Image for What went right this week: the ‘holy grail’ of green energy, plus more

What went right this week: the ‘holy grail’ of green energy, plus more

The energy paradigm potentially changed forever, a patient with ‘incurable’ leukaemia was cured, and there was win for women’s football, plus more positive news

The energy paradigm potentially changed forever, a patient with ‘incurable’ leukaemia was cured, and there was win for women’s football, plus more positive news

This week’s positive news roundup

Positive news nuclear fusion
A nuclear breakthrough potentially changed everything

It has been described as the “holy grail” of energy. But despite decades of research, scientists have hitherto failed to unlock nuclear fusion’s potential, and with it the promise of near-limitless, low-carbon energy. Until now. 

On Tuesday, US researchers said they had overcome a major hurdle by producing more energy from a fusion experiment than they put in. This had never been done before. And while the amount of energy produced was only enough to power a kettle, it’s implications are huge, and will be felt way beyond California’s Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), where the experiment took place. 

“This astonishing scientific advance puts us on the precipice of a future no longer reliant on fossil fuels, but instead powered by new clean fusion energy,” said Chuck Schumer, majority leader of the US Senate.

While existing nuclear plants employ fission (‘splitting the atom’) to produce energy, fusion harnesses the energy created when atoms are fused together. Unlike fission, fusion does not create a chain reaction and produces no dangerous long-term radioactive waste.

There’s a long way to go before the technology is commercially viable, but the future of energy looks brighter. 

Image: Hal Gatewood

A patient with ‘incurable’ leukaemia was cured

A girl who had been diagnosed with “incurable” leukaemia is now free from the disease thanks to what scientists say is the most sophisticated cell engineering to date.

The patient, 13-year-old Alyssa from Leicester, England, was diagnosed with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2021. She was treated with all conventional therapies, but the cancer returned and there appeared to be no further treatment options left.

But in May, Alyssa took part in a groundbreaking trial at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital, becoming the first leukaemia patient to be treated with base-edited T-cells. Base editing is a genome editing approach that “corrects” mutations in the DNA. Edited cells hunt down and kill cancerous T-cells. 

Six months on, Alyssa (pictured) is in remission, at home and looking forward to returning to school. “We’re on a strange cloud nine to be honest,” said her mother, Kiona.

A trial for the new treatment is currently open. It aims to recruit up to 10 patients with T-cell leukaemia, who have exhausted conventional treatment options.

Image: Great Ormond Street Hospital

Positive news
Europe’s biggest bank pledged to defund fossil fuels

One of the world’s biggest fossil fuel financiers has agreed to stop funding new oil and gas projects.

In its updated policy, HSBC said: “We will no longer provide upstream finance for the specific purposes of new oil and gas fields and related infrastructure.”  

Make My Money Matter, a responsible investment charity, welcomed the move. “HSBC’s announcement is another nail in the coffin of fossil fuel expansion,” said CEO Tony Burdon. “We hope this commitment sends a clear signal to other UK high street banks like Barclays who staggeringly continue to directly finance new oil and gas projects.”

HSBC is the latest bank to announce such a move, after Lloyds made a similar commitment in October.

Image: Joshua Lawrence

Positive news
Belgium mooted a tax on private jets

Private jets, short-haul flights and inefficient planes are to be taxed by the Belgian authorities in a bid to reduce emissions, Reuters news agency reported this week. 

The levies are expected to be introduced next April, and will be based on air pollution, noise pollution and CO2 produced by planes. Taxes will also increase for flights shorter than 500km.

Belgium’s announcement follows France’s decision to ban domestic flights where there is a train alternative that takes less than 2.5 hours. 

More than half the world’s aviation emissions are produced by 1 per cent of the population, according to a recent study. 

Image: Jakob Rosen

The UK changed its tune on childcare

In a move welcomed by many parents, the UK government has agreed that childcare is a critical national infrastructure, like schools, hospitals and public transport. 

As the levelling-up and regeneration bill headed to the Commons for its final reading on Tuesday, Labour MP Stella Creasy tabled an amendment calling for childcare to be defined as national infrastructure. 

Her amendment received cross-party support and the government accepted the new definition. It means that childcare provisions should qualify for money from a local infrastructure levy, which can be imposed on developers building new homes.

Rising nursery fees and a shortage of places means that many parents (but mostly mothers) are unable to go back to work after having children. The levelling-up and regeneration bill will now go to the House of Lords for consideration. 

Image: Bbc Creative 

The UK boosted flexible working rights

UK employees will have the right to request flexible working arrangements from day one of their new job, under legislation being brought in by the government. Currently, they can only exercise that right after six months. 

Flexible working is something many employees have got used to in the UK, where a shortage of labour means firms need to be more accommodating to attract talent. 

While flexible working helps people juggle other responsibilities such as childcare, not everyone is convinced. Writing in The Times, entrepreneur James Dyson said the new law would create a “two-tier workforce” because most blue collar workers are unable to work from home. 

Image: Christin Hume

Speaking of work…

The green jobs market is white hot in the UK, according to a report by the consultancy PwC. 

It found that the number of green jobs advertised in the UK has trebled in the last year, and was growing at four times the rate of the average job market.

However, it warned that most green jobs were concentrated in London and the south-east of England. 

“If we want to meet our net zero ambitions while driving growth, then the green economy needs to be nationwide,” said PwC’s Carl Sizer. 

Image: Maddybris

Positive news
London’s theatres pledged to give away unsold tickets

A cultural initiative based on the food bank formula will offer disadvantaged families free tickets to see shows in London’s West End.

Leading institutions, such as the Barbican, Roundhouse and National Theatre, have agreed to take part in the Ticket Bank project. Rather than leaving seats empty, participating venues will offer unsold gig and theatre tickets to people struggling with the cost of living. 

“Access to art and culture are essential to the human condition,” said Chris Sonnex, artistic director at Cardboard Citizens, the charity behind the project. “[Ticket Bank] will give many people, who couldn’t otherwise, the opportunity to be entertained, to see other worlds, to escape and most importantly to dream.”

Image: Vlah Dumitru

There was a win for women’s football

More girls are playing football than ever before in England, a further sign that the beautiful game is becoming more inclusive. 

Sports England’s annual survey of children’s fitness suggests that 100,000 more girls enjoy a regular kickabout now compared to five years ago.

And this is before you factor in the massive visibility boost provided by Euro 2022. The final, which England won, reportedly netted the largest TV audience for a women’s match in UK history. 

Image: Den Herder

Best countries
The best countries for social progress were revealed

It might not seem like it sometimes – particularly in 2022, year of the so-called ‘permacrisis’ – but the world has mostly become a better place to live in over the last 11 years. 

That’s according to the latest Social Progress Index, which each year scrutinises life in 169 countries.

But while progress marches on, it is uneven and showing signs of slowing. Read the full Positive News story here. 

Image: Adli Wahid
Main image: Venti Views

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