50 Good News Stories From Around the World That Will Brighten Your Day
We've rounded up the most heartwarming and inspirational good news stories from across the globe.
Photo: Ale Karmirian, Courtesy of Gastromotiva
Changing Lives, One Plate at a Time
Brazil | Every bite counts in Brazil’s favelas, sprawling shantytowns on the outskirts of major cities. The country has one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls, and severe unemployment has led to 19 million Brazilians experiencing chronic hunger over the past year.
But for David Hertz, food is more than sustenance. It’s a social-bonding tool, an $8-trillion global industry and, through his non-profit, Gastromotiva, a way to empower the world’s poorest citizens. Gastromotiva provides free courses in restaurant cooking, kitchen-assistant training and food entrepreneurship, all with a focus on nutrition. Students apply online, and after they finish the program, they not only find jobs, but often start their own restaurants and soup kitchens.
What’s more, through 65 grassroots “solidarity kitchens,” many based out of the homes of alumni, as well as partnerships with local homeless charities and food banks, almost 80,000 free meals are distributed to hungry families in Rio de Janeiro every month.
“With Brazil and the world facing all the challenges the pandemic has caused, the greatest reward of my work is seeing people employed and being able to feed themselves,” Hertz says.
A former chef, Hertz was inspired to start Gastromotiva in 2006, after quitting his restaurant job and spending time designing training programs for a São Paulo favela. The non-profit has expanded its courses to Mexico City and Cape Town, and is also working in El Salvador through the UN’s World Food Programme. —By Anna-Kaisa Walker
An Unlikely Mammal Returns to the Mainland
Australia | The voracious, whirling Looney Tunes character might be the first Tasmanian devil that springs to mind, but the real-life creature is actually one of the world’s most vulnerable marsupials. Devastated by a facial-tumour disease that wiped out up to 90 per cent of the population in some areas of Tasmania, devils were declared an endangered species in 2008.
Now Tasmanian devils are thriving on the Australian mainland for the first time in 3,000 years, thanks to the efforts of conservation group Aussie Ark. Dozens of devils were introduced to a 400-hectare sanctuary in New South Wales last year, and this spring, the first generation of joeys were born.
Once widespread over the entire continent, prehistoric climate change, combined with hunting by people and dingoes, left Tasmania the only place where devils survived after 1,000 B.C. Aussie Ark hopes to create a self-sustaining population of devils that can help rebalance the ecosystem in the face of invasive species. —By Anna-Kaisa Walker
Check out the cutest baby animals born during the pandemic.
Photo: Courtesy of Just Believe Inc.
Building a New Sanctuary for Troubled Veterans
United States | Up to 30 per cent of American veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, while 14 per cent of people who die by suicide in the U.S. every year are vets. Many veterans also struggle with homelessness and addiction.
In June, Marty Weber, himself a vet, donated 15-hectares of New Jersey forest to homeless-outreach organization Just Believe Inc. The land will become a retreat for veterans struggling with addiction, mental illness and homelessness. Weber named it Jeff’s Camp, after Jeff Poissant, his Army buddy-turned-life-partner who died of bladder cancer in 2017.
Weber blames Poissant’s death on an inadequate military health-care system, which didn’t properly treat him until it was too late. For the almost one in four veterans who suffer from mental illness, accessing mental-health care is often difficult and complicated. “Our government is not taking good enough care of our vets,” said Weber. “I have to do what I can in Jeff’s memory to help make things right.” —By Anna-Kaisa Walker
Photo: Courtesy of House of One Berlin
Three Faiths—and a New Hope for Reconciliation
Germany | In the heart of Berlin, a new place of worship will redefine the idea of sacred space. House of One is a new multifaith centre with the purpose of fostering community and dialogue. The building will house a church, a mosque and a synagogue in three separate sections linked by a communal domed hall in the middle. House of One will also be open to all other faiths, as well as secular society.
Religious leaders from three communities—St. Petri-St. Marien Protestant Church, rabbinical seminary Abraham Geiger Kolleg and the Muslim founders of Forum Dialog—came together a decade ago to discuss their shared dream of a peace project in a time when religiously motivated attacks were on the rise. —By Anna-Kaisa Walker
Photo: Courtesy of Adolfo Damian Berdun
Lessons from a Basketball Star
Italy | Adolfo Damian Berdun isn’t just any kids’ basketball coach. The captain of Argentina’s national wheelchair basketball team and MVP of his Italian Cup–winning team, Unipolsai Briantea84 Cantù, taught four classes of elementary-school kids this past spring as part of a project called “At School I Learn to Play Without Limits,” a five-week sports and inclusion course run by Polisportiva Veranese, a local athletic association.
But when Berdun rolled onto the court in front of a wide-eyed group of Grade 2 students, he made it clear they weren’t there to talk about his missing leg—they were there to play basketball. Deprived of team sports for almost a full school year during the pandemic, the kids immediately launched into dribbling and shooting drills. For Berdun, who has visited many schools to talk about disability issues over the years, it was the first (of what he hopes are many) opportunities to simply be called “Coach.”
During the last class, Berdun explained how he lost his leg at age 13 after being hit by a truck in his hometown of San Nicolás de Los Arroyos. But moments later, the kids were back on the court. “I was surprised how quickly the children forgot about my disability,” he says. “All they thought about was basketball.” —By Anna-Kaisa Walker
Photo: Courtesy of the Nature Conservancy
A Rainforest for Everyone
Belize | Rainforests are well known as habitat for extraordinary numbers of species of flora and fauna. They’re also the Earth’s lungs. But deforestation from development and farming is a constant threat: between 2010 and 2020, South America lost 2.6 million hectares of forest per year.
