Our ABCs for Optimism
September 15, 2019
Our future is bright for so many reasons. From bees helping to keep the peace between humans and elephants, to the number of women completing STEM degrees, optimism is a common thread in all of our work at Vulcan – and there's so much that's inspiring us. Here's 26 reasons why you should feel encouraged today.
A is for the Allen Institute
Open for Science
The Allen Institute is unlocking the complexities of our brains, cells and unraveling the mysteries of the immune system in order to improve human health. Since its founding in 2003, the institute has mapped the human brain, created the first tool to see the brain in action and started developing a “periodic table” of brain cell types.
B is for Bees
Keeping the Peace Between Humans and Elephants
Elephants are naturally afraid of bees. Armed with this knowledge, Dr. Lucy King is using bee hive fences to keep crop-raiding elephant from farms. It’s a grassroots project that’s helping elephants and human better live together, and the honey is an added bonus.
C is for Carbon Nanostrings
A Possible Solution for our Plastic Problem
It’s still at a proof-of-concept stage in the lab, but tiny magnetic springs called Carbon Nanostrings are giving us a lot of hope that the world can finally start to do something about the plastic overwhelming our seas. Scientists are using carbon nanotubes laced with nitrogen that help break down microplastics into harmless compounds and actually can serve as a carbon source for algae growth. A potential win-win solution!
D is for Dogs
They go by Ruger, Tygee, Rudi, Earl and Chai and they are sniffing out wildlife criminals in Zambia’s Luangwa River Valley. Whether it’s elephant ivory, firearms, leopard skins or pangolin scales, rarely do poachers slip anything past these dogs. In 2018 alone, these dogs helped identify 24 suspects and confiscated 16 firearms, 20 snares and over 1,100 pounds of illegal bushmeat. Man’s best friend...more like an elephant’s best friend.
E is for Eric the Rhino
A 10,000 Mile Mission to Find Love
Born and bred in San Diego Zoo Safari Park, Eric the rhino is on an epic mission for love. With just 750 eastern black rhino left in the wild, Eric was selected for a breeding program to help save his endangered species from extinction. Two trucks, three different planes and five countries later, Eric arrived at Grumeti Fund in Tanzania. Thankfully, he’s transitioning well and has even been seen with a female rhino. Hopefully, Eric makes a love connection that could save his species!
F is for Fifty Seasons of Blazers Basketball
Rip City Celebrates its Golden Anniversary
Let us be clear, Rip City is not over the hill at 50. Coming off one of its best seasons in the last 20 years, the Portland Trail Blazers are planning a year-long salute to all that has contributed to the organization’s history. From the franchise’s first season in 1970 and the 1977 NBA Champions to the early 90s team that had a pair of runs to the NBA Finals; the 50th anniversary celebrates not only one of the NBA’s most-storied franchises but the organization’s connection to community.
G is for Grover
Fake News has Finally Found its Match
Artificial intelligence has shown it has incredible power to benefit society. Working together with AI, people are helping to solve the world’s most urgent and difficult challenges. However, if used maliciously, AI has the potential to cause great harm. One important threat that the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (Ai2) is fighting is fake news. The institute has identified “Neural Fake News” or machine-written disinformation at an industrial scale as an emerging societal problem. Thanks to Ai2, we now have Grover, an AI model that writes fake news so it’ll be able to spot propaganda written by machines. As Sun Tzu said, “to know your enemy, you must become your enemy.”
H is for Mr. Hand’s Beginning Food Class
BBQ Chicken Never Tasted So Good
Mr. Hand’s “Beginning Food” class is a favorite at Mount Vernon High School. The family and consumer sciences teacher and 2019 Washington State Teacher of the Year teaches real-life skills through BBQ chicken. In a school where 60 percent of the students come from low-income families, Mr. Hand’s class teaches how to prepare foods that are nutritious and cost-effective. At the same time, he bakes in innovative math and science lessons. Awesome teachers inspiring a love of learning in their students – that’s a recipe for success.
I is for IVF for Coral Reefs
Baby Corals to the Rescue
Coral reefs are among the most important, diverse and beautiful ecosystems on the planet – and they are in a period of unprecedented crisis. If nothing is done to abate warming ocean temperatures, more than 90 percent of coral reefs could die by 2050. To help, scientists are collecting millions of coral eggs and sperm, breeding them in current ocean conditions to get them ready and then resettling them back on the struggling coral reefs. It’s early, but researchers are seeing positive signs by these corals and what they could mean for the future of coral reef restoration.
