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As the world’s leaders converged on Katowice, Poland, for this year’s UN climate change conference, the mood was sombre. How could it be anything other, when in the opening keynote one of the world’s foremost naturalists said we were all pretty much doomed?

While the numbers do not make for happy reading, there are plenty of people trying to do something about them. Our reporter Leyland Cecco writes this week from the Canadian west, where the province of British Columbia has come up with an innovative response to the global carbon splurge.

The Trans Canada Highway in British Columbia



The Trans Canada Highway in British Columbia. Photograph: Bert Klassen/Alamy

Luxembourg, meanwhile, has come up with a different idea for tackling greenhouse gas emissions (and city tailbacks), following an example set two years ago by Tallinn, as our Europe correspondent Daniel Boffey found out.

Pioneering startups are playing their part in using technology to combat environmental degradation. In France, Morphosis aims to reduce e-waste – discarded old electronics – by making sure their rare metals are recycled and reused. In Cameroon, Save Our Agriculture improves food security through aquaponics, a farming method where fish nourish the plants that in turn filter their water.

And in the UK, a small army of ramblers is determined to push back against human incursions into the countryside by rediscovering long-lost footpaths buried under decades of manmade eyesores.

Just what we need: new ways to get lost.

What we liked

Single-use plastics: a danger to our seas.



Single-use plastics: a danger to our seas. Photograph: BBC NHU

In Greece, marine divers are volunteering to clear the surrounding oceans from plastic litter. With the longest coastline in the EU, they are slowly but surely reclaiming their natural habitat, NPR reports.

The charity Beam is trying to get the UK’s homeless population back into employment through crowdfunding. Candidates are referred by homelessness charities, and Beam then mentors each one to develop a career plan, which the public can fund via their website, receiving updates on their training and progress.

Finally, a US-based startup, Ecovative, is harnessing the power of the humble mushroom to create natural, biodegradable packaging and materials for potential use in industry.

What we heard


Carbon taxes are really the only way forward; it’s simple economics,” one reader commenting on our carbon tax story


I love the public footpaths in Britain and I used to love the public rights of way in London, but those have almost all disappeared,” one reader says about our lost footpaths

Where was the Upside?

Scientists have developed a new quick and inexpensive test to see whether patients have cancer cells growing in their bodies, science editor Ian Sample reports. Acting as an initial test for cancer, it is hoped the use of the colour-changing fluid could help with early detection. Cancer currently accounts for more than a quarter of all deaths in the UK alone.

Electron micrograph imaging of ovarian cancer cells.



Electron micrograph imaging of ovarian cancer cells. Photograph: Steve Gschmeissner/Getty Images

We hope you are enjoying this weekly digest of Upside journalism. If you value this approach, and would like to help us to uncover more valour, enterprise, altruism and innovation, please support our journalism with a single or recurring contribution. Support the Guardian.



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