One section of rainforest now has a lifetime guarantee against that fate. This past April, a coalition of 16 conservation partners, including the Nature Conservancy, a global non-profit, bought about 95,000 hectares of land from the Forestland Group, a logging company. Named the Belize Maya Forest by its new guardians, the area is a vital habitat for jaguars, spider monkeys and pumas.
“If that area had not been purchased, the likely future of it was going to be full clearcutting of the forest for large-scale mechanized agriculture for crops or for cattle ranching,” says Elma Kay, science director at the University of Belize Environmental Research Institute.
Because of its rugged terrain, humans haven’t lived in the area for 200 years. Kay, who leads the team that consults with local communities, hopes the region will soon attract tourists; among its most stunning features are cenotes, natural pools of water that were central to ancient Mayan culture. The safeguarding of the Belize Maya Forest may also lead to programs that would make crop-growing in the surrounding area more sustainable.
Now rainforest conservationists will turn to another nearby project: protecting a corridor of 12,140 hectares of jungle that connects the Belize Maya Forest to pristine forested mountains on the Guatemalan border. —By Al Donato
Check out the best discoveries to come out of the Amazon rainforest.
Endangered Cheetahs Make Historic Comeback
India | More than 70 years after India’s cheetahs were hunted to extinction, the big cats are finally set to return. In a project spearheaded by India’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, upwards of 40 African cheetahs will be relocated from Africa to India. The first eight to 10 will arrive at Kuno National Park, a 74,800-hectare area with a healthy population of wild pig and cattle, by the end of the year.
There were 100,000 cheetahs worldwide at the turn of the 19th century—just 7,100 survive today. In 1947, the last three Asiatic Cheetahs in India were reportedly killed during a hunt by a local prince.
Ecologists hope that the cheetahs will play a pivotal role in preserving India’s dwindling grasslands—regions that, if maintained, may help the country reach the carbon-sinking goals it set out in the 2015 Paris Agreement. —By Al Donato
Bunnies Dust Up a Prehistoric Win
Wales | In March, Richard Brown and Giselle Eagle, wardens of the small island of Skokholm, spotted rabbits digging up pebbles and pottery shards. The couple, wondering if the items were of any significance, sent photos to archaeologists. They were surprised to learn the pebbles were, in fact, remnants of 9,000-year-old Stone Age tools, while the shards were from a 3,750-year-old cremation urn from the Bronze Age, making them the oldest known artifacts from the island.
“Thanks to the sharp eyes of the wardens, we have the first confirmed Mesolithic tools and first Bronze Age pottery from Skokholm,” said Toby Driver, an archaeologist at the Royal Commission, Wales. The discoveries are evidence of hunter-gatherer occupation on the island—prior studies went only as far back as the Iron Age, which extended in Great Britain from 800 BC to AD 100. Once COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted, researchers are planning a trip to the island for further exploration. —By Al Donato
Photo: New Africa/Shutterstock
A Solution to Gum Litter
Denmark | Our habit of chewing minty gum is not without its toll on the environment. Most of it is made from synthetic polymers, like plastic, which aren’t biodegradable. That’s why so much discarded gum seems to permanently stick to sidewalks. To help tackle this problem, entrepreneurs Peter Juul Regnersgaard and Morten Ebdrup created their own plastic-free alternative.
Launched in 2017, True Gum produces 400,000 pieces of plastic-free chewing gum a day at its Copenhagen factory. Each piece of True Gum has a chicle base, a resin that Mayan and Aztec peoples were chewing hundreds of years ago. Now people in such countries as the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium are True Gum chewers. If the eco-friendly candy catches on, it could spell the end of gum-spotted sidewalks the world over. —By Al Donato
Photo: Courtesy of Jacob Faithful
An Albertan With a Big Heart
Canada | When COVID-19 arrived in Frog Lake First Nation, Jacob Faithful, a 42-year-old owner of a janitorial business, was inundated with requests from his friends and neighbours for personal protective equipment (PPE), including masks. The pandemic disproportionately affected Indigenous peoples in Western Canada, including Frog Lake, a community some 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, with an on-reserve population of 2,100.
But PPE supplies remained hard to come by, especially in remote towns. Last November, Faithful had an idea: why not make masks right there in Frog Lake?
Working out of the gym of the local health centre, his company became the first mask-manufacturing business on a Canadian reserve that’s fully owned and operated by Indigenous people. Young Spirit Supplies, named after Faithful’s traditional music singing group, now employs 30 people and produces 100,000 face masks every day, to be shipped across Canada and globally. “I really feel we are making significant change,” he says. “We’re adding to much-needed protection for us and for people around the world.”
The company also collaborates with Indigenous artists to design the masks’ patterns and packaging. Faithful sees no shortage of demand for masks in the future, and plans to build his own facility in Frog Lake later this year. —By Al Donato
These random acts of kindness in Canada will inspire you to pass it on.
Love Conquers All
Naples resident Luca Trapanese had long wanted to adopt a child, but that presented problems for a gay, single man in Italy. “I was told that I’d only be given a child with an illness, a severe disability or with behavioural problems,” says Trapanese, 41. But he didn’t hesitate when an orphanage called to say they had a month-old baby called Alba with Down’s Syndrome that had been abandoned by its mother and rejected by 20 potential adoptive families.
