Tuesday's collection of good news nuggets to perk up the day.
Fossil fuels - in the form of plastics - are in virtually every manufactured product, but captured carbon dioxide can be used as a building block for many of these instead. The German company Covestro has successfully converted CO2 and other gas mixtures generated during steel production into polyols, an organic composite usually derived from non-renewable resources. Covestro uses these polyols to create a carbon-based material called cardyon to manufacture bras, socks, foams for insulation, mattresses, and car seat linings.
National parks have come to China! The country has announced around 88,000 square miles of land will be protected as national parks, including the Giant Panda National Park (and yes, there are pandas there). China’s one of the biggest countries on Earth, so its national parks are fittingly diverse. So, for example, there’s the rainforest home of the critically endangered Hainan black-crested gibbon (a long-armed primate with orange or black fur) and the snowy, northeastern habitat of Siberian tigers and leopards.
More good news from China: The best way to incentivize sustainable energy is to make it affordable, and the sharp drop in the price of photovoltaic systems has made solar capable of rivaling coal power in China. Researchers in China released an analysis indicating that solar has become cost-competitive with coal in the country. Right now, one-third of the world's new solar capacity is being commissioned in China.
Making ends meet is a struggle for many artists, whose precarious financial position has been exacerbated by the pandemic. Does Ireland have an answer? This week, its government announced plans for a basic income for people working in the arts. Details of the €25m (£21.2m) initiative are still being thrashed out, but the three-year scheme is expected to offer around €325 (£275) per week to creatives. Applications for the pilot will open in January 2022, ahead of a rollout next spring.
If you're fortunate enough to hit the slopes in the French Alps this ski season, you may appreciate the absence of the growling sound of a fossil-fuel powered snowmobile, as they're slowly going to be replaced by sleek, new, quiet, electric Moonbikes.
As much as a third of the world’s population does not have access to clean drinking water, according to some estimates. Finding a solution to this problem could save and improve lives for millions of people, and it is a high priority among scientists and engineers around the globe. The good news is that scientists and engineers at The University of Texas in Austin have created a hydrogel tablet that can rapidly purify contaminated water. One tablet can disinfect a liter of river water and make it suitable for drinking in an hour or less.
Fancy a superyacht with a gaping hole in the middle? If so, this 69m vessel from Rome based Lazzarini Design Studio may be just what you're after. The aptly named Shape concept, which is to run entirely on clean energy, features a huge empty opening in its superstructure, resulting in a wonderfully distinctive silhouette. Referred to as the "hole deck," the space is accessible via an entrance on the bow and has steps leading down to the sea level, making it an ideal sun lounging area. Meanwhile, the upper deck of the yacht is fitted with a glass-bottomed infinity pool, offering swimmers a fabulous view of the open space below. The living area, located at the rear of the superstructure, consists of six luxury suites.
The shibboleths of the old energy order fall away. The International Energy Agency has systematically struck down every economic and social objection to net zero, reports The Telegraph. “The message is clear: a new global energy economy is coming, which is cheaper, cleaner, safer, more resilient, and much fairer across countries,” said Fatih Birol, the director of the IEA. For a great many years the IEA was unashamedly aligned with the fossil industry, tending to view renewables and electric cars in its World Energy Outlook as a romantic niche interest. This year the data tables begin with supply figures for solar, wind, bioenergy, and so forth. The lines for oil, gas, and coal are relegated to the bottom. Hallelujah we cry in astonishment. Even more surprising is to hear Mr Birol issue a pontifical anathema against fossildom on the run up to Cop26 in Glasgow.
Several cities are starting to electrify mass transit. Berlin, Bogota, Austin (Texas) and several other cities, are taking creative steps to cut gas and diesel from their public transit systems. Berlin is reviving electric tram lines that were ripped out when the Berlin Wall went up. Bogota is building cable cars that cut through the clouds to connect working-class communities perched on faraway hills.
Fun Fact: Do you get the feeling that there are more twins around these days than there used to be? No? Well, you should, because according to a new study in the journal Human Reproduction, the "twinning rate" has increased by one-third since the '80s - up from 9 to 12 twins per 1,000 deliveries. Currently that adds up to about 1.6 million twins born each year across the world - meaning one out of every 42 babies is a twin. Helping drive this is the increasing use of medically assisted reproduction, and the delay in childbearing (twinning has been found to increase with a mother's age).
Dive in Deeper
The tamandua is a tinier relative of the anteater, and this baby likes to ride on its mother's back.