The week's good news: March 2, 2023
It wasn't all bad!
This conservationist is working to keep the Peruvian Amazon wild
Fighting back against deforestation, animal trafficking, and other threats to biodiversity isn't easy, but Samantha Zwicker and Hoja Nueva are up to the challenge — and seeing success. Zwicker is the founder and co-director of Hoja Nueva, a conservation organization and rehabilitation center in the Las Piedras region of the Peruvian Amazon. Las Piedras is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world, home to more than 100 species of mammals, 200 species of reptiles and amphibians, and 700 species of birds. The organization's mission is to protect the land; rescue and rewild animals; conduct ecological research; and empower and educate local communities on conservation efforts. Hoja Nueva is Spanish for "new leaf," which is "a really beautiful name," Zwicker told The Week. "It made sense with the saying 'turning a new leaf.' I wanted to turn a new leaf for conservation, and approach it differently in this region." Over the last 10 years, Zwicker and Hoja Nueva have been leading the way in research and rehabilitating wildlife, and now have nearly 60 animals in their care that they are preparing to reintroduce to the wild. The team is always looking ahead, and their goals include getting government protection for Las Piedras and having "a bigger impact on research and science coming out of this region, so people can recognize how incredible and vital it is," Zwicker said.
Ohio barber puts his clients with special needs at ease
Barber Vernon Jackson will do whatever it takes to ensure that the people sitting in his chair feel comfortable and safe. When he learned that several of his younger clients had special needs, the Ohio barber decided to start setting aside longer appointments for kids who needed a little extra attention, like 7-year-old Ellison Eubanks, who has Down Syndrome. His mom, Julie, told USA Today that being in a salon stressed Ellison out, and "he wouldn't even sit in the chair. We'd both leave in tears, honestly." After cutting his hair at home on her own, Julie brought Ellison to meet Jackson, "and he just immediately felt comfortable," Julie said. Jackson turned the haircut into a game, telling Ellison to say "stop" when he needed a break and "go" when he was ready, which made Ellison laugh hysterically. "It's like one less thing we need to worry about now," Julie said. "It is kind of life-changing." Jackson donates his time and refuses payments or tips for these haircuts. He thanks the parents for trusting him, and lets them know, "This is an opportunity for you to receive."
Indiana woman marks 10 years in remission by climbing Mount Kilimanjaro
Ten years after being diagnosed with Stage 4 melanoma and being told by doctors she likely wouldn't survive, Tobi Sample found herself at the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. The Jeffersonville, Indiana, mom of two was 40 when she received her initial melanoma diagnosis. With no treatment options available and the cancer metastasizing, she enrolled in a clinical trial for the drug Keytruda. Later in remission, having received medical clearance, Sample started running half-marathons and traveled to Rwanda, where she sponsors a girl named Marie Roise. It was during that trip she thought about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro ... only to make the dream come true this February. "I have a body that can move, and I didn't expect that I was going to be able to, so the chance that I can run half-marathons and hike a mountain that I shouldn't be able to hike, it proves something to me of what I'm capable of, post-cancer," Sample told WDRB. The 42-mile trek was a tough one, but well worth it — Sample showed what she was made of, and raised money for Africa New Life. Her husband, Stephen, knew she could do it, saying she's "a rock star. She always has been."
Amateur stargazers recognized for their part in confirming DART mission's success
Amateur astronomers came in with the assist, providing images and data to NASA affirming that its DART mission was a success. In September, the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) spacecraft slammed into the Dimorphos asteroid at 14,000 miles per hour. NASA wanted to see if DART could knock the asteroid off its path, giving the agency a defense system in case a massive object was headed for Earth. More than 30 people on four continents with Unistellar smart telescopes shared their observations with NASA, which scientists then used to determine whether or not the orbit of Dimorphos was altered. The data helped NASA confirm that yes, the mission was a success, and those Unistellar users have been named as co-authors of a paper on DART published Wednesday in Nature. Unistellar co-founder Laurent Marfisi told The Independent that the worldwide network of users "allows continuous observations of the night's sky, because it's always night somewhere in our network." Being part of a "major scientific breakthrough" is exciting, Marfisi said, and "marks our entry into an era where the general public is becoming a decisive player in the conquest of space, holding the key to more discoveries and wider dissemination of scientific knowledge."
Backpacking cat hikes, bikes, and rafts with his dad
For Simon the cat, every day is an adventure. JJ Yosh told Good Morning America that on the first day he got Simon, the two went on a hike, with the cat perched on his shoulder. This became their daily ritual, with Simon "along for the ride," Yosh said. "That's how he became known as Backpacking Kitty." Followers on social media get to see Simon and Yosh as they go biking, rafting, and exploring in the great outdoors. "I don't even know what it would be like without him," Yosh said. "We eat every meal together, we go on every adventure together, it's how we know each other." Simon can often be found climbing rocks, frolicking through fields, and even swimming with a tiny life vest. "Cats are the most amazing creatures," Yosh told GMA, and Simon helps him "just enjoy the moment and really appreciate the now."