Spain flirted with a shorter working week, an Amazonian psychedelic was mooted as a treatment for depression and a microwave boiler promised to decarbonise UK homes, plus the week’s other positive news
Advocates of a shorter working week have long argued that it would bring many benefits to society, including boosting productivity, improving equality and reducing emissions. This week, Spain became the first European country to be swayed by the idea, agreeing to trial a 32-hour week with firms that are interested in the experiment.
Details of the trial are still being fleshed out, including how many companies will be involved and how long the trial will last. However, the Spanish government is reportedly considering covering the costs incurred by participating firms (if there are any costs) as they switch to a shorter working week. Employee pay will be unaffected.
“With the four-day work week, we’re launching into the real debate of our times,” said Iñigo Errejón of the leftwing Más País party, which proposed the idea. “It’s an idea whose time has come.”
Image: Stephan Valentin
History was made in Washington, US, this week with Deb Haaland being confirmed as the country’s first ever Indigenous cabinet secretary.
The 60-year-old from New Mexico will oversee the country’s land, seas and natural resources, and be responsible for tribal affairs.
The US Senate confirmed the Democrat to the post by a vote of 51-40. Haaland secured the support of Republican senators, including Lisa Murkowski, Lindsey Graham, Dan Sullivan and Susan Collins.
Image: United States Department of the Interior
A psychedelic used in shamanic rituals is to be trialled as a treatment for depression. Participants in the UK-based trial will be given DMT, the active ingredient in ayahuasca: a traditional Amazonian plant medicine that is used to bring spiritual enlightenment. Participants will also receive talking therapy.
Small Pharma, the company running the trial, believes that DMT (also known as the ‘spirit molecule’) could offer a cure for the millions of people who don’t respond to existing treatments for depression.
A growing body of evidence suggests that psychedelic drugs – when accompanied by talking therapy – are safe and effective at treating mental health conditions, including addiction, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder.
The race to decarbonise the UK’s heating network hotted up this week as the makers of the world’s first microwave boiler announced a timeline for UK trials. Heat Wayv, the company behind the innovation, said it expected to pilot the systems in UK homes in 2022, with the first sales targeted for 2024.
The design spec of the boiler remains confidential, but Heat Wayv says the system will provide a straightforward, zero-emissions replacement for traditional gas boilers at the same cost. Experts contacted by the Guardian said Heat Wayv’s claims were credible.
With heating accounting for an estimated 14 per cent of the UK’s emissions, there is an urgent imperative to decarbonise the network. The UK government has committed to phasing out gas boilers from 2025.
Image: He Gong
The campaign to legalise gay marriage in Japan was given a boost this week, as a court ruled that the country’s ban on same-sex unions is unconstitutional.
Japan is the only G7 nation not to fully recognise same-sex partnerships. According to a Sapporo district court, this violates the nation’s constitution, which stipulates that all people are equal.
New legislation is required before gay marriage finally becomes legal in Japan, however LGBT activists said the ruling was positive news for their campaign.
Image: Andre Benz
A charity that helps refugee chefs integrate into UK society by getting them to share their cuisine with the public is set to open a cookery school in London. It follows a crowdfunding campaign, which this week surpassed its £126,000 target.
Before the pandemic, Migrateful ran in-person cookery classes led by refugee and migrant chefs to help them integrate and improve their English, boosting their chances of employment. Now, the charity is preparing to transform a vacant space in Clerkenwell into a cookery school for chefs who have come to the UK to seek a better life.
The Crowdfunder was nudged over the line thanks to a £45,000 pledge from City Hall. Jules Pipe, deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills, said: “Our communities have some fantastic ideas on how to emerge from the pandemic and bring our city together. We’re proud to support this project and look forward to seeing the positive impact it will have on the local community.”
The most diverse Oscars nominee list in history was announced this week in a sign that the Academy Awards is finally diversifying, having long been criticised for being too pale and male.
For the first time, two female directors – Chloé Zhao (pictured, left) and Emerald Fennell – are in the running for the best director prize. Only five women have ever been nominated for the best director Oscar.
Nine of the acting nominees, meanwhile, are people of colour, compared with just one (Cynthia Erivo), in 2020. Critics say some biases remain, notably the smaller budgets that nominated female directors had to work with, but the list has been welcomed as a sign of progress.
Image: Vegafi/Creative Commons
Beachside pina coladas could soon taste that bit sweeter for climate-conscious holidaymakers thanks to a new jet fuel, which scientists say slashes aircraft emissions.
The kerosine alternative was developed by US researchers, who used a process known as ‘bio-refining’ to turn food waste into a kind of paraffin that works in aircraft engines.
The team behind the fuel claim it reduces greenhouse gas emissions from planes by 165 per cent. Read the full story here.
Image: Philip Myrtorp
Main image: Richard Hewat