Happy new year.
Yet what are the chances of that? Already 2019 has assumed an ominously 2018 kind of feel: Britain back to Brexit brinkmanship, Germany dicing with recession, wall-to-wall deadlock in the US …
Fortunately, this is not a space for all that, but an opportunity to recount the things that are going well – the stories that are little reported because no one died or yelled, the trends and data that suggest the world isn’t as bad as you think, and of course all the best from our own series of Upside journalism.
Could 2019 be the year when Yemen finally exits the nightmare of war? A tentative truce is hardly definitive but the hope has to be that it is the start of something. Could 2019 also be the year when democracy rebounds after a tricky few years? The Economist Intelligence Unit says that globally democracy stopped the rot in 2018.
And there are other signs of promise. Renewable power generation in the UK hit another record in 2018. And the global capacity of batteries, vital to store renewable energy, is forecast to rise 100-fold over the next 20 years, according to Bloomberg NEF.
EU unemployment is at its lowest level for 10 years; there’s been an 80% drop in plastic bag use in Australia; the number of civilians killed and injured by bombs and bullets fell 30% last year; and the Guardian and Observer Christmas charity appeal raised more than £1m for victims of the Windrush immigration scandal.
More than half the people on the planet are now using the internet, according to UN figures, meaning that 0.0005% of the global online community subscribe to this newsletter. Scope for growth there.
Over the festive season, the Upside team rolled out a series of uplifting tales: the London youngsters using their bikes to protest against knife crime; an inspiring worker cooperative that pays everyone the same; and not one but two pieces about the value of reaching out to opponents and perceived enemies whenever conflict rears its head.
A lesson for everyone, from Trump down, in 2019.
What we liked
Tina Rosenberg is one of the great exponents of solutions journalism. This week in the New York Times, she covers a possible global health breakthrough. To pique your curiosity, a teaser: after humans, which creature is the deadliest on the planet?
Also, the nascent movement for more compassion in politics, as highlighted by our friends at Positive News.
What we heard
The stashing away of ill-gotten gains, but also legal profits, for the purposes of evading surveillance, is rife around the globe, and the root of the most heinous dealings
Yet these powerful people must have a secure and stable hidey-hole for their ill-gotten gains! So they stash them away in perfectly respectable banks, financial institutions, investments in property , etc– so often in the secure and stable and so-called civilised west (although smaller nations and jurisdictions climbed opportunistically into the game too). If such gains, and their sources, could not be hidden, they could not be gotten away with.
Jackie Yowell, via email
How a country can raise enough to pay for the things citizens want the state to provide. Collectively, the population of the UK seem unwilling to pay enough tax to meet their desires. Is that because our expectations are too high or because we think it should be someone else paying. Are there good examples from around the world where sufficient tax is raised to meet citizens expectations of their state with general consensus that the tax raised is being well spent on the right things, or is it always the case that the expectations always exceed the revenue available to governments to meet those expectations? It would be nice to know.
Moray Bowater, via email
Where was the Upside?
Way out there in time and space, far far away; astronomers say they have gathered “spectacular” data about a black hole at the centre of our galaxy. Not just a feat of science, but a feat of diplomacy, given that it involved more than a dozen telescopes on five continents.
If we get an image out of it, it will become one of the iconic images of science.
Prof Peter Galison of Harvard university, project participant
Welcome back to this weekly digest of the best of Upside journalism around the world. If you have a thought, a comment, a criticism or a suggestion for story ideas or subject matter, do please get in touch with us by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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