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Good News: Teen Wins Award for Discovery That Could Lead to a COVID Cure, Restoring California Forests, + Banning Glyphosate

By Manna Zel

It’s the end of the month, so it’s officially time for some good news. This time, a nonprofit is redesigning the restoration of California forests lost to wildfires, San Francisco is categorizing racist 911 calls as hate crimes, and a 14-year-old Indian American scientist won $25,000 for a discovery that just might result in a cure for COVID-19.

October 7: How to redesign a forest: restoring California’s trees in the age of fire (Fast Company)

In California alone this year, a record-breaking four million acres (roughly the size of Connecticut) have burned in wildfires, which makes it more difficult for forests to regrow in the long run. 

“The fires are coming back so frequently, and they burn so hot, that they take out all the mature, seed-bearing trees,” Austin Rempel, senior manager of forest restoration at the nonprofit American Forests, says, essentially describing semi permanent forest loss. “There just isn’t a source of seed for trees to come back after fire.” What American Forests aims to do, though, is reduce the risk of wildfires burning through forests by replanting small groups of trees at a distance from one another, so wildfires can’t extend from one group of trees to another. 

October 9: World Food Program Awarded Nobel Peace Prize for Work During Pandemic (The New York Times)

According to a projection by the World Food Program, approximately 265 million people’s lives could be threatened by food insecurity this year, a number that’s more than doubled since last year. When a person or community is food insecure, they lack reliable access to sufficient, affordable, and nutritious food. Backed by the United Nations, the World Food Program is the largest humanitarian organization working to eliminate hunger and food insecurity across the world; last year, they assisted nearly 100 million people in 88 countries. This year, they were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their work, which has grown throughout the pandemic. 

“In the face of the pandemic, the World Food Program has demonstrated an impressive ability to intensify its efforts,” Berit Reiss-Andersen, chair of the Norwegian Nobel Committee, says

October 19: This 14-year-old girl won a $25K prize for a discovery that could lead to a cure for COVID-19 (CNN)

When 14-year-old Anika Chebrolu learned about the 1918 flu pandemic and how deeply people in America are impacted by viruses each year, she knew she wanted to use science to find cures for viruses. Recently, she won the 2020 3M Young Scientist Challenge for a discovery that could lead to a therapy for COVID-19. Though her initial project focused on the influenza virus, the Indian American teenager thought it profound that she was living through such a widespread pandemic and quickly pivoted her project to target the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Chebrolu’s project, she told CNN, “reflects our collective hopes to end this pandemic as I, like everyone else, wish that we go back to our normal lives.” 

October 20: San Francisco’s ‘Caren Act’ makes placing racist 911 calls a hate crime (The Guardian)

If you’ve been online this summer, and even before then, you’ve probably seen footage of a wild Karen, an entitled white person who operates from a place of privilege. In many cases, you’ll see a Karen calling the cops on Black people and other people of color—or giving them trouble—for simply existing (think selling water bottles, barbecuing, and just trying to get into their home). In recent developments in San Francisco legislature, leaders unanimously voted to designate those racist 911 calls as hate crimes, and if targeted with a racist 911 call, the target will have the option of suing the person who made the call. And, of course, the name—the Caren Act—is a reference to the Karens of the world. 

October 20: The City of Sarasota, FL unanimously voted to ban glyphosate (Non-Toxic Neighborhoods)

For their city parks and land, the City of Sarasota, FL has unanimously decided to utilize organic and regenerative land management and ban glyphosate across the city. Glyphosate, the base of the herbicide Roundup, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. The World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer deems glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” and the Environmental Protection Agency has identified that the herbicide poses ecological risks for “terrestrial and aquatic plants, birds, and mammals, primarily from exposure to spray drift.” Reported by the nonprofit Non-Toxic Neighborhoods, which works to transition communities to organic and regenerative management and ban harmful pesticides, the City of Sarasota is taking the first step to ensure that glyphosate—or as they call it, an ecocide—will no longer affect their soil, parks, food, or water.