Tigers got a boost, America’s gender pay gap narrowed, and Germany’s green travel plans got the country moving, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
The pay gap between full-time working women and their male counterparts in the US is now narrower than ever, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics – but there’s still some way to go before parity is reached.
Many feared that the pandemic would reverse pay gap progress, but the opposite appears to be true with women now making 84 cents (£0.74) for every $1 (£0.88) that men earn for similar work – the closest it’s ever been.
“Many women are coming back into the labour force at higher wage rates than before,” Julia Pollak, chief economist at ZipRecruiter, told news site Axios. “What was a ‘she-cession’ in some ways appears to be turning into a ‘she-boom.’”
Tigers are clawing their way back from the brink of extinction in Bhutan. According to the country’s latest tiger census, the big cats have increased their population from 103 to 131 since 2015 – a rise of 27 per cent.
It follows major interventions to help the country’s wild tiger population, including community-based tiger conservation programmes, habitat improvement and human-wildlife conflict management projects.
“This dedication to protect tigers is inspirational and can serve as a model for conservation elsewhere,” said Becci May, a senior programme advisor at the World Wildlife Fund. “Sadly, despite success stories like Bhutan, tigers are still the most threatened big cat species globally, reduced to only around five per cent of their historic range.”
The news from Bhutan came as India reported a six per cent increase in its tiger numbers since last year. The country is now believed to be home to 3,682 tigers – around 75 per cent of the global population.
Image: Kartik Iyer
Further signs of AI’s potential to transform healthcare came this week as a Swedish study revealed that AI-supported screening can identify more cases of breast cancer than conventional screening.
Researchers from Lund University put a pair of radiologists in a head-to-head with another radiologist and an AI sidekick to read mammograms.
“We found that using AI resulted in the detection of 20 per cent more cancers compared with standard screening, without affecting false positives,” said Kristina Lång (pictured), associate professor in diagnostic radiology at Lund University.
What’s more, the screen-reading workload for radiologists was reported to have reduced by 44 per cent. Lång said the research showed that AI screening was “a safe alternative to today’s conventional double reading by radiologists” but cautioned that further research is needed.
“We need to see whether these promising results hold up under other conditions, for example with other radiologists or other AI algorithms,” she said.
Image: Lund University
It’s a green policy that would do well to catch on: a €49 (£42)-a-month pass allowing unlimited travel on buses and trains in Germany.
The result? A 25 per cent year-on-year uptick in the number of people making low-carbon train trips, according to the national rail operator Deutsche Bahn (DB).
The Deutschlandticket launched on 1 May to ease the cost of living and encourage people to take the train instead of driving. The Association of German Transport Companies says that almost 10 million people had used the pass by the end of June.
DB said it had noticed that trains to popular holiday destinations were busier this summer, suggesting the pass is being used for long-distance travel, as well as commuter services.
Image: Daniel Abadia
Turns out we don’t need fossil fuel fertilisers as much as people thought. New data from the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) revealed that UK crop yields rose last year, despite a sharp decline in fertiliser use.
According to Defra, wheat, barley, oilseed rape and sugar beet yields rose by 2.4 per cent in 2022, while fertiliser use fell by a reported 27 per cent. Artificial fertilisers are made using natural gas, the cost of which soared after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, prompting farmers to embrace natural alternatives or simply use less.
“Price rises in 2022 were a real shock for many farmers, but one upside could hopefully be a permanent reduction in fertiliser use,” said Martin Lines, chairman of the Nature Friendly Farming Network.
Image: Pauline Bernfeld
There’s been a 98 per cent reduction in single-use plastic bags in England since the government forced supermarkets to charge shoppers 5p each for them.
That’s according to figures from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, which introduced the charge in 2015, then increased it to 10p in 2021.
Campaigners welcomed the figures but urged the UK government not to row back on other green policies, including a deposit return scheme for plastic bottles and rules to make plastic producers contribute to clean-up costs. Both policies have been delayed until 2025.
Image: Tara Clark
The world’s largest retailer claims to have shrunk its supersized plastic footprint – and said that more measures to tackle waste were on the way.
In its latest sustainability report, Amazon said that its fulfillment centres used 85,916 metric tonnes of single-use plastic in 2022 – down 11.6 per cent compared to 2021. The retail giant also said it will be “phasing out padded bags containing plastics in favour of recyclable alternatives”.
“If Amazon follows through, this is good news for the oceans,” said Matt Littlejohn, senior vice president of environmental charity Oceana. “The company should also commit to a phase-out deadline.”
Image: Handy Wicaksono
A pioneering retrofit academy is doing what British politicians can’t seem to – insulating homes, and with the help of ex-prisoners and single mothers.
Manchester-based B4Box trains people who traditionally struggle to access the labour market in retrofit. Their newfound skills are helping keep thousands of homes warm (and cool), while cutting emissions.
Read the full story here.
Image: Peter Horrox/iStock
Main image: Akkharat Jarusilawong
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