Image for What went right this week: the world’s most liveable cities, plus more

What went right this week: the world’s most liveable cities, plus more

The ‘most liveable’ cities were revealed, a new test improved cancer care for kids, and Europe smashed green energy records, plus more good news

The ‘most liveable’ cities were revealed, a new test improved cancer care for kids, and Europe smashed green energy records, plus more good news

This week’s good news roundup

Good news
Cities became ‘more liveable’

City life broadly improved last year, with the biggest gains found in eastern Europe. That’s according to the latest Global Liveability Index, which crowned Vienna (pictured) the world’s most liveable city for the third year running. 

Compiled by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), the index assesses 173 cities across five categories: stability, education, healthcare, culture and environment, and infrastructure. 

Europe dominated the top 10, with Copenhagen (main picture) and Zurich coming second and third respectively. London ranked 45th, while Honolulu, in 23rd place, was the highest US city on the list. The index noted an overall decline in stability and infrastructure, but said this was offset by improvements in healthcare and education in several cities in developing markets.

Western Europe retained its status as the most liveable region, while eastern Europe recorded the biggest score increase. While the overall index rise slightly, the EIU noted that “the improvement is only marginal, held back by geopolitical conflicts, civil unrest and a housing crisis across many of the cities in our survey”.

Image: Leyre

Good news
Genomic test ‘improving’ cancer care for kids

Children with cancer are getting better treatment in England thanks to a new genomic test offered to patients by the country’s National Health Service, a study has found. 

The whole genome sequencing test provides a complete readout of the genetic makeup of cancer cells and identifies every single known cancer-causing mutation. This helps clinicians understand which treatments will be best to treat the cancer.

NHS England is one of the first healthcare services to offer whole genome sequencing to every child diagnosed with cancer. In the study, the test was found to provide vital extra information about tumours 29% of the time.   

“Our research shows that whole genome sequencing delivers tangible benefits above existing tests, providing better care for our patients,” said lead author Jack Bartram, a consultant paediatric haematologist at London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children.

“We hope this research really highlights why whole genome sequencing should delivered as part of routine clinical care to all children with suspected cancer.”

Image: Yan Krukau 

Good news
Europe smashed green energy records

Europe’s electricity grid is decarbonising at record pace. That’s according to new data, which show that 74% of electricity produced in the EU in the first half of 2024 came from renewable and low-carbon energy sources – a significant increase on the 68% share in 2023. 

The data was collected by Eurelectric, which represents Europe’s electricity industry. “The pace of change is impressive,” said the firm’s secretery general, Kristian Ruby. “These figures document that the decarbonisation efforts of electricity companies are years ahead of any other sector.”

Eurelectric attributed the figures to an “unprecedented influx of renewables on the grid combined with the stabilisation of the nuclear fleet”.

Image: Stephan Widua

An iconic fish was reintroduced to Sweden

The Atlantic sturgeon – a keystone species once declared functionally extinct in Europe – has been reintroduced to Sweden’s largest river. 

The rewilding project saw 100 juvenile sturgeon translocated from a breeding facility on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast to the Göta River. 

“This is a unique and incredibly exciting event,” said project leader Linnéa Jägrud. “The reintroduction of a regionally extinct species is very uncommon in Sweden.” 

Sturgeon were pushed to the brink in Europe due to overfishing and poor water quality, which has improved markedly in the Göta. “The sturgeon can become a symbol for the overall health of the Göta River,” added Jägrud. “It will be an ecological ambassador for the river.”

Image: Jon A Juarez/Rewilding Europe

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Good news
A healthy gut makes the mind stronger - study

You are what you eat, or so the saying goes. But perhaps there’s something in it: new research has offered further evidence of a link between gut health and emotional state.

The study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) examined the brains and guts of 116 self-reported “resilient” individuals. It found that resilient people exhibit brain activity associated with strong emotional regulation, and have “healthy” gut microbiomes associated with low inflammation.

