A week is a long time in
politics but might get shorter
elsewhere, says Saskia Murphy

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I’m reporting from No Man’s Land. Well, not quite. But at the time of writing it’s that weird week in between Christmas and New Year when the days have no structure, the house is full of cheese, and you find yourself watching TV until the early hours of the morning.

By the time you pick up your copy of Big Issue North from your local vendor, 2021 will be another year consigned to history. And for now, most of us are hoping we’ll never see another year like it – a year of too much time spent in our houses, cancelled plans and endless despair at our elected leaders.

The past couple of years have been a lot. But as we embark on another journey around the sun, there’s plenty to be positive about. For my first column of 2022 I wanted to give you all something cheery to read, so I spent some time reflecting on some of the good things that have happened while we all stayed at home waiting for better days to come.

It turns out things might not be so bad, and maybe the world isn’t quite so doomed after all.

Last year, against a backdrop of alarm bells ringing over the climate crisis, some quiet progress was made. After a period of absolute ridiculousness under Donald Trump, the US rejoined the Paris Agreement – a move seen as a major “exhale moment” for those fighting for action on the climate emergency.

Elsewhere, renewables had a record year, with the UK recording its “greenest day ever” last April – a day when, according to the National Grid, wind made up 39 per cent of the energy mix, with solar at 21 per cent and nuclear accounting for 16 per cent. Meanwhile a separate report revealed wind and solar are now outperforming fossil fuels financially. News about the climate can be scary, but these are all steps in the right direction.

And despite what Priti Patel would have you believe, beyond Brexit island, it turns out the world is actually becoming more socially progressive. Since 2011 the Social Progress Index has been charting the progress of 167 nations, assessing them on rights, healthcare, education and personal safety. It found 147 nations recorded a better score last year than they did a decade ago, with only Brazil, the US, Syria and South Sudan faring worse. The report concludes “social progress is advancing across the world”. So there’s something to feel optimistic about.

And in exciting news for workers, perhaps 2022 could be the year when our dreams of a shorter working week become closer to reality. Last year multiple nations toyed with the idea of a four-ish day week, with Spain becoming the first country to trial a 32-hour working week, and Scotland now reportedly mulling over a pilot after a number of Scottish businesses trialled a four-day week and reported no decrease in productivity but a significant positive impact on work-life balance.

So there’s something for us all to look forward to. Maybe the future isn’t so scary after all. Maybe this time next year we’ll be well on the way to three-day weekends, a greener planet, and a fairer world. What a happy new year that would be.

Saskia Murphy is a Manchester-based freelance journalist. Follow her on Twitter @SaskiaMurphy

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