What better way to start the week than with a global round-up of positive news nuggets?
The Vesuvius Challenge
Using AI, a 21-year-old computer science student at the University of Nebraska discovered the word πορϕυρας, ancient Greek for purple, from a scroll carbonized by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 CE, which destroyed Pompeii and the town of Herculaneum. The findings are part of a cash-prize competition for deciphering the scroll. Luke Farritor won $40k for discovering the first word. The breakthrough could open up hundreds of texts from the only intact library to survive from Greco-Roman antiquity.
A new climate change report offers something unique: hope. The International Energy Agency says that thanks to the extraordinary uptake of wind and solar in the last few years, there is still a path to reaching net-zero emissions by 2050 and limiting global warming to 1.5°C, reports NPR. What's changed? One of the answers is that almost all previous climate models have failed to account for the exponential growth of renewables.
Healing a River
Four dams along the California-Oregon border are being dismantled, following 20 years of protests and negotiations guided by Indigenous leaders. The dams, used for power generation, kept salmon from reaching spawning areas of the Klamath River, and also allowed the water quality to drop and toxic algae blooms to flourish. "This river is our lifeline," Annelia Hillman, a member of the Yurok Tribe, told the Los Angeles Times. "It's our mother. It's what feeds us. It's the foundation to our people, for our culture. Seeing the restoration of our river, our fisheries, I think is going to uplift us all." One dam has already been demolished, and the rest will be removed in 2024. This is the largest dam removal project in U.S. history, and will include the planting of 13 billion native plant seeds once the reservoirs are drained. Indigenous leaders expect the river will quickly heal itself and once again become a place where fish thrive.
Need a Poetic Boost?
This lovely little poem from Wendell Berry's book The Peace of Wild Things may be what you need: "When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free."
Eight new coins inspired by the King Charles' passion for conservation and the natural world have been unveiled by the UK's Royal Mint. The new designs, which will feature on coins ranging from the 1p to the £2, will soon start to appear in people's change across the country.
The designs, approved by the king, are inspired by flora and fauna, and celebrate creatures such as the red squirrel, the hazel dormouse and the bee.
Man on a Mission
Michael Bloomberg has committed an extra $500 million to shut down every coal plant in the US and cut fossil gas capacity in half by 2030, says Reuters. The funding for the Beyond Carbon initiative aims to 'finish the job on coal' by working with state and local organisations to force the closure of the 150 coal plants that have not yet retired, as well as to block the construction of new gas-fired plants. "By working with our partners across the country, we hope to transform the way we power America by moving beyond fossil fuels and replacing them with renewable energy," said Bloomberg, who is the U.N. Special Envoy on Climate Ambition and Solutions.
Free School Meals
An additional 3,000 school districts have been added to America’s free school meal program, giving over five million more students access to breakfast and lunch in low-income areas. Eight states have now made school meals free to all students, regardless of income, reports PBS.
“All of us labour in webs spun long before we were born.” William Faulkner
On this Day
16 October 1978: Karol Józef Wojtyła of Poland was elected pope; he assumed the name John Paul II and was the first non-Italian pontiff in 455 years.
Cheeky Coyote steals an otter's hidden dinner under the ice.