The findings suggest that maintaining a gut full of “good” bacteria could help the brain to deal with life’s stresses. The Mediterranean diet is among the diets associated with reduced inflammation.

The UCLA research is in its infancy, but the team said if it can get a clearer picture of what a resilient brain and gut look like, then targeted interventions – including, perhaps, diets – could be developed to help people combat stress.

“Resilience truly is a whole-body phenomenon,” said lead author Arpana Gupta.

Image: Kindel Media

Good news
Speaking of healthy diets…

Eating a diet rich in fruit, vegetables and grains in middle age could keep you sharper in old age.

That’s according to a study of 3,059 UK adults who were tracked for more than 75 years. Participants completed food diaries at different ages and took part in regular cognitive tests measuring brain function and memory.

The study found that only 8% of participants eating “low-quality diets” maintained high cognitive ability in old age, while 7% of those eating “high-quality diets” went on to have low cognitive ability.

That diets were self-reported is a limitation of the study, which nonetheless adds to the growing evidence of a link between diet and brain function.

“Diets high in whole or less processed plant-food groups, including leafy green vegetables, beans, whole fruits and whole grains may be most protective,” said lead researcher Kelly Cara of Tufts University, Massachusetts, US. “Adjusting one’s dietary intake at any age to incorporate more of these foods… is likely to improve our health in many ways, including our cognitive health.”

Image: Nadine Primeau

Good news
The Arctic’s ‘dirty fuel’ ban came into force

A ban on the dirtiest fuel for ships came into force in the Arctic this week, albeit with loopholes.  

Heavy-fuel oil (HFO) is a cheap, viscous fuel that belches out soot shown to accelerate ice melt. HFO has been banned in Antarctica since 2011, and campaigners have fought hard to extend the ban to the Arctic. 

While their efforts have been successful, the new law has major loopholes. Countries that border the Arctic are able to exempt their ships from the legislation until 2029. 

Dr Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance campaign group, said the ban was “far weaker than was required” and called for it to be tightened up. 

Image: Hubert Neufeld

Free contraception linked with fall in Finnish abortions

The introduction of compulsory sex education in schools and free contraception for adolescents has been attributed to a sharp fall in teenage abortions in Finland.  

According to the Finish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the number of teenage abortions in the country plummeted by 66% between 2000 and 2023. 

“We can assume that sexual education plays a significant role,” THL’s research professor Mika Gissler told Reuters, adding that increased access to contraception was another likely factor.

As well as improving access to education and contraception, Finland passed a law in 2022 liberalising abortions. It was in response to a supreme court ruling in the US that restricted access to terminations – a move slammed by women’s rights campaigners.

Image: Cottonbro Studio/Pexels

Good news
Ketamine pills mooted as a treatment for depression

The current wave of psychedelic research has already identified ketamine as an effective treatment for depression. But hitherto the drug has been administered intravenously with side effects aplenty, among them high blood pressure and disassociation. Could a new slow-release pill make the treatment more accessible?

That’s the hope after a 13-week trial involving 168 patients with treatment-resistant depressions, half of which took slow-release ketamine pills twice a week. At the end of the trial, just 43% who received the ketamine lapsed into depression compared to 71% of those on the placebo. Participants experienced minimal side effects and no changes in blood pressure. Few reported feelings of dissociation.

The study was published in the journal Nature Medicine. While the results are promising, researchers have called for further studies to focus on the “abuse potential” of medicinal ketamine.

Image: Danilo Alvesd

The new issue of Positive News magazine launched

From the outlandish to the visionary, via the wonderfully simple, the new issue of Positive News magazine is packed with bold and beautiful ideas for collective thriving. 

In it, we meet the Icelanders who are trying to put a glacier on the presidential ballot, policymakers at the pioneering Ministry of Imagination, and people who are trying to make good bread available to all.  

“Those frustrated by the narrow thinking in politics as elections loom in the UK and US, may be cheered to hear that blue-sky thinking is a bit of a theme this issue,” said editor-in-chief, Lucy Purdy. “I hope you enjoy it.”

Main image: iStock

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