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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: an iconic river reborn, plus more

Posted 7th October 2022 • Written by •

A date was set for swimming in the (once-polluted) Seine, Australia pledged to quit coal, and an ad-free search engine launched in Europe, plus more positive news

Parisians were promised a swim in the Seine

A century after they were banned from swimming in the Seine because it was too polluted, Parisians are preparing to plunge into its waters again. 

From 2025, public swimming is to be permitted at locations across the French capital, it was announced this week. It follows extensive (and expensive) efforts to clean up the waterway, which was closed to swimmers in 1923. 

It’s all part of mayor Anne Hidalgo’s ambitious plans for the capital, which include turning car parking spaces into cycle lanes. 

Skeptics are mindful that Jaques Chirac made a similar promise about the Seine in 1990, when he was mayor. However, Hidalgo has put her money where her mouth is by committing €1bn (£879m) to transform the river. 

It’s not just swimmers that are returning to the Seine. As water quality has improved, marine life is reported to have bounced back, including salmon, eels and catfish. 

Australia kicked coal into touch

Until May of this year, Australia was led by a climate-skeptic prime minister who once brought a lump of coal to work to show his support for fossil fuels. How things have changed. 

This week, Australia’s most coal-dependant state pledged to kick the habit by 2035, while supercharging renewables. Within hours of Queensland’s announcement, Australia’s biggest polluter, AGL Energy, promised to do the same. 

A report earlier this year found that Australia has the highest coal emissions per person of any developed country 

The news follows a surge in support for Australian politicians pledging climate action, chiefly Anthony Albanese, who took over as prime minister in May.

An ad-free search engine launched in Europe

A new ad-free search engine that doesn’t track users launched in the UK, France and Germany on Thursday. 

Neeva was created by Sridhar Ramaswamy, who worked at Google for 16 years. He told the BBC that he launched the service because he no longer wanted to be part of the “exploitative” tech sector. 

Neeva already has 600,000 users in the US. It offers free-to-use search, with other features such as a password manager and virtual-private-network (VPN) service available on subscription.

Worm spit: the latest solution to plastic pollution?

A pervasive form of plastic that’s notoriously hard to break down may finally have been defeated… by a worm. 

Spanish researchers revealed this week that wax worm saliva can break down polyethylene, a tough plastic used in anything from food packaging to cable insulation. 

It follows similar research by Austrian scientists, who last year found that bacteria living inside a cow’s gut can digest three types of plastic. It is hoped that such breakthroughs will lead to new natural approaches to deal with plastic pollution. 

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