Image for What went right this week: polio victory, right to roam and more positive news

What went right this week: polio victory, right to roam and more positive news

Africa was declared polio-free, some fossil fuel companies got dumped and right to roam campaigners claimed a small victory, plus other positive news stories

Africa was declared polio-free, some fossil fuel companies got dumped and right to roam campaigners claimed a small victory, plus other positive news stories

A right to roam petition was signed by 100,000 people
A right to roam petition was signed by 100,000 people

MPs will have to debate a controversial new law that seeks to criminalise trespass, after a petition against the measure attracted 100,000 signatures. The petition was started by Right to Roam, a campaign group that wants to increase access to the English countryside – 92 per cent of which, they say, is off-limits to ordinary people.

Campaigners argue that the proposed legislation discriminates against the Traveller community and further tilts the law in favour of the 1 per cent that owns half of England.

“We’re very happy to see the public rise up against the criminalisation of trespass,” Right to Roam’s co-founder, Nick Hayes, told Positive News. “We will now be working with representatives of the travelling community to make sure that the debate is fully briefed with the facts and perspectives of the groups that will be most affected.”

Image: Jon Flobrant

Positive news: new technique reduced bird strikes at wind turbines
Technique reduced bird strikes at wind turbines

They are helping power the clean energy revolution, but a dark side of wind turbines is that they sometimes kill birds. However, a new study suggests that painting just one blade black could reduce bird strikes by up to 70 per cent.

The findings were published in the Ecology and Evolution journal and have been cautiously welcomed by the RSPB. However, experts at the organisation told the BBC that the main priority should be avoiding building wind farms where there was a particular risk to birds.

The authors of the report believe that painting one blade black reduces ‘motion smear’, making spinning blades more visible to birds.

Image: Gonz DDL

Africa declared free of wild polio
Africa was declared free of wild polio

The WHO confirmed this week that Africa has defeated wild polio after the virus was finally eliminated in Nigeria. The Africa Regional Certification Commission, a task group appointed by the WHO to eradicate the disease, certified the continent free of wild polio four years after the last recorded case.

Africa’s polio immunisation programme was launched by Nelson Mandela in 1996, but progress in Nigeria was stymied by geography, scepticism and militant groups.

The director general of the WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, described the eradication of wild polio in Africa as a “public health triumph”. Read more here.

Image: Annie Spratt

Positive news: a major asset management firm dumped fossil fuel investments
An asset management firm dumped fossil fuel investments

Norway’s biggest private money manager ditched its investments in Exxon, Chevron and other companies this week in protest over their alleged lobbying against tougher environmental standards.

Storebrand is thought to be the first major investor to explicitly divest from companies over their lobbying on climate issues. The decision comes weeks after Nest, the UK’s largest pension fund, announced it was divesting from firms involved in coal extraction, tar sands and arctic drilling.

“We expect that our peers will also adopt new policies like this as part of a logical progression in global fossil fuel divestment,” Jan Erik Saugestad, chief executive of Storebrand, told the Financial Times.

Image: Eelco Bohtlingk

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Positive news: following eating guidelines found to cut risk of early death
Following eating guidelines found to cut risk of early death

Critics scoffed at the UK government’s ‘nanny state’ guidelines for healthy eating. But had they instead been scoffing their five portions of fruit and vegetables a day they could have cut their risk of an early death, according to research.

A study published in the journal BMJ Open found that people who met five or more of the nine recommendations set out in the government’s Eatwell guidelines lowered their mortality risk by an estimated 7 per cent.

Adhering to the guidelines isn’t just good for public health, researchers found. Diets that stuck to five or more of the recommendations were linked to a 30 per cent reduction in CO2 emissions per day, compared to diets that adhered to just two.

Image: Dean Xavier

New breakthrough in fight against dengue fever
Breakthrough in fight against dengue fever

A study carried out in Indonesia has found that infecting mosquitoes with a naturally-occurring bacteria dramatically reduces transmission of dengue fever, which affects 50 million people each year. Dengue fever causes sickness, severe headaches and joint pain, and can be fatal.

A trial led by the World Mosquito Program reported a 77 per cent reduction in incidence of the viral infection after mosquitoes infected with Wolbachia were released into parts of Yogyakarta city. Scientists said the breakthrough could pave the way for the elimination of dengue fever.

World Mosquito Program director, Scott O’Neill said: “This is the result we’ve been waiting for. We have evidence our Wolbachia method is safe, sustainable and reduces incidence of dengue. It gives us great confidence for how we can scale this work worldwide across large urban populations.”

Image: Wild Turkey/Creative Commons

Earth Overshoot Day will arrive on 22 August this year
Earth Overshoot Day arrived late

Earth Overshoot Day – the day on which human consumption exceeds the amount nature can regenerate in a year – arrived more than three weeks later than it did last year, following a record fall in the consumption of the planet’s resources due to coronavirus.

With few exceptions (the years following the 2008 financial crash being among them), Earth Overshoot Day has come around earlier each year as humanity’s ecological footprint has increased. In 2019, it landed in July for the first time.

“This year’s sudden ecological footprint contraction cannot be mistaken for progress,” said Global Footprint Network CEO, Laurel Hanscom. “This year more than ever, Earth Overshoot Day highlights the need for strategies that increase resilience for all.”

Find out how campaigners propose to reduce humanity’s ecological footprint ‘by design rather than disaster’ here.

Image: Ales Krivec

Leeds will launch its first Festival of Kindness next weekend
Leeds prepared for its first Festival of Kindness

As Positive News reported this week, the English city of Leeds is launching its first Festival of Kindness. Kicking off next weekend, the week-long jamboree has moved on to Zoom because of the pandemic.

Each day features a different theme, including kinder businesses, kinder relationships and self-kindness. Guest speakers include the peace activist Satish Kumar and representatives from Extinction Rebellion and the Co-op.

“We are putting a flag in the ground for people who want to see the values of kindness, compassion and wellbeing as the prosperity we should be investing in,” co-founder Joshua Malkin, told Positive News. “We would encourage anyone who is involved in areas that relate to kindness, compassion and wellness to [join] and make this a national festival of kindness.”

Image: Benjamin Elliott
Main image: Michael Cummins

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