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Five good news stories: a break from climate anxiety, the EU country sponsoring newer tech and more

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By Camille Bello
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Five good news stories of the week
Five good news stories of the week   -   Copyright  GoodNews

Because we think you deserve to know what is going well in the world, we bring you another instalment of the good news round-up, a weekly digest of positive stories to brighten up your day.

The list is not biased, political or moralising. It is just plain good news, picked by our team because it inspires us and brings us hope.

  1. First, we give you the US city that moved 25,000 people from the streets to homes of their own. 
  2. Then, we battle climate anxiety with a look at the first major proposal in 30 years to reverse catastrophic wildlife loss in Europe.
  3. Because we like governments that support their people and their environment, we cover a new government initiative in Greece that tackles both rising energy bills and outdated technology.
  4. In Sweden, we look into a pilot smart road that powers vehicles from below.
  5. Then on to the inspiring rebirth of a modern-day Phoenix in Japan.

Watch the video above for more on each story (we highly recommend), or read on below…

1. The US city that moved 25,000 people from the streets to homes of their own.

The American city of Houston is tackling its homeless problem head-on, reducing the number of people living on the street by 63 per cent.

It has achieved what no other major US city has managed, thanks to a “housing first” approach that focuses on getting homeless people safely into their own apartments as fast as possible, and only dealing with issues such as work, drug addiction and mental health afterwards.

The city is responding to research that says this is the most efficient way to get people off the street. Finland, the only EU country where homelessness is falling, has used the same strategy, giving people homes as soon as they need them – unconditionally.

In one of the government’s homeless categories, the waiting process to get a home in Houston has been cut from 720 days to just 32.

One of the greatest challenges the authorities face in these situations is that residents often end up back on the streets, but according to local media, the vast majority of Houston’s relocated people have stayed in their houses for more than two years.

The city hasn’t solved homelessness, but it has made amazing progress and shown the world a fast way to get people off the streets and under a roof.

2. The first major proposal in 30 years to reverse catastrophic wildlife loss in Europe.

In an unprecedented boom for European wildlife, the European Commission has drawn up an ambitious plan to reverse the tide of biodiversity loss across the continent.

The proposal will push member states to restore previous levels of wildlife and habitats on land, rivers and the sea over the next decade, as well to halve the use of pesticides and protect pollinators such as bees, butterflies and beetles.

“The main target is going to have 20 per cent of nature restoration action around the EU by 2030,” said Virginijus Sinkevičius, European Commissioner for the Environment, in an exclusive conversation with Euronews.

Where marine habitats have been destroyed by trawling, there will be pressure to close down fishing areas.

Around €100 billion will be available for spending on biodiversity and the restoration of ecosystems. The target to cut the use of pesticides has been set for 2030, so that farmers will have time to find alternatives.

’We should stop living in the myth that acting for nature, and restoring nature are just costs and no benefits. Our impact assessment shows that one invested euro brings €8 of benefits,” said Sinkevičius.

The proposals could become law next year, and member states who fail to follow through will face legal action.

“The main target is to have 20 per cent of nature restoration action around the EU by 2030.”

3. A new government initiative in Greece tackles both rising energy bills and outdated technology.

Households in Greece are staying cool this summer with a government plan to help them replace their old fridges, freezers and air conditioners with more efficient models, and cut down on eye-watering electricity bills.

Greek citizens will be able to buy up to three appliances per family and get a discount of between 30 and 50 per cent on the regular price.

Like many other EU countries, Greece has been hit by soaring energy costs, but the country has invested about €7 billion to help households pay their electricity and petrol bills.

Households taking part in the scheme could cut their energy needs by 40 per cent. Across Greece, this could add up to the equivalent of the energy consumed every year by a city of 100,000 people.

According to the government, it could also save €40 million a year on gas and oil imports.

4. A pilot smart road powers vehicles from below.

You’ve heard of Electric Avenue, but Sweden is working on making this a reality.

On the holiday island of Gotland, a groundbreaking "SmartRoad" is helping to power an airport shuttle bus.

“It's a wireless electric road. So, we are charging while driving," explains Petra Carlenarson, project manager at SmartRoad Gotland.

The 1.6km SmartRoad is a pilot project that allows electricity to flow wirelessly, via induction, from wide copper coils built under the asphalt to three receivers installed underneath the bus.

The bus has special receivers and they have installed coils under the asphalt. The road identifies the bus as it passes over the coils “transferring energy through the air to the bus," says Carlenarson.

The technology, which was developed by Israeli company Electreon, says tests have seen a 40-ton truck reach speeds of up to 80 kilometres per hour. It is claimed to be a world-first for charging larger trucks and buses.

And they expect the technology to eventually drip down to personal vehicles, such as electric cars.

The tech could soon be charging up to 2,000 kilometres of Sweden’s busiest roads, and similar projects are underway in Italy, Germany and Israel.

5. The rebirth of a modern-day phoenix in Japan

The island of Sado in Japan has a curious mascot. A regal feathered creature by the name of toki is seen on t-shirts, milk cartons and – more and more – striding through the paddy fields.

The wild toki is a type of ibis that for decades was dangerously close to extinction. In just under 20 years, however, Japan's toki population has jumped from close to zero to around 500.

This is partly due to a stroke of luck in 1981 when a group of seven toki was discovered in a remote area of China's Shaanxi province. In 1998, then-Chinese President Jiang Zemin brought a pair of them to Japan as a gift. After a few years, Sado had a large enough population to consider reintroducing the toki to the wild.

Toki mostly feed in rice paddies, however, where the chemicals used in modern farming methods can be harmful to them. Sado’s farmers were asked to halve their use of fertilisers and pesticides but were initially reluctant. Until the Toki itself changed their minds.

Farmers reluctant to adapt were “delighted” to see a bird with almost mythical status on Sado wandering through their fields.

"They said: ‘Toki came to my rice paddies, so I should farm in a way that pleases them'. The toki played a role in changing the environment for themselves. This is a true story. The toki was almost like an environmental ambassador," says Shinichiro Saito, a rice farmer in Sado.

And if you're still hungry for more positive news, there's more above...

Video editor • Mert Can Yilmaz