Young nature-lovers had their best photographs showcased, the EU put the brakes on fast fashion and the “domino effect” of battery innovation was highlighted, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
Images of a furry tarantula, a psychedelic jellyfish and a singing dog were among the winning shots wowing the judges of this year’s RSPCA Young Photographer Awards.
The overall victor – and the youngest ever to clinch the top prize – was eight-year-old Jamie Smart from Powys, Wales, with a timely and striking closeup of her pet turkey Frederick.
The annual contest attracted more than 6,500 entries for 2023, and RSPCA president Chris Packham said every young snapper had helped create a kinder world for animals. “As our young photographers head out into nature in search of a shot, they’re connecting with the animals we share our world with,” he noted. “They’re observing, learning and showing respect. They become citizen scientists, activists and messengers.”
Image: Jamie Smart
The European Union has struck a note for sustainability by banning the destruction of unsold clothes and footwear.
Big retailers have two years to get in line with the new measure, while SMEs have been granted up to six years to comply. It’s part of a broader sustainability drive aimed at tackling premature obsolescence and making products easier to repair and upgrade.
MEP Alessandra Moretti (pictured) has spearheaded the legislation and said it was time to “end the model of ‘take, make, dispose.’”
“Sustainable products will become the norm, allowing consumers to save energy, repair and make smart environmental choices when they are shopping,” she said. “Banning the destruction of unsold textiles and footwear will also contribute to a shift in the way fast fashion manufacturers produce their goods.”
Hundreds of thousands of women are set to benefit from a gamechanging drug that prevents menopausal hot flushes, after it was cleared for use in the UK.
Over two-thirds of women going through the menopause experience hot flushes, also known as vasomotor symptoms (VMS), which can disrupt sleep and exercise, and severely impact daily life.
Fezolinetant stops them by blocking a brain protein which helps regulate body temperature. It will be available privately on prescription from next month after winning the approval of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.
It’s not cheap, however – a 30-day supply costs $550 (£430) in the US. Manufacturer Astellas hopes to make the drug, marketed as Veoza, available on the NHS at a later date.
The British Menopause Society said in a statement that it was delighted with the news. “It is likely to offer many women experiencing VMS considerable improvement in their day-to-day quality of life,” the charity added.
Image: Alex Starnes
Prisoners on the island of Jersey in the Channel are tackling the knotty problem of fishing waste in a pilot scheme aimed at improving recycling.
Fishers leave unwanted gear at a drop-off point in La Collette in St. Helier and it is sent to Prison La Moye for sorting. The mixed waste would otherwise have been discarded, but inmates have recovered over 14 tonnes of rope, 68 pots and 2,000m of net.
Government of Jersey marine science and research officer, Alex Plaster, said he hoped recovered materials could be sent to the UK for recycling. “The prison service have been doing a fantastic job with this project, their dedication to it has been incredible. Without them, none of this would be possible,” he said.
Gemma Lofthouse, head of reducing reoffending at the Jersey Prison Service, added: “The prisoners are determined to do a good job and do their bit for the climate emergency, working at an incredible pace to get the job done.”
Image: Krisztian Tabori
Antiquities looted from Thailand and Cambodia and trafficked by a disgraced art dealer are to be repatriated by New York City’s Metropolitan Museum (pictured).
The Met volunteered the return of 16 Khmer sculptures after they were linked to the late British art dealer Douglas Latchford. They date from the 9th to the 14th centuries and are thought to have been looted during the upheaval of the Khmer Rouge regime.
The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York said it has recovered “dozens” of stolen Cambodian antiquities over the last decade. Latchford was charged in the US in 2019 with trafficking stolen art, but died the following year.
Said Max Hollein, the Met’s director and chief executive officer: “The Met has been diligently working with Cambodia and the US Attorney’s Office for years to resolve questions regarding these works of art, and new information that arose from this process made it clear that we should initiate the return of this group of sculptures.”
Image: Yilei (Jerry) Bao
Some of the world’s biggest soy producers have pledged to halt deforestation in vulnerable regions of South America by the middle of the decade.
