking a reading every 12.5cm.

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Falerii Novi was just under half the size of Pompeii and was located 50 km north of Rome. It was first occupied in 241 BC and survived into the medieval period until around AD 700. Although small, Falerii Novi is characterized by some truly remarkable details.

In a southern district, just within the city’s walls, GPR revealed a large rectangular building connected to a series of water pipes which lead to the city’s aqueduct. Remarkably, these pipes can be traced across much of Falerii Novi, running beneath city blocks and houses in a meticulously-organized system of plumbing, rather than only alongside them as has been documented in other places, such as Crete.

L. Verdonck, Cambridge

The team believes that the large-rectangular structure was a natatio, an open-air pool close to the bathhouses, forming part of a substantial public bathing complex—a sort of Roman waterpark.

Even more unexpectedly, near the city’s north gate, the team identified a pair of large structures facing each other within a porticus duplex (a covered passageway). They know of no direct parallel in existing Roman architectural sites but believe these were part of an impressive public monument.

Porta di Giove (Falerii Novi) – CC license

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“It is exciting and now realistic to imagine GPR being used to survey a major city such as Miletus in Turkey, Nicopolis in Greece or Cyrene in Libya”, Millett said. “We still have so much to learn about Roman urban life and this technology should open up unprecedented opportunities for decades to come.”

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Unemployed Single Women Are Saving Fish and Making Money by Farming Sea Sponges

This article was reprinted with permission from World At Large—a news website which covers politics, nature, science, health, and travel.

In an area characterized by poverty, overexploitation of sea resources, and high rates of unemployment, these women from Zanzibar are beginning to farm sea sponges as a more reliable source of income.

Organized by Marine Cultures, a small Zanzibar-focused nonprofit headquartered in Zurich, 3 to 4 sea sponge farms are being launched every year to help unemployed and single mothers support their families.

Historically relying on seaweed for income, the people of Jambiani have been unable to rely on the trade because of disruptions in production from diseases and pests, and the crop’s low market price worldwide.

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Marine Cultures’s Christian Vaterlaus recently detailed how sponge farming became the primary idea for saving the livelihoods of these seaweed farmers in an article published in PANORAMA: a platform hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for nonprofits and other organizations to host solutions that benefit the natural world.

Trial and error

“When searching for alternative means of income, many aspects such as the know-how of the parties involved, eco-friendliness, market opportunities, investment requirements, general acceptance of the method, scalability, and availability of resources need to be considered,” wrote Vaterlaus. However, “aquaculture of sponges was identified to be a suitable alternative to seaweed farming promising substantially higher incomes.”

A research trip to Southeast Asia and the Pacific yielded this idea after the group witnessed an organization working with community members to farm sea sponges and invertebrates with materials and methods that were both sustainable and very cheap.

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Sea sponges are used around the world as shower luffas and sustainable methods for removing makeup and paint. Since the sponges are anti-allergenic, dermatologists often recommend them for washing infants or for those with sensitive skin.

After Marine Cultures opened up their first sea sponge farm in Zanzibar back in 2009, they started testing more than 120 species of sponges to find one that was not only suitable for use in the bath, but also sustainable and environmentally harmless.

“We had to invest a lot of time to figure out best farming methods,” writes Vaterlaus.

Photo by Marine Cultures

Acquaculturalist’s almanac

Since their sponge farming operation was slow to get off the ground, Marine Cultures also started coral farming for the international aquarium trade in 2014.

Vaterlaus says that aquaculture practices—such as sea sponge farming—is “like land-based agriculture where years of experience and trial and error are key to shape best practices.” That being said, the hard work can certainly pay off; one single farm can feed 2 to 3 large families while 3 new farms can be launched each year.

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In contrast to pearl or fish farming, a sponge farm can be started with little to no effort while simultaneously empowering local women to learn the skills of a fisherman, marine biologist, merchant, entrepreneur, swimmer, and farmer all at once.

“To save the created jobs in the long-term, the coastal communities of Zanzibar have to learn more about the sea, the importance of corals, sea grass, mangroves and biodiversity to manage their natural marine resources themselves sustainably,” added Vaterlaus.

Photo by Marine Cultures

Sponge farming 2020

A Marine Cultures update published in February 2020 says the sponge farming operations are going well. The older sponge farms managed by some of the Jambiani women are producing more sponges these days than in previous years, as ecological conditions improve and knowledge is shared among participants.

Shemsa is just one of the Zanzibar women who have found success in sea sponge farming. She told Marine Cultures: “We’ve always lived in the lagoon with sponges—but only now have we learned how they help us to improve our lives and those of our children.

“Sometimes something is very close to us without us knowing how to make money with it,” she added. “Thanks to my training as a sponge farmer, I can feed my family, build my own house and have electricity. We may never achieve all of our goals, but I have already achieved half of mine.”

Reprinted with permission from World at Large

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New Zealand Has Eradicated COVID-19 – ‘Crushing’ the Virus to End Social Distancing

Things have gone so well in New Zealand concerning COVID-19 that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her cabinet have decided that almost all restrictions can now be removed.

After 40,000 people tested, 12 days with no one entering hospitals, 40 days since the last community transmission, and 22 days since that person finished their self-isolation, New Zealand is looking to restart its economy by lowering preventative measures to the lowest level.

Maintaining strict border controls to keep people from bringing the virus into the country, all restrictions on people and businesses within the country were lifted June 7. Officials only ask that citizens keep track of where they’ve been and who they have been in contact with for contact tracing purposes should another outbreak occur.

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“We united in unprecedented ways to crush the virus,” Ardern said at a press conference in Wellington. “Our goal was to move out the other side as quickly and as safely as we could. We now have a head-start on our economic recovery.”

Furthermore, while some domestic sports leagues have resumed around the world, like the German Bundesliga—albeit without crowds, the rugby-obsessed Pacific nation will be the first country that has dealt with its burden of infection to welcome spectators back into professional sports stadiums.

MORE: Millions of COVID Cases and Deaths Averted During Lockdowns: ‘One of Humanity’s Greatest Achievements’

With a small and often localized population, New Zealand was able to enforce even stricter lockdown measures than in other parts of the world—stalling the disease after 1,500 confirmed cases and 22 deaths. They’ve achieved eradication of the virus and are the first country to do so.

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