J is for July 29
Ethiopia’s New Green Legacy
On a regular Monday, Ethiopians across the country left their offices, farms and restaurants embarking on one of the most audacious efforts of its kind – plant 200 million trees in a day. One hundred years ago, one-third of Ethiopia was covered with forests. By the 2000s, that number had shrunk to 4 percent. So, in an effort to raise the country’s awareness to Ethiopia’s frightening environmental degradation, the country’s government challenged is citizens and the response was overwhelming. In just 12 hours, more than 353 million trees were planted smashing the one-day world record of 50 million by India. The country is now building off of the momentum from July 29 and has aims on planting 4 billion trees by the end of the year. Since billions of new trees could help stop climate change, high-fives to Ethiopia for making an impact the whole world will feel.
K is for Kids Boost
Startup Funding for Children Looking to Give Back
The non-profit's approach is simple: give kids who want to donate to a cause $100 and then provide them the coaching and training they need to multiply the gift. As a child life specialist at Children’s Healthcare in Atlanta, Kristen Stocks came up with the idea for the non-profit after she saw so many of her patients recover and search for opportunities to help others. As she says, “Why not empower [kids] to be the positive change that we want for this world?” We couldn’t agree more Kristen.
L is for Lava Mae
Everyone Deserves a Shower
One shower at a time is how Lava Mae is transforming the way communities see and serve those experiencing homelessness. Started in 2013 by converting public buses into showers and toilets on wheels, Lava Mae is bringing critical services to unhoused neighbors in San Francisco and the East Bay, as well as Los Angeles. Since the service began, Lava Mae has provided more than 69,000 showers to over 19,000 guests giving them a new sense of well-being. Now that’s the power of a shower.
M is for Marine Protected Areas
New Hope for Sharks and Ocean Health
Despite an estimated 100 million sharks killed every year, there is growing optimism that conservation can work to restore healthy ocean ecosystems. According to a new study from the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences and the Global FinPrint team – the world’s largest reef shark and ray survey – researchers found that sharks can recover surprisingly quickly with the help of a well-managed marine park. The success of marine protected areas remind us that nature can recover with just a little help from humanity.
N is for Nuggs
Peace, Love and “Chicken Nuggets”
Founded by 19-year-old tech entrepreneur Ben Pasternak, NUGGS is the world’s first “chicken” nugget startup. NUGGS are made from texturized pea proteins; and while plant-based “meat” isn’t ground breaking, we believe in the potential of concepts like NUGGS to help create more diverse food options that can make a big impact in the fight against climate change.
O is for Outer Space
The Next Revolution
Much like the PC revolution put computing power into the hands of billions, access to outer space holds similar potential. The benefits to opening access to space are as infinite as space itself. For example, remotely sensed data and monitoring tools could provide real-time information on the state of our ecosystems, providing actionable data for conservation and resource management. And with improved access to space, we could deploy technologies and gather information to help us understand and respond to climate change. As rocket launches and satellite-carrying plane departures become more routine, we’re reminded how close we are to the space revolution.
P is for R/V Petrel
The Golden Age of Discoveries is Upon Us
Launched in 2016, Research Vessel (R/V) Petrel has located over 30 historically significant shipwrecks, explored diverse ecosystems and encountered rare marine species. While the discoveries of WWII battleships USS Indianapolis, USS Lexington and the USS Wasp thousands of feet below the sea have garnered the headlines, the Petrel’s efforts help keep alive the memory of dedication, heroism and self-sacrifice.
Q is for Quiz
Tutoring AI to Pass a Science Exam
Four years ago, the best AI systems flunked an 8th grade science exam. However, with a combination of sophisticated research at the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence (AI2) and rapid advance in the AI field, AI2’s Project Aristo finally aced the exam. As computer scientists at AI2 say, Aristo’s long-term goal isn’t just about passing science tests, but more about creating a system that has a deeper understanding of science with many potential applications. For example, its developers imagine Aristo helping scientists with relevant, timely background information on scientific concepts and prior work even assisting in scientific discoveries itself. Now that’s AI for good.
