Denmark promised funding for poorer countries experiencing climate impacts, a four-day week trial showed promise, and the British public became ‘woke’, plus more positive news
This week’s Positive News roundup
The pledge of DKK100m (£12m) for “loss and damage” due to extreme events caused by the climate crisis, was announced at this week’s United Nations (UN) general assembly. The promise came hours before demonstrations across the world for , highlighting the need for more funds for countries ravaged by natural disasters linked to the crisis.
“I saw for myself in Bangladesh this spring that the consequences of climate change need increased focus,” said Danish development minister, Flemming Møller Mortensen.
The move makes Denmark the first central government and UN member state to commit to reparations for climate disasters. However, it follows the lead of an earlier pledge by Scotland, which announced £2m for loss and damage at Cop26. €1m (£0.9m) has also been pledged from the government of Belgium’s Wallonia region.
Observers say the sums are dwarfed in comparison to damages already suffered by poorer countries. UK-based campaign group puts the combined bill for 2021’s most costly climate disasters at $170bn (£150bn) but hope other leading nations will follow suit.
Image: Nomad Rabbi/iStock
A gene-targeting drug could prove a turning point in treatment for motor neurone disease (MND) after a study showed it slows down the devastating illness.
The landmark trial, conducted at Sheffield University, brings new hope to MND sufferers, with some participants reporting better mobility and lung function after a year of taking the experimental drug, Tofersen. The trial involved 108 patients with the faulty SOD1 gene, which accounts for around two per cent of MND cases.
Professor Dame Pamela Shaw, Professor of Neurology and Director of Sheffield University’s Institute for Translational Neuroscience, said she had never encountered such a promising outcome in over 25 MND clinical trials.
“Never before have I heard patients say ‘I am doing things today that I couldn’t do a few months ago – walking in the house without my sticks, walking up the garden steps, writing Christmas cards’. For me this is an important treatment milestone,” she said.
Although Tofersen is a treatment for only two per cent of those living with MND, Dr Brian Dickie, Director of Research at the MND Association said that “the study’s findings provide important ‘proof of concept’ that similar gene therapy-based approaches may be helpful for other forms of the disease.”
Image: Johnny Cohen
A groundbreaking four-day week pilot got the thumbs up from almost nine out of every 10 firms taking part, with 86 per cent saying they plan to keep the new model.
The year-long study into the benefits of a shorter working week run by 4 Day Week Global hit its half-way point this week.
88 per cent of companies said it was ‘working well’, while nearly half revealed productivity had stayed around the same level, despite the drop in hours. Over a third reported a ‘slight’ improvement in productivity and 15 per cent said the boost was significant.
The pilot involves more than 3,300 workers at 70 UK companies, ranging from a local chippy to large corporates. Employees get to maintain the same level of pay while enjoying a bounty of three-day weekends, but they have to promise to maintain productivity.
4 Day Week Global CEO Joe O’Connor admitted that, for some companies, the model had not been without its teething troubles, but he said that most experienced “pleasing discoveries and outcomes.”
Image: Alistair MacRobert
The majority of the UK public are now in agreement with so-called ‘woke’ sentiments as the balance of public opinion shifts in favour of an inclusive outlook on racial equality, immigration and sexual identity.
That’s the take-away from the results of the National Centre for Social Research’s annual poll tracking the evolution of British social, political and moral attitudes. Each year it asks 3,000 people for their views on life in Britain.
Despite determined efforts from some quarters to stoke division over progressive attitudes, the poll found that the proportion of people believing immigration was “bad for the economy” halved from 42 per cent to 20 per cent in the decade to 2021. Those saying it was good rose from 21 per cent to 50 per cent.
Meanwhile, 30 per cent thought rights for gay men, lesbians and bisexuals had “not gone far enough” – up from 20 per cent in 2013. At that time, 32 per cent had said that rights had “gone too far” but this number has now reduced to 25 per cent.
