Australians got the ‘right to disconnect’, Paris put the brakes on SUVs, and a series of global climate concerts were announced, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
Out-of-hours messages from the boss could soon be a thing of the past in Australia, which has granted employees the ‘right to disconnect’.
On Thursday, senators approved a bill that gives Australians the right to ignore messages from their employers when they’re off the clock. Controversially, criminal penalties may apply to bosses who breach the rule.
Spain and France are among the countries that already have ‘right to disconnect’ legislation. Australia’s bill includes other provisions to boost employee rights, such as minimum standards in the gig economy and for truck drivers.
Corporations have criticised the measures, claiming they are an overreach by government and will impact competitiveness.
Image: Alex King
Once the preserve of welly wearing farmers, 4x4s have become the mode du jour for aspirational urbanites with disastrous implications for the planet. This week, Parisians voted to put the brake on the trend.
In a referendum, 54.5% of voters said “yes” to increasing parking rates for SUVs. It means drivers of ‘Chelsea tractors’ now face paying €18 (£15) per hour to park, compared to €6 (£5) for regular cars.
With a voter turnout of just 5.7%, the fate of SUVs hardly gripped people in the city. However, the idea of halting the march of these supersized vehicles is gaining traction globally after research revealed that emissions from the global SUV fleet outweigh that of most countries. The French city of Lyon is pressing ahead with its own version of the initiative. German politicians have mooted similar measures.
After the referendum, Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo said: “We’re proud of having posed an eminently environmental question at a time the environment is presented as the source of all evil. It’s a form of resistance here in Paris to this very concerning movement.”
Image: Cyril Mzn
It’s never too late to quit smoking, but the sooner you give up the better.
That’s the conclusion of a major new study that analysed medical data from nearly 3 million Koreans. It found that the risk of lung cancer fell by 42% within 15 years for quitters, compared to those who kept puffing. Smaller falls of 27%, 20% and 14% were recorded for liver, colorectal and stomach cancers respectively.
“Smoking cessation at any age helps reduce the cancer risk, and early cessation before middle age, especially for lung cancer, exhibited a substantial risk reduction,” concluded the study.
Image: Yusron El Jihan
Money does not buy happiness, or so the saying goes. A new study adds weight to the idea.
It found that people living in remote Indigenous communities with little money reported similar levels of happiness as wealthy people in western nations.
Researchers at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona interviewed almost 3,000 people in 19 Indigenous communities around the world.
People in the isolated communities reported an average life satisfaction score of 6.8 out of 10. That’s roughly the same as the 6.7 average life satisfaction score for all countries in the OECD group of mostly rich nations.
The findings are, perhaps, a double dose of good news. On the one hand, they add weight to the idea that money is not a route to happiness. But they show that, despite the stresses that come with living in industrialised nations, westerners are broadly as happy as Indigenous people.
A new project aims to rediscover Scotland’s ‘lost’ native pinewoods – an important first step in preserving them. Caledonian pinewoods are globally unique, and support rare wildlife including red squirrels, capercaillie and crossbills. Yet less than 2% of the Caledonian forest, which once covered much of the Highlands, survives.
Now Woodland Trust Scotland and Trees for Life have teamed up to identify and save these forgotten pinewoods through the Wild Pine Project.
“Finding these pinewoods requires a lot of detective work. They are often small and remote, hidden in ravines safe from deer,” said Jane Sayers, a project officer for Wild Pine.
The Wild Pine Project is identifying lost pine sites using historical evidence, including maps that date as far back as the 1500s.
“Lost pinewoods are at particular risk because they are unrecognised and undocumented. We want to find them, assess their condition, and revive them before they are lost forever,” said Sayers.
Image: Trees for Life
Amid growing scrutiny of its green targets, the EU has laid out plans to reduce emissions by 90% by 2040, with a view of becoming the world’s “first carbon neutral continent”.
The target – a recommendation for the next European Commission (pictured) following elections in June – came as the EU’s climate service said the world had breached the 1.5C warming limit agreed in Paris across an entire year.
“Tackling the climate crisis is a marathon, not a sprint. We need to make sure everyone crosses the finish line and nobody is left behind,” said Wopke Hoekstra, the EU climate commissioner.
His words were likely a reference to recent protests by farmers in Germany over plans to cut diesel subsidies. Those protests have led to other green targets, such as those relating to methane cuts, being dropped from the EU recommendations, much to the dismay of climate groups.
While EU emissions are falling rapidly, they’re not falling fast enough. It remains unclear, therefore, how the bloc hopes to achieve the new target.
Image: Luis Efigenio
Camera traps have captured two blurry shots of a jaguar roaming mountains in Arizona, delighting conservationists.
The big cats were once regulars in Arizona but were virtually wiped out by habitat loss and hunting. The recent sightings follow efforts to improve habitats in Whetstone Mountains.
“We’re gratified to see the cat visiting mountain ranges that are part of our work to recover habitat for wildlife,” said Emily Burns of the conservation group Sky Island Alliance.
It is unclear whether the images are of the same cat, or two individuals. Either way, the alliance said the sightings underscore the urgent need to protect vital wildlife corridors between Mexico and the US, which are threatened by a border wall.
Alzheimer’s researchers got a lift this week as a study suggested men who take Viagra are less likely to develop the cognitive condition.
Researchers at University College London studied the medical records of more than 260,000 men. They found that those taking drugs for erectile dysfunction were 18% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. Men who had been issued the most prescriptions were least likely to develop the condition.
“Although we’re making progress with new treatments for Alzheimer’s … we desperately need treatments that can prevent or delay the development of [the] disease,” said lead author Dr Ruth Brauer. “More research is needed to confirm these findings, learn more about the potential benefits and mechanisms of these drugs and look into the optimal dosage.
“A randomised, controlled trial with both male and female participants is warranted to determine whether these findings would apply to women as well.”
Image: Freddy Kearney
Images created and distorted by artificial intelligence (AI) are now almost indistinguishable to real photographs, presenting society with a raft of new challenges.
In a widely welcomed move, Meta, the company that owns Facebook and Instagram, this week pledged to identify AI-generated images and label them on their platforms.
The announcement was made in a blog post by Nick Clegg, the company’s president of global affairs. Clegg said that the tech company was developing new tools to identify AI-generated images. However, as AI develops and becomes more able to evade such tools, such efforts are likely to be tested.
The blog post landed as AI entered the US presidential race in the form of a bot-generated audio sounding like Joe Biden, which urged people not to vote in the Democratic primary in New Hampshire. It was fake.
Image: Jenny Ueberberg
In a further sign that the “brick wall” faced by female artists in the music industry is coming down, this week’s Grammy’s were dominated by women.
Wins for Taylor Swift (pictured), Miley Cyrus and Billie Eilish were, perhaps, no great surprise given the commercial success of their work. However, music critics cited awards for women in other categories as proof that female representation in music is improving across the board. Female artists still face discrimination, however, as a recent UK government report found.
Image: Paolo V
The founder of Live Aid – 1985’s multi-venue benefit concert for famine relief in Ethiopia – has announced a series of similar events to promote climate action.
Earth Aid Live will take place in six countries across five continents over one weekend in August 2025, including in London, Los Angeles and Rio de Janeiro. Lineups have yet to be announced.
“Building on what we have already achieved with Live Aid, our aspiration is to unite people from all walks of life in the shared mission of bettering our world,” said Harvey Goldsmith.
Image: Josh Sorenson
Main image: Morsa Images/iStock
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