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Meet the People Fighting for a Better-Informed Public

A WebMD for sex, an air quality-monitoring egg, and more.

Each year, GOOD celebrates 100 people from around the globe who are improving our world in creative and innovative ways—advocates, inventors, educators, creatives, business leaders and more who are speaking up, building things, campaigning for change, and ultimately refusing to accept the status quo.

In this section, meet 11 innovators redefining the way we consume, distribute, and engage with information.


Meet Four Information Advocates

Lauded for launching the pioneering geojournalism network InfoAmazonia, Brazilian journalist Gustavo Faleiros’s latest mission is building an army of citizen journalists. His platform GeoJournalism.org provides exercises, tutorials, and open-source tools for all manner of environmental data pirates.

Veteran journalist Chai Jing directed the 2015 documentary that produced China’s “Silent Spring moment.” Under the Dome is a scathing investigation of Beijing’s air pollution, to which Chai attributes her daughter’s tumor. The Chinese government scrambled to censor the film, but after four days online it had already racked up 150 million views.

In Afghanistan, where journalists are often threatened or attacked by the government, press freedom is in constant jeopardy. As the South Asia coordinator for media development group DW Akademie, Priya Esselborn established the country’s first university network to develop journalism education programs.

At the MIT Media Lab and Center for Civic Media, Ethan Zuckerman leads tinkerers forging the future of digital media. His venture Global Voices is a trusted international news hub, often featuring personal accounts of conflict—like activist Marcell Shehwaro’s series, “Dispatches From Syria,” which won a 2015 Online Journalism Award.

Razia Jan Knows Education is Key

Kabul

Afghan philanthropist Razia Jan’s Zabuli Education Center, which provides K-12 education for girls in Afghanistan’s Deh’Subz district, graduated its first class last December. Still, an estimated 1.5 million Afghan girls aren’t enrolled in school. Jan’s next step, the Razia Jan Institute, is opening this March and will be the first post-secondary school for women in rural Afghanistan.

Lucianne Walkowicz Shares the Stars

Chicago

As a leader of the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope project—which will photograph the entire sky every few nights for 10 years—and an astronomer at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium, Walkowicz hunts for alien signals and Earth-like planets. She recently completed a 300-mile, astronomy-themed bike tour from Chicago to St. Louis.

Zena Sfeir Gets Real About Sex

Beirut

Zena Sfeir’s medical information platform Sohati didn’t gain 3.5 million users just because it’s convenient. The service, essentially an Arabic-language WebMD, breaks intimate medical topics out of cultural taboo, empowering women to understand their own sexual and reproductive health. Next, Sohati is expanding into video-driven healthcare.

Rajaâ Cherkaoui El Moursli Breaks Barriers With Science

Rabat

As head of the Moroccan team collaborating on the international ATLAS experiment to search for undiscovered elementary particles, El Moursli helped prove the existence of the Higgs boson—and even snagged a L'Oréal-UNESCO for Women in Science Award. Nicknamed “Militant of Research,” El Moursli created the country’s first master’s degree in medical physics, and is developing a network of cultural and scientific clubs at Moroccan high schools.

Paul Miller Breaks the Ice

New York City

Soundscape musician, writer, and performance artist DJ Spooky that Subliminal Kid (aka Paul Miller) will exhibit his next project, an imported Icelandic glacier, in Times Square, this fall at the Celebrating Glaciers New York festival, scored by natural sound from Iceland. The glacier will, of course, eventually melt—all in the name of environmental awareness.

Charlie Smith Tackles China’s Firewalls

Beijing

Since its founding in 2011 by three individuals who operate under the pseudonym “Charlie Smith,” the Chinese internet censorship database Great Fire has become the authoritative watchdog against the government’s “Great Firewall” and is developing new tools to access blocked websites inside China.

