The Siberian tiger clawed back more territory, Portugal ditched coal, and the UK approved a drug that can prevent miscarriages, plus more stories of progress
Paw prints belonging to a Siberian tiger have been spotted in Russia’s largest province for the first time in 50 years, according to the country’s state-run news agency. The sighting in Sakha is a further sign that the big cats are recovering after being pushed to the brink of extinction.
Siberian tigers were once widespread in eastern Russia, northern China and the Korean Peninsula. But hunting and logging reduced their population to no more than 40 individuals by the 1940s.
The former Soviet Union became the first country to grant the tiger full protection, and president Putin has introduced tough penalties for those caught hunting the cats. Today, there are an estimated 600 Siberian tigers in the wild.
Image: Mathias Appel
Portugal has become the latest European nation to ditch the dirtiest fossil fuel. Its last soot-belching power plant closed at the weekend, concluding what was a swift coal exit for the country.
Portugal originally committed to phasing out the fossil fuel by 2030. But this week, way ahead of that date, it joined Austria, Sweden and Belgium as post-coal EU countries.
“Portugal is the perfect example of how once a country commits to quitting coal, the pace of the phase-out inevitably accelerates,” said Kathrin Gutmann, campaign director at Europe Beyond Coal. “The benefits of transitioning to renewables are so great, once started, it only makes sense to get out of coal as fast as possible.”
Image: Dylan Hunter
Pregnant women in the UK who are at risk of miscarrying are to be offered a hormone, which could prevent thousands of miscarriages annually.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published updated guidance on miscarriage this week. It included a recommendation to prescribe progesterone to pregnant women who have a high risk of miscarrying.
Professor Arri Coomarasamy, director of Tommy’s National Centre for Miscarriage Research, welcomed the move. He said: “Our research has shown that progesterone is a robust and effective treatment option, which could prevent 8,450 miscarriages a year in the UK.”
Image: Camylla Battani
It’s the world’s fastest shark, however the shortfin mako has been unable to outswim fishing fleets – and its population in the North Atlantic has plummeted. But help is on hand.
This week, the EU, UK, Canada, Senegal and other Atlantic fishing nations agreed to ban catches of the overfished mako. The shark is hunted for its meat and fins, with the EU reportedly landing three-quarters of the 2020 mako catch.
The ban covers 2022 and 2023. Not long enough for populations to recover, but a start. “At long last, we have the basis for a game-changing rebuilding plan,” said Ali Hood, director of conservation at the Shark Trust.
Image: Patrick Doll
Bans on some plastics in the UK have helped cut beach litter to its lowest level in more than 20 years, according to the Marine Conservation Society (MCS).
Its 2021 Great British Beach Clean recorded an average of 385 items of litter per 100 metres, down from 425 in 2020, 558 in 2019 and 835 in 2014. However, the organisation warned that plastic and polystyrene still account for 75 per cent of all litter, and called for more plastic items to be banned.
“The ongoing downward trend we’re seeing in litter levels on UK beaches is a positive sign that the actions we’re taking at a personal, local and national level are working,” said Lizzie Prior of the MCS. “But we can’t sit back and relax, now is the time for even more ambitious action.”
Image: Trey Musk
Here’s an incentive to pick up a duster – housework can boost your brain.
Researchers in Singapore found that regular chores at home, such as vacuuming, making beds and cleaning windows, is linked to sharper mental abilities among older people.
Their paper, published in BMJ Open, was based on a study of 500 adults. Cognitive scores were found to be eight per cent higher in over-65s who did high volumes of regular housework, compared to those doing less.
Image: Nong Vang
The owner of John Lewis, a leading UK retailer, has launched a £1m fund aimed at boosting the circular economy and tackling society’s throwaway culture.
Academics, charities and startups with scalable solutions are being invited to pitch for a share of the money. The fund adds to the feeling that the circular economy is going mainstream, although John Lewis is not the first organisation to launch a circular accelerator.
Positive News partner, the Green Alley Award, has been doing it for years. Applications have closed this year, with the shortlist announced in March.
Image: Gary Chan
Harnessing the power of the waves creates green jobs as well as renewable energy. So news that the UK is to invest £20m annually in the country’s fledgling marine energy sector was welcomed this week.
Industry leaders said the fund would help the sector scale up, bringing greater diversity to the nation’s green energy mix.
“We need a range of renewable technologies to get us to net zero as fast as possible,” said Dan McGrail, CEO of Renewable UK. “As an island nation with superb tidal energy resources to harness, it’s clear that tidal stream should have a key role to play in our shift to clean energy.”
Image: Jeremy Bishop
Existing home insulation is often made using fossil fuels. Can a new type made from popcorn offer an eco-friendly alternative?
Scientists in Germany think so. They have found a way of turning the film snack into insulation boards, which they claim have “excellent thermal insulation properties and good protection against fire”.
Read the full story here.
Image: Christopher Paul High
Main image: Pixel Mixer