Image for What went right this week: a major win for climate justice, plus more

What went right this week: a major win for climate justice, plus more

Climate activists won big in Europe, the UK reached a gender pay gap milestone, and Germany went loco for locos, plus more good news

Climate activists won big in Europe, the UK reached a gender pay gap milestone, and Germany went loco for locos, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

Good news
Climate activists scored a historic win in Europe

A group of Swiss women won a landmark climate justice battle in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) this week, in a ruling that presses governments across Europe to step up over the climate crisis.

The judgment in Strasbourg, France, is the ECHR’s first on global warming and paves the way for like-minded activists in other countries to hold policymakers to account. “We expect this ruling to influence climate action and climate litigation across Europe and far beyond,” said Joie Chowdhury, an attorney at the Centre for International Environmental Law campaign group.

The case was brought by the KlimaSeniorinnen (Senior Women for Climate Protection), a 2,400-strong association of Swiss women mostly in their 70s. They argued that their age and gender made them especially vulnerable to heatwaves linked to climate change.

Two other climate cases were deemed inadmissible by judges, but the court found in favour of the KlimaSeniorinnen, ruling that Switzerland’s failure to curb emissions had violated their right to family life. Chowdhury said the verdict had been a historic victory which left no doubt that the climate crisis was also a human rights crisis.

“States have human rights obligations to act urgently and effectively and in line with the best available science to prevent further devastation and harm to people and the environment,” she said.

Image: Shervine Nafissi/Greenpeace

Good news
The UK edged closer to pay equality

The gender pay gap in the UK has shrunk to its lowest level in seven years.

Big employers have been compelled by law to publish pay gap statistics since 2017, and had until midnight last Friday to file data with the government’s pay gap service.

The latest figures reveal the gap is the smallest since reporting began, but despite the progress women still earn 91p in the £1 compared to men. The situation is worse in the public sector, where there’s still a 14.4% pay gap. Men earn more than women in nearly nine in 10 public sector organisations, compared to just over three-quarters of private companies.

It’s a similar story in the US, where women are now making 84 cents (£0.74) for every $1 (£0.88) earned by men for similar work. Analysts said a ‘she-cession’ was turning into a post-pandemic ‘she-boom’, with women returning to the labour force on higher wages than before.

Image: Rodrigo Salomon

good news
Men set to benefit from streamlined prostate cancer test

A clinical trial involving patients in 12 countries has found that quicker, cheaper scans for prostate cancer are just as accurate at detecting the disease as the current standard.

Prostate cancer affects one in eight men and kills around 12,000 a year in the UK. Men suspected of having it currently get a three-stage MRI scan, with a contrast dye injected for scan three to enhance image quality.

However, the Prime study, led by University College London and University College London Hospitals, found that specialists could still diagnose 29% of cancers even after dropping the third stage. That makes streamlined tests just as effective as three-step scans – but almost 50% cheaper.

Dr Matthew Hobbs, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, which co-funded the research with the John Black Charitable Foundation, said: “It’s rare to see results like this that deliver impact for men so quickly after funding the research. This will allow more men to benefit from a better, more accurate diagnosis at a lower cost to healthcare systems not only in the UK, but worldwide.”

Image: Helena Lopes

Good news
The axe fell on 15 carbon-belching power plants

Germany has pulled the plug on 15 coal-fired power plants as part of plans to shelve the fossil fuel entirely by the end of the decade. 

The decommissioning of seven lignite-fuelled plants had been delayed to preserve natural gas supplies during the energy crisis, however they’ve now been shuttered alongside eight more. Together, the plants had been generating around 4.4GW, but German economy minister and Green party politician Robert Habeck said they were now “neither necessary nor economical”.

“Several coal-fired power plants that were still on the grid as a precautionary measure over the last two years are therefore now superfluous and can be taken off the grid for good,” Habeck told the German Press Agency.

Coal’s share of Germany’s energy mix fell 7% last year to 26.1%, but it’s not all roses: the government is planning a €16bn (£13.7bn) splurge on four new power plants that will initially run on natural gas and could take until 2040 to convert to cleaner hydrogen.

Image: Public Domain Pictures

Good news
Analysis revealed England’s clean energy potential

Onshore wind and solar could generate enough clean energy to power every home in England two and a half times over, according to a new study by the charity Friends of the Earth (FoE).

FoE teamed up with the University of Exeter to pinpoint top sites for onshore renewables. They found that installing turbines and solar PV on just 2.9% of land in England would generate 13 times more electricity than the 17TWh a year the two renewables currently contribute.

