Image for What went right this week: Wikipedia profiled unsung heroines, plus more

What went right this week: Wikipedia profiled unsung heroines, plus more

Wikipedia profiled unsung heroines, a satellite launched to ‘name and shame’ polluters, and AI had a cancer breakthrough, plus more

Wikipedia profiled unsung heroines, a satellite launched to ‘name and shame’ polluters, and AI had a cancer breakthrough, plus more

This week’s good news roundup

good news
Wikipedia profiled unsung heroines

A project to publish a Wikipedia biography for at least one woman from every country has been completed – just in time for International Women’s Day. 

The mammoth task was the idea of Lucy Moore, a UK-based Wikipedia editor, who wanted to address the lack of female representation on the encyclopaedia. 

“On English Wikipedia, only 19.76% of biographies are about women, which I don’t think … accurately represents our contributions to the world,” she said. “Women from countries everywhere are doing extraordinary things that need to be better known.”

The Afghani women’s rights activist Laleh Osmany (pictured), the Chadian poet and artist Salma Khalil Alio (main picture), and Belgian painter Emma De Vigne were among the 532 women profiled by Moore

Image: Rohmoh

A satellite launched to ‘name and shame’ polluters

Methane polluters have nowhere to hide after a satellite launched to pinpoint companies belching out the potent greenhouse gas.

Climate action is largely focused on curbing carbon emissions, but methane is around 30 times stronger than CO2, accounting for an estimated 16% of emissions. Much of it escapes from leaks in oil wells. 

Not if MethaneSat has anything to do with it. It entered orbit on Monday to identify methane sources, paving the way for greater accountability and, potentially, rapid reductions.

The satellite was developed by the non-profit Environmental Defence Fund (EDF) and launched by Space X. The EDF described it as a “revolution”.  

“MethaneSat’s superpower is the ability to precisely measure methane levels with high resolution over wide areas, including smaller, diffuse sources that account for most emissions,” said EDF’s chief scientist Steven Hamburg. 

Some 150 nations have signed the Global Methane Pledge to cut methane emissions by at least 30% by 2030. “Cutting methane pollution from fossil fuel operations, agriculture and other sectors is the single fastest way to slow the rate of warming,” said EDF president Fred Krupp.

Image: MethaneSAT

Speaking of emissions…

Advanced economies saw a record fall in their CO2 emissions in 2023 – even as their GDPs grew. 

That’s according to a report by the International Energy Agency. It attributed the decline to a combination of strong renewables deployment, coal-to-gas switching, energy efficiency improvements and softer industrial production.

The IEA said that emissions in advanced economies dropped to a 50-year low in 2023, while coal demand fell to levels not seen since the early 1900s. Last year was also the first in which at least half of electricity generation in advanced economies came from low-emissions sources, it said.

But – and it’s a big but – global emissions are still going the wrong way, having increased by 1.1% in 2023, according to the IEA. Still, its executive director, Fatih Birol, said that given world events, there were positives to take away from the report. 

“A pandemic, an energy crisis and geopolitical instability all had the potential to derail efforts to build cleaner and more secure energy systems,” he said. “Instead, we’ve seen the opposite in many economies.”

He added: “We need far greater efforts to enable emerging and developing economies to ramp up clean energy investment.”

Image: Veeterzy

good news
AI had a prostate cancer breakthrough

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has revealed that prostate cancer is not a single disease – a development that could revolutionise how the condition is diagnosed and treated.

A Cancer Research UK-funded study found that prostate cancer, which affects one in eight men, has two subtypes. The discovery was made by an international team led by England’s University of Oxford and University of Manchester, which applied AI to DNA data.

The team hope that their findings could transform the way prostate cancer is diagnosed and treated, saving thousands of lives. 

Dr Naomi Elster, director of research at Prostate Cancer Research, said: “These results could be the beginning of us being able to take the same ‘divide and conquer’ approach to prostate cancer that has worked in other diseases, such as breast cancer.”

Image: Helena Lopes

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Arizona moved to cancel medical debt

Arizona has become the latest US state to announce the cancellation of medical debt for poorer residents. 