Trapanese says: “Since I was 14, I have volunteered and worked with the disabled, so I felt I had the right experience. When I first held Alba in my arms, I was overcome with joy.” Trapanese has documented his and his daughter’s life together over two years on social media–challenging stereotypes about fatherhood and the idea of family. “I didn’t mean it to be that way,” he says. “This is nothing but our life story.” [Source: Metro/BBC News]
Disabled army veteran conquers the Matterhorn
Neil Heritage lost both his legs in an attack by a suicide bomber in Iraq in 2004. After recovering from his injuries, he completed triathlons, learned to ski and even joined a team to row across the Atlantic Ocean. Now, 39, the former soldier from the United Kingdom has notched up another achievement, becoming the first above-the-knee double amputee to scale the Matterhorn.
The ex-corporal, whose ascent raised 6,500 euros for his veterans’ charity, says he is “over the moon—it’s been a dream of mine for a long time.” It was his third attempt in three years to reach the peak. Co-climber Mark Hooks said it was “just so special, managing to achieve something we’ve worked so hard on over the years”. Hooks said his friend’s specially designed prosthetic limb fell off near the summit and took more than 20 minutes to reattach. Heritage won’t be resting on his laurels. His next challenge is to kayak the Amazon river. [Source: BBC]
Birds colliding with turbine blades is one of the main negative effects of onshore wind farms. But a nine-year study at Norway’s Smøla wind farm has found that bird strikes can be cut by up to 70 percent simply by painting one blade of a wind turbine black.
Scientists believe this reduces what they call “motion smear”, allowing birds to see the three rotating blades. Trondheim-based researcher Dr Roel May says further tests at other wind farms are needed to confirm the findings. [Source: BBC News]
For more on our feathered friends, check out these great Canadian bird stories.
Reducing the Waste of Surplus Food
Every day huge amounts of food are thrown away as supermarkets offload produce that has passed its best-before date; restaurants, cafés and bakeries dispose of uneaten meals and foods for similar reasons. Now an app called Too Good to Go is reducing this waste.
Devised in Copenhagen, the app offers users in 14 European countries access to unsold, safe-to-eat produce from participating suppliers. The food is heavily discounted at about a third of the regular price.
Launched in 2016, Too Good To Go has now been downloaded by 22 million people in Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal and the U.K. Users can see which outlets in their neighbourhood have surplus food available that day, which they can then pick up at closing time.
The app helps households on restricted budgets, providing an estimated 100,000 meals a day, and also plays a part in mitigating climate change. “Food waste contributes to eight per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” says Mette Lykke, Too Good To Go’s CEO. “Together we can fight food waste and ensure quality surplus produce doesn’t end up in the bin. Our mission is a world where food produced is food consumed.” [Source: CNET, The Grocer]
Want to cut down on food waste at home? Check out these ways to use up leftovers.
Ocean-Ranging Albatrosses Keep Track of Illegal Fishing
Albatrosses have been used to detect illegal fishing in the Indian Ocean in a pioneering study
by researchers at France’s National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS).
Illegal fishing is estimated to cost 19.5 billion euros a year globally, but satellite monitoring of boats can be slow, costly and inaccurate.
The team strapped 169 wandering albatrosses with sensors that detect a boat’s radar. The sensors can then confirm whether the boat’s transponder, which enables authorities to track the vessel, is switched on. Transponders are often switched off during illegal fishing.
CNRS team leader Henri Weimerskirch says albatrosses make ideal trackers: “They are large birds, they travel over huge distances and they are very attracted to fishing vessels.”
Over a six-month period roughly a third of vessels detected in the Southern Indian Ocean were not broadcasting their whereabouts, the research found. Weimerskirch says this cheap form of surveillance could complement satellite monitoring. “We have shown it is possible,” he says. [Source: New Scientist]
Don’t miss this gorgeous gallery of Canadian bird photography.
The Golden Labrador Who Keeps on Giving
Stumpy (above) is a handsome labrador who was destined for a career as a guide dog. Sadly, problems with a deformed leg meant it wasn’t to be. But then Stumpy found a new way to help others: by giving blood.
The nine-year-old labrador has saved more than 100 canine lives since the age of one by donating blood for emergency transfusions.
Stumpy has been crowned the United Kingdom’s most prolific blood-donor dog. He has a negative blood type which is especially valuable because it allows his blood to be given to any dog.
Stumpy’s owner, vet Elly Pittaway, says: “Stumpy obviously has no idea what he’s doing it for, but if he did, I’m sure he’d be very proud of himself.” [Source: Daily Mail, BBC News]
Check out these heartwarming stories of dogs who saved their owners’ lives.
Solving the Issue of “Toxic Statues”
The Black Lives Matter and anti-racism movements have sparked angry debate over the public space given to monuments of figures from the colonial past, with some statues toppled or locked away. But a Berlin museum is showing a more thoughtful approach to the issue—by putting contentious statues and symbols on display with the aim of reconsidering history.
The Citadel Museum in the suburb of Spandau includes busts of militaristic Prussian rulers, Nazi-era statues and a 3.5-tonne granite head of Lenin, part of a giant statue unveiled in 1970 in Friedrichshain, a district of East Berlin at that time.