Interestingly, the hunt for suitable land excluded National Parks, areas of outstanding natural beauty and quality agricultural land, scotching the oft-repeated argument that solar farms threaten food security.

Tony Bosworth, climate campaigner at Friends of the Earth, said that lifting barriers to development was a ‘win win’ for jobs and the environment.“Unleashing the UK’s immense potential to generate cheap, clean homegrown renewables is essential to bring down our energy bills for good and meet the UK’s vital international target to reduce carbon emissions by two-thirds by 2030,” he said.

Image: Roy Buri

Good news
Blind Americans enjoyed a super, sonic solar eclipse

Hundreds of blind and visually impaired people got an earful of the total eclipse this week thanks to a remarkable DIY gizmo that transforms light into sound.

The 3D printed LightSound device relies on a process called sonification, where sensors convert light intensity into audible tones. It was dreamed up for the 2017 eclipse by blind Harvard astronomer Wanda Díaz-Merced and her colleague Allyson Bieryla.

Ahead of Monday’s rare astrological phenomenon, the duo hosted LightSound building workshops, created open source instructions and distributed around 900 devices across Canada, Mexico and the US.

“I’m hoping that there is a blind child that maybe experiences this device and says: ‘I want to do astronomy,’” Bieryla told CNN. “We need to have those resources in place for that student to be successful.”

Image: Jongsun Lee

Research pointed to the healing power of touch

Few can deny the boost of a comforting hug, but now a new study has revealed how touch from humans – and even blankets – can quell depression, anxiety and pain.

Researchers from Germany’s Essen University Hospital ran a meta-analysis of more than 200 studies, involving some 13,000 people, to unravel the health benefits of consensual touch.

The results, published in Nature, found physical health benefited from touch by other humans, but also from weighted blankets and robots. Mental health got a pick-me-up, too, more so from human touch than inanimate objects.

The authors suggested that robots could have a wellbeing role for people with small social networks. They hinted that we should all be touching each other more to guard against poor health. “More consensual touch events throughout our day can help alleviate or potentially buffer against mental and physical complaints,” they concluded.

Image: Fotogrfin

EBay put cash in the pockets of circular fashion fans

Online auction site eBay has given UK shoppers even more reason to love pre-loved clothing, by ditching selling fees for vintage garms.

The measure aims to unlock an estimated £16.3bn of unworn clobber languishing at the back of UK wardrobes, and means that individuals will no longer be charged for selling unwanted clothes. It applies to worn clothes as well as new items with tags, but excludes trainers, bags and jewellery.

EBay estimates the platform diverted more than 1.6m kg of waste from landfill through the sale of pre-loved fashion last year – equivalent to more than 4m shirts.

“Free fashion selling has come at the right time for a nation sitting on billions of pounds worth of unwanted clothes,” said Kirsty Keoghan, eBay’s general manager of global fashion. “By encouraging more people to buy and sell pre-loved clothing, we’ll keep more clothes out of landfill as we collectively enable a circular economy for fashion.”

Speaking of vintage garms, the new issue of Positive News brings the UK’s booming preloved fashion scene into sharp focus. Get a copy here.

Image: Clem Onojeghuo

Germany went loco for locos

Train travel is going the distance in Germany, with 24m passengers enjoying international trips last year, according to data from the nation’s Deutsche Bahn (DB) rail network.

The figures show long distance travel is up 21% overall since 2019, with DB launching new routes, upping seating and deploying longer trains to meet demand.

Its Berlin-Amsterdam link saw the biggest increase in 2023, with passenger numbers up almost a quarter compared to 2022. Routes starting in Munich and terminating in Verona, Vienna and Zurich also saw significant upticks.

Germany’s Deutschlandticket – which launched a year ago promising unlimited travel on all public transport for the bargain price of just €49 (£42) a month – could be one factor behind the boom.

The offer has been extended for 2024. Hungary has already followed Germany’s lead, and France is planning a €49 rail pass for under 26-year-olds travelling on TER and intercity trains over the summer.

Image: Daniel Abadia

positive news
The new issue of Positive News magazine launched

The days are stretching out, the flowers are blooming, and the latest edition of Positive News magazine has landed. Spring is officially here.

Highlights from the new issue include a deep dive into the ways nightlife venues are diversifying to survive, and a look at how women are embracing – rather than battling – ageing.

We also bring the UK’s booming preloved fashion scene into focus. “Fashion has always been a driving force for change, and it’s exciting to think what other positive shifts it might sweep along with it, as opting for used clothing moves from fringe to more mainstream wardrobes,” said editor-in-chief Lucy Purdy. Grab your copy here.

Image: Positive News
Main image: Shervine Nafissi/Greenpeace

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