Up to one million Arizonians are set to have their medical debt wiped as part of a government partnership with the non-profit, RIP Medical Debt. It uses private donor funds to buy up and pay off healthcare debts. Similar schemes have launched in Connecticut and New York. 

Now in its 10th year, RIP Medical Debt has pardoned more than $8.5bn (£7bn) of health bills for some 5.5m US families. It’s now set to wipe out debt worth $2bn (£1.57bn) in Arizona. 

“How in any civilised country can you allow someone to go bankrupt just because they got sick?” Jerry Ashton, one of its founders, said to Positive News

Image: Omar Lopez

France made abortion a constitutional right

French politicians have enshrined the right to abortion in the country’s constitution – a world first welcomed by women’s rights groups but criticised by anti-abortion activists.

“We’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you and no one can decide for you,” prime minister Gabriel Attal told lawmakers ahead of a vote. MPs and senators backed the move, with 780 votes for and 72 against. 

Monday’s move follows the US Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to reverse the Roe v Wade ruling that recognised women’s right to an abortion. It prompted French activists to campaign for the right to be enshrined in law in France, though critics say it was never under threat there. Women have had a legal right to abortion in France since a 1974. 

Image: Nicolas  

good news
Opera set to return to a shelled Ukrainian city

The show must go on, even in heavily shelled eastern Ukraine, where the Kharkiv National Opera and Ballet is about to open again – underground. 

Mass gatherings in the city have been banned since Russia’s invasion two years ago. But the indomitable spirit of the arts lives on and will soon reach audiences again in a bunker theatre. 

“We want to bring life back to Kharkiv, including cultural life,” the theatre’s general director, Ihor Touluzov, told the BBC. “Demand for any kind of cultural event here is really high.”

No date has been set for the opening of the theatre, which is 25 miles from the border with Russia. But excitement is building locally. 

“Everything was grey before, and there was no future,” said singer Volodymyr Kozlov. “Now a rainbow has appeared on the horizon.”

Image: Pascal Bernardon

The Earth Prize announced its finalists

Banana-based nappies, a pioneering water filter that uses fungi, and a web application that predicts flooding are among the Earth Prize finalists announced this week. 

Now in its third year, the competition celebrates young people (aged 13-19) who are innovating to save the planet. Run by the Earth Foundation, it attracted entries from 10,000 teens from more than 2,000 schools. They will now compete for $100,000 (£78,000) in prize money to help them scale up their ideas. 

“We launched the Earth Prize to channel the obvious passion and frustration young people had towards the environment into something positive and productive,” said Peter McGarry, founder of the Earth Foundation. “This third year of solutions shows again an incredible commitment from young people in over 100 countries to make a positive change.”

Read more about the finalists here

Image: Ketut Subiyanto

Counting butterflies reduces anxiety – study

More evidence that time in nature is good for our mental health arrived this week. Research by the wildlife charity Butterfly Conservation and the University of Derby, England, found that those taking part in the UK’s annual Big Butterfly Count felt less anxious afterwards. 

Researchers surveyed 382 people before and after the three-week count and recorded a 9% reduction in anxiety among participants.

“While we have long known that there is a link between nature and human wellbeing, this study is the first to prove that the simple act of looking for and counting butterflies leads to a measurable decrease in anxiety,” said Dr Richard Fox, head of science at Butterfly Conservation. 

“The results suggest that citizen science projects such as the Big Butterfly Count can play a part in improving people’s mental health, as well as gathering important data on how butterflies are faring to inform our conservation work.”

Image: Andy Kennedy

local pubs
Communities are saving Britain’s pubs

Britain’s beleaguered boozers have closed at an alarming rate in recent years, but communities are stepping up to save them in record numbers.

Figures show that the number of community-owned pubs in the UK has increased by 62.6% in the last five years. It’s a bright spot in an otherwise challenging landscape – separate data shows the UK has lost 6% of its pubs in the same timeframe. 

Positive News chronicled the rise of community pubs this week, from mainland Britain’s most remote pub. Read the full story here.

Image: Mark Harris
Main image: Abdallahbigboy

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