Women in Spain benefitted from groundbreaking health reforms, ‘new’ species were revealed to the public, and trees gave us a pleasant surprise, plus more
This week’s positive news roundup
Women in Spain will get state-funded menstrual leave as part of a pioneering overhaul of sexual and reproductive health laws.
New legislation approved by Congress will enable doctors to grant leave to women with painful periods – a first in Europe. The measures also include improved access to abortions in public hospitals for 16 and 17-year-olds, who previously needed parental consent.
Spain’s minister of equality, Irene Montero, said: “These advancements allow us to exercise freedom over our bodies, with the state recognising the full citizenship of more than half the population.”
The legislation now heads to the Senate for final approval before being written into law.
Image: Brooke Cagle
A landmark deal aimed at turning the tide on the extinction crisis has been agreed at COP15 in Montreal, Canada, with 196 nations pledging to protect 30 per cent of the planet for nature by the close of the decade.
The ‘30-by-30’ pledge has been hailed as the biodiversity equivalent of the 2015 Paris agreement on climate change, where parties committed to limiting global warming to 1.5C.
Get the full Positive News story here.
Image: Mylon Ollila
Almost 150 new species have been added to Earth’s tree of life by researchers at the California Academy of Sciences.
The list includes 28 new Bavayia gecko – a species found in New Caledonian forests – and the Minnesota mountain onion, which is believed to be confined to just two peaks in California’s Klamath Mountains.
Meanwhile in the Indo-Pacific region, 14 new-to-science sea slugs were identified, some as tiny as 2mm long. Other findings include flowers, scorpions and the colourful fairy wrasse (pictured).
“New species research is critical for understanding the diversity of life on Earth and identifying ecosystems most in need of protection,” said the academy’s chief of science Shannon Bennett.
Image: California Academy of Sciences
Industrial giant 3M, the company behind household staples such as Scotch tape and Post-it notes, has pledged to stop making PFAS, the ‘forever chemicals’ linked to deadly diseases.
PFAS – or perfluoralkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances – are known for their non-stick and water-resistant properties, and are used in everything from mobile phones to food packaging.
The UK and EU have already taken steps to ban some of the chemicals after studies pointed to dangerous concentrations in water, food and soil. Lingering long in the body, the substances have been linked to low birth weights, cancer and heart issues.
3M announced this week that it will phase out PFAS production by 2025. Other manufacturers are expected to follow amid mounting consumer pressure and litigation, with some reports suggesting lawsuits could cost 3M as much as $30bn (£25bn).
Image: Paper Textures
A new study has underlined the critical role of trees in combatting climate change, with the revelation that forests in the UK lock up double the carbon than previously thought.
An international team, including researchers from Ghent University and University College London (UCL), used laser scanning to map trees in Wytham Wood, near Oxford. The 3D scans enabled scientists to work out how much carbon was captured in each tree.
The research suggested that the carbon contained in woodlands in the UK and Europe had been underestimated, and revealed that older trees bring carbon capture benefits that are difficult to replicate through new planting.
The findings will have implications for forestry management and woodland protection.
Prof Mathias Disney of UCL told the BBC: “The value you have in large mature trees is almost incalculable, and so you should avoid losing that at any cost – regardless of how many trees you think about planting.”
Image: Ed Van Duijn
Police chiefs in England and Wales are drawing up plans to treat drug offending as a public health issue rather than a crime, according to the Telegraph.
People caught for the first time with Class A or B substances – including cocaine and cannabis – would be invited to engage with ‘drug diversion’ schemes involving addiction services and education in lieu of prosecution.
The initiative already operates in 14 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, where it has been shown to slash reoffending rates. The proposals being drafted by the National Police Chiefs’ Council and College of Policing would implement a nationally consistent harm reduction approach.
The Law Enforcement Action Partnership, a drug reform network, told Positive News: “If we’re serious about lessening the many harms to society due to our current drug laws, then diversions away from the criminal justice system are a good foundation.
“As soon as we have an open dialogue and position around drugs we can look to have a healthier society as a whole.”
Image: King’s Church International
Researchers have revamped decades-old tech to develop a low-cost battery made with a chemical harvested from the ocean.
The team, led by Dr Shenlong Zhao from the School of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering at the University of Sydney, Australia, created a sodium-sulphur (Na-S) battery with four-times the energy capacity of the ubiquitous lithium-ion (Li-ion) cell.
Li-ion batteries – found in everything from vapes to electric cars – are expensive and have a big ecological footprint.
While Na-S batteries, made with a type of molten salt processed from sea water, have been around for years, they suffered from short lifecycles and low energy. But through simple design tweaks, Zhao said that his team were able to create a cell with “super-high capacity and ultra-long life” for a fraction of the cost of a Li-ion battery.
“We hope that by providing a technology that reduces costs we can sooner reach a clean energy horizon,” said Zhao. “It probably goes without saying but the faster we can decarbonise, the better chances we have of capping warming.”
Image: Jcob Nasyr
It was the year of the ‘permacrisis’, apparently. But as regular Positive News readers will know, despite the many challenges that came our way in 2022, progress was ever present. Not in spite of all the bad stuff, but in response to it.
The challenges were formidable. Russia’s brutal war in Ukraine, the rising cost of living and the intensifying climate crisis provided a gloomy backdrop alright.
But if 2022 taught us anything, it’s that even in tumultuous times much can be achieved – and the gloomy headlines are only ever half the story. This is what went right in 2022.
Main image: Jorge Fernandez Salas