“The goal is to make history tangible,” says the museum’s director Urte Evert. Visitors are allowed to touch the exhibits, which are mounted at eye level rather than being put on pedestals. “It’s an opportunity to not forget this history, to not let it disappear. Instead, we can show that there is anger, sadness, even violence.”
Evert says the aim is to contextualise the past. “In the United States and United Kingdom there are discussions about what to do with dismantled memorials. Here we have already found a possible solution for memorials that are, so to speak, toxic… We put them here so that people can still be concerned about them, but in a different context.” [Source: Atlas Obscura, Deutsche Welle]
Swiss Parliament Gives Dress Rule the Cold Shoulder
In a move described as a “small revolution”, Switzerland has overturned a ban on women showing their shoulders in parliament. Hans Stöckli, president of the Swiss parliament, said the ban was “antiquated”.
The dress code was in fact only implemented four years ago, after a female news journalist was removed from the chamber for showing too much flesh. The reporter’s attire, the newspaper Tages-Anzeiger sarcastically noted, had “unduly restricted the ability to concentrate of many of the nobility”.
Now the revised dress code stipulates women must wear clothing “appropriate to their official status”. Despite the relaxation, the suited dress code for male members of parliament won’t be changing: “Unfortunately, we men still have to wear ties,” lamented Balthasar Glättli, president of Switzerland’s Green Party. [Source: The Local, Switzerland]
Read up on 10 great Canadian women you didn’t learn enough about in school.
The Art of Conversation Lives On
In front of Barcelona’s Arc de Triomf, 26-year-old Adrià Ballester (above) sets up two foldaway chairs and a sign in large letters that reads: “Free conversations!”
Anyone is welcome to stop, sit and chat with him in Spanish, English or Catalan about anything they like. “The idea is just to talk freely for a while,” the 26-year-old writer and storyteller explains. “We have lost the art of conversation,” agrees a young Italian psychology student among the day’s visitors.
“We live in a world where it’s often easier to send a message to someone from another country than to say good morning to our neighbours,” says Ballester, who uses Facebook (Free Conversations Movement) and Instagram (@freeconversations) to promote his project. He posts photos of himself and those who choose to chat along with their reflections and sometimes startling revelations.
At times he feels like a therapist. “You hear good, positive stories and really tough ones, too. A lot of people will tell you about a tricky episode in their life, maybe heartbreak or a job loss. There’s a bit of everything,” he says. A 70-year-old Lithuanian woman even talked about the years she spent in a Russian concentration camp.
During the coronavirus crisis, Ballester took the conversation online, setting up randompenpals.com, a site that invites users to “get a quarantine PenPal in 10 seconds”. He plans to publish a manifesto and aims to spread his initiative to other major cities around the world. [Source: El Pais]
Read the inspiring story of how COVID-19 taught one man how to be a better friend.
Sailor Braves Waves to Save Crew of Burning Ship
HMS Argyll (above) was sailing towards Plymouth after nine months in the Asia-Pacific region when it picked up a mayday call. The Grande America, a 28,000-tonne merchant ship was in flames, belching toxic smoke in the Bay of Biscay, 240 kilometres off the French coast. Its crew had abandoned the ship, but their lifeboat’s engine was damaged when it hit the water.
The Argyll’s Leading Seaman David Groves, went into action, battling the “worst conditions” he had ever faced. In a night-time swell of around six metres, with wall-like waves, Groves used a small sea boat to “nudge” the lifeboat half a mile towards HMS Argyll. After four exhausting hours, he had saved all 27 crew, some of them suffering from smoke inhalation. “The whole thing went by in a matter of seconds in my head, even though it ended at four in the morning,” said Groves later. He was awarded the UK’s Queen’s Gallantry Medal for his bravery. [Source: BBC]
Don’t miss these incredible stories of real Canadian heroes.
Notre-Dame’s Bees Keep Buzzing Through Crises
When fire ravaged Paris’s Notre-Dame cathedral last year, many presumed that the three colonies of bees living on its sacristy roof had perished. But against all odds, the bees survived the inferno and continued to thrive through the coronavirus lockdown.
“There’s nothing wrong with them at all,” reports beekeeper Sibyle Moulin, who looks after some 30-45,000 insects in the three hives. “The behaviour of the colonies is perfectly normal.”
The beehives are just 30 metres below Notre-Dame’s main roof but were untouched by the flames. “The mystery remains,” says Moulin. “All that smoke, heat, water…” She kept visiting the bees through the coronavirus crisis. As humans stressed over COVID-19, Moulin reported that the bees were “completely unbothered”. [Source: The Guardian]
Find out what you can do right now to help save the bees.
Whales Find New Home After a Life in Captivity
Two 12-year-old beluga whales that spent years in captivity entertaining humans at an aquarium in Shanghai, China, have found freedom at an open water sanctuary in Iceland.
The four-metre-long whales, which each weigh about 900kg, were flown 6,000 miles for over 30 hours in a 747 aircraft fitted with purpose-built containers from Changfeng Ocean World to a sanctuary in a bay on Iceland’s Heimaey Island.
The whales, both females and previously known as Little Grey and Little White, will enjoy open water for the first time since they left a Russian whale research centre in 2011.
