More cultural treasures got Unesco status, Alzheimer’s research had a breakthrough, and women made World Cup history, plus more positive news
This week’s positive news roundup
Hungarian folk music, the French baguette and Cuba’s rum knowledge are among the treasures of humanity added to Unesco’s intangible cultural heritage list this week.
The list recognises living traditions and their importance in maintaining cultural diversity in a globalised world. In the case of the French baguette, the designation provides a welcome boost for the country’s artisanal bakeries, which are reportedly closing at a rate of 400 a year due to competition from supermarkets
An Algerian folk song, Arabia’s camel calling – or Alheda’a – and Tunisia’s harissa chilli paste are among the other assets added this week.
“Awareness of the intangible cultural heritage of different communities is crucial to the promotion of cultural diversity and intercultural dialogue,” said Unesco. “It can also be instrumental in ensuring sustainable development, as intangible cultural heritage has an important impact on food security, health, education, the sustainable use of natural resources and the prevention of natural disasters.”
Image: Frédéric Vielcanet
The hitherto futile search for an Alzheimer’s cure took a major step forward this week, after a new drug was found to slow the disease.
Lecanemab works by clearing the amyloid protein that builds up in the brains of people who have Alzheimer’s. In a clinical trial, the drug was found to slow cognitive decline.
“This is truly a historic moment for dementia research,” said Dr Susan Kohlhaas, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK. “This is the first time a drug has been shown to both reduce the disease in the brain and slow memory decline in clinical trials. These exciting findings represent a major step forward for dementia research.”
However, she added: “It won’t be suitable for everyone, and it’s only a first step on the journey towards a cure.”
Image: Milad Fakurian
Mandatory return schemes for plastic bottles look set to be rolled out in the EU as part of the European Commission’s circular economy proposals, published this week.
Miniature shampoo bottles in hotels are among the items facing the axe under the draft legislation, which aims to reduce waste by 15 per cent this decade. Without action, plastic pollution would increase by 19 per cent over the same period, the commission said.
The campaign group Rethink Plastic said the measures “could go a long way in reducing packaging consumption and pollution”, but said they lacked ambition. There are suggestions the proposals were watered down following pressure from the soft drinks industry.
The new rules will have to be approved by the European Parliament and member states to become law. The EU has already banned many single-use plastics.
Image: Brian Yurasits
The Fifa World Cup may be mired in controversy, but there has been some progress worth celebrating: for the first time in the men’s tournament, a female referee officiated a game.
Blowing the whistle on Thursday night’s clash between Germany and Costa Rica was Stéphanie Frappart, who led an all-female refereeing team.
Though many may wonder why it took so long, Frappart’s appearance is a milestone for inclusivity in the sport. That it happened in Qatar, the host country, where women’s rights are restricted, made it all the more poignant.
“There are some difficulties [in Qatar] for women,” Frappart told the BBC. “I hope that this World Cup will help them.”
Frappart is one of three female referees selected to officiate in the tournament. Rwanda’s Salima Mukansanga and Japan’s Yoshimi Yamashita have also got the call.
Image: El Loko Foto
A bipartisan bill that protects same-sex marriage has been passed by the US Senate. It follows concerns that the 2015 decision to legalise gay marriage could be overturned by conservative justices on the supreme court.
The bill garnered interest following the court’s decision to overturn the federal right to an abortion. It will now return to the House of Representatives, which is expected to approve the legislation.
If approved, the bill will also enshrine recognition for interracial marriages into law. However, it does not set a national requirement that all states must legalise same-sex marriage.
Image: Rob Maxwell
A diet rich in fruit, vegetables, nuts and whole grains can reduce the risk of men developing bowel cancer by a fifth, a study suggested this week.
Around 170,000 men and women in the US were involved in the study. Researchers noted that men who ate the largest amount of plant-based foods had a 22 per cent lower risk of developing bowel cancer than those who ate the least. They found no such correlation for women (who are less at risk of bowel cancer) highlighting the need for further research.
One of the study’s authors, Jihye Kim from Kyung Hee University in South Korea, told the Guardian: “We speculate that the antioxidants found in foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains could contribute to lowering colorectal cancer risk by suppressing chronic inflammation, which can lead to cancer.”
Image: Ralph Ravi Kayden
It’s versatile, carbon-capturing and apparently makes us feel better when we’re surrounded by it. No wonder timber buildings are catching on.
This week, saw the latest milestone in wooden construction: the opening of what is believed to be the world’s tallest timber hotel. Located in Skellefteå, Sweden, the 205-room Wood Hotel is made of local spruce and pine.
While it might seem counterintuitive, constructing buildings out of wood can be good for the planet (if sustainably sourced) because trees lock carbon away. By contrast, producing concrete generates enormous amounts of carbon.
Find out more about the great timber revival here.
Image: Off the Map Travel
Two artists in London are finding ingenious ways to fund a project that puts power in the hands of people.
Dan Edelstyn and Hilary Powell (pictured) are famous for making £1.2m worth of debt disappear (spoiler: they blew it up in a Ford Transit van). Their latest trick involves turning an east London street into a solar farm that will save homeowners money and slash emissions. Some residents will receive the panels for free.
“We want this to be something that fills people’s hopes, dreams and imaginations, and maybe builds their spirits to know that rebellion is possible,” Edelstyn told Positive News.
Read the full story here.
Image: Peter Searle
Christmas list looking a bit bare? In need of some inspiration? Well, check out the Positive News sustainable gift guide, featuring purposeful presents that don’t cost the Earth.
From coffee subscriptions to cork homeware, via virtual tours of forbidden cities, the guide also includes personal recommendations from the Positive News team, and should have you covered this Christmas.
Main image: Hungarian Open Air Museum
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