Clothing company Patagonia made the earth its ‘only shareholder’, the WHO said the pandemic's end is in sight, and a pine marten popped up in London, plus more positive news
This week’s Positive News roundup
In the ultimate mic drop gesture of corporate responsibility, the owner of multi-billion dollar clothing firm Patagonia has given the company away to help fight climate change.
Mountaineering and responsible business legend Yvon Chouinard announced this week that he and his family have donated their shares to two new entities: Patagonia Purpose Trust and the Holdfast Collective. The charitable trust, which holds 2 per cent of the company and all of its voting rights, will guard the organisation’s mission. The Holdfast Collective meanwhile, which will hold the remaining 98 per cent of the stock, is a not-for-profit that is dedicated to preserving nature and battling the environmental crisis.
Every dollar of profit that is not reinvested back into Patagonia will be distributed as dividends to these new entities and then used to protect nature and biodiversity, the company says. It expects to pay out roughly $100m (£87m) annually.
“Earth is now our only shareholder,” announced Chouinard, who began the $3bn company by selling hand-made climbing gear while living out of his car.
Chouinard told the New York Times he was moved to act, in part, by his listing in Forbes as a billionaire. “I never wanted to be a businessman,” he said.
“Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose’. Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”
Patagonia, which is a certified B Corp, has for decades given away 1% of sales to grassroots environmental activists.
From the great outdoors to the virtual world with the news that a makeover of one of the world’s biggest cryptocurrencies has slashed energy use in the sector.
Crypto has faced criticism over its poor sustainability, with notoriously greedy servers proving a massive drain on energy resources.
Bitcoin, the world’s largest cryptocurrency, is responsible for an estimated 70m tonnes of CO2 a year.
Runner-up Ethereum has an annual power consumption equivalent to Bangladesh – but henceforth it should be treading so lightly that its carbon footprint will be barely visible.
Coding changes to the platform finalised this week mean that vast computing power is no longer needed to complete transactions, slashing energy use by as much as 99.95%. Experts have hailed the move, dubbed ‘The Merge’, as one of the most significant moments in crypto history.
Ethereum co-founder Vitalik Buterin took to Twitter to proclaim: “Happy merge all. This is a big moment for the Ethereum ecosystem. Everyone who helped make the merge happen should feel very proud today.”
Image: Ivan Radic licensed under CC BY 2.0
The World Health Organisation (WHO) delivered its most optimistic outlook to date on the Covid-19 pandemic by declaring the “end is in sight” after global weekly deaths fell to their lowest rate for two-and-a-half years.
The health body’s director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, cautioned that Covid-19, which has killed more than 6m people, still represents an “acute global emergency”. He set out key actions that governments must take to win the fight, including combating misinformation and maintaining vaccination programmes.
“A marathon runner does not stop when the finish line comes into view; she runs harder, with all the energy she has left. So must we,” he told a virtual press conference.
The WHO estimates that 20m deaths were averted by Covid-19 vaccinations last year, with 12bn doses administered worldwide.
A hedgehog conservation initiative got an unexpected surprise when its trail camera captured candid snaps of a critically endangered pine marten.
The HogWatch project monitors and protects hedgehogs in the capital, and is well used to badgers and foxes setting off its hidden camera traps. But one camera at woodland Kingston-upon-Thames caught images of a pine marten – a rarity in southern England not seen in the capital for a century.
The iconic species is now generally confined to northern and central Scotland, with small numbers in northern England, and the nearest known population to London is over 70 miles away in the New Forest.
It’s not yet clear whether the sighting marks a natural return for the iconic woodland mammal, or a clandestine reintroduction effort.
Senior research fellow at The Zoological Society of London’s Institute of Zoology, Dr Chris Carbone said: “We’ll continue to use the HogWatch cameras to see if there are any more individuals in the area and monitor their activity.”
Image: Hans De Bisschop/Flickr licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0
While the ongoing energy crisis highlights the pressing need to switch to renewables, there’s good news from the bright sparks at Oxford University: going green could save the planet over $12tn (£10tn) by 2050.
The study examined historic prices for renewables and fossil fuels, then modelled their likely future cost, based on investment and economies of scale making similar advances cheaper over time.
It concluded that the falling cost of clean energy favours a rapid transition over a softly-softly approach and suggested it was wrong to assume making the leap will be expensive.
Professor Doyne Farmer from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School told BBC News: “Our central conclusion is that we should go full speed ahead with the green energy transition because it’s going to save us money.”
Image: Bureau of Land Management/Flickr licensed under CC BY 2.0
While the US outlawed imports from China’s troubled Xinjiang province in June, Brussels plans to go one better with a ban on all goods made using forced labour, including from within the bloc.
The European Commission (EC) announced its proposal this week and the Financial Times reported insiders as saying the move will affect shoes, clothes and commodities including timber, fish and cocoa.
The blanket ban will uphold World Trade Organisation rules on non-discrimination by targeting all products, regardless of their origin, which are made with forced labour – defined by the International Labour organisation as work performed involuntarily or under threat of punishment.
It will be implemented by initially targeting goods where intelligence points to a forced-labour risk, either due to geographical location or the type of product. Authorities will be empowered to carry out checks and inspections, with products being withdrawn from the market if modern slavery suspicions are confirmed.
EC Executive Vice-President and Commissioner for Trade, Valdis Dombrovskis, said: “This proposal will make a real difference in tackling modern-day slavery, which affects millions of people around the globe.”
Image: Tim Mossholder
A simple blood test could herald a new era for cancer screening after a study found it detects the disease before patients develop symptoms.
The Galleri test, developed by US healthcare company Grail, looks for abnormal DNA cells in blood.
NHS England has hailed the new screening method a potential game changer which looks set to revolutionise early diagnosis.
An initial study involving 6,662 participants flagged potential cancers in 92. 35 went on to be diagnosed with tumours or blood cancers, the vast majority of which have no routine screening tests available.
Results of a major trial involving 165,000 run in partnership with the NHS are due next year.
Dr Deb Schrag, a senior researcher on the study at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said: “This study provides a glimpse of what the future may hold – the opportunity for screening using blood tests to detect various types of cancers at their earliest and most treatable stages.”
Image: LuAnn Hunt
A Banksy-style guerilla artist is delivering a colourful remedy for pavement trip-hazards by filling in potholes with vibrant mosaics.
Lyon-based Ememem uses tiles arranged in eye-catching geometric designs to “heal the street” with artworks he calls “flackings” – a play on the word flaque, French for puddle.
Describing himself on his website as a “bitumen mender, sidewalk poet, macadam surgeon”, Ememem says his sidewalk sticking plasters “illuminate the wounds of the urban fabric.”
The works often resemble uncovered archaeological relics and are already gaining official recognition, with six pieces commissioned by Lyon authorities.
Image: Alexandre Dulaunoy/Flickr licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
Main image: Patagonia
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