The UK’s struggling music venues got a boost, the net zero race stepped up a gear, and cheetahs made history in India, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
Finally, some good news for the UK’s live music venues. Having closed at an alarming rate in recent years, there was something to cheer about this week as funding was secured to save at-risk gig spots, and put them in the hands of communities.
Its thanks to the Music Venues Trust, which launched a campaign to raise £2.5m to buy the freehold of nine venues. As the deadline passed on Thursday, the charity had raised more than £2.3m, enough to make good on its plans.
The trust champions a community ownership model that has saved a handful of music venues already, not to mention dozens of pubs. Among those earmarked for a takeover are The Ferret in Preston and The Hairy Dog in Derby.
Singer-songwriter Frank Turner is a patron of the Music Venue Trust. “Small, independent grassroots music venues are the lifeblood of a thriving music culture,” he told Positive News. “Running such a place is never going to be a get-rich scheme. It’s always a labour of love.”
Image: Alessandro Biascioli/iStock
The world population will peak at just under nine billion by 2050 before declining, new modelling suggests. If true, it could be good news for the environment, but could create other headaches.
The new projection is lower than several prominent population estimates, including those of the United Nations, which forecast the population to nudge 10 billion by 2050.
The latest research was led by the Earth4All initiative. It said that if the world ramped up investment in education, healthcare and poverty alleviation, the peak may be as low as 8.5 billion. While a smaller population would ease environmental pressures, it is not a panacea. Population falls also pose other challenges, such as a shrinking workforce.
“Humanity’s main problem is luxury carbon and biosphere consumption, not population,” said Jorgen Randers, one of the modellers. “The places where population is rising fastest have extremely small environmental footprints per person compared with the places that reached peak population many decades ago.”
Image: Dan Freeman
They call it the race to net zero. Partly because we’re in a race to reduce emissions, but also because countries are racing to capitalise on the booming green economy.
The US is emerging as a frontrunner. Last year, it approved the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), a momentous piece of legislation that allocated circa $369bn (£298bn) to decarbonise the US grid and incentivise green companies.
Analysis of the IRA, published last week by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, suggests that the US grid could be 90 per cent decarbonised by 2030 thanks to the act. The legislation has also prompted the EU to get to work on a rival set of measures, currently being thrashed out, and piled pressure on other governments to keep up.
The UK published its net zero plan this week. While it contains some welcome measures, such as forcing car makers to accelerating the electric vehicle roll out, critics warn that the plan falls short. Friends of the Earth described it as “half-baked, half-hearted and dangerously lacking in ambition”.
Image: Karsten Wurth
The end is nigh for smut-belching vehicles in the Europe after the EU confirmed that all new cars sold in the bloc must be zero-emissions from 2035.
The EU’s announcement disappointed some campaigners as it offered concessions to Germany, which successfully called for an exemption for cars running on e-fuels. E-fuels are not available at scale and their eco credentials are debatable.
Nevertheless, it will likely make a significant impact when it comes into force. According to the European Commission, passenger cars and vans are responsible for around 12 per cent and 2.5 per cent respectively of total EU emissions.
As the climate crisis came into sharper focus last year, the UK government introduced controversial laws curtailing the right to protest. In an unexpected intervention, leading barristers have signed a declaration saying they will not prosecute peaceful climate protesters, or act for companies pursuing fossil fuel interests.
More than 120 barristers signed the declaration, defying bar rules stating they should act for whoever seeks their services. Signatories could theoretically be fined, suspended or even struck off.
Among them was Jo Maugham, director of the Good Law Project, who defended the decision in a blog post: “We should not be forced to work for the law’s wrongful ends by helping deliver new fossil fuel projects. We should not be forced to prosecute our brave friends whose conduct, protesting against the destruction of the planet, the law wrongly criminalises.”
Image: Markus Spiske
The cheetah is back in India – and breeding again. Four cubs were born in Kuno national park this week, just months after the big cats were reintroduced there from Africa.
Hunting and habitat loss pushed the cheetah to extinction in India more than 70 years ago, and their return has been welcomed by many. Last year eight of the animals were flown over from Namibia, with a further 12 arriving in February from South Africa.
The experimental reintroduction programme is the source of lively debate. Some scientists have raised concerns that Kuno’s carrying capacity for cheetahs has been overestimated. These claims have been rejected by scientists supporting the project.
Image: Sammy Wong
Now here’s a rewilding scheme to raise a glass to: an oyster reintroduction project backed by a Scottish whisky distillery.
The initiative got a boost this week as a peer-reviewed study suggested it could double biodiversity in Dornoch Firth, a body of water along the east coast of Scotland. Lead author Naomi Kennon (pictured), from Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, described the findings as “extremely exciting”.
Once a hotbed of biodiversity, Dornoch Firth lost all its oysters around a century ago, likely due to overfishing. Plans are afoot to release four million of the mollusks in the water by 2030. The Marine Conservation Society and Glenmorangie Distillery are partners in the project.
Similar initiatives are being launched elsewhere in Europe, amid evidence that oysters improve water quality, boost biodiversity and can be a sustainable food source.
Image: Heriot-Watt University
Classical music has a reputation for being high brow, but a concert venue in London is aiming to change that with the launch of £1 tickets for struggling families.
It’s part of a drive to boost inclusivity at Wigmore Hall, which also announced plans to put on low stimulus concerts for neurodivergent people. Performances will feature sensitive lighting and fewer announcements.
John Gilhooly, Wigmore Hall’s artistic and executive director, said: “We hope our new £1 ticket scheme for struggling families will be a signal to parents and teachers that it is never too early to start, and that children’s musical education needn’t be a victim of the cost of living crisis.”
Image: Michel Catalisano
The march of populism appears to have stalled. For now. Research suggests that the number of populist world leaders is currently at a 20-year low, following recent victories for centrists, notably in Latin America.
Democratic backsliding is more likely under populist rule, and there’s ample evidence to suggest that has been the case in recent years.
The good news, however, is that democratic institutions appear to be holding out. Read the full story here.
Main image: iStock
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