Image for What went right this week: indie record stores hit a high note, plus more

What went right this week: indie record stores hit a high note, plus more

Indie record stores hit a high note, Europe removed a record number of dams, and an iconic tree was poised for a comeback, plus more good news

Indie record stores hit a high note, Europe removed a record number of dams, and an iconic tree was poised for a comeback, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

The UK’s Indie record stores hit a high note

There’s double reason for the UK’s independent record stores to celebrate their national day of recognition this Saturday – a vinyl revival is helping them stage a comeback that once seemed unlikely.

The Digital Entertainment Retail Association says there are now 461 indie stores in the UK, compared to 339 in 2014. Vinyl sales hitting £177.3m in 2023 – an almost seven-fold increase over the same period – is said to be a key factor. A similar resurgence has been recorded in the US.

Vinyl aficionado Matt Reynolds (pictured) recently opened his own shop, Bald B*tch Beats, in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire. He puts the sales uptick down to a combination of factors: Gen Zers relishing the physical element of vinyl, and middle-aged music lovers regretting selling their collections.

“Then there’s the whole nostalgia of it,” he told Positive News. “The fact that so many people’s Saturday mornings were spent in record shops digging and chatting. There was a whole community, and I think people want that back somehow.”

Image: Matt Reynolds

Wind power surged across the globe

Installations of wind energy infrastructure were up 50% last year compared to 2022, making it a record year for the industry globally.

Some 117GW of new capacity was installed in 54 countries, according to analysis by the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC). Gathering momentum in offshore wind and promising outlooks in developing countries mean the organisation has revised its 2024-2030 growth forecast upwards by around 10%.

However, the GWEC said that policymakers and industry need to unlock more growth to stay on the net-zero pathway.

“Growth is highly concentrated in a few big countries like China, the US, Brazil and Germany, and we need many more countries to remove barriers and improve market frameworks to scale up wind installations,” said GWEC CEO Ben Backwell.

Image: Robert Gramner

Europe dismantled a record number of dams

It’s been another fine year for dismantling river barriers in Europe, with almost 500 removed in 15 countries across the continent.

The latest figures come from Dam Removal Europe (DRE), a coalition of river activists, volunteers and conservation bodies that aim to reverse biodiversity loss by restoring free-flowing waterways. DRE said that 487 dams, culverts, sluices and weirs were ripped down in 2023 – up nearly 50% on the previous year. France led the way with 156 barriers removed. The UK came in fifth with 36.

Overall, the initiatives reconnected 4,300km (2,672 miles) of waterways, and improved safety as well as habitats: for the first time, DRE’s annual report collected information on the dangers dams pose to recreational river users, linking them to 129 fatalities over recent years.

“From France to Finland, communities, companies and countries are investing in removing obsolete and increasingly risky barriers to improve river health for people and nature,” said Herman Wanningen, director of the World Fish Migration Foundation.

Image: Catalan Water Agency

Good news
Greece banned bottom trawling in protected areas

The Greek prime minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said this week that bottom trawling will be outlawed in the country’s marine protected areas (MPAs), hailing the move a historic moment.

Speaking this week at the Our Ocean Conference in Athens, Mitsotakis pledged €780m (£666.1m) to protect Greece’s marine ecosystems, and said that state of the art surveillance would be used to enforce the new measure.

It’s a small step in the right direction to address the woeful lack of ambition across the continent. Although piecemeal restrictions exist throughout Europe, Greece is the first nation to pledge an outright ban on bottom trawling in MPAs.

The practice involves dragging heavy nets along the seabed. Besides ravaging habitats, it can release stored carbon into the atmosphere. By 2030, it will be outlawed in Greece’s two MPAs – covering 22,796 sq km (8801 sq miles) – as well as in two marine parks that are to be established this year in the Ionian and Aegean seas.

The new sites mean that more than 30% of Greece’s waters will enjoy protected status.

Image: Raimond Klavins

Good news
The English elm was primed for a comeback

There’s growing hope that elm trees could return to UK landscapes after two amateur nature lovers bred a strain that’s resistant to the disease that all-but wiped them out half a century ago.

Some 25m of the trees were felled after they were ravaged by Dutch elm disease in the 1970s. Previous efforts to create a hardy hybrid either fell foul of the inclement British weather, or lacked the trademark figure-of-eight look of a classic English elm.

However, that’s all changed thanks to the efforts of two lawyers – the late Dr David Herling and his friend Fergus Poncia. The duo crossed a proven disease-resistant elm that has been developed by Italian academics with a few remaining English survivors found in Kent.

The work continued despite Herling’s death four years ago and his arboreal legacy is now growing at sites including Gravetye Manor in East Sussex. Peter Bourne, volunteer curator at the National Elm Collection in Brighton, hopes to plant some of Herling’s trees this year.

