Wrapping up the week with an eclectic bundle of good news nuggets.
New Gene Bank
Efforts are underway to store the world’s crop diversity in gene banks - facilities where the seeds, roots, and vegetation needed to create more life are kept safe and viable. The world’s largest repository for beans, cassava, and tropical forages has just opened near Cali, Colombia. Future Seeds is one of 11 gene banks around the world (such as Svalbard Seed Vault in the Arctic) run through CGIAR, a global research partnership focused on food security. This newest facility in Colombia includes more than 37,000 samples of beans, 6,000 cassava samples, and 22,600 samples of tropical forages from more than 100 countries.
A stretch of road in London has been closed to traffic for more than three weeks to allow toads to cross in safety to ponds where they breed. A 400 metre section of Church Road in Ham, near Richmond is blocked to motorists until the start of April so the creatures don’t get squished on their annual migration. ‘Toad patrol’ volunteers man the road - which meanders through a leafy stretch of Richmond Park - at night, but the road remains blocked off all day. And locals have been heaping praise on the conservation initiative.
A university research project that turns into a startup, which within a few short years partners with Uber and attracts millions of dollars of investment from around the world, including Silicon Valley. It's the stuff of entrepreneurial dreams, and yet that's what's happened to Opibus, a Swedish-Kenyan electric mobility company. Based in Nairobi, Opibus gives new life to old fossil-fuel belching vehicles by converting them to run on electric motors. Beginning with 4x4s, the company's reach has since expanded into public transport with bus conversions. Meanwhile, its electric motorbikes, designed and manufactured in Kenya, have attracted the attention of the world's most famous ride-hailing app.
Meanwhile, Tesla’s $5.5-billion Gigafactory in Grüheide, Germany, opened this week. It's Tesla’s first manufacturing location in Europe and it’s the “most advanced, sustainable, and efficient facility yet”. Now that the factory is open, Tesla hopes to produce roughly 30,000 vehicles in the first six months, and to manufacture nearly 500,000 cars per year in the future. “Danke Deutschland!” tweeted Elon Musk after the opening ceremony attended by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz.
MacKenzie Scott has donated $436 million to Habitat for Humanity International and 84 of its U.S. affiliates - the largest publicly disclosed donation from the billionaire philanthropist. “We could not be more excited to get the gift at a time when, in some ways, the state of housing affordability is the worst that it has been in modern times,” Jonathan Reckford, Habitat for Humanity International’s CEO, told The Associated Press. Scott, who is worth about $48 billion according to Forbes, has signed the Giving Pledge, through which many billionaires have promised to donate more than half their wealth. Aside from an occasional blog post, Scott, an author and philanthropist, doesn’t discuss her donations, which exceeded $8 billion in the past two years after her divorce from Jeff Bezos.
GE produces world's largest recyclable wind turbine blade. A consortium led by the company has manufactured the world's largest thermoplastic blade, designed to serve as a full-scale example of a fully recyclable wind turbine blade. Wind energy has become an important pillar in our fossil fuel-free future, but that doesn't mean it comes without environmental concerns of its own. The thermoset composites making up today's turbine blades cannot be recycled, so it's good news that this will soon change.
Italy’s culture minister, Dario Franceschini, has tweeted that a proposal introduced in parliament has passed to use Italian government funds to rebuild the destroyed theater in the city of Mariupol. He noted that “Theaters of all countries belong to the whole of humanity.”
Quote of the Day
"If the English language made any sense, a catastrophe would be an apostrophe with fur." Doug Larson
On this Day
25 March 1306: Robert the Bruce was crowned king of Scotland in Scone, Perthshire.
Dive in Deeper
Vicarious Adrenalin Rush
A world first skydiving and skiing combo: free flying before speed-riding down the mountain with a parachute.