Andy Bool, head of the charity Sea Life Trust, said: “We’re delighted that they are safely in their sea sanctuary care pools.” Conservationists hope the sanctuary will be a model for rehoming 3,000 whales and dolphins currently housed in traditional captive facilities or performing in shows. [Source: The Independent]
City Replaces Asphalt with Greenery
The Dutch city of Arnhem is changing its layout to protect itself from the extremes of climate change, such as flooding and heatwaves.
Under a 10-year plan, 10% of the city’s asphalt will be replaced by grass and other greenery to help dissipate heat and improve absorption of rainfall. The city aims to absorb 90% of rainwater into the soil rather than it running off into sewers.
Arnhem sits 13 metres above sea level and has suffered serious flooding in recent years, while droughts have dried up its parks. Trees will be planted along roads to provide cover from the sun, and sheltered “cooling down” areas, centred around ponds, will be constructed near squares and shopping centres.
“We must adapt to the climate change that is taking place now,” says city alderman Cathelijne Bouwkamp. [Source: Dezeen]
Germany Makes a Push For Gender Equality
Germany has adopted a national strategy to fight gender inequality for the first time in its history. The “Strong for the Future” plan aims to reduce the gender pay gap and get more women in leadership positions in business, the civil service and in politics.
Although Germany has been led for 14 years by a female chancellor held in high global regard, it falls below the European average for gender equality. One declared goal is to increase the number of women on executive boards by applying the existing minimum 30% quota to 600 companies instead of just 105 currently.
Women in Germany still earn on average 20% less than men. “Over a 20% wage gap leads to more than a 50% pension gap between women and men,” says Germany’s families minister Franziska Giffey, claiming the new strategy is a “milestone”. [Source: The Local, Germany]
Italy’s Oldest Graduate
Giuseppe Paternò has become Italy’s oldest graduate at the age of 96 after being awarded first-class honours in philosophy from the University of Palermo in Sicily. “It’s one of the happiest days of my entire life,” said Paternò on graduating.
Prevented from going to university when younger by poverty and war, he finally enrolled in 2017. “Neighbours used to ask, ‘why all this trouble at your age?’. They couldn’t understand the importance of fulfilling a dream, regardless of my age,” says Paternò. [Source: The Guardian]
Mutant Enzyme Heralds Breakthrough in Recycling
Scientists have created an enzyme that can break down used plastic bottles for recycling in a matter of hours. Engineered from bacteria found in leaf compost, the enzyme reduces PET bottles (made from polyethylene terephthalate, a form of polyester) to their chemical building blocks, which are then used to make high-quality new bottles.
Existing recycling technologies usually produce plastic suitable only for clothing and carpets. Carbios, the French startup behind the breakthrough, aims to be recycling at an industrial scale within five years.
“This represents a significant step forward for true circular recycling of PET,” says Professor John McGeehan, director of the UK-based Centre for Enzyme Innovation. [Source: The Guardian]
Norwegians Drive Into the Electric Future
Norwegians are way ahead of the rest of Europe in switching from petrol to electric vehicles (EV) with the country notching up the highest per capita EV ownership in the world.
For every 1,000 Norwegians, there are now 55 EVs on the road. The Netherlands, which has more than a quarter of Europe’s charging points, trails in second place with just 8.4 EVs per 1,000 population. The U.K. is third with 3.2, followed by France with 3.1 and Germany with 2.4 EVs per 1,000 people.
Attractive tax breaks for electric vehicles and incentives such as exemption from road tolls have encouraged takeup in Norway. “Over its lifetime, you really save a lot of money with an electric car here,” says Christina Bu of the Norwegian Electric Vehicle Association.
E-cars are expected to take 55–60 per cent market share for new cars this year, and Norway looks set to meet its target of phasing out the sale of all new fossil fuel-based cars and light commercial vehicles by 2025.
Almost all of Norway’s domestic energy comes from hydropower, so switching to EVs is a much greener option than for countries whose electricity still comes mostly from fossil sources. [Source: Euronews/The Local, Norway]
Cultural Rewards for Car-Free Travel
Vienna is set to reward those who get around the city on foot, by bicycle or by public transport instead of using their cars. The Austrian capital is trialling a smartphone app that uses motion-tracking to measure the distance covered and the CO2 saving made.
When users have saved 20 kilograms of CO2—the equivalent of about two weeks of walking, cycling or using public transport—they receive one “culture token”.
Tokens can be exchanged for free tickets to four cultural venues: the Volkstheater, the Vienna Museum, the Kunsthalle and the Konzerthaus.
“We want to reward CO2 reduction with a cultural experience,” says Vienna city council member Peter Hanke. If the trial is a success, the scheme will be rolled out to the entire capital. [Source: The Local]
Here’s what we can learn from the most eco-friendly countries on earth.
Portugal Teaches World How to Deal With Drugs
As many countries struggle with escalating rates of drug addiction, Portugal has successfully reduced overdose deaths by more than 90% since 1999 as a result of a radical shift in its drugs policy.
The country had a serious addiction problem in the 1990s, but then decided to decriminalize all drugs. Rather than being arrested and possibly jailed, those caught with no more than a ten-day supply instead received a warning, small fine or were told to report to an official about treatment.
Under Portugal’s drugs czar João Goulão, needle exchange programs and easy referral to treatment were stepped up. “The policy is to treat each individual differently,” says Goulão. “People are considered as a sick person and they must access treatment with the same dignity as people who suffer from other diseases.”
