A pioneering drugs testing service launched in England, the Philippines set a climate precedent, and California set a welcome record, plus more
Drugs. The west has been fighting a war against them for decades, with scant evidence of success. This week, the UK offered a further sign that a new approach is emerging, one that places the emphasis on harm reduction over criminality.
In a move unthinkable a decade ago, the government granted a licence for a service that will anonymously test people’s illegal substances for strength and purity – information that could save lives. It comes amid a record rise in drug-related deaths in the UK.
The facility will open in Bristol this month following successful trails in city centres and at festivals. Those accessing the service will be able to deposit a sample of their drugs into an amnesty box; the drugs will then be assessed and the results presented to them an hour later during a consultation with a medical professional.
The service is run by The Loop, a non-profit harm-reduction organisation. Its work has been linked with a fall in drug-related medical problems at festivals. Similar projects already operate in some European countries.
Bristol city councillor Ellie King said the service “will empower people to make safer, informed decisions and access drug treatment and further support”.
Image: Aranxa Esteve
A Filipino inquiry has concluded that big polluters are ‘morally and legally liable’ for climate damage, a verdict that could help supercharge climate lawsuits around the world.
The inquiry by the Philippines Commission on Human Rights was launched seven years ago by survivors of Typhoon Haiyan. It concluded that coal, oil and cement firms engaged in “wilful obfuscation” of climate science, while slowing down the transition to clean energy.
“This report is historic and sets a solid legal basis for asserting that climate-destructive business activities by fossil fuel and cement companies contribute to human rights harms,” said Greenpeace Southeast Asia executive director Yeb Saño.
The commission does not have the power to hold the companies legally responsible. However, experts hope that the report will lead to new climate laws and pave the way for more climate litigation.
Image: Guy Bowden
The Smithsonian Institution – the world’s largest museum complex – has launched an ‘ethical returns policy’, which will allow its museums to repatriate items that were acquired in a dubious manner.
The institution admitted that it possesses works that it “would not have acquired under present-day standards”. It will now give museums the power to return them based on ethical considerations, such as whether the items were taken under duress or removed without consent.
“There is a growing understanding at the Smithsonian, and in the world of museums generally, that our possession of these collections carries with it certain ethical obligations to the places and people where the collections originated,” said Smithsonian secretary Lonnie Bunch.
Image: Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, Washington D.C, US. Credit: Roberto Nickson
Women who experience severe period pain will be allowed to take up to three days leave each month, as part of reforms due to be approved by the Spanish government.
The move would make Spain the first western nation to offer menstrual leave; Japan, South Korea and Indonesia are among the countries that have already introduced it.
The reform is due to be passed at a cabinet meeting next Tuesday, according to The Telegraph. It will include other measures to improve menstrual health, including a requirement for schools to provide free sanitary pads for girls who need them.
They don’t call it the Golden State for nothing. This week it emerged that solar energy helped California source almost 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables for a brief period on 30 April.
The state’s main grid ran on 99.9 per cent green energy for around two minutes, the California Independent System Operator said.
California has set a target to have all of its electricity come from zero-carbon sources by 2045. The latest figures suggest that it could be on track.
Image: Maarten van den Heuvel
Another week, another green energy milestone. On Monday, Europe’s largest floating solar farm was towed to its moorings on Portugal’s Alqueva reservoir.
Equivalent in size to four football pitches, the facility has 12,000 solar panels and will supply around 1,500 people with electricity when it goes live in July.
EDP, the firm behind it, has already got permission to launch a second one on the same reservoir.
It’s certainly a welcome side effect. According to research published this week, mRNA Covid vaccines during pregnancy are linked to a 15 per cent reduction in stillbirths.
The study was led by researchers from St George’s, University of London and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.
The results were published in Nature Communications.
They say that laughter is the best medicine. One comic is proving just that. Angie Belcher (pictured) has developed a comedy course that is being prescribed to be people with trauma.
The project in Bristol has gone down so well that this week (which, aptly, is Mental Health Awareness Week) it secured NHS funding to help men in London who are deemed at risk of suicide.
Belcher is frequently surprised how eager people are to open up. “In every terrible situation, there’s invariably one thing that makes you giggle and think: ‘Gosh, this is really awful, but it’s also kind of funny’. That’s the one thing that people always want to talk to me about,” she said.
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Image: Damien Hockey
Main image: Portokalis/iStock
This article was amended on 17 May 2022. California is nicknamed the Golden State, not the Sunshine State as originally reported. That’s Florida.