Bubbles that fight trash, and a penguin chick surprise

1. United States

Veteran homelessness has declined in the U.S. Between 2010 and 2020, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness around the country halved. The 2022 Point-in-Time Count, a measure from a single night in January 2022 and the most recent data, shows an 11% drop between 2020 and 2022, from around 37,000 to 33,000 individuals.

In February, the Department of Veterans Affairs embarked on an ambitious effort to house the vast majority of homeless veterans. As of the end of September, the organization reported 34,373 housing placements.

Why We Wrote This

A story focused on

In this roundup, progress came from dogged effort and unique perspectives, not extraordinary science or concepts. The global examples range from trash cleanup and species recovery to easing conditions for people along an African border.

Alongside the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the VA has adopted a “Housing First” approach, which has seen success in cities like Houston. Individuals are placed in no-strings-attached housing, and then given the comprehensive support they need to stay housed. HUD credits $481 million in funding from the American Rescue Plan for accelerating programs.

Francine Kieffer/The Christian Science Monitor/File
Veteran Jack Rivers sorts through items at his former encampment home at Venice Beach in California, July 9, 2021.

“We made this progress during a global pandemic and economic crisis,” said USICH Executive Director Jeff Olivet. “Even under the most difficult circumstances, we can take care of each other and address homelessness.”

Sources: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Veterans Affairs

2. Gambia

The Senegambia Bridge is proving the power of infrastructure to connect people. Truck drivers from Senegal carrying perishable goods used to wait hours and sometimes days for a ferry to carry them across the Gambia River, which separates northern Senegal from its southern Casamance region. Milk went bad; fresh fruit rotted. Even ambulances got stuck. To make matters worse, ferries only traveled in the daytime. Now, everyone from merchants to police officers can cross the bridge in a matter of minutes.

The Senegambia Bridge, financed by the African Development Bank was inaugurated in 2019 following decades of delays.

Easing the divide is important to West Africa’s stability, where Senegal is the only country of 15 to have never suffered a military coup. Recent developments have hinted at progress: In August, one rebel faction in the low-level, four-decade Casamance conflict signed a peace deal with the Senegalese government. And some see the bridge as a symbol of neighborly kinship following years of border tension between Senegal and Gambia. Sgt. Lamin Badjie, one of the Gambian military personnel stationed at the bridge, said, “It makes us more united. We’re the same people.” The bridge was financed by the African Development Bank and completed in 2019, when presidents of both countries traveled across the bridge in one car.
Sources: The New York Times, United States Institute of Peace

3. The Netherlands

Dutch engineers are using bubbles to prevent river trash from traveling downstream. On the Oude Rijn River in the coastal municipality of Katwijk, air bubbles rise from a perforated tube laid diagonally on the river bottom, which work with the current to direct pollution to one side of the riverbed for collection. The curtain of bubbles allows fish to swim through and has no effect on passing boats. Considering trial data, local officials expect between 86% and 90% of the plastic pollution to be removed.

Peter Dejong/AP/File
A “bubble barrier” operates in an Amsterdam canal in 2019, capturing plastic but letting wildlife and boats pass by.

The startup behind the idea, The Great Bubble Barrier, piloted its design in an Amsterdam canal in 2018. It was installed as a supplement to dredging, which extracts 42,000 kg (92,594 lbs) of plastic waste in Amsterdam every year. The technology is currently limited to waterways of a certain depth and where there is less ship traffic, but the company is working on scaling up the system. The company was nominated this year for Prince William’s £1 million Earthshot Prize for potential environmental solutions.
Source: The Guardian

4. Pakistan

Pakistan’s Senate voted to criminalize the torture of detainees. The move comes on the heels of protests among lawmakers against the October arrest and alleged torture of Sen. Azam Swati, who ostensibly made “controversial claims” against state institutions. And three years ago, in a widely publicized case, Salahuddin Ayubi, whose family said had a mental health condition, died in police custody after he was arrested for theft.

Pakistan ratified an international treaty in 2010 against torture and other degrading punishment, but there was no domestic legislation making torture a crime. The goal of the new legislation “is to criminalise and prevent acts of torture, custodial death and custodial rape committed against persons held in custody by public officials, and to provide redress to the victims of such acts.” Human rights advocates say that despite security forces’ record of custodial torture, a new law is a step toward reform.
Sources: Dawn, Human Rights Watch

5. South Africa

Two endangered African penguin chicks defied expectations by hatching in a nature reserve in South Africa. When conservationist Christina Hagen spotted the first “little fluffy shape” at the De Hoop Nature Reserve in the Western Cape province, she was speechless. “It happened faster than I expected,” she said. She and others have been working for four years to coax African penguins to settle and roost at the mainland site, which was chosen for the plentiful fish stocks in the area.

The African penguin, the continent’s only native penguin species, began to decline in the 1800s, with numbers dropping 65% since 1989, given climate change, commercial fishing, and harvesting of eggs for food and guano for fertilizer. Only around 10,000 breeding pairs remain in South Africa.

At the De Hoop reserve, a speaker broadcasts penguin calls throughout the day, and decoy penguins made of cement are meant to make the space more attractive to newcomers. The area is protected by an electrified fence to keep out predators. Adult penguins typically return to where they were raised, and over 140 young penguins have been released at the site since 2021.
Source: Mongabay

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to Bubbles that fight trash, and a penguin chick surprise
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today