The figures are startling. In 1999, Portugal had 369 overdose deaths; in 2016 there were just 30. New HIV cases from infected needles dropped from 907 in 2000 to 18 in 2017. [Source: Statista, The Guardian]
Young Mountaineer’s Life-Saving Feat of Strength
Nineteen thousand feet up Ultar Sar mountain in Pakistan’s treacherous Karakoram range, three mountaineers found themselves trapped after the weather turned unexpectedly fierce. Tim Miller, 21, and Bruce Normand, 51, from Glasgow, and Austrian climber Christian Huber, decided to wait for a break before descending.
They dug in, waited for two days—and then an avalanche buried them six feet deep in snow. Undeterred, Miller (above) used his teeth to rip the tent fabric, crawl out and claw his way to the surface. In freezing temperatures, he dug Normand out of the snow and the pair then dug out their broken tent. Sadly, their fellow climber Christian Huber had died from suffocation. The survivors spent two days waiting for better weather before they were finally airlifted to safety by a military helicopter.
For his bravery, Miller, a geology graduate, has been awarded the Scottish Youth Award for Excellence in Mountain Culture. “I am really delighted and humbled to be receiving the award. It is a big surprise,” says Miller modestly. [Source: Daily Telegraph]
European Countries Line Up to Consign Coal Energy to History
Austria and Sweden have become the latest European countries to ditch coal-based energy; they join Belgium, which was first to go coal-free in 2016. Portugal will also wave goodbye to coal next year, two years ahead of schedule.
Several other European nations are striding towards a fossil-free future. The U.K. hit a milestone during the COVID-19 lockdown by going two months without coal-based power for the first time since it kickstarted the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century. Along with France, Slovakia, Ireland and Italy, the U.K. expects to eliminate coal within five years. The Netherlands, Finland, Hungary and Denmark are all planning to end coal-fired power by 2030.
“Coal is now in terminal decline all across Europe,” says Kathrin Gutmann of the U.K.-based lobby group Europe Beyond Coal. [Source: Fast Company, Bloomberg, The Independent]
The Musician Inspiring a New Generation
Twenty-one-year-old British cellist Sheku Kanneh-Mason first won attention aged 17 as the first black musician to win the prestigious BBC Young Musician of the Year competition. But it was his performance at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018, watched by a global audience, that made him famous.
Now, thanks to the so-called “Sheku effect”, a new generation of young cellists is emerging, with Britain’s National Schools Symphony Orchestra reporting a 68 per cent increase in applications from young cellists.
Kanneh-Mason is using his celebrity to lobby for more music education in British schools. “It needs to be taught more, and better,” he says. He regularly visits schools to perform with young musicians. “I work with many children who wouldn’t have had access,” he says. “There’s so much talent among young people that needs to be combined with opportunity.”
Audiences in Britain and Germany will get a chance to hear him in concert this summer before he departs for a major tour of Australia followed by performances in Los Angeles, and at Carnegie Hall in New York in October. [Source: I Newspaper/BBC News/The Guardian/The Big Issue]
Disabled Gran Uses Lego to Make Shopping Easier
Disabled by a car accident 25 years ago, Rita Ebel had long been frustrated by the number of shops and cafés inaccessible to wheelchair users. A year ago the 62-year-old grandmother from Hanau in Germany came up with a simple solution: building ramps made of Lego.
Helped by her husband, Ebel has constructed dozens of made-to-order Lego ramps for shop entrances by sticking together hundreds of the brightly coloured, interlocking plastic bricks. “I’m trying to sensitize the world a bit to barrier-free travel,” says Ebel. “Anyone could suddenly end up in a situation that puts them in a wheelchair, like it did me.” “It’s a brilliant idea,” says Malika El Harti, who has one of Rita’s ramps installed at the entrance to her hair salon. “You can see from afar that you can get in here without any problems.” [Source: Reuters]
Grans Keep Art of Pasta Alive on Film
A filmmaker’s project to capture the art of handmade pasta has turned the so-called “pasta nonnas” featured in her videos into a social media sensation.
Since moving to Italy’s Le Marche region, Vicky Bennison, a former international development worker, has filmed more than 200 nonnas (grandmothers) over the past four years making all sorts of pasta, from gnocchi in the Italian Alps to orecchiette in Puglia. Her YouTube channel featuring the “Pasta Grannies” has become a runaway hit, racking up 455,000 subscribers.
“The grannies are the last generation that had to make pasta every day to feed their families,” Bennison says. “I wanted to celebrate older women and their experiences. These women are survivors.” They include Tuscan nonna Giuseppina Spiganti, 93 (above), who shows YouTube viewers how to make spaghetti-like “pici” pasta. The videos are a kind of oral history, often recording unique recipes.
But it’s the grannies themselves who have won global appeal. “It’s not about pasta-making really,” says Bennison. “It’s more like a warm hug.” [Source: The Times]
Bus Stops Turned into Havens for Bees
The Dutch city of Utrecht has turned more than 300 of its bus stops into shelters for bees. These “bee stops” now have green roofs planted mainly with sedum, a drought-resistant plant favoured by pollinators, which also captures dust and rainwater. The new bee-friendly stops are cared for by a team of workers who use electric vehicles. [Source: Metro]
Daughter’s Quick Thinking Saves Her Mother
Damien Galvin was on his way to work near Cork, Ireland, when he was surprised to receive a FaceTime call from his daughter, Priya. The five-year-old, who had recently learned to use FaceTime, rang in tears to raise the alarm that her mother had collapsed at home.
