A ‘landmark’ climate deal was struck, a species came back from extinction, and New York teens got free therapy, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
Nearly 200 nations have agreed to “transition away from fossil fuels” at the COP28 climate summit in Dubai, in what is being hailed a “landmark” agreement.
It was certainly a historic moment for climate rhetoric and especially significant given that major petrostates signed up (despite reportedly trying to keep “fossil fuels” out of the final text). Nations also pledged to triple renewable energy capacity by the end of the decade – an ambitious but achievable target.
Yet many climate scientists won’t be raising a glass to the summit. It’s been said that winning slowly on the climate is the same as losing. “Well, this is surely the quintessence of slowly,” wrote Rupert Read, emeritus professor at the University of East Anglia, and co-director of the Climate Majority Project, a rallying place for citizen climate action.
Read’s views were echoed by other scientists, who criticised the woolly, “loophole ridden” deal that lacks teeth.
Nonetheless, the symbolism is hard to ignore. The end of fossil fuels is nigh. Even the petrostates agree.
Image: Christoph Schulz
Why do some women become sick during pregnancy? It’s a question that’s baffled scientists, until now.
New research suggests that extreme sickness in expectant mums is triggered by a hormone that babies produce, known as hyperemesis gravidarum (HG). It affects around one in 100 pregnancies, and in some cases can hospitalise women.
According to scientists, exposure to the GDF15 hormone ahead of pregnancy is a good indicator of whether women will be affected by HG.
“The more sensitive a mother is to this hormone, the sicker she will become,” Prof Sir Stephen O’Rahilly, from the University of Cambridge, told BBC.
The new research, added O’Rahilly, is an important step towards eventually finding a cure.
Image: Camylla Battani
Extinction is usually a one-way journey, but not for the scimitar-horned oryx. It is roaming Chad again after conservationists reintroduced it using captive animals.
The oryx’s return prompted the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to relist the animal from ‘extinct in the wild’ to ‘endangered’ this week.
Also ascending the list was the saiga antelope. Native to Kazakhstan, it teetered on the edge a decade ago, but now there are around 1.3m of them – an increase of 1,100% since 2015.
The two species’ shifting fortunes were bright spots in an otherwise concerning report by the IUCN. It warned that nearly a quarter of the world’s freshwater fish are at risk of extinction due to overfishing, pollution and climate change. Atlantic salmon, green turtles and mahogany are also increasingly threatened, it added.
“Success stories such as that of the scimitar-horned oryx show that conversation works,” said IUCN president Razan Al Mubarak. “To ensure the results of conservation action are durable, we need to decisively tackle the interlinked climate and biodiversity crises.”
Kiwi chicks have hatched in Wellington, the New Zealand capital, for the first time in more than 150 years.
The new chicks come a year after the Capital Kiwi Project reintroduced the country’s iconic national bird to the city.
“This is a significant milestone for the mission to restore a large-scale wild population of kiwi to the hills of our capital city,” said the organisation, in a statement. “Much work lies ahead – but these chicks mark a significant step on that path.”
Image: Willowbank Wildlife Reserve
Teenagers in New York now have access to free online therapy thanks to a new wellbeing programme.
City teens, aged 13-17, can text, call, or video chat with licensed therapists through the online platform Talkspace without providing payment.
The health initiative, pioneered by Mayor Eric Adams, is in response to a surge in mental health challenges reported since the pandemic.
“Our young people are on their telephone, they use the internet, they use social media,” said Adams, launching the $26m (£20.5m) project. “We have to really find ways of turning that device into a positive.”
Image: Polina Tankilevitch
It has long been considered a missing link in Europe’s burgeoning night train network. But this week the new Berlin-Paris sleeper filled that gap, much to the delight of travellers.
The old service between the two cities was canned in 2014 when cheap flights looked to have sounded the death knell for long-distance night trains. However, an unlikely rail revival has since taken root amid concern about plane emissions. Rail firms are now falling over themselves to launch night trains.
Nightjet’s Berlin-Paris sleeper left the German capital fully booked on Monday. It isn’t the only new route delighting rail anoraks. A Brussels-Prague sleeper is set to launch in March 2024, while regulators are mulling a Brussels-Bratislava night train. A new golden era for rail travel beckons.
Image: Chait Goli
The US has been a relative laggard when it comes to rail travel, but that looks set to change. On Friday, the Biden administration announced the largest federal investment in rail in generations, with $8.2bn (£6.48bn) going towards 10 major rail projects.
Among the proposed new routes is a high-speed link between Vegas and Rancho Cucamonga (a city joined to Los Angeles).
“These historic projects will create tens of thousands of good-paying, union jobs, unlock economic opportunity for communities across the country, and open up safe, comfortable, and climate-friendly travel options to get people to their destinations in a fraction of the time it takes to drive,” said the government.
Image: Josh Nezon
Positive News reported this week on an alternative approach to psychosis that some doctors believe could flip the “whole model of psychiatry” on its head.
A five-year study of a psychosis treatment developed in Finland is nearing completion in the UK. It’s the biggest study of its kind into the ‘open dialogue’ approach, which puts relationships at the centre of treatment, rather than drugs.
Previous research suggests it results in fewer prescriptions, less time spent in hospital, and more people returning to education and work. Read the full story here.
Image: Joanne Crawford
Want to avoid the dark side of consumerism without being a Christmas Scrooge?
Then have a gander at our festive gift guide, published this week.
Featuring 33 sustainable gifts that support small businesses while treading lightly on the plant, it should provide some timely inspiration for presents. Read it here.
Image: Olha Pylypenko
Main image: studio-fi/iStock
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