🔊 Seeing the big picture: back to school with solutions

The WoW! News podcast – Going back to school is exciting but can also be a bit worrying. It’s important to see the “big picture” and know about positive things happening in the world.

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Podcast transcript – September 4, 2020

A – Hello and welcome to WoW!, the positive podcast! Showing kids that there’s a lot more to the world news than bad news.

I’m Alastair. As a journalist, I’ve often written about things going wrong. But people also need to know too about what’s going right. 

This week, we’re powering you back to school on a wave of smart ideas from people who are changing the world for the better. My friend Clarisse is going to help me present them…


C – Hello Alastair!

A – Hi Clarisse! How are you? Are you back from summer holidays?

C – Yes, I am. And I’m going back to school next week.

A – Ah yes! Of course. You’re going back to study – and are you looking forward to it? 

C – I am really excited. I think it’s going to be great.

A – But of course going back to school can be a time when people can feel a bit worried, because we don’t know quite how things are going to be. I know you’re not worried, Clarisse…

C – No, I’m not worried!

A – But when people are a bit anxious, I think it’s really helpful to think of the “big picture”…

C – The “big picture”..? 

A – Yes, Clarisse. To see not just the worries and the negative things we know but also the positive things, so that we balance things out. That really helps me when I’m a bit worried. And as we all get back to work this week, I’ve been finding out about a whole bunch of people coming up with solutions to problems we all share – that really gives me a boost and makes me feel positive about the future.

C – Hm, that sounds good. So what have you been hearing about?

A – Well, let me run down our top five this week. Five problems, five solutions.

C – OK! Go!

A – Right Clarisse! At number one… Gold from garbage!

C – What’s the problem?

A – Right, our computers, phones, TVs and other electronic gadgets can damage Nature, right? How? Because they contain special metals that 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 20 kg of “e-waste” every year – and the metals in this waste can also pollute soil and water.

C – So is there a solution?

A – You bet!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. Very promising…

C – Great. And number two…?

A – Burn waste, save trees! The problem? Our summer 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 cut more down. Solution? Make charcoal with rubbish! Guillaume and Sebastien were in Turkey when they saw that factories which prepare hazelnuts for turning into sweets and treats just throw the nutshells away. Back home in France, they now make barbecue charcoal without wood. They use nut shells or olive stones thrown away by olive oil factories. Good news for trees. And for us!

C – Super! And number three?

A – Number three! Rolling on… plastic! On this one, these guys are fixing not one but two problems. First, there’s this: Repairing and renewing tarmac road surfaces costs money and involves lots of heavy trucks adding to global warming. And then there’s this: Plastic waste, such as bottles, pollutes land and water, or is burned, adding to carbon emissions.

C – That sounds tough. Are there solutions, Alastair

A – You bet, Clarisse. In fact one solution for the two problems: 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!

C – OK, we’ll look out for that. 

A – And do you want to hear number four?

C – Yesss!

A – It’s time to switch on… gravitricity!

C – Gravitricity? What’s that?

A – Well it’s a solution to this 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. But there’s a 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!

C – Cool! We’re nearly done. Do you have another, Alastair?

A – Yes, Clarisse! But this isn’t such a modern solution. Our fifth bright idea this week I’m calling Honey, I cured the kids! 

C – Honey? You mean we’re talking about bees again?

A – Yeah, you know me, Clarisse. We love bees!

C – Yay! Bees!

A – So the problem is this: Winter’s coming and olds 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. 

C – And the solution comes from bees?

A – Yay, Clarisse! Yes, 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!

C – Hm, I feel I’m ready to go back to school, feeling confident in what’s going on in the world!

A – That’s great, Clarisse. That’s our idea this week. To see the “big picture”, including all the good things that are going on. There’s plenty more on our website…

C – wow dash news dot EU…

A – And if you’ve enjoyed hearing about this week’s solutions, do tell a friend about WoW! And if you’ve got an idea for something you’d like to hear more about, do go to the site and let us know about what you’d like us to look into. Until next week, it’s goodbye from me, Alastair, and it’s goodbye from…

C – Clarisse! 

A & C together – Goodbye!  

Alastair editor of WoW!





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