Another week, same feeling of existential dread? You’re far from alone.


Staying on top of the headlines might still feel like a thankless task in early 2021, but amidst the doom and gloom there remain some brilliant nuggets of joy and optimism – and every Tuesday, we’ll endeavour to find them.


So, without further ado, here are the stories giving us hope this week…


US to rejoin UN human rights council

Image: UNHCR


The US yesterday unveiled plans to re-engage with the UN’s human rights council, almost three years on from Donald Trump’s withdrawal.


The move is the latest in a series of Trump policy reversals, designed to reconnect the US with multilateral organisations and international agreements.


Secretary of state Antony Blinken said the US’ absence from the UNHRC had done “nothing to encourage meaningful change, but instead created a vacuum of US leadership”.


Instead, he said the Biden administration planned to “re-engage, immediately and robustly”.


UK’s hills could be used as green energy ‘batteries’

Image: Tierras Altas Escocia/Unsplash


A system that could see hundreds of hills across the UK transformed into renewable energy ‘batteries’ has been unveiled.


It’s after a team of green engineers successfully adapted traditional hydropower storage systems to make use of gentle slopes, rather than requiring steep walls for dams.


The firm behind the discovery, RheEnergise, says it could unlock an estimated 700 potential hydropower sites across Britain, allowing electricity to be generated without expensive and impactful construction.


Elon Musk launches $100 million carbon capture contest

Image: Reuters


Tesla co-founder Elon Musk has offered up $100 million in funding for inventions that can remove carbon dioxide from the world’s atmosphere or oceans.


The competition, part of Musk’s X Prize charity, says its ultimate aim is to uncover solutions that help humanity reach “carbon negativity, not neutrality.


The fund, Musk said, amounted to the “largest incentive prize in history”, with a series of $1m grants for development, and a $50m grand prize up for grabs.


To win, teams will have to demonstrate they “can pull carbon dioxide directly from the atmosphere or oceans and lock it away permanently in an environmentally benign way.”


New species of whale discovered in Gulf of Mexico

Image: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock


A group of whales being studied in the Gulf of Mexico has been identified as an entirely new species.


The Rice’s whale – named after the American biologist Dale Rice – had previously been mistakenly logged by scientists as a subspecies of the endangered Bryde’s whale.


Now, the team from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has described its discovery as a complete surprise, and “very exciting”.


However, with fewer than 100 whales in the group, the newly discovered species has already been protected as critically endangered.


Michaela Coel nominated for SAG Award 

Image: HBO


Her Golden Globes snub attracted worldwide derision last week.


But on Thursday, Michaela Coel was one of the first names announced on the 2021 SAG Awards nominations shortlist.


The creator of I May Destroy You has been nominated by members of the Screen Actors Guild for outstanding performance by a female actor in a TV movie or miniseries.


The shortlist, described as “iconic” upon announcement, also features Nicole Kidman, Kerry Washington, Cate Blanchett and The Queen’s Gambit star Anya Taylor-Joy.


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