- Here is a round-up of news stories from around the world to make you smile. Because, why not?
- After a challenging year fraught with anxiety, it’s important to know that glimmers of hope and happiness have still managed to shine through.
- From ‘natural’ green roads, to teens putting their tech skills to amazing use, we hope you enjoy these heartwarming stories.
To say it’s been a challenging year would be a gross understatement.
Yet despite all the disruption 2020 has wrought, glimmers of hope and happiness have still managed to shine through. Let’s run through a handful of the heartwarming, exciting and all-round positive news stories that have emerged over the last 12 months.
1. Whales return to open sea after captivity
Little Grey and Little White, two beluga whales who were trained to perform in front of audiences at Chengfeng Ocean World in China, have arrived at their new home in Iceland where they’ll live freely in open water for the first time in almost a decade.
In June, the pair flew 30 hours to the Beluga Sanctuary which is run by the British charity Sea Life Trust on Heimaey Island. They arrived safely at Klettsvik Bay and to acclimatise, stayed in a bayside care pool for a short period before being released.
Klettsvik Bay is located in the Westman Islands off the south coast of Iceland. It’s the world’s first open water sanctuary for beluga whales, one of the smallest species of whale.
2. Dutch city replaces asphalt with greenery
Around 10% of paved roads in the Dutch city of Gelderland will be replaced with greenery as part of a long-term plan to make cities and areas more resilient to the impact of climate change. Around a quarter of the surface of the Netherlands is below sea level.
Trees will be planted along a network of roads with the aim of providing coverage from the sun. Newly planted areas will be home to “cooling” points containing ponds and covered areas. An additional target aims for 90% of rainwater to be absorbed into the ground instead of ending up in the city sewers.
The council is also studying a method for recycling the removed bitumen.
3. Young adults develop a dementia app
With the support of their mentor, three teenagers have masterminded a new app designed to support dementia patients and carers. Joy Njekwe (17), Rachael Akano (15) and Margaret Akano (17) are behind the app Memory Haven.
Their innovation recently beat 1,500 entrants from 62 countries to win first prize in the Technovation Girls competition at the 2020 Technovation World Summit.
The teens live in Drogheda on the east coast of Ireland and created Memory Haven as part of the 12-week Technovation challenge. Their mentor, Evelyn Nomayo, founded Phase Innovate, a programme designed to create an environment for equal opportunities and an equal playing field for minority communities across all sectors.
Among other features, Memory Haven uses face and voice recognition technology to help patients recognise family and friends. Facial recognition can also identify the person’s mood and play music for them, and users can set reminders and play games.
4. Canada bans single use plastics
The Canadian government has pledged to ban single use plastics in 2021 as part of a plan to achieve zero plastic waste by 2030. Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, says the plan is designed to protect wildlife and waters and reduce greenhouse gas emissions while creating jobs.
The ban will apply to harmful single-use plastic items that have been identified in the environment, aren’t regularly recycled, and have easily accessible alternatives.
The following six single plastic items will be banned next year:
- Plastic checkout bags
- Stir sticks
- Six-pack rings
- Foodware made from hard-to-recycle plastics.
5. Bookshop.org launches to compete with Amazon
Bookshop.org is a new online bookstore on a mission to financially support local, independent shops. It successfully launched in the US in early 2020 and expanded to the UK in November. The company’s founder, Andy Hunter, is a writer and wanted to enable bookshops to thrive in spite of Amazon dominating the market share.
According to Andy, the team planned to make improvements to their ecommerce website but then Covid-19 hit and sales skyrocketed. The UK arm went live in partnership with over 130 local independent bookstores. Bookstore owners receive the full profit margin (30% of the cover price) from each sale.
6. Orchestra allows deaf people to ‘hear’ Beethoven
A series of spring performances were planned this year by Mate Hamori, the conductor of Danubia Symphony Orchestra in Budapest, for people with hearing impairments.
Beethoven’s hearing became increasingly impaired over his lifetime and he famously composed his iconic 9th symphony when he was completely deaf in later life. He composed music on his piano so he could feel the vibrations through the keys.
In the concert series audience members with the most severe hearing impairments sat among the performers and either placed their hands on the instruments to feel the vibrations, or held a red balloon. The balloon gathered vibrations from multiple instruments and conveyed them through the audience members’ fingertips.
7. Drones used to detect illegal deforestation
This year, indigenous rights’ groups and WWF International kickstarted a project to train Andean tribes people in the Amazon rainforest on how to use drones.
This training is empowering them to help protect wildlife and identify and compile evidence on illegal logging activities, which is one of the primary causes of the wildfires that have plagued the Amazon over the last two years.
Using the drones, tribes have been able to create high-resolution images, video and GPS coordinates of logging sites. Reportedly, the first time the technology was used, the team identified a 1.4-acre clear-cut land and recorded sightings of a helicopter spreading grass seed over it for the purpose of illegal cattle pasturing.
8. Myanmar eradicates trachoma
Trachoma is a disease of the eye caused by infection with the bacterium Chlamydia trachomatis, and although the disease is preventable, it’s responsible for the blindness or visual impairment of about 1.9 million people worldwide.
The good news is in 2020 the World Health Organization validated that the disease has been eliminated from Myanmar. The news is particularly impressive considering trachoma caused 4% of all blindness in the country in 2005. Myanmar joins Nepal in the WHO South-East Asia Region and 12 countries around the world to oust the disease.
“Myanmar’s multi-pronged approach promoting access to good hygiene infrastructure and clean water, strengthening eye care system, and complete community buy-in have enabled the country to ensure that people of all ages can now look towards a trachoma-free future,” said Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, Regional Director WHO South-East Asia Region.
9. Dublin’s postal service goes carbon-free
An Post, a provider of postal services in Ireland, has become the first to achieve zero carbon emission delivery status for its Dublin fleet.
The company operates 212 small electric delivery vans across the country and in 2020 added two 7.5 tonne electric eCanter trucks to ensure that all letters and parcels in Dublin City Centre will be delivered emissions-free.
An Post’s goal is to eliminate 50% of carbon from its postal and delivery operations across Ireland by 2025 and to be a completely carbon-free company by 2040.
10. Low ambient light can power electronics
Could this be one of the next big things in office design?
In a few years, when the majority of things we interact with are internet-enabled, sensors and devices will have to operate without batteries or wires to be practical. With this in mind, Swedish researchers have created a new type of dye-sensitized solar cell that has the potential to charge electronics by harvesting light from indoor lamps.
The research was published in the journal Chemical Science. It pledges to revolutionise indoor digital sensing for smart greenhouses, offices, shelves, packages and other everyday ‘smart’ items that rely on an internet connection. We’d love (and need) to hear about your positive stories – share them with us on Twitter and tag @Allwork_space.