A date was set for swimming in the (once-polluted) Seine, Australia pledged to quit coal, and an ad-free search engine launched in Europe, plus more positive news
This week’s Positive News roundup
A century after they were banned from swimming in the Seine because it was too polluted, Parisians are preparing to plunge into its waters again.
From 2025, public swimming is to be permitted at locations across the French capital, it was announced this week. It follows extensive (and expensive) efforts to clean up the waterway, which was closed to swimmers in 1923.
It’s all part of mayor Anne Hidalgo’s ambitious plans for the capital, which include turning car parking spaces into cycle lanes.
Skeptics are mindful that Jaques Chirac made a similar promise about the Seine in 1990, when he was mayor. However, Hidalgo has put her money where her mouth is by committing €1bn (£879m) to transform the river.
It’s not just swimmers that are returning to the Seine. As water quality has improved, marine life is reported to have bounced back, including salmon, eels and catfish.
Until May of this year, Australia was led by a climate-skeptic prime minister who once brought a lump of coal to work to show his support for fossil fuels. How things have changed.
This week, Australia’s most coal-dependant state pledged to kick the habit by 2035, while supercharging renewables. Within hours of Queensland’s announcement, Australia’s biggest polluter, AGL Energy, promised to do the same.
A report earlier this year found that Australia has the highest coal emissions per person of any developed country.
The news follows a surge in support for Australian politicians pledging climate action, chiefly Anthony Albanese, who took over as prime minister in May.
Image: Caleb Russell
A new ad-free search engine that doesn’t track users launched in the UK, France and Germany on Thursday.
Neeva was created by Sridhar Ramaswamy, who worked at Google for 16 years. He told the BBC that he launched the service because he no longer wanted to be part of the “exploitative” tech sector.
Neeva already has 600,000 users in the US. It offers free-to-use search, with other features such as a password manager and virtual-private-network (VPN) service available on subscription.
A pervasive form of plastic that’s notoriously hard to break down may finally have been defeated… by a worm.
Spanish researchers revealed this week that wax worm saliva can break down polyethylene, a tough plastic used in anything from food packaging to cable insulation.
It follows similar research by Austrian scientists, who last year found that bacteria living inside a cow’s gut can digest three types of plastic. It is hoped that such breakthroughs will lead to new natural approaches to deal with plastic pollution.
Image: Erik Mclean
The days of swapping your charger every time you get a new phone are numbered, thanks to a new law approved by the European Parliament on Tuesday.
From the end of 2024, phones, e-readers and other electronic devices sold in the EU must be equipped with a USB-C charging point.
Proponents of the law say it will reduce e-waste, save people money and is a ‘victory for common sense’. Critics warn it will stifle innovation. It certainly creates a headache for Apple, whose phones use a different power connector.
Tuesday’s vote confirms an earlier commitment by the EU to push for a single universal charging point. While the law will only apply within the bloc, its impact will likely be felt beyond as manufacturers are unlikely to make different versions of their products for other markets.
Image: Steve Johnson
Fast fashion’s disastrous impact on the planet is well documented, but this week there were signs that a once-fringe solution has finally gone mainstream.
On Tuesday, the UK retailer John Lewis announced the launch of its ‘fashion rental collection’. Customers can borrow items for up to 20 days under the scheme, instead of buying them.
The initiative is one of a series of pledges made by John Lewis, which said it wants to have rental schemes operating in most product categories by 2025. The firm also promised £2m to fund ecosystem protection and regeneration projects in the UK and India.
Marija Rompani, the firm’s director of sustainability, said: “We all know that we can’t exist without nature, it is essential for our survival and it will play a vital role in solving the problem of climate change. Delaying action is simply not an option.”
Image: Priscilla du Preez
The new issue of Positive News magazine launched this week, offering a timely reminder about all the good things that are happening in the world.
Cover star, actor Mark Rylance, gave an illuminating interview in which he opened up about abuse, addiction and his ways of coping with bad news.
Our journalists also profiled the Indigenous leaders scoring huge victories for the planet, and explored a promising solution to homelessness that is enabling rough sleepers to move forward with their lives.
“I hope that the articles in the new issue help you to take your own small steps forward,” said acting editor Daisy Greenwell.
Image: Positive News
A festival dedicated to ‘mental wealth’ will return to London next Monday (Oct 10), on what will be World Mental Health Day.
Hosted in venues across the capital, it will explore how art, culture, writing, education, politics, and sport can address and support mental wellbeing.
The five-day festival includes a wide range of activities, including live interviews, talks, panel discussions, performances and workshops.
The event is run by the London-based City Lit Institute for Adult Learning, which is the largest adult education college in Europe.
Image: Luke Stackpoole
A sea change in commuting is set to launch in Stockholm next month, with the arrival of a ‘flying’ ferry that runs on electricity.
The Swedish capital currently relies on a feet of more than 60 smut-belching diesel ferries, which serve as public transport for the 2.4m people that live in and around Stockholm.
The new ferry is expected to be the world’s fastest electric passenger boat. The first 30-seat vessel will take to the water in November, before being rolled out commercially in 2023.
Read the full story here.
Amid the trauma of the war in Ukraine, some joy: techno raves are helping restore villages in the north of the country.
The events are organised by Repair Together, and have drawn people from as far away as Portugal and the US to dance among the debris with brooms and shovels.
Read the full story here.
Image: Alexey Furman/Getty
Main image: Joe Desousa
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