“The more liberal or ‘woke’ outlook on national identity, national sentiment, and immigration now tends to be the more popular view – in contrast to the position a decade or so ago,” the study concluded.
Image: Andra C Taylor Jr
Zero-emission passenger flights are set to become a reality in Sweden after a start-up unveiled a 30-seater plane powered by electricity.
Heart Aerospace’s ES-30 airliner boasts a range of 120 battery-fuelled miles, which can be doubled using the plane’s reserve hybrid system of turbo generators powered by sustainable aviation fuel.
The firm has already landed orders for 200 aircraft from United Airlines and Mesa Air Group. Meanwhile Air Canada and Saab – the Swedish aerospace and defence company – have each invested $5m (£4m) in the firm, which aims to have a working prototype ready for test flights in 2026.
The project comes amid ambitious climate goals set by Sweden for its aviation industry. The country has pledged to make domestic air travel fossil-free by 2030, with outbound international flights following within the next 15 years.
Image: Heart Aerospace
The Royal Shakespeare Company appointed its first female artistic director in its 60-year history.
Tamara Harvey will share the role with long-time collaborator Daniel Evans when they take up the post in June 2023.
The pair applied jointly for the position after Gregory Doran announced he was stepping down following a decade at the helm. He will direct his 50th production for the company next spring and stay on board as Artistic Director Emeritus until the end of the year.
Evans is currently Artistic Director of Chichester Festival Theatre while Botswana-born Harvey is in the same role at Theatr Clwyd.
“Stepping into this job is both the most exciting and the most daunting thing I’ve ever done,” said Harvey. “The great joy of working in partnership with Daniel, an artist I admire beyond measure, is that we share both that excitement and that awe at becoming the next custodians of this amazing company.”
On a related note, for an inspiring interview with the actor Mark Rylance – who was the first artistic director of Shakespeare’s Globe in London – subscribe now to get the forthcoming issue of Positive News magazine, out on 5 October.
Image: Seamus Ryan
Months of painstaking work have unearthed a stunning Byzantine-era mosaic floor, unwittingly discovered by an olive farmer while planting a tree.
The antiquity was found in a refugee camp in Bureij, central Gaza, by Palestinian Salman al-Nabahin, who spent three months quietly excavating the orchard site alongside his son.
Thought to date from the 5th-7th century, the mosaic features colourful images of beasts and birds surrounded by striking geometric patterns.
Experts have hailed the find, at a site around half a mile from the border with Israel, as one of Gaza’s greatest archaeological treasures. However, concerns were raised that it could be damaged in the ongoing conflict.
“These are the most beautiful mosaic floors discovered in Gaza, both in terms of the quality of the graphic representation and the complexity of the geometry,” said René Elter, an archaeologist from the French Biblical and Archaeological School of Jerusalem.
Al-Nabahin told CNN: “I see it as a treasure, dearer than a treasure. It isn’t personal, it belongs to every Palestinian.”
Image: David McLenachan
Winners of the Astronomy Photographer of the Year have been announced, providing breathtaking insights into our skies at night.
The competition, which is run by Royal Observatory Greenwich and is now in its 14 year, saw Austrian photographer Gerald Rehmann crowned as the overall winner. His winning entry was a rare snap of Comet Leonard’s gas tail being whipped away by solar winds. With the title Disconnection Event, it was captured in Namibia on Christmas Day.
“This award is one of the highlights of my astrophotography work,” said Rehmann. “All the effort that went into making this image a success was worth it.”
The contest’s ‘sun’ category was won by Indian photographer Soumyadeep Mukherjee, with A Year in the Sun, a composite image tracking sunspots drifting over the course of 12 months.
Ed Bloomer, astronomer at Royal Observatory Greenwich said: “It was really satisfying to see how many entrants challenged themselves to capture unusual, rarely imaged or transient events. There are some things you won’t have seen before, and even some things that won’t be seen again.”
Image: Shot by Cerqueira
Main image: Nick Karvounis
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