Research revealed the surprising benefits of urban farms, the EU drafted a law to protect gig workers, and a plan was hatched to rewild London, plus more positive news
Think of farming and what comes to mind? A tractor ploughing a field, cows grazing pastures, rows of vegetables in polytunnels? What about planters overlooked by tower blocks?
Maybe not, but perhaps it should – because according to the University of Sussex, urban growing spaces are almost as productive as regular farms. The surprise finding was reported this week, after researchers monitored an allotment in Brighton and Hove, England, over two years.
They found that growers harvested an average of 1kg of fruit and veg per square metre, which they say is within the range of conventional farming. What’s more, yields were achieved with limited pesticide use.
Lead researcher, Dr Beth Nicholls, said: “The UK imports approximately £8bn of fruit and vegetables each year, but our results show that green spaces in cities, such as allotments and community gardens, could play an important role in meeting that demand at a local scale.”
Image: Priscilla du Preez
Uber drivers, Deliveroo riders and other gig economy workers will be entitled to the same benefits as regular employees, under draft rules proposed by the European Commission.
The legislation would compel digital platforms to ensure those working for them receive sick pay, holiday pay and the minimum wage. The move would impact up to four million gig workers in Europe, where there are growing concerns about conditions and pay.
“For too long platform companies have made huge profits by dodging their most basic obligations as employers at the expense of workers,” said Ludovic Voet of the European Trade Union Confederation. “The commission’s proposal should finally give workers real certainty about their employment status.”
Uber said the proposals could push up prices and jeopardise jobs. The legislation will now be negotiated by member states in the European Parliament.
Image: Rowan Freeman
The weekend is about to get longer in the United Arab Emirates, which is condensing the working week to 4.5 days from January.
The changes are intended to “boost work-life balance and enhance social wellbeing, while increasing performance to advance the UAE’s economic competitiveness”, the government said in a statement.
The new weekend will start at noon on Friday. It will also shift to Saturday and Sunday, instead of the traditional Friday and Saturday, to bring it in line with other countries.
Image: Fredrik Ohlander
Wildlife habitats are to be created across London in a bid to boost biodiversity and improve people’s access to nature, it was announced this week.
London’s mayor, Sadiq Kahn, unveiled a £600,000 Rewilding Fund on Monday. It will help finance green roof installations, river restoration projects and new wildlife habitats, plus traineeships to help people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds develop vital green skills.
Kahn said the initiative would “ensure all Londoners have a thriving web of nature on their doorstep”.
Image: Hyde Park, London. Credit: V2F
In a further sign that life is becoming less restrictive for women in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia, the kingdom hosted its first ever female boxing tournament last weekend.
Given that women weren’t allowed in sports stadiums until 2018, it shows just how far Saudi has come in a short time.
Before the tournament, the New York Times reported more positive news from the kingdom: the percentage of Saudi women in the workforce has doubled in the last five years to 32 per cent. There’s still a way to go, but progress is being made.
Simple changes to how UK solar parks are managed could significantly boost bumblebee populations, according to modelling by Lancaster University.
It calculated that solar parks managed as meadows would support four times as many bumblebees as turfed solar parks. Not only that, but they would have a ripple effect locally, boosting bee numbers within a 1km radius.
Hollie Blaydes, lead researcher, said: “Our findings provide the first quantitative evidence that solar parks could be used as a conservation tool to support and boost pollinator populations.”
Image: Dmitry Grigoriev
Records by Abba, Michael Bublé and Mariah Carey have been pushed down the Australian music charts by a birdsong album.
Songs of Disappearance was released by BirdLife Australia on 3 December, to public acclaim. It features the calls of 53 of Australia’s most threatened birds, including princess parrots (pictured), forty-spotted pardalotes and regent honeyeaters.
The money raised from album sales will help fund conservation projects to revive the featured birds.
Some of the world’s biggest record labels have joined smaller independents in pledging to make the music industry net zero by 2050. The sector has a hefty carbon footprint to contend with, driven largely by global touring.
The three labels – Sony, Universal and Warner – plus independents such as Warp, Ninja Tune and the Beggars Group all signed the Music Climate Pact. It commits signatories to work together to reduce emissions by 50 per cent by the end of the decade, and achieve carbon neutrality by the middle of the century.
For inspiration, they might want to look to Coldplay. The band says its forthcoming world tour has been designed to produce 50 per cent fewer emissions than the last one.
Image: Sebastian Ervi
Main image: Karl Hendon/Getty Images
What went right will return on Boxing Day with a bumper edition looking back at the big stories of 2021.
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