Image for What went right this week: the ‘Green Nobel prize’, plus more positive news

What went right this week: the ‘Green Nobel prize’, plus more positive news

A prize honoured eco activists, male Afghan journalists made a stand for women’s rights, and five nature recovery projects were announced for England, plus more positive news

A prize honoured eco activists, male Afghan journalists made a stand for women’s rights, and five nature recovery projects were announced for England, plus more positive news

Environmental activists were celebrated in global prize

Activists who helped defund coal, hold big oil to account and launch landmark climate lawsuits are among the winners of this year’s Goldman environmental prize, an international award for eco activism, dubbed the ‘Green Nobel prize’.

Highlighting the power of individual action, the winners were: Alex Lucitante (main picture) and Alexandra Narvaez, who led a movement to protect indigenous land from mining in Ecuador; Nalleli Cobo, who helped shut down a toxic US oil-drilling site; Julien Vincent, leader of a successful campaign to defund coal in Australia; Marjan Minnesma (pictured), who took the Dutch government to court over climate inaction (and won); Niwat Roykaew, whose actions halted an environmentally destructive shipping project in the Mekong; and Chima Williams, who helped hold Shell accountable for an oil spill in Nigeria. 

“While the many challenges before us can feel daunting, and at times make us lose faith, these seven leaders give us a reason for hope and remind us what can be accomplished in the face of adversity,” said Jennifer Goldman Wallis, vice-president of the Goldman Environmental Foundation.

Image: Goldman Environmental Prize

Meanwhile, in another awards ceremony...

An exiled Afghan judge who advocates for her country’s women and girls from a London hotel room was this week awarded the Lantos Human Rights Prize.

Fawzia Amini is one of three women to be honoured with the award. The other two recipients are: Roya Mahboob, the country’s first female tech CEO; and Khalida Popal, co-founder and captain of Afghanistan’s first women’s soccer team. All now work abroad.

 “At this memorable moment of my life, I want to remember the women of my country and their pain,” said Amini. “They have lost all their fundamental and basic rights. I hope that the world will not leave us alone.” 

Dr Katrina Lantos Swett, president of the Lantos Foundation, which gives out the award, said: “Despite the dire situation facing their country, none of [the women] have lost hope. I marvel at this and am inspired by it.”

Image: (L-R) Fawzia Amini, Roya Mahboob and Khalida Popal. Credit: Lantos Foundation

Sticking with Afghanistan...

Male TV presenters in Afghanistan are wearing face coverings on screen to show solidarity with their female colleagues, after the Taliban decreed that all women must cover their faces in public. 

In a protest dubbed #FreeHerFace, male anchors on news channels have been donning masks to veil their faces.

Mina Lawangeena Sharif, a women’s rights activist, wrote on Twitter: “Afghan men showing up for Afghan women is not just a gesture. It’s a turn in the story that will change everything. Brave brothers.”

Image: Isaak Alexandre Karslian

Positive news
The Australian election put the climate in the spotlight

What last weekend’s Australian election means for global emissions remains to be seen. But this was the climate election many had hoped for. 

A surge in support for politicians pledging climate action showed that global heating was at the forefront of people’s minds when they went to the polls. 

In the end, Scott Morrison, a prime minister who has mocked the seriousness of the climate crisis (and once brandished a lump of coal in parliament, telling MPs not to be afraid of it) was rejected. Last week Australia was found to have the highest coal emissions per person of any developed country. 

Election victor Anthony Albanese vowed to be a climate leader.

David Ritter, CEO of Greenpeace Australia Pacific, said: “Australian voters have made the call for urgent climate action, and now it’s time for the new parliament to roll up its sleeves and get on with the job.”

Image: Dan Freeman

Positive news
Speaking of the climate...

A sharp cut in methane emissions now could help avoid the worst impacts of the climate crisis, according to research published on Monday.

While the focus of climate mitigation is mostly on driving down CO2, methane is a more potent albeit short-lived greenhouse gas.

The study found that cuts to CO2 alone could not achieve the reductions needed to stay within 1.5C of pre-industrial temperatures. It added that cutting methane would give us “a fighting chance” of staving off climate catastrophe.

There are signs of progress. One unexpected outcome from COP26 was a deal on curbing methane emissions by 30 per cent this decade. It was signed by 105 countries. Leaky gas infrastructure and intensive agriculture are among the leading sources of methane.

Image: Jakob Cotton

Positive news
A study revealed how to reduce the risk of dementia

Researchers have identified seven habits that people can adopt to cut the risk of developing dementia. The findings were published on Wednesday in the US medical journal Neurology. 

The seven habits are: exercising regularly; eating healthily; not smoking; maintaining a healthy weight; keeping blood pressure in check; having healthy cholesterol levels; and maintaining healthy blood sugar levels. 

Those behind the research – based on a study of more than 11,000 people – said the healthy habits cut the risk of developing dementia, regardless of a person’s underlying genetic risk. 

Dr Rosa Sancho, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “This study supports the idea that what is good for the heart is also good for the brain – and that this holds true even for people with a higher genetic risk of dementia.”

Image: Aan Nizal

Positive news
‘New lease of life’ for hand transplant patient

A man who received a double hand transplant on the UK’s National Health Service said this week that the operation had given him “a new lease of life”. 

Steven Gallagher (pictured) from Ayrshire, Scotland, lost the use of his hands after being diagnosed with scleroderma, an autoimmune disease. 

Surgeons at Leeds infirmary replaced his hands in December 2021. It was the world’s first hand transplant for a patient with scleroderma. Gallagher can now do basic tasks such as turning on a tap. He hopes to return to his job as a roof tiler. 

“When the hand transplant was first mentioned I thought it sounded farfetched,” said Gallagher. “Now, I can move my fingers and thumbs and also move my wrists.”

Surgical advances are opening up new possibilities for patients with missing limbs. Last year, Positive News caught up with an Icelandic man who can wave again after a double arm transplant. “I’m privileged,” he said. 

Image: Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust

Five nature recovery projects launched in England

Last week, Positive News revealed that England is to get a new ‘super nature reserve’. This week, it was announced that the site in Somerset is one of five nature recovery initiatives earmarked for England. 

Located in the West Midlands, Peak District, Cambridge, Norfolk and Somerset, the earmarked sites are equivalent in size to England’s 219 existing national nature reserves. 

An initial £2.5m in funding is being made available to improve landscapes, providing natural solutions to reduce carbon and manage flood risk.

“These five projects across England are superb examples of exciting, large-scale restoration that is critically needed to bring about a step change in the recovery of nature in this country,” said Rebecca Pow, under-secretary of state at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Image: Ronan Furuta
Main image: Goldman Environmental Prize

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