“She said Mammy was drinking her tea and now she was on the floor,” Galvin said. “She turned the camera around and I could see my fiancée was very distressed. She couldn’t get up.” Mary had suffered a stroke. Galvin was some way from home so he urgently rang Mary’s sister, who sent her husband to the house.
The front door was locked but Priya managed to open the backdoor latch and let him in. An ambulance took Mary to hospital, where doctors credited Priya’s quick thinking with saving her mother’s life. “With a stroke, time is precious,” Galvin said later. “My daughter doesn’t know it, but she’s a hero.” [Source: The Journal]
Learn to spot the telltale signs of a stroke.
Beavers return to Britain and could help prevent floods
Hunted to extinction in Britain 400 years ago, the water-loving beaver is being reintroduced in “trial” enclosures across England.
A British government study suggests the herbivorous rodent’s habit of building dams in rivers could help prevent flooding by drastically slowing the flow of water as well as purifying water polluted by agricultural fertilizer.
The beavers are being sourced from the wild population in Scotland, where they were reestablished as a native species four years ago.
Ecologist Derek Gow hails beavers as “ecosystem engineers”. He says, “They turn landscapes that are largely dead into environments that wildlife can recolonize.” [Source: The Guardian]
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Orchestra brings Beethoven to the deaf
A Hungarian orchestra is helping deaf people to “hear” and enjoy the music of Beethoven through touch.
Budapest’s Danubia Orchestra Óbuda holds concerts for hearing-impaired people who quite literally feel the Fifth Symphony by Beethoven, who himself battled with hearing loss and wrote some of his greatest music while going deaf.
Some of the audience sit next to the musicians and place their hands on the instruments to feel the vibration. Others hold balloons that convey the vibration of the sounds. Some are given special hyper-sensitive hearing aids.
“When I sat next to the musician who played the double bass, I started crying,” says Zsuzsanna Foldi, who has been deaf all her life.
Máté Hámori, the orchestra’s conductor, says the aim is to bring music to people who otherwise have no chance to enjoy it, and to call attention to hearing difficulties that are often ignored. [Source: Reuters]
EU carbon emissions fall
Carbon dioxide emissions from generating electricity dropped by 12 per cent last year across the European Union compared to 2018. Meanwhile, output from hard coal-fired power plants fell by 24 per cent.
“Last year’s decline is thanks largely to the CO2 emissions price, which continued to drive climate-damaging energy sources from the market,” says Matthias Buck of energy thinktank Agora Energiewende. Last year saw the share of renewable energy in EU power generation climb to a record 34.6 per cent. [Source: Renewables Now]
A future food with green credentials
A Finnish company has found a way to produce a protein-rich food using just air, water and electricity. Helsinki-based startup Solar Foods says its carbon-neutral process does not depend on weather, irrigation or even land.
“The science is like magic but for real,” declares Pasi Vainikka, Solar’s chief executive (above right).
Called Solein, the food is created indoors using a technology developed by NASA to sustain future human life on Mars. Made up of 50 per cent protein, and looking and tasting like flour, Solein is created through a process akin to brewing beer. Living microbes are put in liquid and fed with carbon dioxide and hydrogen released from water via electrolysis. The microbes create protein, which is dried to make a food powder. Vainikka describes its production method as a “new harvest for the people”.
Solein is 100 times more climate-friendly than any animal or plant-based alternative, according to Vainikka and company co-founder Dr Juha-Pekka Pitkänen (pictured, left). They report that producing a kilogram of Solein takes just a fraction of the water needed to produce a conventional protein.
The food is expected to launch commercially next year and appear in products such as yogurts and protein meals within two years. [Source: Good News Network]
Migrant rescues man trapped in house blaze
Residents in Denia, a town on Spain’s Costa Blanca, were amazed to see a young man scale a wall into a burning house and save a near-disabled man trapped by flames. As dark smoke billowed from a balcony window, the mystery rescuer emerged with Alex Caudeli, 39, over his shoulder.
The hero turned out to be a Senegalese street seller called Gorgui Lamine Sow (above). “I didn’t think—I just climbed up to get him,” Sow says, revealing he was an illegal immigrant who had arrived two years previously, aged 17, on a boat from Africa.
“It’s true that I am poor,” he says, “but I have a heart that wants to help people—and I knew I could save him.” A grateful Caudeli was released from hospital after treatment for burns and smoke inhalation. Hailed publicly as a hero, Sow is modest: “I just did what any good human would do.” [Source: The Local, Spain]
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A five-year mission to boldly go… collecting garbage
The European Space Agency (ESA) is to launch a multi-armed robotic junk collector (illustrated) into orbit in its first mission to remove space debris circulating around Earth.
After 60 years of manned launches, there are rocket remnants, thousands of defunct satellites and hundreds of thousands of fragments cluttering geostationary and other earth orbits.
The debris collector will blast off in 2025 to grab just a single piece of junk, called Vespa, which was left by ESA’s Vega launcher in 2013. The agency hopes the mission will pave the way for a wide-reaching clear-up operation.
“Imagine how dangerous sailing the high seas would be if all the ships ever lost in history were still drifting on top of the water,” says Jan Wörner, ESA’s director general. “That is the current situation in orbit.” [Source: The Guardian]
Robots Go Underground to Check on the State of Sewers
Inspecting sewers is an unpleasant job. But many underground sewerage tunnels, built long ago, require close monitoring to prevent serious leaks.
