School’s back – to a world brimming with solutions!
School’s back and we’re all getting down to work. It’s a time of year when we can feel excited but also a little bit worried, can’t we?
Maybe we’re wondering how we’ll get on in a new class. We have lots of new things to learn. And, of course, life is a bit strange because of the virus, COVID-19.
We can have worries, even when we have lots of good things to look forward to – and we know, don’t we, that it’s important to think about those good things, too. Like seeing friends, playing new games or learning cool stuff.
We call that ‘looking at the big picture’ – not just worrying about what’s not great but also remembering the positive things in our lives. And we think it’s important to see the ‘big picture’ when we think about the wider world, too.
Planet Earth has quite a few problems of its own – climate change, pollution, people arguing and fighting and so on. But it has loads of solutions, too.
So this week, we’ve put together favourite new fixes that we’ve heard about over the summer. Buckle in for a fast and furious ride through the latest exciting solutions to problems in the world!
1. Gold from garbage!
Problem? Our computers, phones, TVs and other electronic gadgets can damage Nature. How? Because they contain special metals, which come from mines that can pollute and harm wildlife. We also throw away billions of old devices. In rich countries, each person throws away over 20kg of “e-waste” every year – and the metals in this waste can also pollute soil and water.
Solution! Instead of digging new mines for metals like gold and copper, we just “mine” our scrap… A New Zealand company has a new way of getting metal out of old devices using microbes instead of poisonous chemicals. It announced it is setting up a first full-scale plant, in England. “We use less energy, less CO2, less water, less waste. A refinery can be popped into any nation, region or city,” Ollie, the chief scientist at Mint Innovation, told The Guardian.
2. Burn waste, save trees
Problem? Barbecues damage African forests. More and more people cook food outdoors on barbecues. These burn charcoal, which is made from wood. To fight global warming, we need more trees, not to cut more down.
Solution! Make charcoal with rubbish! Guillaume and Sebastien were in Turkey. They saw that factories which prepare hazelnuts for turning into sweets and treats just throw the shells away. Back home in France, the pair now make barbecue charcoal – without wood. They use nutshells or olive stones thrown away by olive oil factories. Good news for trees. And for us!
3. Rolling on … plastic!
Problems? (i) Repairing and renewing tarmac road surfaces costs money and involves lots of heavy trucks adding to global warming. (ii) Plastic waste, such as bottles, pollutes land and water, or is burned, adding to carbon emissions.
Solution! In California this summer, Sean just covered over 1 km of road in… recycled plastic. It uses less energy, lasts 2 to 3 times longer – and it gets rid of 100,000 old bottles per kilometre. Sean’s company is getting new orders for his solution “at hyperspeed”. Coming to a road near you!
4. Time to switch on … gravitricity!
Problem? We’re cleaning the planet by making more electricity from the wind and sun, burning less of the coal, gas and oil that make greenhouse gases. But how do we keep the lights on when it’s dark, or there’s no wind? We use batteries to store electricity, but they’re pricey and don’t always work well.
Solution! A company in Scotland is testing a way to store electricity using the force of gravity. They call it “gravitricity”. For example, when it’s sunny, solar power lifts heavy weights up a tower. When it’s dark, they drop the weights to generate electricity. Next step? To lift and drop weights a really long way – down disused coal mines. From coal to clean power – a bright idea!
5. Honey, I cured the kids!
Problem? Colds and coughs are a pain. Lots of people take medicines. But the more we take drugs like antibiotics, the less they work against the bugs.
Solution! Not every problem needs a super-high-tech solution. Research by scientists at Oxford has found that honey, a very old-fashioned remedy for coughs, can work better than modern drugs – and lets us save those drugs for when we really need them to fight properly dangerous microbes. Sweet!
We hope that our round-up of the latest news from the world of solutions helps give you a “big picture” view of planet Earth this week. It’s not all bad news – far from it! And we wish you super success in learning lots of clever stuff in a new school year.
We often think more about bad news than about good news, and worry about things that we’re not sure about. That’s true with how we think of our lives, at home or at school. And it’s true with how we think of the world as a whole.
Make an effort to see positives, not negatives, so that we get “the big picture”. Going into a new class can be worrying – but it also means exciting new possibilities. The world has problems – WoW! shows it’s full of solutions, too!
You can read here an article of The Guardian about how Mint Innovation, a New-Zealand startup, has found a way to extract precious metals from electronic waste, partly by using microbes. You can check their website here.
To understand more about Guillaume and Sébastien’s forest-friendly barbecue briquettes, Le Parisien has the story here (in French) and you can view their products here.
Fast Company published an article about the company that created the first highway in the United States to be paved in part with recycled plastic. You can see the company website here.
The Engineer writes about Gravitricity here and the company explain their concept on their website and present this video:
Scientists have found that honey can be more effective than medicines for cold and coughs, you can see an article about it in Positive News here. The British Medical Journal has published an article about the “effectiveness of honey for symptomatic relief in upper respiratory tract infections”. You can read it here.