By Mark Richards.

Wherever you look at the moment it is bad news. So here at MoneyGap, we thought we would do something to redress the balance. From stopping the homeless freezing to death to pizza delivery, here are half a dozen unashamedly good news stories…

Well, another week of Brexit chaos, the US government still shut down, the UK housing market outlook is the worst for 20 years and next Monday is ‘Blue Monday’ – according to the experts the most depressing day of the year.

So we thought you might like some good news. Some news that will re-affirm your faith in human nature and give you some grounds for optimism. In the first of what will be a regular feature on MoneyGap, here are six good news stories from around the world to prove that – as Ian Dury famously told us – there are plenty of reasons to be cheerful.

Swedish ads are helping the homeless

As you can imagine, it is a touch nippy in Sweden at the moment: according to the BBC weather forecast, it is going to be below freezing for the rest of this month. So anyone in Stockholm who is homeless is clearly going to need some help and – thanks to the advertising company Clear Channel Sweden – that is exactly what is happening. As the temperature drops Stockholm’s digital billboards are not showing ads: instead they are showing directions to the nearest homeless shelter and instructions on where and how local people can donate food and clothing.

In the past the city – like, you would assume, all major cities – has struggled to get the information about shelters to the homeless. Now the information is where the people are, and Stockholm’s homeless are no longer – literally – freezing to death.

The ocean clean-up is underway

When he was 16, Dutch student Boyan Slat went on a diving holiday to Greece. He was shocked to discover more plastic than fish in the water and this ultimately led to him dropping out of university to concentrate all his energies on cleaning up the world’s oceans. ‘Studied aerospace engineering, becomes a cleaner’ as his Twitter profile has it.

The system developed by Boyan and his team consists of a 600-metre long ‘floater’ that sits on top of the water, with a 3-metre‘ skirt’ beneath it. This can capture plastics from just a few millimetres in size up to giant discarded fishing nets. The team estimates that a full-scale rollout of the system – a fleet of approximately 60 such systems – could clean up 50% of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years.

Reasons to be Cheerful: Good News Part One

Meanwhile, Mrs Smith is cleaning up Devon and Cornwall

While we are on the subject of clean-ups, we should acknowledge the work of 70-year-old Pat Smith who has spent the last year cleaning 52 beaches in Devon and Cornwall. Doing 52 beaches was Pat’s New Year’s resolution for 2018, but she is not finished yet as “the beaches need me.”

You might argue that they require the local councils and people to stop throwing rubbish away more than they need Pat but for now, she is determined to carry on with her work, backed by fellow campaigners in the environmental clean-up group Final Straw Cornwall. During her year-long campaign, Pat says that other people were often moved to join her – although sadly she was once or twice mistaken for someone being forced to do community service…

The ozone layer is recovering

Just a few years ago scientists were sounding the alarm bells over the ozone layer – the shield in the Earth’s atmosphere that absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet rays – as it suffered severe degradation thanks to the use of aerosol chemicals.  But now evidence is emerging which says that the ozone layer is starting to repair itself, with the UN predicting that the layer above the Northern Hemisphere is likely to be completely repaired by 2030 and the entire layer by 2060.

The UN estimates that this will save up to 2m cases of skin cancer a year and demonstrates what can be achieved with global action. However, the hydrofluorocarbons which replaced the aerosols are still contributing to global warming, so there is still plenty of work to do.

Spain leads the world in organ donation

There has been plenty of bad news coming out of Spain in recent years. In 2014 youth unemployment was over 50% and even today more than one in three young people is without a job. But in one area, Spain leads the world – and that is organ donation.

In 2017 2,183 Spanish people became organ donors after they died which puts Spain well ahead of its closest rival, Croatia. The reason most frequently cited for the success is that Spain has an ‘opt-out’ system so that people are automatically assumed to consent to organ donation unless they have specifically opted out of donating their organs.

So should the UK change from its current opt-in system to an opt-out system? Currently, the rate of organ donation in the UK is around one-third of that in Spain where, in 2017, the 2,183 organ donors made 5,260 transplant surgeries possible, including 3,200 kidney transplants and 1,200 liver transplants.

Canadian air traffic controllers send pizza…

Reasons to be Cheerful: Good News Part One

You may also have noticed some bad news coming out of the United States: as the government shutdown continues the Land of the Free is becoming the Land of the Not-Getting-Paid. However, planes continue to fly and therefore air traffic controllers must continue to work.

Unsurprisingly the Boston Centre controllers were getting hungry – when a delivery of pizzas arrived, sent by their Canadian colleagues. The idea started with the Edmonton air traffic controllers but, as news of the move spread on social media, more and more Canadian teams started sending pizza to their US neighbours. “In the big scheme of things, sending some pizzas to people who are missing paychecks is a small gesture,” said Pete Duffey of the Canadian Air Traffic Control Association. “But the message it sends them is a big gesture.”

…As is the message sent by the Swedish ads, by Boyan Slat and Pat Smith and – as I walked into the office this morning – by the snowdrops bravely poking their heads through the frost. Have a great weekend: two months and it is Spring…