Episode 5 of The Upside aired on 31 May 2022 on 2BBB from 1400-1600. You can find all of this week’s good news stories below.
2:30pm Rio’s Life-Saving Gardens
For our first story this week, I heard about community gardens in Rio de Janiero that are changing not only the literal landscape of inner city favelas but also the lives of their inhabitants.
Hortas Cariocas, which translates as “Carioca Gardens” – carioca being the term for people who live in Rio – was started in 2006 by an agronomist to increase access to affordable healthy foods and create jobs and training opportunities. Many of the now 55 garden locations are developed on formerly unused or idle land that had been frequented by gangs and drug users.
Gardens are tended by local favela residents who report feeling happier, healthier and more fulfilled as a result of taking part in the project. While half the produce generated in the gardens is donated to the community, the rest may be sold and thus allows the gardeners a chance to earn some money. Ezekial Dias Areas, who manages a team of gardeners at one of the largest sites, said that without the garden “today I might be selling drugs, I might be dead, I might be in prison.” And last September, Rio’s mayor announced plans to develop “the largest urban garden in the world.”
Btw, the Oxford English Dictionary defines an agronomist as “an expert in the science of soil management and crop production.” Tangentially related, I saw a documentary by filmmaker Jonathan Demme ages ago called The Agronomist (2003) about Jean Dominique, a human rights activist in Haiti. An agronomist by training, he was imprisoned by the Duvalier regime after fighting for the rights of the farmers he worked alongside. After being released, he was no longer allowed to work as an agronomist and became a radio journalist, inspiring many to fight political oppression and campaign for democracy. Sadly he was assassinated in 2000. But I highly recommend the film, which seems to be available streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
3pm Green Nobel Prizes
The winners of the 2022 Goldman Environmental Prize were announced this past week, an award often referred to as the “Green Nobel Prize.”
(Note: back in the second episode of this show on May 10th I told you about the Snow Leopard Trust winning a Whitley Award, aka the “Green Oscars”; not sure what the “Green Tonies” or “Green Emmys” will be but stay tuned!)
As the official awards site notes, “The Goldman Environmental Prize honors ordinary people who take extraordinary actions to protect our planet.” Australian Julian Vincent won for his “successful grassroots campaign to defund coal in Australia, a major coal exporter, culminating in commitments from the nation’s four largest banks to end funding for coal projects by 2030.” Australia feeling the effects of climate change in profound and unsettling ways, as his award profile notes, should come as no surprise to any listeners of this show. Julian’s Market Forces group, which he founded in 2013, has been working to combat climate change by leveraging financial arguments against investing in coal mixed with pleas for a cleaner future world.
And staying in Australia a brief moment further, as we all will have heard there is a new Prime Minister and government after the election, which many commentators both within Australia and in the rest of the world call it a “climate election.” The CEO of Greenpeace Australia said, “Australian voters have made the call for urgent climate action, and now it’s time for the new parliament to roll up its sleeves and get on with the job.”There are many winners listed from around the world with inspiring projects and stories so I encourage you to check out their profiles at goldmanprize.org for some motivation.
3:30pm We Are Not Divided
Finally, our last story for the week concerns the basis for this here radio show, and the whole reason I decided to feature the flip side of the news on it: tuning into the news, whether on social media, tv or radio broadcast, print or digital, you tend to hear about conflict, irresolution, and division. And while there are good reasons to hear about war and abuse in the world, we don’t get to hear about positive developments as much.
Which brings me to an uplifting and informative collaboration from Reasons to be Cheerful (founded by David Byrne), The Guardian, The Marshall Project, Freakanomics radio, the CBC, and others.
The project is called We Are Not Divided, and it explores “the many ways we bridge our divides” instead of the ways we oppose each other. It’s well worth your time to have a look at https://wearenotdivided.reasonstobecheerful.world/ where you can find stories like:
- How an “unlikely friendship” helped to legalize same sex marriage in Ireland
- A “radical experiment” testing our ideas of familiarity and identity in Botswana
- A look at government-mandated diversity in Singapore
- And the potential of a “civil religion” in the very widely reported fractured United States to find common ground
We Are Not Divided brings a breath of fresh air, in my opinion, and is a six week experiment in evidence-based reporting on how people are crossing divides and coming together.