Eight firms said in a joint statement that deforestation linked to soy production would end in the Chaco, Cerrado and Amazon biomes in 2025, and conversion of “non-forest primary native vegetation” would cease by 2030. The companies include Bunge and Cargill, whose operations in Brazil are behind almost a third of soy imports to Europe.
Conservationists however rounded on the measure – announced at Cop28 – warning that other forested areas were excluded from the commitments. They also point out it leaves the door open for non-forest ecosystems to be cleared for soy agriculture for at least another six years.
“The soy traders need to rip up this Cop28 soy document and instead should urgently commit to an immediate ban on all soy-related deforestation and natural ecosystem conversion throughout their global soy supply chains,” said Alex Wijeratna, senior director at Mighty Earth.
Image: Meredith Petrick
A battery “domino effect” is set to power the phase out of over half of global fossil fuel demand, according to a new report highlighting the technology’s exponential growth.
The joint study by the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI) and the Bezos Earth Fund shows how battery sales have been doubling every two to three years since the 1990s, and should increase six to eight-fold by the close of the decade.
The RMI says the tech will be instrumental in curbing transport and power emissions, and could propel the planet more than 60 per cent of the way towards a zero carbon energy system.
“As the domino effect gains momentum, batteries will become the biggest global clean tech market – larger even than wind turbines or solar panels,” the report read.
Image: Precious Madubuike
A bog restoration project two decades in the making has produced ‘remarkable’ results across 90 hectares (222 acres) of badly damaged peatland near Dumfries in Scotland.
Scottish nature agency NatureScot began work in 2000 at its Kirkconnell Flow Nature Reserve (pictured).
The lowland raised bog had been left scarred by peat-cutting through the Victorian period, plus later tree planting and the installation of drains. But with cash from the Scottish funding programme Peatland ACTION, NatureScot’s team created a series of cells – or bunds – made from the peat itself to retain water and encourage sphagnum moss growth.
“The recovery of the bog has been remarkable, not only for the sphagnum mosses, but for other species such as waders and dragonflies,” said Suzanne McIntyre, NatureScot’s nature reserve manager for South Scotland.
“All the recovery signs so far indicate that the bog at Kirkconnell Flow will be as we had hoped – sufficiently resilient to withstand the expected changes to the climate, and able to lay down peat and lock in carbon for years to come.”
Image: Les Hull/Geograph
GPs will offer new mothers in England more mental health support under fresh NHS guidance aimed at tackling postnatal depression, PTSD and other mental health challenges.
The measures mean mothers will be asked in more detail at their six- to eight-week postnatal check-up whether pregnancy or giving birth has impacted their mental health.
GPS will be able to refer women to specialist maternal mental health teams. NHS England said dozens of new services had been established across the country, and more than 53,000 new mothers had received specialist perinatal mental health support over the last year.
The guidance – written in collaboration with the Royal College of General Practitioners – also covers physical recovery, breastfeeding and family planning support.
Dr Claire Fuller, NHS medical director for primary care, said: “GPs are perfectly placed to offer new mums a welfare check six to eight weeks after giving birth, for not only their physical health but also their mental wellbeing, and this new NHS guidance published today ensures that family doctors have the resources to provide this comprehensive support.”
Image: cottonbro studio
A radical shift in policy from the Vatican means Roman Catholic priests can now bless same-sex couples.
Pope Francis approved a document released on Monday by the Vatican’s doctrinal office, which says people seeking a blessing should not be subjected to “exhaustive moral analysis” nor be required to “have prior moral perfection”.
It allows blessings of “couples in irregular situations and couples of the same sex” on a case-by-case basis, in a sign, which – according to the text – shows the church “welcomes all”. However, blessings will not be part of regular church rituals, nor any rituals which give the impression of an actual marriage.
“This declaration benefits not only the couples blessed, but every queer person and ally who has had a difficult relationship with the church,” he said.
“LGBTQ+ Catholics worldwide welcome this early Christmas gift, which brings them much closer to being full and equal members of the Church they love so dearly.”
Image: Alfredo Borba
Main image: Ellie Ching Tsang
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