Life is tough and the news cycle ain’t helping anything right now. Disaster, drama, and death sell papers and get eyeballs on the page but they don’t do much for our mental health.
If you’ve felt like simply switching off from the constant barrage of updates charting the world’s lurch from one crisis to the next, we’re here to provide you with a much-needed antidote.
Good stuff happens all the time. It just doesn’t get quite the same coverage as bad stuff. That means we end up thinking that everything that’s going on in the world is terrible when it really isn’t.
Here are five of the best news stories we’ve seen this week to put a spring in your step and make the world feel just that little bit brighter.
Four Day Work Week Gets a Big Boost
Belgium has become the first country to announce an official transition to a four-day work week. The small European nation will give workers the right to choose to work four days instead of five, as well as legal protections over ignoring their employers during their time off in what has become known as the right to switch off.
“We have experienced two difficult years. With this agreement, we set a beacon for an economy that is more innovative, sustainable and digital. The aim is to be able to make people and businesses stronger,” Belgian prime minister Alexander de Croo told a press conference announcing the reform package.
At the same time, similar moves have been made in Wales in regards to financial and mental security, as the country announced that it would be giving all 18-year-olds who move out of home £1,600 per month (about $3000) in a trial of basic income support.
Basic income, like the four-day work week, is a long called for a financial arrangement where the government essentially covers the basic costs of living. Proponents of the idea say that this would encourage people to lead more fulfilling lives as they don’t have to work to earn the basic necessities and can pursue careers in fields they are passionate about.
The Welsh trial will be looked upon keenly to see if it can deliver on its promises of raising equality and opportunity for all those involved.
Australia’s Largest Coal Plant Shuts Down
Australia’s largest coal-fired power station announced this week that it will shut its doors seven years earlier than planned, with operators citing the “influx of renewables” as the driving force behind the shift. Operators have said they simply cannot compete with the increasing availability and low costs of technologies like solar and wind.
The 2.88-gigawatt Eraring plant in the Hunter Valley, NSW, is owned and operated by Origin Energy and accounts for 2% of the countries carbon emissions.
It had been set to close in 2032, however its new schedule will see it shut off in 2025 and be replaced by a 700-megawatt battery that Origin will use to store renewable energy,
It’s another blow to the coal industry, which still accounts for 60% of the country’s power, however that balance is set to swap by the end of the decade when renewables are expected to make up 70% of our power source.
Last week, AGL said that they too would be bringing forward the closure of two of their biggest coal-fired power stations by several years while Energy Australia said they would close Yallourn power station in Victoria, the county’s most polluting, four years earlier than planned.
COVID Restrictions Are Lifting
While we’re not quite out of the pandemic woods yet, signs appear positive that we could be heading for another respite from COVID.
NSW announced on Thursday that they would be lifting almost all of their COVID restrictions in two stages, starting today, which sees the return of singing and dancing to hospitality venues as well as the winding back of QR codes.
Victoria too has similarly scrapped a number of its restrictions, bringing back dancing while getting rid of density caps and the need to check-in. Those changes will come into effect from today, just in time for the weekend.
The ACT has also followed suit, bringing their COVID restrictions in line with those now seen in VIC and NSW, from 6pm today.
While some question whether this could result in another spike in cases, high rates of booster jab take up as well as waves of COVID infection giving people additional immunity seem to be holding cases and hospitalisations down.
Turns Out, Oil Rigs Are Pretty Great for the Environment
As the world slowly turns away from fossil fuels and towards a brighter, greener future, there are questions over what exactly should be done with the 12,000-odd offshore oil-drilling rigs and platforms that stand in our oceans. Leaving them there could be dangerous while removing them is extremely costly.
That’s why rigs-to-reef transitions are so important. Since 1984, many US states have been engaging in the conversion of defunct off-shore rigs into underwater marine paradises. In the almost 40 year history of the approach, over 500 off-shore platforms have been converted into marine habitat.
While it might sound artificial, in reality, much of the ocean is relatively devoid of geographical structures. Most marine life congregates around areas where ecosystems can form, like coastal waters, reefs, and other geological formations. By securing the platforms so that they can last for centuries underwater, all manner of plants and animals can begin to grow on and around the platforms, providing much needed shelter for certain species that would otherwise roam freely through the ocean – or not survive at all.
While it might not seem like a great thing on the surface, underwater, oil rigs can actually be of huge help to the creatures down below.
New Zealand and Israel Ban Conversion Therapy
Two countries this week committed to outlawing the abusive practice of “conversion therapy” whereby practitioners, often devoutly religious, claim to be able to “convert” people away from their sexual or gender preferences.
It’s a practice that relies on the outdated and deeply harmful idea that non-cis, non-heterosexuality is somehow an illness or defect that can be fixed with treatment, often involving praying and a range of other bizarre practices.
On Tuesday, New Zealand’s parliament passed near-unanimous legislation that would make it an offence to perform the practice on anyone under the age of 18, or on an adult if it causes “serious harm.”
“This is a great day for New Zealand’s rainbow communities,” Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi said.
“Conversion practices have no place in modern New Zealand.”
Similarly, the Health Ministry of Israel issued a motion on Monday that banned medical professionals from offering or providing conversion therapies. Any that do will have their licenses revoked. Psychologists in Israel can already be punished for offering the “treatments.”
“This is a victory in the general struggle for tolerance and equality, but in my eyes, it is more basic and more critical because this is also a struggle for life itself, this is truly saving lives,” said Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz.