Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon fell by nearly 50% in 2023 compared to 2022

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The world’s latest milestones for climate, justice, peace, health, and more

January 15 – 21 2024 C.E.

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon fell by nearly 50% in 2023 compared to 2022

President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva pledged to end deforestation by 2030 when he took office a year ago. Preliminary data from national space agency Inpe showed 5,153 sq km of the Amazon were cleared in 2023, down from 10,278 sq km in 2022. Rainforest destruction had surged to a 12-year high under his predecessor, Jair Bolsonaro.

Biden administration to forgive another $4.9 billion in student debt for 73,600 borrowers

The Biden administration has now canceled more than $136 billion in student debt for over 3.7 million Americans, according to the White House. Around $1.7 billion of this new aid will go to 29,700 borrowers enrolled in income-driven repayment plans. In addition, 43,900 borrowers who have worked in public service for a decade or more will receive $3.2 billion in loan cancellation.

New protein test can detect 18 early stage cancers, scientists say

The team from U.S. biotech firm Novelna wrote: “At stage I (the earliest cancer stage) and at the specificity of 99%, our panels were able to identify 93% of cancers among males and 84% of cancers among females.” It believes its cheaper, less invasive multi-cancer screening test could be a ‘gamechanger.’

Poland to halt logging in 10 of its most ancient forest

Paulina Hennig-Kloska, who was appointed as Poland’s climate and environment minister in December 2023, said that the half-year moratorium in forests across the country was the first step to limiting logging. The government promised in its coalition agreement to protect 20% of the country’s forests.

U.K. announces groundbreaking ‘Flee Funds’ scheme for domestic abuse survivors

Building on the success of a pilot plan last year, which provided 600 victims with critical funding, the new initiative aims to expand what are now known as “flee funds.” Survivors will each receive a monetary reward of around $3,200, meeting a critical need for people who face financial difficulties in leaving abusive environments.

11 countries sign global pact to protect endangered river dolphins

Since the 1980s, the combined populations of river dolphin species have plummeted by 73%. With the Global Declaration for River Dolphins, 14 countries are expected to join forces to protect six surviving species. So far, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Brazil, Cambodia, Colombia, Ecuador, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Peru, and Venezuela have signed the declaration.

Leading heat pump manufacturers develop next-generation prototypes to withstand subfreezing weather

The U.S. Department of Energy has announced that four heat pump manufacturers successfully produced heat pump prototypes as part of the Residential Cold Climate Heat Pump (CCHP) Technology Challenge. Launched in 2021, this initiative brings together public and private sector stakeholders to address technical challenges and market barriers to adopting next-generation cold-climate heat pumps—a key clean energy technology that can potentially save households $500 a year or more on their utility bills while also slashing harmful carbon emissions.

Forest restoration planned for Colombia’s Farallones de Cali National Park

The $3.7-million project could take several decades because of the severity of the environmental damage done by illegal mining, which has deforested the park and polluted its rivers with mercury. The 485,226-acre national park is an important biological corridor along Colombia’s Pacific coast.

Indigenous effort in Bangladesh helps reverse endangered fish’s slide to extinction

Unchecked logging and quarrying of rocks from streambeds in Bangladesh’s Chittagong Hill Tracts led to springs drying up and populations of putitor mahseer fish, an endangered species, disappearing. A project launched in 2016 and backed by USAID and the UNDP is working with Indigenous communities to reverse this decline. Now, as a result of these efforts, areas where forests have been conserved have seen the flow of springs stabilize and fish populations revive.

Psilocybin effectively treats depression in cancer patients, new study finds

New research from Maryland-based Sunstone Therapies found that psilocybin-assisted therapy for cancer patients induced a clinically meaningful improvement in depression symptoms, with 80% of participants demonstrating a sustained response and 50% showing full remission of depression symptoms at week one, which was sustained for eight weeks.

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The U.S. passes the Higher Education Act into law, making student loans widely available for the first time (1965 C.E.)

Federal student loans were first offered in the U.S. in 1958 under the National Defense Education Act. However, they were only available to select categories of students, such as those studying engineering, science, or education. Low-income student loans only became more broadly available in the 1960s under the Higher Education Act of 1965, which also increased federal money given to universities, created scholarships, and established a National Teachers Corps.
Wikipedia – Students loans in the U.S.

The U.S. guarantees debt-free higher education as a basic right for all

After decades of increasing student loan debt crippling America’s future generations, Congress passes a bipartisan bill to ensure no American ever again has to be saddled with lifelong debt in order to get the education and training they need to pursue their dreams and make their contribution to society.
University for the People: 5 Reasons Why College Should Be Free: The Case for Debt-Free Education

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Spark Blog

Reflections and ramblings from Peter Schulte

Did I make the right decision?

So many of our big life decisions are leaps of faith. We usually don’t have all the information we need to make a fully informed decision. We can’t fully predict what the future will bring or how we will feel about it. We rarely feel 100% sure.

And so we do our best and jump into the unknown.

Soon, we find ourselves on the other side of our big decision – in a new job or a new city, without an old partner, or with crying babies to take care of. And there’s almost always at least one – if not many – moments of doubt. We can’t help but wonder: Did I make the right decision? Should I have stayed at my old job? Should I have moved somewhere else? Do I really want kids?

There are certainly some times when the answer is clear. You didn’t make the right decision. Perhaps you are in an abusive or otherwise toxic situation. The only answer is to admit your mistake and make a new decision.

But these times when we obviously made the wrong decision are perhaps more rare than we think. There’s usually some evidence to suggest we made the right decision and some evidence to suggest we made the wrong decision. There are aspects of the decision that are working well and aspects that aren’t quite what we had imagined or hoped.

Rather than get sucked into a vortex of doubt and second-guessing, I often find it most helpful to simply believe that there is no right decision or wrong decision. Or perhaps, many different decisions can be the right decision.

The question is not: Did I make the right decision? The question is: Have I fully stood by my decision? Have I offered it the kindness, patience, and curiosity that I would a struggling friend? Have I truly given it the sunlight, water, and time it needs to blossom?

How can I make this the right decision?

Peter Schulte

Leadership Coach

Founder & Executive Director, Spark of Genius


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