“He was a very special man who did this out of pure enthusiasm and for the love of trees,” Bourne told Positive News. “We can’t wait to get his elms in the ground.”

Image: Bruce Marlin

Cambodia’s mangroves unearthed some secrets

Rare hairy-nosed otters, fishing cats (pictured) and Sunda pangolins are just a few of the denizens dwelling in Cambodia’s largest mangrove forests, according to the habitat’s first comprehensive biodiversity survey.

Conservation charity Flora and Fauna International teamed up with the Fishing Cat Ecological Enterprise and Cambodia’s ministry of environment to study the Peam Krasop wildlife sanctuary and neighbouring Koh Kapik Ramsar wetlands.

They found that the critical ecosystem – totalling 35,750 hectares (88,340 acres) – is home to more than 700 plant and animal species, including bats, invertebrates, reptiles and birds. Experts estimate the figure barely scratches the surface.

The study underlines the importance of protecting mangroves from logging and development – besides teeming with wildlife they absorb vast amounts of CO2.

“Our new survey results provide a first glimpse at the biodiversity of the area, but we are certain that future surveys – that look at the area in greater depth – would find 10 times more species easily,” said study lead Stefanie Rog.

Image: Jessie Cohen

B Corps boomed in the UK

UK companies are punching above their weight in putting people and the planet before profit, with a record 2,000 firms now B Corp certified.

The figure has doubled in just 18 months and represents a quarter of the world’s total B Corps. To put that into perspective, there are 1,800 spread across wider Europe, while the whole of the US and Canada combined have 2,400.

The certification is seen as the gold standard for sustainability and includes household names such as The Big Issue and organic farmers Riverford.

“It’s been brilliant to see the UK B Corp community grow from strength to strength,” said James Ghaffari, director of growth and product at B Lab UK, a nonprofit. “Reaching 2,000 B Corps in the UK shows that a new type of leadership in our economy is possible.”

Image: Jason Goodman

Eco homes are more ‘energy patriotic’ – study

British householders with an EV and a heat pump can take a bow – they use significantly less imported energy than homes run on fossil fuels, new research reveals.

Analysts from the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) found that homes with a gas boiler and petrol car depend on imports for almost 70% of their energy. Going electric cuts that figure by more half when paired with decent insulation. Adding solar PV reduces it by two-thirds.

ECIU said the research revealed an opportunity for households to embrace what it calls ‘energy patriotism’ by powering up from homegrown wind and solar.

“Generating more British renewable energy and using it to power heat pumps and electric cars would get households, and the UK as a whole, off energy imports and remove the risk of the kind of price volatility we’ve seen in recent years,” said ECIU energy analyst Jess Ralston.

However, figures from UK energy regulator Ofgem suggest we’re still blowing cold on heat pumps: £173m of the £300m Boiler Upgrade Scheme pot is still unclaimed, and only 412 of the appliances have been installed per 100,000 people, compared to the EU average of 3,068.

Image: Patrick Perkins

Speaking of energy self-sufficiency …

A new scheme to put solar panels on school roofs looks set for a bright future after the National Grid pledged £2.7m to help those in deprived areas install the renewables.

The National Grid teamed up with Solar for Schools, a community benefit society that helps to fund, design and install solar PV on school rooftops.

Ark Kings Academy and Ark Victoria Academy – both in Birmingham – are the first to benefit from the scheme, and should save more than £1.2m across the lifetime of their new panels. CO2 savings will be equivalent to taking 260 fossil-fuelled cars a year off the road.

Besides installing solar PV, the project involves workshops for students covering sustainability and energy efficiency.

“We always say – learn from your school buildings, not just inside them,” said Ann Flaherty, Solar for Schools UK director. “By getting solar on the roofs of schools we’re empowering students and helping them see they can do something locally to reduce carbon.”

Image: Solar for Schools

A sports charity tackling youth wellbeing scored a win

A football-based mentoring programme for troubled schoolchildren has scored a double win – as well significantly boosting participants’ happiness it delivers wellbeing benefits to society worth millions of pounds.

Football Beyond Borders (FBB), based in Manchester, England, puts coaches into secondary schools to mentor pupils who are at risk of exclusion or who have special education needs and behavioural issues. Using kickabouts to build trust, it helps them manage anger and low self-esteem while fostering a more positive attitude towards education.

Analysis of the project by the thinktank Pro Bono Economics (PBE) and involving 2,401 pupils across England found that FBB coaches paid £30k a year delivered wellbeing benefits they calculated to be worth £150k per school, or £5.5m to society as a whole. PBE say the study shows the importance of taking wellbeing impacts into account when designing policies for at-risk children.

“The Football Beyond Borders programme demonstrates how new ideas and creative approaches can help to tackle the current crisis in children’s wellbeing, offering good value for money for society,” said PBE chief economist Jon Franklin.

Image: Connor Coyne
Main image: Sol Stock/iStock

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