Image for What went right this week: the ‘Green Nobel Prize’ winners, plus more

What went right this week: the ‘Green Nobel Prize’ winners, plus more

This week’s good news roundup

Frontline eco heroes were honoured with an award

Eco warriors who triumphed in David and Goliath battles with mining and petrochemical giants were among those honoured by a prestigious environmental award this week.

The Goldman environmental prize – dubbed the ‘Green Nobel prize’ – is given to grassroots activists who go above and beyond to protect the planet.

This year’s winners were: Alessandra Korap Munduruku (main image), who saved Indigenous Amazon land from mining; Chilekwa Mumba, who sued the owners of a polluting Zambian copper mine; Delima Silalahi, who reclaimed swathes of Indonesia from a paper company; Zafer Kizilkaya, who expanded Turkey’s marine protected areas; Tero Mustonen, who pioneered peatland restoration in Finland; and US fisherwoman Diane Wilson who “lost it all” taking on ocean polluters (and winning).

Wilson (pictured) revealed how she had been dismissed as a “hysterical woman” when she began her fight, which, she said, cost friends, her marriage and her job. “The funny thing is how you can lose it all, but you gain your soul,” she said.

Image: Goldman environmental prize

River restoration had a dam good year in Europe

Hundreds of weirs, dams, levees and culverts were dismantled in European waterways in 2022 – a record-breaking year for river barrier removal. 

At least 325 were removed across 16 countries, reconnecting more than 515 miles (830km) of habitat and clearing the way for migratory fish to reach breeding areas. Spain led the way with 133 removals, while 29 barriers were removed in the UK. In Norway, a dam that had blocked the Tromsa River for more than a century was blown up. 

The figures were published by Dam Removal Europe (DRE), a coalition of conservation organisations, including Rewilding Europe and the World Fish Migration Foundation (WFMF).

Herman Wanningen, WFMF director and founder of DRE, hopes the progress can be replicated across the planet. “We have started a riverlution,” he said. 

Image: Catalan Water Agency

Good news
England’s ‘lung trucks’ improved cancer diagnoses

The roll out of ‘lung trucks’ in England means people in deprived communities are now more likely to get an early cancer diagnosis, figures reveal.

The mobile screening units (pictured) have been deployed in supermarket car parks since 2018, and are now at 43 sites across England. New data from the National Health Service (NHS) suggests they have diagnosed more than 1,700 cases of lung cancer. Seventy six per cent of cases in deprived areas were spotted at stage one or two, compared to just a third in 2018.

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England’s national director for cancer, said: “While early diagnosis rates for cancer have traditionally been lower for deprived groups, thanks to the rollout of lung trucks, the NHS has turned a huge corner – and is now finding and treating those who would otherwise have been undetected.”

Image: NHS England

Good news
Social media inspired more kids to read

British and Irish children read almost a quarter more books last year, with social media trends such as Booktok – where avid readers share bite-sized reviews on Tiktok – nurturing new interest.

The 2023 What Kids Are Reading report, compiled by educational software provider Renaissance, surveyed 1.3 million kids and found they read more than 27m books in the last academic year, up 24 per cent on 2020-2021.

However, it also sounded a note of caution, recognising that reading comprehension declined in the transition from primary to secondary school, and suggesting older readers need to take on harder books more suited to their age.

The news coincides with a resurgence of bookshops in the UK, and a record year for the UK publishing industry.

Image: Adam Winger

A toymaker brought diversity to playtime

Mattel has launched a Barbie with Down’s syndrome to “celebrate inclusion”. The US toy giant said it consulted medical professionals to ensure the doll accurately represents women with the condition. 

Ellie Goldstein, a British model with Down’s syndrome, was chosen as an ambassador for the new Barbie. “When I saw the doll I felt so emotional and proud,” Goldstein wrote on Instagram. “It means a lot to me that children will be able to play with the doll and learn that everyone is different.”

The Barbie’s launch coincides with Goldstein’s appearance on the cover of Vogue. “Never give up on your hopes, dreams and aspirations,” she told the magazine. “My disability never stops me.”

Image: Mattel

Sites were chosen for a British rainforest project

Two locations in Wales and the Isle of Man have been named as the first to benefit from an initiative to revive long-lost temperate rainforests in the British Isles.

The precious habitat once thrived in damper, western climes of the islands. Now less than 1 per cent remains following hundreds of years of exploitation. 

The project is being led by The Wildlife Trusts charity, which this week announced its first two locations: Bryn Ifan in north Wales and Creg y Cowin on the Isle of Man.

Rob Stoneman, the charity’s director of landscape recovery, said the rainforests would help ease the nature crisis. “Restoring this gorgeous habitat will also allow adaptation to climate change, reduce threats from extreme heat, flood and drought, and enable local people to reap the benefits,” he added.

Image: Guy Shrubsole

Good news
Solar, so good for 2023

It’s been a bright start to the year for solar energy in the UK with more than 50,000 homes installing PV panels in the first three months – the highest for seven years.

Figures from the Microgeneration Certification Scheme show 50,700 homes made the leap. It follows spectacular growth of solar in 2022, when new installations doubled on the previous year to a post-feed in tariff high.

The trend is part of a surge in interest in renewables sparked by the rising cost of energy. Gareth Simkins, spokesperson for Solar Energy UK, said: “The war in Ukraine has driven energy bills higher and there has been a greater awareness that solar panels can help to save on costs.”

Image: Bill Mead

Scientists discovered a microscopic new climate ally 

A CO2-munching superbug found in a volcanic spring could prove an unlikely ally in the climate battle, experts believe. 

A dive team found the new microbe, a cyanobacterium – more commonly known as blue-green algae – in volcanic CO2 plumes off the Italian island of Vulcano (pictured). 

They said the bug turns CO2 into biomass faster than any other cyanobacteria, meaning it could one day be pressed into use as a natural carbon-capture tool.

Seed Health, a microbiome company, is funding the research. Co-founder Raja Dhir said the firm hoped to “develop novel applications of bacteria to “recover ecosystems impacted by human activity”.

Image: Joe Pixabay

Good news
There was hope for the gaffe-prone

You learn from your mistakes – or so they say. Only in reality, that’s often not the case. In fact, humans are hardwired to repeat their errors, argues the author of a new book.

“Humans are not naturally rational, even though we would like to believe that we are,” author Pragya Agarwal wrote in Positive News this week. 

But do not despair. The good news is that we can do something about it. Read more here. 

Image: Jan Vašek
Main image: Goldman environmental prize 

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What went right previously