Some UK neighbourhoods are now leafier than national parks, Japan created a wildlife-friendly carrier bag and a paint was developed to help tackle the climate crisis, plus other positive news
The deer that roam the Japanese city of Nara have something resembling celebrity status, but in recent years there have been reports of the beloved creatures dying after ingesting plastic bags.
Tackling the problem is a consortium of local companies, which has launched what it says is a safe alternative to plastic carriers. Made out of rice bran and recycled pulp from milk cartons, the bags reportedly pass through the deer’s digestive system safely.
An estimated 1,200 sika deer call Nara home. The animals are classified as a national treasure in Japan, where they are believed to be divine messengers.
Image: Shane Keaney
Greece’s iconic whitewashed buildings grace a thousand postcards, but the dazzling facades are not merely for show – they also keep houses cool by reflecting the sunlight.
Inspired by such architectural ingenuity, scientists in the US have developed an even whiter paint, which, according to a study released this week, reflects 95.5 per cent of sunlight and can reduce temperatures inside a building by 1.7C.
Xiulin Ruan, one of the study’s authors, said the paint has the potential to meaningfully cut the carbon footprint of a building. “This is a significant amount of cooling power that can offset the majority of the air conditioning needs for typical buildings,” he told the BBC.
Image: Clark Van Der Beken
The vital role that towns and cities can play in tackling the climate crisis and boosting biodiversity was underscored this week by the results of an aerial survey, which found that some of the most densely populated urban areas in England and Wales have more trees in them than national parks.
Two London boroughs – Camden and Croydon, where thousands of trees have been planted in recent years – were ranked among the 20th places in England and Wales to have the most trees. By contrast, parts of the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District had some of the fewest.
According to the research, conducted by Bluesky International, Surrey Heath has the highest percentage of trees in England. It wasn’t always this way: the Woodland Trust claims the area was once dominated by open heathland and pastures, and has since regenerated.
Image: Simon Rae
Efforts to improve access to electricity in developing nations are bearing fruit, according to a report by the International Energy Agency.
It found that the number of people without electricity dropped from almost 860 million in 2018 to 770 million in 2019, which the IEA claimed was a record low.
The report said that electricity projects in India and some African nations had hooked millions up to the grid. However, it warned that progress was being stymied and even reversed in some cases by the pandemic.
UK residents living in areas that have invested in projects to boost social cohesion are coping better with the pandemic than those in places that haven’t, research has revealed.
According to the study, 24 per cent of people living in ‘social cohesion investment areas’ had volunteered in the last month, compared to eight per cent elsewhere; they also reported feeling more optimistic, happier in their relationships and more positive about immigrants.
Jo Broadwood, CEO of the Belong Network, which promotes social cohesion and integration said: “These findings show investing in social integration and leadership at a local level can support communities to strengthen social connections and trust between groups, in order to resist divisive narratives and encouraging people to come together at a time of crisis.”
Image: Andre Ouellet
Used children’s toys are getting a new lease of life in the UK thanks to a free app, which allows parents to gift items that their kids no longer use to other families in their area.
Parents using YoungPlanet can list or request items including books, toys and baby equipment. If more than one person wants the same things, the app prioritises those who need them most or have donated items in the past.
After a successful trial in London, the app is being rolled out nationally. “We’ve enabled thousands of families to not only declutter sustainably, but help other families by giving them access to the things they need or want, for free,” said Jason Ash, who launched YoungPlanet with his wife Emma.
Image: Adyant Pankaj
It is a curious pastime that has been mooted as a potential treatment for depression, now researchers reckon cold water swimming could also help slow dementia.
Scientists at the University of Cambridge studied winter bathers at London’s unheated Parliament Hill Lido, and found that when they took the plunge in icy water their bodies produced a protein, dubbed RBM3, that is believed to delay dementia.
Cold water swimming is not for everyone and can be dangerous to people with certain health conditions. The challenge for researchers, then, is to create a drug that stimulates the production of RBM3 and to prove that it does indeed slow dementia. Read the full Positive News report here.
Image: Todd Quackenbush
Main image: Arnold Circus, London. Robert Bye