Image for What went right this week: tigers mount a comeback, plus more positive news

What went right this week: tigers mount a comeback, plus more positive news

The global tiger population got a boost, Greenland banned oil exploration, and Team GB announced its first Muslim flagbearer, plus more stories of progress

The global tiger population got a boost, Greenland banned oil exploration, and Team GB announced its first Muslim flagbearer, plus more stories of progress

There was good news for the tiger population

An Indian national park that was ravaged by poachers 20 years ago had some positive news this week: its tiger population has bounced back from zero to 48 in two decades. 

A wildlife census in Assam’s Manas National Park revealed that the big cats have trebled in number since 2010, following ongoing conservation interventions. 

“The findings have brought cheer to everyone in Manas, and show that the efforts at tiger conservation have borne fruit,” Amal Chandra Sarmah, field director at Manas Tiger Project, told the Hindustan Times. “We have already surpassed the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) and Global Tiger Forum’s goal of doubling tiger numbers by 2022.”

Assam isn’t the only place experiencing a rise in numbers. Nepal is on track to become the first nation to double its tiger population. According to the WWF, populations are also rising, or stable, in China, Russia and Bhutan. But with fewer than 4,000 individuals remaining in the wild, the animals remain in peril. 

Image: Keyur Nandaniya

Greenland scrapped plans for oil exploration
Greenland scrapped plans for oil exploration

Floods in Germany, fires in Siberian, more floods in China: extreme weather events have brought the climate crisis into sharp focus this week. 

So there was relief when Greenland announced that it was suspending oil exploration due to climate concerns. “The future does not lie in oil,” the Greenland government said in a statement. “The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain.”

Greenpeace described the decision as “fantastic”. 

Image: Alexander Hafemann

Positive news - Team GB announced its first Muslim flagbearer
Team GB announced its first Muslim flagbearer

Mohamed Sbihi, the gold medal-winning rower, made history on Friday by becoming the first Muslim to carry the British flag at an Olympic opening ceremony. 

Sbihi (pictured) was named as one of two GB flag bearers this week. The other is gold medal-winning sailor Hannah Mills, founder of the Big Plastic Pledge, a global campaign to eradicate single-use plastic in sport. 

Image: Ben Sutherland/Creative Commons

Maine has banned ‘forever chemicals’
Maine banned ‘forever chemicals’

The US state of Maine has enacted a groundbreaking law that prohibits the use of toxic PFAS compounds, also known as ‘forever chemicals’. 

PFAS compounds are used in food packaging, waterproof textiles and cosmetics. But because they never fully break down, they accumulate in the environment and humans. Some studies have linked them to cancer and other health conditions. 

The ban covers some 9,000 compounds, but manufacturers have a loop hole – they can still use them in instances deemed “currently unavoidable”. Maine’s government is the first in the world to enact such wide-ranging legislation. 

Image: Jasmin Sessler

More UK firms signed up to the Green Pensions Charter

The UK’s largest supermarket is the latest UK firm to commit to greening its pension scheme. Tesco this week joined a growing list of brands that have signed up to the Green Pensions Charter, launched by the campaign group Make My Money Matter. Travis Perkins, a builders’ merchants, also made the pledge. 

Unbeknown to some savers, many pensions are tied up in the fossil fuel industry, meaning employees are unwittingly funding climate change. 

Filmmaker Richard Curtis, founder of Make My Money Matter, said: “With £2.6tr circulating in the UK pension industry alone, we can make a huge impact on reducing the pace of climate change by investing in ways that are good for our planet.”

Image: SK

The US power sector saw a record fall in emissions
The US power sector saw a record fall in emissions

The world’s second largest carbon emitter – the US – had some good news this week: its power sector has seen a record fall in CO2 emissions. 

Research revealed that the country’s energy industry belched out 10 per cent fewer emissions between 2019 and 2020 – the largest year-on-year decrease since monitoring began in 1997. 

The fall was attributed to the rise of renewables in the US. That it happened during the Trump administration, which was criticised for stifling green energy, makes the achievement more notable.  

Dan Bakal of Ceres, the nonprofit behind the research, said: “The growth in renewables has allowed us to separate economic growth from emissions, and this year represents one of the most dramatic decoupling points that we have seen.”

Image: Rodion Kutsaev

Plastic waste can be used in construction
Waste plastic can be used in construction – research

The world is experiencing a shortage of sand (yes, really), while plastic waste multiplies. So, why not use discarded plastic to construct buildings? 

That’s what a lecturer at the University of Cambridge proposed this week. Dr John Orr told the BBC that his research revealed that plastic waste can be sorted, cleaned and shredded into a sand alternative for use in construction.

“We found that you can replace up to 10 per cent of the sand in concrete with the plastic, and it has the same strength and the same longevity,” said Dr Orr.

Were that to happen in India, he added, it would save 820m tonnes of sand annually. 

Image: Marcel Strauss

A car battery-munching bacteria has been discovered
A car battery-munching bacteria was discovered

The electric car revolution might be good news for the climate, but what happens to all those used batteries when the vehicles reach the end of their life? Well, they could be eaten. 

That’s according to researchers at Coventry University, England. They claim to have identified a battery-munching bacteria that breaks down defunct power banks, recovering all metals. The process is called bioleaching, and is already used by the mining industry to recover valuable metals from ores. 

“Lithium-ion batteries are currently recycled at a meagre rate of less than five per cent in the EU,” said the university’s Prof Sebastien Farnaud, who cited high costs and inefficient processes as reasons for the low rate. “Bioleaching can offer a more sustainable and effective solution.”

The International Council on Clean Transportation  cautioned that bioleaching research is still at a very early stage. It also said that current recycling rates were low not because of a lack of technology, but because of a lack of legislation mandating the recycling of car batteries. 

Image: Ernest Ojeh
Main image: Colour Comet

What went right previously