Welcome to our quarterly roundup of good news stories. Fed up with ubiquitous negativity and click-bait scaremongering? Then settle in and smile. The world isn’t such a bad place, after all.
Winds of change
We start with hugely encouraging news from the International Energy Agency (IEA). The global watchdog has announced that the world’s renewable energy industry grew by a stunning 45% last year – the biggest rise since 1999. Wind power grew at gale-force speed while growth in solar power increased by a factor of 50%.
So what’s behind these highly promising figures? The IEA believes it’s due to growing enthusiasm for renewable energy amongst governments and corporations in China, the US, and Europe. It’s fantastic news that people with power and money are jumping aboard the sustainability bandwagon.
China is still key to all of this, of course. Although the world’s most populous nation is still the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases (largely because it uses a substantial number of coal-fired plants to power its vast cities), the Chinese now account for over 40% of global growth in renewable energy. Indeed, China has pledged to become fully carbon neutral by 2060.
Xi Jinping’s government will also play a significant role in fighting climate change because they’re a massive supplier of silicon, steel, copper, and the other rare materials required to build wind turbines and solar panels. The rest of the world won’t be able to meet their targets – Joe Biden has pledged to cut US emissions by half during the next decade – unless there’s a steady flow of these.
It’s good to know, incidentally, that the UK is doing its bit too. Our offshore wind industry is performing with great gusto. In fact, it’s on course to account for as much as a quarter of the world’s offshore wind capacity by the end of next year. This will make us the only nation in the world to generate more offshore than inland.
A nose for Covid
Although the vaccine rollout and the Indian variant continue to dominate news headlines, there’s another story we shouldn’t sniff at: apparently, dogs are better at detecting Covid-19 than the Lateral Flow Tests (LFTs) being used across the country. Indeed, they can detect the presence of coronavirus with an astonishing 97% accuracy according to France’s national veterinary school.
Researchers collected samples from 335 people at Covid-19 testing centres in Paris. They placed cotton pads under their armpits for two minutes and then sealed these pads in jars. Dogs were later instructed to sniff the pads to detect signs of the virus. When the results arrived, the French scientists discovered that the dogs concurred with the gold-standard polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests 97% of the time. Bow wow.
Experts hope that canines will play a vital role in controlling the pandemic because they can sniff out Covid-19 instantly. This will prove incredibly useful at airports or large events where there’s no time to screen each person individually. If man’s best friend raises the alarm, then infected people can be sent for PCR tests to confirm – thus preventing super-spreader events.
Airbnb for gardens?
Covid-19 impacted the housing market last year when people drifted away from city centres to buy properties with more outside space. After all, who wants to be cooped up in a small flat with no garden in the middle of lockdown?
Sadly, however, not everyone could escape to the country. Green-fingered city slickers were left to fight over scarce vegetable patches to fill the void (not to mention their time). The National Allotment Society reported a 300% increase in applications. And waiting times soared as a result. One allotment in Leeds even quoted a waiting time of 170 years.
Fortunately, however, a solution is emerging. Architect, Conor Gallagher, has set up a new website called AllotMe. It matches those looking for a vegetable patch with those who own a garden but aren’t inclined to get their wellies and gardening gloves on. The result? Fewer frustrated growers and fewer spaces crying out for TLC.
This initiative is fantastic on so many levels. It improves the mental health of those with soil between their fingers – gardening is famously therapeutic – and also builds bonds in the community. The concept promotes sustainable ideals and taps into the wealth of unused outdoor space in UK cities too.
Dubbed ‘Airbnb for gardens’, AllotMe spaces can be ‘rented’ for as little as £15-30 per month depending on size. There are already over a thousand users on their London waiting list alone. And although demand currently outstrips supply, Gallagher is hopeful that more homeowners will join as the site continues to grow like a prize-winning marrow.