R is for The Residency
Youth Development Through Hip Hop
The Residency is raising up the next generation of young, creative leaders. Five years ago, ArtsCorp, MoPOP and Macklemore & Ryan Lewis debut a program to engage young hip-hop artists. While song construction, beat production and rhyme structure are taught, The Residency stresses the importance of collaboration and building community, and creates pathways for young artists to hone their craft.
S is for Salmon Safe
How We Build Up Here Improves How They Live Down There
Runoff from urban roads can kill adult Coho salmon in less than three hours. Since a major source of pollution is storm water runoff from paved land, Salmon-safe is helping farmers, developers and landowners construct natural ecosystems to improve their habitats. It really is going back for the future. Keeping salmon safe the Salmon-Safe way is all about transforming land management across the Pacific Northwest – home to most of the last wild salmon.
T is for Tigers
On the Rise
After a century of decline, there is new hope for tigers. Recently, India declared its population of endangered tigers were on the rise. According to a government estimate, there are almost 3,000 tiger living in the wild – a 33 percent increase since 2014. Meanwhile, Nepal is on track to become the world’s first country to double its wild tiger population thanks to conservation and policy changes. While these are positive signs, there’s still work to be done to protect tigers in these regions.
U is for Undersea Drones
Uncovering the Hidden Data of our Changing Planet
Antarctica is one of the most remote locations on Earth, and in the water below its massive ice shelves flows the data we need to better understand climate change. In order to uncover this hidden data and tackle the gaps in climate change research, the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and partners at the University of Washington launched a team of autonomous drones to explore below the sea ice. The first-of-its-kind mission was a success in that it collected critical data for climate modelers and most of the drones survived the journey. The undersea drones were the first self-guided ocean robots to successfully travel under an ice sheet and return to report long-term observations, giving scientists optimism that new information from these remote ecosystems can be uncovered.
V is for Vaccines
Ebola Outbreaks May Soon Be Preventable and Treatable
There’s light at the end of the tunnel in the fight to tackle Ebola. Vaccines against the virus are currently being deployed to save lives in the Democratic Republic of Congo – where the second biggest Ebola outbreak is happening – and in neighboring countries where it is feared the virus might spread. To date, more than 200,000 people were inoculated in August. Importantly, the discovery of vaccines and treatments means that we now have the medical tools to tackle Ebola anywhere and everywhere. These are hopeful signs for a country that has lost over 2,000 people from the epidemic and watched violence and misinformation come in its way of containing the Ebola outbreak. While we may never get rid of the virus, the world is getting closer to stopping the number and extent of Ebola outbreaks - ultimately saving lives and resources.
W is for Women in Science
Leading the Way
Did you know that women now earn more than half of all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) degrees in the United States? That’s according to a new report from the Association for Women in Science (AWIS). These incredible women are developing new drugs to fight AIDS and other diseases, running oceanographic institutes and framing NASA’s scientific vision. But we must do better as gender disparities remain extensive in STEM.
X is for X-Ray Fashion
Exposing the Dark Side of the Fashion Industry
The fashion industry is in need of a big change. Responsible for 20 percent of the global wastewater and 10 percent of global carbon emissions as well as linked to numerous human rights violations, Vulcan Productions’ virtual reality film “X-Ray Fashion” is exposing people to the industry’s ‘other side.’ Through an immersive, multisensory installation, “X-Ray Fashion” uncovers the hardships workers must endure and the environmental threats caused by the garment production process. It’s challenging people to think about the clothes and choices they make.
Y is for You!
Making Lasting Impact
Let’s be frank. The world is facing some tremendous challenges. But you make us optimistic. Each innovative idea you develop or important action you take can and will make a lasting impact on the world. Thanks for bringing optimism as we face the future together!
Z is for ZeroAvia
Flying Without Fossil Fuels
Demand for air travel is surging. Around the world, airlines carried 4.3 billion passengers in 2018, an increase of 38 million passengers from the year before. At a time when our window to limit catastrophic climate change is closing, aviation’s share of global greenhouse gas emissions is growing. Enter ZeroAvia. The startup is developing engines for planes that can fly 500 miles powered entirely by hydrogen meaning its prototype is a zero-emission aircraft. Since nearly half of global flights are 500 miles or less, hydrogen-powered planes could make a big dent in reducing the aviation industry’s carbon footprint. ZeroAvia is hoping to fill the skies with hydrogen-powered planes by 2022.