“It’s damp, slippery and dangerous; you have all sorts of rats,” says Hendrik Kolvenbach. Now Kolvenbach and his team at the Swiss institute ETH Zurich have designed a robot that may relieve humans of the task.
The four-legged machine, called ANYmal, has three joints that enable it to wade through water and climb over obstacles. Equipped with lasers to map 3D spaces, a stereo camera for positioning and sensors in its feet, the ANYmal scratches a sewer’s concrete walls assessing, with great accuracy, where repairs are needed. [Source: New Scientist]
Refugees to Germany Find Jobs Within Five Years
As Europe continues to struggle with the impact of migration, research by the Nuremburg-based Institute for Employment Research (IAB) has found that 49 per cent of the refugees who have arrived in Germany since 2013 obtained employment within five years.
This is faster than was the case for refugees from the civil war that racked the Balkans in the 1990s—the result of more language courses and improved integration policies. Herbert Brücker, a lead researcher at the IAB, says he’s “quite satisfied, if only because German is much more different from Arabic, for example, than the languages of the Balkans.”
About 50 per cent of the refugees with jobs are working in skilled professions. [Source: The Local, Germany]
Postal service delivers a carbon-free package
Dublin has become the first European capital to have a zero carbon-emission postal service. With the addition of Ireland’s first 7.5 tonne electric trucks to its electric fleet, the An Post postal service is now able to make all deliveries in Dublin in 47 zero-emission vehicles, avoiding 450 tonnes of CO2.
“We’ve proven that zero-carbon emission delivery in a capital city is achievable,” says An Post chief executive David McRedmond. “If An Post can do this, delivering to more than 70,000 premises daily in this area, there is no reason why other companies can’t.”
McRedmond says the company will roll out zero-emission delivery to other Irish cities by the end of the year, and will expand its electric fleet to more than 900 vehicles within two years. Its electricity comes only from renewable resources. [Source: Irish Times]
Football club uses social media to find missing children
Top Italian football club A.S. Roma is using its extensive social media following to highlight the plight of missing children. Clubs in Italy compete for originality when announcing new player signings, and the three-time Italian champions had previously enjoyed a reputation for quirky humour.
New signings are now presented alongside the face of a missing child, with information, a phone number and a video clip. Since June last year six children featured have been found—in Great Britain, Belgium and Kenya.
“I don’t think any of us expected a child we’d featured in a video to return home safely,” says Paul Rogers, A.S. Roma’s chief strategy officer. “Obviously we prayed it would happen, but we didn’t expect it.” The club is now trying to convince other big names in European football to follow its lead. [Source: The Local, Italy]
Power plant takes to skis
Copenhagen is bolstering its ambition to become the world’s first carbon-neutral city by 2025 after opening a 41,000-square-metre waste-to-energy plant which also boasts a year-round artificial ski slope on top.
The Copenhill power plant can convert 440,000 tons of waste into energy, delivering electricity and district heating for 150,000 homes. The rooftop ski slope runs for 400 metres from the top of the 90-metre-high building, with a 180-degree turn halfway down the piste. [Source: Dezeen]
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Designs for green airships get off the ground
A solar-powered airship, capable of carrying loads of 250 tons, could one day be used as a low-emissions way to freight cargo internationally.
The Varialift airship (above) currently in development will use helium gas to lift off—far safer than the highly flammable hydrogen used by past airships. Its flight will be powered by two solar-powered and two aero engines.
Its British designers claim the airship will use just eight per cent of the fuel of a conventional jet aeroplane on a transatlantic flight. And since airships benefit from jetstream winds, they also offer an advantage over cargo ships in efficiency and carbon emissions. [Source: New Scientist]
Finnish town’s push towards zero waste starts with kids
A small Finnish town is bidding to become the world’s first zero-waste town—with the help of its youngest residents.
Since 2012 the town of Ii has invested heavily in geothermal, solar and wind energy projects, halving its CO2 emissions from 2007 to 2015.
Among other measures, Ii’s 10,000 residents are switching to electric cars and use smart metres, but they believe the key to continuing success is education from a very young age.
At school, children monitor water, heat and electricity consumption, classroom temperature and check that all electrical devices are switched off when not being used.
Today, Ii has an energy surplus, producing up to 10 times more than it consumes. Taxes have been reduced and $2.5 million saved from the annual budget.
“It’s the end for fossil fuels,” says town mayor Ari Alatossava. “If we can do it in a small town with few resources and benefit so much from it, no one has an excuse anymore.” [Source: BBC News]
Find out what you can do about the climate crisis.
High-flyers helicoptered in to help Russia’s rural schools
Top-tier Russian university graduates are helping to address the poor educational standards in their country’s remote villages.
Started by two St Petersburg graduates, the Teacher For Russia program sends graduates on two-year teaching stints, supplementing their rural teacher’s basic wage.
The idea, says co-founder Alena Makovich, is that the teachers make a contribution to society and develop personal skills, while inspiring pupils to widen their horizons. “One of our objectives is to ‘rebrand’ this profession so it is perceived as prestigious,” she says.
Each year 2,000 graduates apply for the scheme, and for those selected the experience can prove to be an eye-opener, particularly when confronting antiquated teaching methods. As 25-year-old law graduate Yulia Ignatyeva from Moscow observes: “We are trying to improve a lot of things.” [Source: Deutsche Welle]
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