Image for What went right this week: conservation shown to work, plus more

What went right this week: conservation shown to work, plus more

Conservation was shown to work, a ‘gamechanger’ cancer jab moved closer, and a Dutch city cancelled people’s debt, plus more good news

Conservation was shown to work, a ‘gamechanger’ cancer jab moved closer, and a Dutch city cancelled people’s debt, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

good news
Conservation is working, a study showed

Conservation interventions around the world are saving species and should be scaled to reverse biodiversity loss and slow climate change.   

That’s according to a new study published in the journal Science. It analysed hundreds of conservation projects globally and compared the results to what would have happened without them.

It found that interventions – including creating protected areas and eradicating invasive species – boosted biodiversity or slowed its decline in most cases (66%) compared with no action taken at all.

“If you look only at the trend of species declines, it would be easy to think that we’re failing to protect biodiversity, but you would not be looking at the full picture,” said Penny Langhammer, lead author of the study and executive vice president of Re:wild, a charity. “What we show with this paper is that conservation is, in fact, working to halt and reverse biodiversity loss.” 

But with some 44,000 species at risk of extinction, Langhammer warned that there’s much work to be done.   

She said: “Conservation must be prioritised and receive significant additional resources and political support globally, while we simultaneously address the systemic drivers of biodiversity loss, such as unsustainable consumption and production.” 

Image: Dildakhmet

good news
A ‘gamechanger’ cancer jab moved closer

The world’s first personalised mRNA cancer jab is being tested in British patients – a move described as “one of the most exciting developments in modern cancer therapy”.

The jab – mRNA-4157 (V940) – uses the same technology as Covid vaccines to prevent melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. 

The vaccine is entering final-stage trials, where it is being used on patients who’ve had melanomas cut out. The jab helps their immune systems to recognise and wipe out cancerous cells, preventing melanomas from growing back.

University College London Hospitals doctors are administering it alongside another drug, pembrolizumab, which also helps the immune system kill cancer cells.

The jab is being tested on other cancers, including lung, bladder and kidney tumours, reports the BBC. Dr Heather Shaw, who is coordinating the trial, said it was “one of the most exciting things we’ve seen in a really long time”. mRNA jabs, she added, could be “gamechangers in immunotherapy”.

Image: Ivan Samkov

good news
Speaking of progress on cancer...

A prostate cancer screening trial in the UK is being hailed as “a pivotal moment in the history of prostate cancer research”.

Despite the disease killing an estimated 12,000 men each year in the UK, there’s currently no screening programme. But that’s set to change thanks to the £42m Transform programme, which will test new approaches to screening that experts say could reduce deaths by 40%. 

In the first stage of the trial, taking around three years and involving around 12,500 men, researchers will look at four potential screening options. These include blood tests, MRI scans, and genetic testing to identify those at higher risk.

“This could save thousands of men’s lives every year in the UK alone. But it won’t just be the UK – this trial could change practice globally,” said Dr Matthew Hobbs, director of research at Prostate Cancer UK, a charity. “This is a pivotal moment in the history of prostate cancer research.”

Image: Marcus Aurelius

The ‘Green Nobel Prize’ announced its winners

Eco warriors who triumphed in David and Goliath battles with oil giants, coal firms and beef producers were among those honoured by a prestigious award this week.

The Goldman environmental prize – dubbed the ‘Green Nobel prize’ – was founded in 1989 to celebrate activists scoring wins for the planet. Many previous winners have become government officials, heads of state and NGO leaders.

This year’s recipients include Mbuthuma and Sinegugu Zukulu (pictured), who helped halt destructive seismic testing for oil and gas off South Africa’s Eastern Cape (as reported in a previous ‘what went right’).

The other winners were: Alok Shukla, who saved 445,000 acres of forests in Indian from coal mining; Murrawah Maroochy Johnson, who halted a destructive coal mine in Queensland, Australia; Teresa Vicente, who helped rescue Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon; Andrea Vidaurre, who pushed California, US, to reduce transport emissions; and Marcel Gomes, whose investigative reporting prevented beef linked to deforestation from being sold in Europe. 

