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How shorter workweeks could save Earth

We like to blame climate change on industry and big business. But the way we live, work and consume is actually the primary source of emissions. A multi-national study by the Norwegian University of Science and Technology of the environmental impact of consumers found that the stuff we buy is responsible for more than 60% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, and up to 80% of global water use. And yet, growing that consumption still further is what economies are built upon...

Why are people thirsty for 'raw water'?

“Anybody here drink water, but wish you could pay more for it?” In January 2018, the “raw water” movement was doing the rounds on the US TV comedy circuit, and it was Stephen Colbert’s turn on The Late Show. “Well, good news,” continued Colbert, “because the next big start-up craze in Silicon Valley is ‘raw water’… water that’s unfiltered, untreated and unsterilised. Wow, drinking that sounds unsane!”

Deadly air in our cities: the invisible killer

"In the winter you can taste and smell the pollution,” says Kylie ap Garth, drinking coffee in a cafe in Hackney, east London. “My eldest is eight and he has asthma. Being outside, he would have a tight chest and cough. I just assumed it was the cold weather. I didn’t realise there was a link to the cars.” She is not exaggerating. The main road from Bethnal Green tube station is clogged with traffic, the smell of diesel fumes mixing with smoke from barbecue grill restaurants and construction dust.

Why Britain’s rain can’t sustain its thirst

When it comes to water scarcity, the last place on Earth you’d think of is rain-soaked England. Winter here is cold and wet. It rains for what feels like weeks on end. Lawns squelch with saturated soil and garden water butts overflow, likely to be unused until April. The UK’s average annual rainfall is a sopping 1200mm, compared to the 300s in Afghanistan, or just double-figures in Egypt. Yet within a few short months, significant parts of the UK will be staring down the barrel of empty water butts...

The outrageous plan to haul icebergs to Africa

If towing icebergs to hot, water-stressed regions sounds totally crazy to you, then consider this: the volume of water that breaks off Antarctica as icebergs each year is greater than the total global consumption of freshwater. And that stat doesn’t even include Arctic ice. This is pure freshwater, effectively wasted as it melts into the sea and contributes to rising sea levels. Does it sound less crazy now? This untapped flow of water has enticed scientists and entrepreneurs for over a century...

How to drink from the air

All air, from arid deserts to humid cities, contains water vapour – globally, an estimated 3,100 cubic miles (12,900 cubic kilometres) of water is suspended as humidity in the air around us. That’s five Lake Victoria’s (Africa’s great lake, at 2,700 cubic km). Or a whopping 418 times the volume of Loch Ness. But we’re not talking about clouds. This is the humidity in the air we breathe, that reappears as beads of water on the side of a cold drink, or as morning dew on blades of grass. And a technological race is underway to harvest it as drinking water. If the emerging ‘water from air’ (WFA) devices can crack it, it could go a long way towards solving the world’s freshwater problem.

Public speaking fear is limiting your career

Glen Savage is about to go on stage wearing wings and a halo. He’s terrified. The year is 1961 and the five-year old Savage is playing the Archangel Gabriel in the nativity play at St James School in Brisbane, Australia. He has just one line: “Come here baby angels”. Little did he know then, but the fear and anxiety of that moment would go on to shape his entire career. “I just remember thinking that I can’t do it. I can’t speak in front of all those people”, Savage recalls. “I was absolutely

Is this the world's smartest toilet?

A warm toilet seat isn’t most people’s idea of heaven, typically indicating a previous occupant only recently departed. And turning to your side to find no toilet paper, only smooth walls and a remote control, may seem positively hellish. However, this remote control has washing and drying options. Press it, and a robot arm slides out underneath you, offering a range of water jet speeds and angles, followed by a hot air finale. When you stand up, the toilet closes its lid, flushes itself, and then self-cleans using UV-light.

Why young Londoners are moving to houseboats

Many Londoners would be envious of the postcodes Matthew Winters has lived in: the likes of Broadway Market, Angel, Camden, and Little Venice are amongst the city’s most hip and expensive. Many more would covet his electricity bill: £600 ($754) for the next 15 years. How, then, is he only 24 and a resident of London for just two years? Winters, an actor, is part of a booming trend for houseboat living among young Londoners. And specifically for what’s known as a ‘continuous cruising’ (or ‘CC-in

The bank boss with an environmentalist bent

Despite becoming the UK’s managing director of Triodos bank this spring, Bevis Watts maintains that he is “first and foremost an environmentalist”. Triodos’s mission is to lend money only to those who promote “positive social, environmental and cultural change”. The Dutch bank, which has €12bn of assets under management, is part of a booming trend. In 2015, the responsible lending market in the UK grew 45 per cent, according to a report by the Community Development Finance Association and PwC. Mr Watts’s CV does not read like that of the average bank executive...

Wearables for babies: saving lives or instilling fear in parents?

Following the success of adult fitness wearables like Fitbit, new companies are connecting babies to smartphone apps and giving parents live information about their baby’s breathing, skin temperature, heart rate and sleeping patterns. The Owlet has adapted pulse oximetry technology (the clip they put on your finger in hospitals to monitor heart rate) to create a baby sock that monitors heart rate and oxygen levels. Sproutling has integrated the same technology into a strap that goes round th

Banksy, Gormley or Hirst: is public art good for the nation's wellbeing?

It pops up in local parks and town squares; looms over motorway lanes and lurks in hospital car parks. Public art. It's everywhere. But what impact does it have, if any? And could it even have an effect on our health and wellbeing? Perhaps the most famous modern example in the UK is Anthony Gormley's Angel of the North. Before it was erected in 1998, vociferous objection from local opposition councillors and residents almost succeeded in stopping it. Indeed objections to a previous Gormley des

Are urban environments best for an ageing population?

Cities don't always seem the most old-age friendly of places. Public toilets that few dare venture into; street-lights turned off by cuts-driven councils; roads choked with cars; the fear of street crime. However there is growing evidence to suggest that as our population ages, cities could actually be the best possible environment for older people. Housing and accommodation for elderly people is already a pressing issue, with prohibitive costs for institutional care and a move towards helping

Do social impact bonds really work for charities?

A lot has been said and written about Social impact bonds (Sibs) in the past few years, but until now we’ve had little explanation as to whether they work and what it is like to be part of one. Now as 10 Sibs, which are part of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP’s) three-year innovation fund helping disadvantaged young people, come to an end, we can get some answers. Career Connect, a Liverpool employment charity, raised its £1.5m Sib in 2012 with the help of Triodos Bank. Investment

Can philanthropy be taught in a classroom?

Can philanthropy be taught in a classroom? And would philanthropic donors armed with MBAs in impact and effectiveness actually be a good thing for the voluntary sector? Sir Thomas Hughes-Hallett thinks so. He’s spent the last three years, and £30m of cash from hedge fund chief executive Paul Marshall, setting up the London School of Economics (LSE) new Marshall Institute for Philanthropy and Social Entrepreneurship. Having launched in June and already commissioning research, it is due to offer

Ageing villages of northern Finland where ancient way of life is dying out

In the village of Juujärvi, just inside the Arctic circle, northern Finland, the weather is not usually this forgiving. The day I visit it is a balmy -5, when typically one can expect -15. A deep crust of snow covers everything for seven months of the year. Cousins Irja and Seppo Juujärvi, who have lived here all their lives, share coffee and blueberry cake with me in a cosy converted cow shed. “There used to be 200 people living here,” Irja says of her home village, 90km from the nearest town,
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