Australia recognised psychedelics as medicine, an Amazon fightback began, and the world mobilised in aid of Syria and Turkey, plus more good news
This week’s good news roundup
Australia has become the first country to recognise psychedelics as medicines for treating depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The landmark decision by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration means that MDMA (commonly known as ecstasy) and psilocybin – the active compound in ‘magic’ mushrooms – will finally be available on prescription after decades of demonisation.
“In addition to a clear and evolving therapeutic benefit, it also offers the chance to catch up on the decades of lost opportunity in delving into the inner workings of the human mind, abandoned for so long as part of an ill-conceived, ideological ‘war on drugs’,” said Dr David Caldicott, a senior clinical lecturer at Australian National University.
From July, approved psychiatrists will be able to prescribe MDMA for PTSD. Psilocybin has been approved for stubborn cases of depression that have proven resistant to conventional treatments.
More than 300 million people worldwide suffer with depression, with one in five not responding to existing medicines. Trials suggest that psychedelic treatments are most effective when combined with talking therapies.
Image: Mathew Schwartz
Old grudges have been set aside as the world rallies in support of victims of the 7.8-magnitude earthquake, which rocked the Syrian-Turkish border on Monday.
Nations scrambled to dispatch aid as the death toll rose beyond 19,000 on Thursday. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu approved a request for humanitarian aid for Syria, despite the two countries’ warring history and lack of diplomatic relations.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Disasters Emergency Committee is coordinating a response by its 15 member charities, including Oxfam and Save the Children. The government has pledged to match donations up to £5m. Donate online here.
Image: Hilmi Hacaloğlu
An operation to oust illegal miners from the Brazilian Amazon launched this week – a welcome sign that president Lula is delivering on his pledge to protect the rainforest and its Indigenous inhabitants.
Government troops set up camp along the Uraricoera river, used by mining mafias to traffic tin and gold from illegal excavations deep in Yanomami tribal lands.
The territory – home to around 30,000 Yanomami – has been the site of conflict since the 1970s, when illegal miners flocked to the region in search of gold. The election in 2018 of right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro brought a new influx of some 25,000 miners, along with disease and bloodshed.
Brazil’s environmental protection agency, Ibama, with support from the national guard, has destroyed aircrafts, weapons, boats and heavy plant machinery used by illegal mining crews. Some miners were reported to be quitting the region ahead of the offensive.
Image: Neil Palmer
A community-led fundraising effort has secured £100,000 to save an ancient London woodland from development. The three-acre Gorne Wood in Lewisham, which fell into private ownership, has been plagued by fly-tipping and was being eyed up by housing developers.
Home to endangered wildlife and 400-year-old trees, the site is a rare example of the now fragmented Great North Wood, which once stretched uninterrupted between the River Thames and Croydon.
Local charity the Fourth Reserve Foundation led the fundraiser to buy the site via a compulsory purchase order facilitated by Lewisham council.
Matthew Frith, director of conservation at the London Wildlife Trust, said: “Ancient woodlands like this are the cathedrals of our biodiversity.”
Image: Sjoukje Bos
Home HIV tests giving results in just 15 minutes were made freely available in England for the first time this week as part of a national effort to prevent new cases of the virus.
The government said in December that the end of HIV transmission in England was ‘within reach’, but warned that a drop-off in testing during the pandemic has hampered progress.
Dr Thomas Waite, deputy chief medical officer for England, said: “If you have HIV, finding out early means you can start free treatment, live a long, healthy life and avoid passing the virus on to others.”
Image: Erwann Letue
A Welsh college has announced a groundbreaking degree to train the next generation of climate disruptors.
Black Mountains College in Talgarth, Powys, offers a classroom like no other – the 1,344 sq km (519 sq mile) expanse of the Brecon Beacons National Park. Partnering with park authorities and Cardiff Metropolitan University, it will deliver a degree in sustainable futures, arming graduates with the skills to catalyse real-world, positive change.
The first intake of climate-conscious freshers will arrive at the college’s car-free campus in September. Besides classroom learning and practical lessons, students will be encouraged to live off the land by their final year.
“No job will be unaffected by the massive changes that are coming,” the course’s co-founder Ben Rawlence told Positive News. “Climate action and adaptation will be the most important aspect of all work. Black Mountains College is educating the scouts, the visionaries, the change-makers of the future across all sectors.”
Image: Element5 Digital
There are signs that western monarch butterfly populations are recovering in California, US, after an annual count of the migratory insects hit a two-decade high.
The Western Monarch Thanksgiving Count recorded more than 335,000 of the butterflies at sites mainly along the Californian coast. The figure is up on last year’s tally of 247,000, and a dramatic improvement on the 2,000 western monarchs recorded in 2020. But conservationists said numbers are still way below the millions seen in the 1980s.
The butterflies make an epic migration from the north-west to overwintering sites in California. Habitat destruction has been blamed for their decline.
“A second year in a row of relatively good numbers gives us hope that there is still time to act to save the western migration,” said Emma Pelton, a biologist at Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.
Image: Captain Tucker
Renewables will become the planet’s biggest source of electricity by the middle of the decade, the International Energy Agency (IEA) forecast this week.
The IEA’s latest Electricity Market Report shows how demand for electricity is set to accelerate through to 2025.
“The good news is that renewables and nuclear power are growing quickly enough to meet almost all this additional appetite, suggesting we are close to a tipping point for power sector emissions,” said IEA executive director Fatih Birol.
Analysis of the IEA’s data by Carbon Brief suggests that renewables will overtake coal-powered electricity generation (currently in the top spot) within three years.
Image: Zbynek Burival
Main image: Oliver Schulz
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