What a view: More starlit skies and a mapped ocean floor

There’s progress from the skies to ocean depths – and in between. The cooperation of neighbors in Rio de Janeiro to grow food near home has led to plans to knit together separate green spaces to make a large city farm. 

1. Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is building the world’s largest urban garden following success with community gardening. Large-scale community gardens have thrived in vulnerable neighborhoods of the city in recent years, even transforming a former dump into organic plots of cassava and other vegetables.

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In our progress roundup, cooperation across groups is required to achieve a goal, whether it’s eliminating light pollution or gathering data from ships and governments about the ocean.

Last year, the municipal government announced plans to connect two existing gardens at either end of a 4.5-kilometer (2.8-mile) park in a move that is estimated to help feed 50,000 local families. The greenway displaced informal subsistence gardens when it was built in 2012.

Silvia Izquierdo/AP
Candida Valeria holds up a beetroot she harvested at a community garden in the Madureira neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro.

The new project is helping to “reclaim the area,” said Julio Cesar Barros, coordinator of Carioca Gardens, which supports 55 community gardens across Rio de Janeiro. Gardeners from five local favelas will tend the new garden for a stipend, donating half the produce to their communities. While coordinating with residents’ associations and municipal authorities and navigating networks of local drug traffickers poses challenges, residents are enthusiastic about the project. Without his local garden, Ezequiel Dias Areas said, “I might be selling drugs, I might be dead, I might be in prison.”
Source: Positive News

2. United States

More companies are partnering with historically Black colleges and universities to expand professional opportunities for their graduates. Many corporations have been working to diversify their staffs for years, but a nationwide demand for greater racial equity after the 2020 murder of George Floyd accelerated efforts. Organizations such as Google, IBM, United, and the NFL are teaming up with HBCUs for recruitment as well as investing in courses, technology, and mentorship to support the next generation of Black individuals and other people of color.

Carolyn Kaster/AP
Jasmine Marchbanks-Owens is a law student at Howard University in Washington, D.C., one of the oldest and largest HBCUs in the United States.

The country’s 102 HBCUs train 50% of Black lawyers, 40% of Black engineers, and 12.5% of Black CEOs, according to data from the Thurgood Marshall College Fund. The push to tap into these talent networks is being driven indirectly by consumers. “Especially for those companies that are consumer brands, their customers are saying that they want to see something happen,” said David Marshall, chair of the department of strategic communication at Morgan State University.
Source: The Hechinger Report

3. Antarctica

The most precise map yet of the Southern Ocean floor paves the way for safer navigation and more robust conservation. Scientists developed the International Bathymetric Chart of the Southern Ocean over the past five years, combining their own data with contributions from governments, institutions, and ships that navigate the waters. The map covers 77 million square kilometers (47.8 million square miles) of underwater canyons, mountains, and plains around Antarctica and includes the deepest depression discovered to date: the Factorian Deep, which is 7,432 meters (24,383 feet) down.

The first comprehensive chart, published in 2013, mapped the area of the ocean floor around Antarctica up to the latitude of 60 degrees south. This map expands the coverage to the 50-degree line, which scientists say more than doubles the area of the chart, and will help researchers better manage fisheries, protect biodiversity hot spots, and refine climate models. The project received funding from Japan’s Nippon Foundation and Seabed 2030, an international campaign to chart the globe’s ocean floor by the end of the decade. In the future, robotic vessels may be able to map the most inaccessible regions of the Antarctic sea.
Sources: BBC, Scientific Data

4. Tunisia

Ons Jabeur became the first Arab woman to compete in a Grand Slam tennis championship final. Ms. Jabeur began telling friends she was going to win the French Open when she was 9 – an ambition that earned little more than chuckles at the time. This year, the tennis star reached No. 2 in the world before making it to the Wimbledon singles final, where she lost to Elena Rybakina.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP
Tunisia’s Ons Jabeur serves to Kazakhstan’s Elena Rybakina during the Wimbledon tennis championships in London, July 9, 2022.

No woman from Africa had ever made the Women’s Tennis Association’s top 10 rankings before Ms. Jabeur earned her spot last year. At home, she is known as “Wazeerat Al Sa’ada,” or the “Minister of Happiness,” among her fans. “I want to see more players from my country, from the Middle East, from Africa,” said Ms. Jabeur. “I think we didn’t believe enough at [a] certain point that we can do it. Now I’m just trying to show that.”
Sources: The Washington Post, WBUR


A record number of dark-sky protection areas are defending against light pollution. The International Dark-Sky Association was founded in 1988 by two astronomers committed to safeguarding the skies from excessive light pollution, which has risen 49% in the past 25 years. Research suggests that light pollution negatively impacts animals, plants, and ecosystems.
Achieving dark-sky status often begins with a small group of dedicated community members, and generally takes between one and three years, including official assessments, light measurements, and review processes. The first International Dark Sky Place was inaugurated in Flagstaff, Arizona, in 2001. Since then, 195 sites across all six inhabited continents have been certified by the association, totaling over 110,000 square kilometers (42,471 square miles) of sky.
Sources: BBC, International Dark-Sky Association

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