Wrapping up the week with some bite sized chunks of upbeat, positive news.
US Fuel Consumption
It seems President Joe Biden is exactly 12 miles per gallon more concerned about the environment than his predecessor. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has released new federal rules that require new vehicles sold in America to average at least 40 miles per gallon from 2026. This number is up from the 28 miles per gallon mark enacted under Trump. It's not exactly radical stuff by European standards but the good news is that the NHTSA says its new measures will reduce gasoline consumption by more than 220 billion gallons (1 trillion litres) over the life of vehicles, compared with Trump's standards.
A new skyscraper in Sweden is bucking the trend of the carbon-heavy construction industry. The 20-storey Sara Cultural Center was built from over 12,000 cubic meters of wood harvested from nearby forests. Being the second tallest wooden tower in the world, the building will capture nine million kilograms of carbon dioxide during its lifetime. It also uses solar panels for power. The center is part of a wider effort in the region to wean the construction industry off environmentally-harmful materials. Unlike cement, which is the largest single industrial emitter of CO2, trees sequester carbon dioxide and the wood holds it captive - even when made into lumber and used to create a skyscraper.
Act of Kindness
JoAnn Sanderson from Florida tells this story: "Two firefighters were waiting in line at a fast-food restaurant when the siren sounded on their fire truck parked outside. As they turned to leave, a couple who had just received their order handed their food to the firefighters. The couple then got back in line to reorder. Doubling down on their kind act, the manager refused to take their money."
The US Supreme Court is to include a black female justice for the first time in its 233 year history after the Senate confirmed Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the nine member bench. Three Republicans crossed the aisle to seal her appointment by a vote of 53 to 47. The vote was overseen by Kamala Harris, the first black woman to hold the office of Vice President.
Wild Animal Rights
Ecuador has became the first country to give legal rights to wild animals. The ruling from the country's highest court arose from an 2019 incident when authorities appropriated a woolly monkey from its home to a zoo. The court ruled that the government violated the animal's rights when it was removed from the wild. "What makes this decision so important is that now the rights of nature can be used to benefit small groups or individual animals," says Harvard law professor Kristen Stilt. "That makes rights of nature a far more powerful tool than perhaps we have seen before." Environmental lawyer Hugo Echeverria said, "This verdict raises animal rights to the level of the constitution, the highest law of Ecuador."
Stanford’s second solar generating plant went online this month, completing the university’s years-long transition to 100 percent renewable electricity and marking a major milestone in its larger journey to reach net-zero carbon emissions on campus. “As this new solar plant comes online, Stanford will achieve the important milestone of producing enough renewable electricity to exceed what the university consumes,” said President Marc Tessier-Lavigne. “But our work to achieve a more sustainable future is only beginning."
Into the Future
Gas? Where we’re going, we don’t need gas. DeLorean Motor Company, the short-lived 1980s automaker behind the DMC DeLorean sports car turned pop culture staple thanks to the Back to the Future movie franchise, is returning with an EV model. The DeLorean EV concept has just been teased with this photo, and its official reveal will be at Pebble Beach on 21 August.
Wind and solar generated over a tenth of global electricity for the first time last year. The milestone is more than double the number calculated when the Paris Agreement was signed in 2015. Taken together, wind and solar are now the fourth largest source of electricity in the world with its 10.3 percent market share. Three countries stand out: In 2021, Denmark, Luxembourg and Uruguay achieved 52pc, 43pc and 47pc respectively from wind and solar, leading the way on technology for high renewable grid integration.
Quote of the Day
“Very little is needed to make a happy life; it is all within yourself, in your way of thinking.”
On this Day
8 April 1838: The Great Western, the earliest regular transatlantic steamer, embarked on its maiden voyage from Bristol, England, to New York City.
Dive in Deeper
How High Can Tigers Live in the Himalayas? Closed to outsiders for years, Bhutan is a forgotten world. No one knows how many tigers prowl the jungles and mountains here, but if the rumours of a healthy population are true, it will give credence to a proposed 2000-mile long 'tiger conservation corridor': an ambitious project that would allow the last remaining big cats to move freely between Burma, India and Nepal.