A pathway emerged to an Aids-free future, deforestation rates fell in Colombia, and a lost species returned to England, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
There’s a clear path to ending Aids by the turn of the decade, according to a report, which says measures will also help the planet tackle future pandemics.
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/Aids (UNAIDS), said that countries already following the path were “achieving extraordinary results”. Key to success, it added, was an inclusive approach that confronted inequality, upheld human rights and ended HIV-related stigma.
The report found that improved access to HIV treatment has averted almost 21m Aids-related deaths in the past 30 years, with 2022 marking the lowest number of new HIV infections (1.3m) in decades. It said the response had brought add-on benefits, including stronger health and community systems, helping shield millions from poverty and food insecurity.
Winnie Byanyima, executive director of UNAIDS, cautioned against “relaxed optimism”, adding that success would be dependent on action. “The end of Aids is an opportunity for a uniquely powerful legacy for today’s leaders,” she said. “They could be remembered by future generations as those who put a stop to the world’s deadliest pandemic.”
Image: Mauro Mora
Hot on the heels of heartening news about Amazon deforestation rates in Brazil, neighbouring Colombia has revealed that plundering of the rainforest on its side of the border has been slashed by more than a quarter.
Figures released by the Colombian government also show a 29 per cent downturn in deforestation countrywide.
Tree clearances surged after the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) lay down arms in 2016, paving the way for other armed guerrilla groups to grab land.
However, a renewed peace effort led by leftist president Gustavo Petro is said to be putting the environment at the heart of negotiations, with government officials exploring subsidies for farmers who do not clear trees, as well as training in harvesting Amazonian fruits.
Image: Diego Guzman
Clinical trials of a “milestone” Alzheimer’s drug have shown that it slows cognitive decline by 35 per cent in early-stage sufferers. The findings on donanemab were made public this week at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference by manufacturer Eli Lilly.
“The outlook for dementia and its impact on people and society is finally changing,” said Dr Susan Kohlhaas, executive director of research and partnerships at Alzheimer’s Research UK.
The news comes hot on the heels of the US Food and Drug Administration approving another breakthrough Alzheimer’s medication, lecanemab. Both treatments are yet to receive approval in the UK.
Image: Cristina Gottardi
Two bird species missing from English landscapes for centuries are making a thrilling return.
In a landmark moment for conservation, a white-tailed eagle chick hatched recently on the Isle of Wight – the first in 240 years – following a successful reintroduction programme led by Forestry England and the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation.
The fledging left the nest this week. Roy Dennis, founder of the eponymous charity, said they had achieved what “many thought was impossible” after relocating a breeding pair of birds from the Outer Hebrides and Sutherland.
“It is early days, but this is a very significant milestone. We still have a long way to go, but the feeling of seeing the first pair reach this stage is truly incredible,” Dennis added.
Meanwhile in Kent, 10 hand-reared choughs – a species which went extinct in the county two centuries ago – will be released near Dover over the coming weeks in a joint effort between conservation charities the Kent Wildlife Trust and the Wildwood Trust.
Image: A white-tailed eagle. Credit: Julie Edgley
A coalition of UK conservation charities is calling for party manifestos to include radical commitments to nature ahead of next year’s general election. Eighty charities have joined forces with celebrities including Chris Packham on the Nature 2030 campaign, led by Wildlife and Countryside Link (WCL).
It asks political leaders to back a five-point plan, which includes making polluters pay for restoration, more cash for nature-friendly farming and the creation of thousands of green jobs in habitat revival.
WCL said that its research uncovered widespread disillusionment with current government efforts on environmental issues – only 10 per cent of people believe decision-makers are doing well in key areas, it claimed.
Naturalist and explorer Steve Backshall, another backer of the campaign, said: “Nature isn’t a ‘nice thing to have’, it’s a necessity, and it’s time that all political parties stepped forward to deliver better for nature.” Support Nature 2030 by signing its open letter here.
Image: Red Morley Hewitt
Algae could help plug a micronutrient gap in plant-based diets by providing crucial vitamin B12, researchers say.
The nutrient maintains healthy blood and nerve cells, and helps to make DNA. It’s created by bacteria in the digestive systems of cows and sheep, meaning meat and dairy-free diets are severely lacking.
B12 deficiency can cause weight loss, fatigue and nausea, and make people more susceptible to heart disease and anaemia. However, scientists at the University of Cambridge believe that the ability of certain types of aquatic algae to harvest B12 from their surroundings could be exploited to address the unreliability of some existing supplements.
“A lot of supplements out there don’t have the correct type of B12 that humans need,” Prof Alison Smith, head of the university’s plant metabolism group, told Positive News. “We discovered certain algae accumulate it, they’re fast growing and full of other nutrients that are very good for you.”
Image: Chang Patrick
A ray of hope brightened a dark week for immigration in the UK as a Dutch social enterprise announced plans to launch a refugee-run repair centre in England.
The controversial Illegal Migration Bill is set to become law after passing the House of Lords. It will allow the government to detain and remove anyone who enters the UK without permission, and has been criticised by the UN.
Social entrepreneur Thami Schweichler, however, is undeterred. After co-founding Amsterdam’s United Repair Centre – a clothing repairer staffed by refugees – he plans to bring the concept to Leeds, with London mooted as a possible location for a third workshop. As well as refugees, the centre will recruit long-term unemployed people.
United Repair reworks some 25,000 garments a year that would otherwise be binned, and enjoys the backing of major brands including Decathlon, Lululemon and Patagonia.
Read the full story here.
Image: United Repair Centre
Jobseekers are in luck this week as employment platform Escape the City released their annual ranking of the most impactful and forward-thinking organisations to work for.
Finding higher purpose in the daily grind has become increasingly important in the last decade, especially since the Covid reset. A report by Escape the City – an online space for job hunters seeking work that matters – revealed that almost three quarters were re-evaluating their path since the pandemic.
Escape the City founder Dom Jackman told Positive News that employers were “upping their game” to meet the demands of job hunters. “I’m always impressed that organisations are willing to subject themselves to Escape 100 because it’s a really rigorous test,” he said.
Here are the best firms to work for in 2023.
In one of the world’s driest places, water is flowing and crops are growing.
Welcome to Aqaba on Jordan’s Red Sea coast, where the desert farmers are at work. This is one of the world’s most water-poor countries – a place that imports 98 per cent of its food – yet cucumbers, peppers and passion fruit are thriving.
It’s part of the Sahara Forest Project, and it’s showing how farming can adapt to the challenges of climate change and water scarcity. And this futuristic farm is just getting started, as we reported this week.
Read the full story here.
Image: Klaus Thymann
Main image: Carmel Arquelau
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