“These wonderful grassroots leaders refused to be complacent in the face of adversity, or to be cowed by powerful corporations and governments,” said John Goldman, president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation. “Together, they are a collective force – and a growing global movement – that is breathtaking and full of hope.” 

Image: Goldman environmental prize 

Speaking of conservation awards...

Seven conservation leaders who are “changing the narrative” for nature were honoured on Thursday night at the Whitley Awards in London. 

The annual do – organised by the Whitley Fund for Nature, a UK charity – celebrates grassroots conservationists who are turning the tide for endangered species. 

Between them, this year’s winners saved charismatic songbirds, rehabilitated the reputations of persecuted animals, and helped to protect unique ecosystems from destruction. 

“We are in the presence of people who are actually saving the world,” said wildlife presenter Kate Humble, who compered the event.

Read the full story here

Image: Whitley Fund for Nature

A UK drama school tackled elitism

A barrier that’s long prevented many working-class actors from treading the boards has been removed from one of London’s top drama institutions. 

In a move designed to prevent acting from becoming “the preserve of the well-off”, the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama (pictured) in London has axed audition fees for prospective students auditioning for diploma and undergraduate acting courses. 

The school has also launched a travel grant scheme to pay for poorer prospective students to visit the campus for open days.  

“We hope to send a clear message that applicants from all backgrounds are welcome at Central,” said the school’s principal, Josette Bushell-Mingo. 

“In these increasingly difficult times, training institutions such as ours are grappling with government policies that seek to undermine the arts and funding structures that continually ask us to deliver more with less. We must push back against a creeping narrative that says the arts are elitist, that they are only for a select few.”

Image: The Central School of Speech and Drama

A Dutch city cancelled debt for poor families

The Dutch city of Arnhem (pictured) has pledged to cancel the debts of some of the poorest local families, in a bid to give people a fresh start, the Guardian reports

The project is being led by councillor Mark Lauriks, who said the current scheme for helping poor families in the Netherlands is failing. 

“We have a system in place, but it doesn’t work for the people that need it most,” he told the newspaper. “And the entire system costs us billions and billions more than the initial debt. Debts are literally making people sick.” 

The municipality hopes that up to 60 families will sign up to the two-year pilot, which will pay off their debts, no strings attached.

“When the debt is erased, people get a grip on their own life again,” said Lauriks.

Image: Martijn Baudoin

Amsterdam tackled ‘urination inequality’

Anyone who’s been to Amsterdam may have noticed those green urinals along the canals – and men walking out of them after spending a penny. But have you ever seen one for women? 

Probably not because there are reportedly just three public urinals for women in the city, compared to 35 for men. But not for much longer. 

After a nine-year campaign led by a woman who was fined for peeing in public, Amsterdam has pledged €4m (£3.4m) to build an as-yet-unspecified number of public toilets for women and disabled people.

It’s good news for “urination equality” said Geerte Piening, who led the campaign after being fined for peeing in public. 

“It doesn’t only affect women, but also people in wheelchairs,” she told the Guardian. “It’s really important that there are places for everyone.”

Image: tomblessley/Flickr

Comedy entered the climate fray

“With wind and sun power we save money and don’t die – it’s a pretty strong selling point.”

So says British comedian Jo Brand (pictured) in a new video series that seeks to make the climate crisis easy for layfolk to understand – something many academics struggle to do. 

The Climate Science Translated series pairs scientists with comedians, who translate climate science in no holds barred language. 

“We need to tackle the climate issue from every angle – and comedy has got a massive role to play,” said emeritus Prof Bill McGuire of University College London, who took part in the project.

In one video, McGuire makes the case for direct action to protest against fossil fuels. “Governments will only do the right thing when they see millions of voters on the streets,” he says. Or as comedian Kiri Pritchard-McLean puts it: “I would prefer to do f*ck all but doing f*ck all is scientifically proven not to work. So why not … kick up an almighty fuss – before it’s too late?” 

Image: Andrew Campbell/Flickr
Main image: LFPuntel/iStock

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