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What went right this week: the UK’s four-day week, plus more positive news

A four-day week trial was announced for the UK, a pristine coral reef was discovered off Tahiti, and an app launched to help people share stuff with neighbours, plus more stories of progress

A four-day week trial was announced for the UK, a pristine coral reef was discovered off Tahiti, and an app launched to help people share stuff with neighbours, plus more stories of progress

A four-day week trial was announced for the UK

Proponents of a shorter working week have long argued that it would improve life satisfaction without impacting productivity. This week the UK became the latest country to be swayed by the idea.

From June, it will trial a four-day working week with firms, as part of a six-month experiment. Staff will get the same pay for fewer hours, and their productivity will be monitored. 

Canon is one of around 30 firms taking part in the trial, run by researchers at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. Academics want other companies to take part.

Joe O’Connor, manager of 4 Day Week Global, a campaign group that pushed for the trial, said: “The four-day week challenges the current model of work and helps companies move away from simply measuring how long people are at work, to a sharper focus on the output being produced.”

The UK isn’t the only place flirting with a four-day week. Spain is trialling the concept with select firms, while Scotland has plans for its own pilot. Here are 10 compelling arguments for a shorter week. 

Image: Hallmackenreuther

A pristine coral reef was discovered off Tahiti

A vast coral garden has been discovered off the coast of Tahiti – a find that raises hopes for the world’s beleaguered reefs. 

Unlike most reefs, which sit in shallow water, the one off Tahiti is 30m below the surface, in what’s known as the ocean’s ‘twilight zone’. Down there corals are less impacted by rising ocean temperatures (which cause coral bleaching) because water heats faster on the surface.

The discovery opens up the possibility that there are more deep reefs out there than previously thought. They could offer a refuge for fish species if shallow reefs are bleached.  

Alexis Rosenfeld, a French photographer, was part of the Unesco-led expedition. He said: “It was magical to witness giant, beautiful rose corals which stretch for as far as the eye can see. It was like a work of art.

Image: Alexis Rosenfeld

An app launched to help communities share stuff

Power tools, air beds and a disco ball are among the items to have been listed on a new sharing platform, which lets people loan stuff out within their community.

BORROW was launched to reduce resource consumption and scale up the sharing economy. It sits as a separate feature on the OLIO app, which enables people share surplus food with neighbours. 

“Most of us have lots of useful items dotted around the house that we barely use – the new OLIO BORROW feature means that you can now make these items available for your neighbours to borrow for short periods of time,” said OLIO CEO Tessa Clarke.

Image: OLIO founders Saasha Celestial-One (L) and Tessa Clarke (R).

A thousand fin whales were spotted near Antarctica

Twitter was abuzz this week after a photographer posted footage of 1,000 fin whales swimming off South Orkney, near Antarctica. 

Conor Ryan, a self-professed “whale nerd”, also reported spotting blue and humpback whales in the mix. 

The footage is made more remarkable because it was filmed in waters where fin whales were hunted almost to extinction. Their bounceback offers hope for other species.

Image: Aqqa Rosing-Asvid

A rare bird returned to Argentina’s Iberá Wetlands

The bare-faced curassow had been absent from Argentina’s Iberá Wetlands for so long that locals could no longer describe it. The last sighting of the bird was over 40 years ago. 

However, this week conservationists revealed that three bare-faced curassow chicks were released in the reserve at the beginning of January, following two other reintroductions last year. 

The species was driven out of the wetlands by hunting and habitat loss. Now ecologists are attempting to turn the clock back by returning missing species. Last year, jaguars were reintroduced after an absence of 70 years.

Biologists described the return of the bare-faced curassow as “a very important step in the recovery of an ecosystem”.

Image: Charles J Sharp 

Positive news
Millionaires called for higher taxes

A coterie of high-net worth individuals have called on governments to make them pay more taxes to help bridge the gap between rich and poor. 

The intervention follows the publication of a report last week by Oxfam. It found that the 10 richest men in the world have doubled their wealth during the pandemic, while the incomes of 99 per cent of the population shrank.  

Disney heiress Abigail Disney was among 102 millionaires who signed the open letter calling for higher taxes. “The world – every country in it – must demand the rich pay their fair share,” read the letter. “Tax us, the rich, and tax us now.”

Image: Jason Leung

Positive news
A report highlighted the power of small gardens

It doesn’t matter how big it is, it’s what you do with it that counts. That was the conclusion of a report, out this week, which assessed the impact of gardens on bee populations. 

Those behind it studied gardens in Bristol, England, and found that their size had little relationship to the amount of nectar produced by bees. 

“Bigger gardens are not necessarily better for feeding pollinators,” the study concluded. “Instead, the management decisions made by individuals are particularly important, with gardeners able to control habitat quality if not quantity.”

Here are five tips to make your garden more bee-friendly.

Image: Aaron Burden
Main image: Alistair Macrobert

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