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A week of pure Upside: now let's turn the politics down for a bit

Mark Rice-Oxley
·4-min read
<span>Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AFP/Getty Images</span>
Photograph: Patrick Semansky/AFP/Getty Images

This was one of those weeks when you didn’t need us to pinpoint the Upside. We’ve always tried to steer clear of party politics in this series – not because we have no views, but because we believe that solutions tend to come about in spite of ideology, not because of it.

But like many of our readers, we are looking forward to a new era in which we might be able to have the US presidency in the background for a while. If all we are talking about is politics, then we are not talking about the formidable problems that need resolving.

As Joe Biden said at his inauguration yesterday: “Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire, destroying everything in its path.” Indeed, perhaps we’ve forgotten. Politics should be the art of fixing problems, not creating them; of seeking compromise, not division; of being open to ideas and following the best, not the most politically convenient.

So yes, the Upside salutes the Biden presidency in the hope that it can catalyse the ingenuity, collaboration and dynamism that we’ll need to address our gravest challenges.

Otherwise, this week we found plenty of upside in:

RWE Bowbeat wind farm in the Moorfoot hills, Scotland.
RWE Bowbeat wind farm in the Moorfoot hills, Scotland. Wind and other renewable power technologies gathered pace in 2020. Photograph: Murdo MacLeod/The Guardian

Lucky numbers

The world spent more than half a trillion dollars in 2020 on renewable power, electric vehicles and other technologies to cut the global energy system’s dependence on fossil fuels, according to Bloomberg.

Almost 5 million people in the UK have now had a first vaccine dose, close on 10% of the adult population. If the effort continues at today’s approximate average of 250,000 people a day, then every adult will have had a first jab by the end of August.

What we liked

Success isn’t about keeping score. More great wisdom from Arthur C Brooks in the Atlantic.

And this is nice, from Positive News: the app that helps you shop ethically. As is this: road signage that might be more respectful toward older people. (Though you really shouldn’t dance in the road, you know).

What we heard

Peita Byer got in touch from New South Wales, Australia:

Thank you for the Upside! In a pretty grim global landscape it gives me hope, a smile and a skip in my step.
I love the variety and scope of the articles. Optimism is a deliberate decision for me; so many of your stories are about individuals, or villages or counties taking action via small steps ... and often having fantastically unexpected results like the housing of the homeless in Greater Manchester.

Celia in Florida responded enthusiastically to our appeal for things that are going right:

Hummingbirds in the garden!!
Florida is an ecological disaster. (I moved here because you can actually see extinction in action, which is SO fascinating – if you’re an evolutionary biologist. Guilty as charged.)
But of course I fell in love with the native plants and birds. My garden is quite small, but over the years I have removed all the nasty lawn, replacing it with native flowering shrubs. And this year I’ve seen lots of hummingbirds!! It’s so cool! I think they nested in my garden!!! I’ve seen groups of them – could it be mom, dad, and this year’s offspring?

Where was the Upside?

With all the inventors honoured at the Young Innovators Award this week, which toasted a range of new ideas, from a robot companion in care homes to ersatz-plastic seaweed and a stroke recovery application. More here.

Thanks for reading. What are you doing to create an Upside? Write to tell us about it.

A hummingbird near Bogota, Colombia.
A hummingbird caught on camera near Bogota, Colombia. Further north in Florida, an Upside reader delights in groups of hummingbirds in her garden. Photograph: Fernando Vergara/AP