More UK firms embraced three-day weekends, a website launched to debunk fake news about Ukraine, and a ‘lost’ bat was rediscovered in Rwanda, plus more
Working fewer hours for the same pay might sound like utopian thinking, but for employees in the UK it is fast becoming a reality.
A report released this week revealed a sharp uptick in the number of firms offering a four-day week. Academics at the University of Reading’s Henley Business School surveyed 500 businesses (and 2,000 employees), and found that 65 per cent now offered shorter working weeks, compared to 50 per cent in 2019.
Companies doing so reported improvements in the quality of work, and claimed that it was easier to attract and retain staff. All of which helped firms save money – an average of £18,000 a year, according to academics. As for employees, they reported feeling less stressed.
Dr Rita Fontinha, who led the research, said increased interest in a four-day week was perhaps “the greatest silver lining to come from the pandemic.”
Image: Campaign Creators
While the Russian army bombards Ukraine and its people, keyboard warriors have waged a propaganda war against the country online.
In response, a fact-checking website has launched. Ukrainefacts.org brings together 120 organisations to disprove fake news about Ukraine. The site has already disproven doctored images appearing to show the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who is Jewish, holding a swastika t-shirt.
Fake news can be deadly. Western intelligence agencies have warned that fabricated reports about Ukraine developing chemical weapons could be used as a pretext for Russia using chemical weapons themselves.
Find out how you can help the people of Ukraine here.
The BBC has revived shortwave radio to deliver news about the war in Ukraine to Russian people, whose access to independent reporting has been restricted by the state.
Last week, the BBC announced that visits to its Russian language news site had more than trebled since the invasion of Ukraine. Days later, access was restricted to the site, along with other western news outlets.
In response, the corporation has started broadcasting on shortwave radio again. The BBC said its bulletins “can be received clearly in Kyiv and parts of Russia”.
Struggling to cope with all the bad news coming from Ukraine? Find out what you can do about that here.
Image: Nacho Carretero Molero
There were further signs this week that Europe’s dash to wean itself off Russian fossil fuels could accelerate the transition to renewables. An energy plan published by the EU pledged to end the bloc’s reliance on Russian gas and oil ‘well before’ 2030.
The REPowerEU strategy proposed increasing gas storage capacity and seeking alternative gas suppliers as short-term solutions – much to the disappointment of climate groups. But the plan also pledged to accelerate the rollout of wind farms, rooftop solar panels, heat pumps and hydrogen.
“Renewables give us the freedom to choose an energy source that is clean, cheap, reliable, and ours,” said European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans. “Instead of continuing to fund fossil fuel imports and fund Russian oligarchs, renewables create new jobs here.”
Friends of the Earth said the plan contained “great words, but little action”. Last week, Germany brought forward its target date for decarbonising its energy supply by 15 years.
In what is a fitting metaphor for the green energy transition, oil-rich Texas is to host the world’s largest green hydrogen production facility, it was announced this week.
The first phase of Hydrogen City is scheduled to go live in 2026, according to Green Hydrogen International (GHI), the firm behind it.
The facility will use renewable energy to produce a reported 2.5bn kilograms of hydrogen annually. GHI said the zero-emissions fuel will be used to generate electricity at power plants, and eventually as a replacement for kerosine in planes.
Image: Slon Pics
It was missing, presumed extinct. But this week, a bat that hadn’t been seen for 40 years was rediscovered in a Rwandan forest.
Not just one bat: scientists captured a pair of Hill’s horseshoe bats in Nyungwe Park, releasing them again after taking their vitals.
It has taken several years for scientists to confirm the bats’ identity (they were caught in 2019), a process that required trawling through museum archives. This week, the sighting was confirmed.
Before releasing the bats, scientists recorded their calls to help locate the species in future. “Now our real work begins to figure out how to protect this species long into the future,” said Dr Jon Flanders of Bat Conservation International.
Image: Jon Flanders
In a first for Egypt, a female judge has sat on the bench of the country’s top court.
Radwa Helmi’s appearance at the courthouse in Cairo on Saturday – a couple of days before International Women’s Day – was seen as a significant step on the long road to gender equality in Egypt.
“The fifth of March has become a new historical day for Egyptian women,” said Maya Morsi, the head of the National Council for Women.
The sheer magnitude of the climate crisis can leave people feeling helpless and apathetic. Sound like you? Then you’ll likely be cheered by a report that came out this week.
It found that ordinary people have direct influence over 25-27 per cent of the emissions savings needed by 2030 to avoid ecological meltdown.
The research was carried out by Leeds University, which identified six lifestyle changes that people can make to help tackle the climate crisis. Read the full story here.
Image: Visual Stories
Main image: Jan Kopriva