Jessica Lam & Liam Bates Share the Air

Beijing

When Jessica Lam developed asthma symptoms after moving to Beijing, she and her inventor husband, Liam Bates, started researching air-purifying machines. Finding a gap in the market, they co-founded Origins Technology and devised the Laser Egg last summer. Using an air vent and a particle-counting laser beam, the orb-like device instantly measures air according to the Air Quality Index. It also uploads the data online, producing a crowdsourced air quality map accessible to anyone with a smartphone, like Yelp for pollution. After Beijing’s AQI plummeted in November, Origins sold out of Laser Eggs.

Features

The global climate change strikes on Friday are said to have been the largest protest for climate change in history. An estimated four million people participated in 2,500 events across 163 countries on all seven continents. That included an estimated 300,000 Australians, but a total of zero were in Hyde Park in Sydney, despite a viral photo that claims otherwise.

Australian Youth Coal Coalition, a pro-coal Facebook page, posted a photo showing trash strewn across a park after what appears to have been a large event. "Look at the mess today's climate protesters left behind in beautiful Hyde Park," the photo was captioned. "So much plastic. So much landfill. So sad." The only problem is, the photo wasn't taken after a climate change protest. It wasn't even taken in Australia.

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The Planet
via GOOD / YouTube

Last Friday, millions of people in 150 countries across the globe took to the streets to urge world leaders to enact dramatic solutions to combat climate change.

The Climate Strike was inspired, in part, by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old girl from Sweden who has captured worldwide attention for her tireless work to hold lawmakers responsible for the climate crisis.

The strike gave people across the planet the opportunity to make their voices heard before the U.N. General Assembly Climate Summit in New York City on Monday.

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The Planet
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

As world leaders meet to discuss new ways to tackle climate change at the U.N. Climate Action Summit, they might miss one very big part of healing nature – nature. In a new short film, youth climate change activist Greta Thunberg and George Monbiot, a writer for the Guardian, talked about how we need to use nature as a solution to climate change.

There's a huge push to curb emissions, but it's not the be all end all of handling climate change; we also need to remove CO2 from the atmosphere. While we don't have technology to do that for us, there is another solution. "There is a magic machine that sucks carbon out of the air, costs very little, and builds itself. It's called a tree," Monboit says in the film. Researchers found that we could get rid of two-thirds of the carbon dioxide that we've emitted during the industrial era just by growing trees. That amounts to 205 billion tons of carbon. Right now, deforestation of tropical forests is responsible for 20% of current greenhouse emissions.

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The Planet
Climate Action Tracker

In 2016, 196 countries signed the Paris Agreement, pledging to combat climate change by taking action to curb the increase in global temperatures. The Paris Agreement requires countries to report on their emissions and what steps they're taking to implement those plans. Now that the countries are coming together again for the U.N. Climate Action Summit in New York City, it's worth taking a look at what kind of progress they've made.

The Climate Action Trackerkeeps tabs on what each country is doing to limit warming, and if they're meeting their self-set goals. Countries are graded based on whether or not their actions would help limit warming to 1.5 degrees C.

According to a recent article from National Geographic, The Gambia, Morocco, and India are at the head of the class. "Even though carbon emissions in The Gambia, Morocco, and India are expected to rise, they'll fall short of exceeding the 1.5-degree Celsius limit," the article reads. Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States, on the other hand, get a big fat F. "Projected emissions in Saudi Arabia, Russia, and the United States are far greater than what it would take to limit warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius."

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The Planet
Screenshot via Sweden.se/Twitter (left) Wikimedia Commons (right)

Greta Thunberg has been dubbed the "Joan of Arc of climate change" for good reason. The 16-year-old activist embodies the courage and conviction of the unlikely underdog heroine, as well as the seemingly innate ability to lead a movement.

Thunberg has dedicated her young life to waking up the world to the climate crisis we face and cutting the crap that gets in the way of fixing it. Her speeches are a unique blend of calm rationality and no-holds-barred bluntness. She speaks truth to power, dispassionately and unflinchingly, and it is glorious.

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The Planet