Image for What went right this week: a tale of two cities (going green), plus more

What went right this week: a tale of two cities (going green), plus more

New York became an eco pioneer, Ukrainian folksongs were saved from obscurity, and plastic munching microbes were discovered, plus more good news

New York became an eco pioneer, Ukrainian folksongs were saved from obscurity, and plastic munching microbes were discovered, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

good news
New York State passed a landmark climate bill 

“The most transformational climate and green jobs bill in the nation.” That’s how campaigners have described a New York State bill that seeks to supercharge renewable energy. 

The legislation obliges the state’s public power provider to generate all its electricity from renewables by 2030. It will also free the state up to build, own and operate its own green energy projects, which advocates say will boost jobs. 

The Build Public Renewables Act is a major coup for the New York Power Coalition, which has long campaigned for the legislation. 

In a statement, the group said: “The act is a historic victory that will improve the lives of New Yorkers and be a model of how to rapidly ramp up the production of renewable energy for the country.”  

Image: Budgeron Bach

Positive news
Meanwhile in Paris...

The River Seine is on track to be swimmable again next year, the authorities in Paris have announced.  

Closed to swimmers in 1923 due to pollution, the iconic waterway has been the subject of a major cleanup ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics. 

Swimming competitions are scheduled to be held in the river, which has reportedly seen the return of native species including salmon. 

Image: Joe Desousa

Our DNA map got a (much needed) update

For decades, scientists have benchmarked everyone’s DNA against a template that relied mostly on the genetic material of just one man. But not for much longer. 

This week, scientists announced that they have updated the template, using data collected from 47 people in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Europe. 

The new DNA map – dubbed the pangenome – better reflects human diversity, and could lead to new drugs and treatments that work for a wider range of people.

Eric Green, director of the US National Human Genome Research Institute, which led the research, said the pangenome would help “reduce the chances of propagating health disparities”.  

Image: Anirudh

good news
Plastic munching microbes were discovered  

Scientists have made a discovery that could be a recycling gamechanger – microorganisms that gobble up plastic. 

Microbes capable of such feats were already known to science, but they only work in high temperatures, rending the process too expensive and CO2 intensive to scale. However, the newly-identified microbes, found in Alpine and Arctic soil, process plastic at 15C, according to scientists at the Swiss Federal Institute.

“This opens up new perspectives for recycling certain types of plastic,” said the institute, though it admitted that none could break down polyethylene, one of the most common plastics.

The next step is to identify the plastic-degrading enzymes produced by the microbes, and optimise them for use at scale. In the meantime, the advice is to use less plastic. 

Image: Catherine Sheila

good news
A charity launched to restore British rainforests 

They were the backdrop for Arthurian legends, the muse behind Tolkien’s fictional worlds. But Britain’s rainforests have not endured like the tales they inspired – less than 1 per cent remain. However, that could be about to change. 

Amid growing interest in reviving Britain’s ‘lost’ rainforests, a charity has launched with a singular mission to triple the size of these enchanting habitats. 

The Thousand Year Trust was founded by army veteran Merlin Hanbury-Tenison. “I have PTSD, and temperate rainforests were a big part of my healing journey,” he told Positive News. “They are the best habitat we have in the UK for carbon sequestration, ecosystem restoration and human mental health and wellbeing.”

The trust is the first charity dedicated to reviving British rainforests, but one of a number of organisations working in the field. In February, the Wildlife Trusts embraced on a 100-year mission to enlarge the habitats, raising hopes of fairytale ending for these literary landscapes. 

Image: Guy Shrubsole

Crimean folksongs were saved from obscurity 

A Ukrainian artist who saved Crimean folksongs from obscurity has performed them at this week’s Eurovision Song Contest. 

Jamala, who won the competition in 2016, started recording folksongs from her native Crimea after Russia’s annexation of the territory, which she is barred from visiting. 

Songs were sent to Jamala (pictured) for her to record in exile with traditional musicians. Last Friday, she released an album containing the songs and performed some of them in Kyiv with Ukraine’s National Symphony Orchestra. 

On Thursday, the entire album got its live premiere in Liverpool, England. “It’s not just an album for me. It’s not only music. It’s something more,” she told the BBC. “It’s my [attempt] to give strong voice to my homeland, to Crimea.”

Image: Albin Olsson

good news
The WHO said Covid is no longer a ‘health emergency’ 

In what is mostly a symbolic move, the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared that Covid-19 is no longer a “global health emergency”.

The update reflects the waning threat of the virus and progress made bringing it under control. Covid started a race to develop vaccines, with some experts suggesting it may have brought forward cancer vaccines by decades

However, despite downgrading the virus, the WHO said that Covid would remain a persistent public health challenge.

Image: Monstera

Good news
Wind farms smashed records in the UK

Another week, another green energy milestone. This time in the UK, where for the first time wind turbines generated more electricity than gas-fired power stations in the first quarter of the year.

The findings were published in Drax Electric Insights, an energy report. 

Lead author, Dr Iain Staffell of Imperial College London, said: “Wind out supplying gas for the first time is a genuine milestone event, and shows what can be achieved when governments create a good environment for investors in clean technology.”

Image: Nicholas Doherty

Seaweed served up more solutions

Researchers have attempted to put a price on global kelp forests, offering a ballpark figure of between $465bn (£371bn) and $562bn (£450bn) per year. 

The figure was based on their role in fisheries production, nutrient cycling and carbon removal. The findings were published in the journal Nature.  

The research comes amid surging interest in seaweed, which has gone from being a tasty Japanese side dish, to a way to feed livestock, make plastics and absorb carbon. But can this wonder plant really help fix the planet? Find out here.

Image: Aird Fada
Main image: Dolphinphoto

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