Ireland launched its basic income for artists, electric vehicles reached a milestone, and scientists discovered coral reef sanctuaries, plus more positive news
Artists in Ireland are being invited to apply for a €325 (£270)-a-week basic income, which has just launched to support struggling creatives and to boost the country’s cultural sector.
The income will be available for up to 2,000 artists over a three-year period. It was heralded as a “gamechanger” by the Irish rock band Pillow Queens.
Micheál Martin, the Irish prime minister, said: “Ireland’s arts and culture in all its distinctiveness and variety is the wellspring of our identity. The Basic Income for the Arts is a unique opportunity for us to support our artists and creatives, and ensure that the arts thrive into the future.”
Image: Jonathan Borba
The Chinese piano virtuoso Lang Lang (pictured) is donating hundreds of keyboards to schools in the UK, as part of a plan to bring music to deprived areas.
The musician, whose 2019 album Piano Book became the bestselling classical album of the year worldwide, will establish ‘piano labs’ in state schools through his International Music Foundation.
The instruments will be accompanied by a curriculum, designed by Lang and the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.
The UK project follows similar programmes in China and the US, where Lang’s foundation has given nearly 200,000 children access to keyboards. The first UK school to benefit will be The Winns primary school in Waltham Forest, London.
Image: World Economic Forum
He has brought the natural world into millions of homes, and grown to be one of the most influential champions of the planet. This week, Sir David Attenborough’s services to nature were recognised by the UN, which awarded him the title Champion of the Earth.
Accepting the award, Sir David said that conservation success stories should give us hope that change is possible.
“Fifty years ago, whales were on the very edge of extinction worldwide. Then people got together and now there are more whales in the sea than any living human being has ever seen,” he said. “We know what the problems are and we know how to solve them. All we lack is unified action.”
Image: Australia DFAT
The UK government has announced a new natural history GCSE, designed to equip young people with the skills needed to tackle the climate and biodiversity crises.
From September 2025, secondary school students taking the natural history qualification will learn about climate change, sustainability and other environmental challenges.
The addition of natural history to the curriculum follows widespread campaigning for better environmental education, led, among others, by broadcaster Chris Packham and Green Party MP Caroline Lucas.
Image: Benjamin Balazs
Researchers have identified bacteria in urine linked to aggressive forms of prostate cancer – a finding that could improve diagnoses, treatment and, ultimately, patient outcomes.
It is unclear whether the bacteria causes the cancer, or is just a helpful marker that indicates its presence.
Dr Rachel Hurst of the University of East Anglia, England, which conducted the research, said: “We hope that our findings and future work could lead to new treatment options that could slow or prevent aggressive prostate cancer from developing.”
Image: Foto Sushi
The Canadian province of Quebec has become the first jurisdiction in the world to ban the exploration and production of oil and gas. Public financing for fossil fuel projects has also been outlawed, as part of a bill that was passed on Tuesday.
The positive news follows decades of campaigning by environmental groups, and represents a win for people power.
“This is a historic moment,” said Anne-Céline Guyon, climate project officer for the conservation organisation Nature Québec. “Quebec is sending a strong message to the international community: yes, it is possible to give up its fossil fuel reserves for the sake of future generations.”
Image: Zbynek Burival
The Caribbean’s most resilient coral reefs have been identified by scientists, who believe the ecosystems could become sanctuaries for marine life as seas warm.
Coral reefs are extremely vulnerable to climate change, with the latest IPCC report warning that 1.5C of warming could destroy up to 90 per cent of them.
Working in collaboration with the Nature Conservancy, a US conservation group, researchers used modelling to predict outcomes for reefs under various climate scenarios. Those lying off the north coast of Cuba were deemed to have the best chance of surviving, with other promising sites located near the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Haiti, Jamaica and Florida, US.
The findings will help inform reef conservation strategies, said those behind the study. However, they warned that no reefs were likely to survive 2C of warming, and stressed the importance of drastic emissions cuts.
Image: Francesco Ungaro
A Mercedes-Benz concept car has reportedly driven 626 miles (1,000km) on a single charge – a feat described by the firm as “a milestone in the development of electric vehicles”.
Electric vehicles (EVs) come with their own set of ecological issues, but their development is deemed necessary to meet emissions targets.
The record-breaking drive by the Vision EQXX (pictured) – if confirmed – marks a new level of EV efficiency. By way of contrast, the Tesla Model S has a range of around 400 miles.
The rollout of EV charging is gathering pace in the UK. According to figures from the Department for Transport, there are now more than 30,000 public chargers in operation – a 33 per cent increase on last year.
The news comes as electric vehicle sales soar in the UK. Figures suggest that more EVs were sold in March than in the whole of 2019.
Meanwhile, sales of petrol and diesel vehicles continues to slump. The move away from combustion engines is accelerating.
Image: Ernest Ojeh
It may be extinct by name, but Gasteranthus extinctus is no longer extinct by nature – scientists have rediscovered the long-lost plant in the foothills of the Andes.
There had been no recorded sightings of the species for 40 years, but this week scientists published a paper that revealed it had been found growing in the Centinela region of Ecuador.
“Rediscovering this flower shows that it’s not too late to turn around even the worst-case biodiversity scenarios, and it shows that there’s value in conserving even the smallest, most degraded areas,” said Dawson White, postdoctoral researcher at Chicago’s Field Museum, and co-author of the paper.
Image: Riley Fortier
Main image: Matheus Ferrero