Image for What went right this week: Iceland to ban whaling, plus more positive news

What went right this week: Iceland to ban whaling, plus more positive news

Iceland moved to ban whaling, a paralysed man walked again, and scientists said chimpanzees show each other empathy, plus more stories of progress

Iceland moved to ban whaling, a paralysed man walked again, and scientists said chimpanzees show each other empathy, plus more stories of progress

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Iceland signalled the death knell for whaling

The number of countries that permit commercial whaling could soon drop from three to two, as Iceland declares there are no longer social nor economic gains to be had from the controversial practice.

The country’s fisheries minister this week announced that no new licences would be granted for whaling once existing authorisations expire next year.

Previously a political and cultural hot topic, whaling has fallen from prominence in Icelandic society in recent years. Generally speaking, people are now more interested in observing and conserving the magnificent creatures than consuming them, research suggests. Hundreds of thousands of whale-watchers visited the northern European nation in 2019, and a campaign called Meet Us, Don’t Eat Us was deemed successful in educating tourists about the cruelty of whaling, and eating whale meat.

Norway and Japan are the last countries in the world to allow the practice.

Image: Pedro Netto

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Affordable food campaigner Jack Monroe scored wins for struggling households

The campaigner Jack Monroe has been influential in the supermarket Asda’s announcement this week to make its cheapest food ranges more widely available. Having long been a mouthpiece for people facing financial hardship, a recent Twitter thread of hers highlighted the quandaries faced by millions when doing their weekly shop. The cost of basic items has risen to unsustainable levels, according to Monroe – the cheapest bag of rice in her local major supermarket, for example, is up by 344%, from 45p for a 1kg bag to £1 for 500g.

In response, Asda has pledged to stock the entire Farm Stores and Smart Price ranges in all its 581 stores, and online. Meanwhile, Monroe has set up an index to track the cost of basic items.

Households across the UK are feeling the squeeze as energy prices rise and inflation skyrockets. In Scotland, finance minister Kate Forbes announced an extra £290m, in addition to the £100m already earmarked, to go towards struggling families.

Image: Markus Winkler

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Legumes were hailed for helping us live longer

Attention lentil-lovers: legumes may just be your ticket to an extra decade of life. In a study published this week by Plos Medicine, scientists revealed that by swapping a diet high in red meat and processed foods to one full of whole grains, legumes, fish and veg, we could all enjoy up to 10 more years of life.

If eating 200g of lentils per day – the weight recommended by the researchers – sounds a bit much, the lead author of the study suggested that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach. Making changes later in life or opting for bean-based choices some of the time, will still spell positive news for your longevity.

Critics cautioned that the study’s conclusions may not be so cut and dried, however. It’s possible that those who are big on beans are naturally more health conscious in other areas of their lives.

Image: Süheyl Burak

And speaking of beans ...

A star-studded troupe of top chefs joined forces with The Sustainable Restaurant Association to kick off a campaign to help diners make planet-friendly choices. Backed by the likes of Raymond Blanc and Prue Leith, One Planet Plate plans to dish up 5m meals that are more sustainable this year, with participating restaurants spanning a range of budgets.

Via the campaign’s website, people can search for venues that offer sustainable choices on their menus and get recipes to make at home. Blanc’s simple vegetable and chervil soup (pictured) errs on the comforting side of things, while the more ambitious disco cauli from chef David Pyle promises to add some pomegranate-studded sparkle to your week.

Image: The Sustainable Restaurant Association 

A paralysed man walked again

After a motorcycle accident in 2017, Michel Roccati lost all feeling and movement in his legs. Now, thanks to Prof Grégoire Courtine, a neuroscientist at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne, and Prof Jocelyne Bloch, a neurosurgeon at Lausanne university hospital, Roccati and two other patients can walk, run, ride a bike and even kick their legs.

The professors developed a system that involves implanting electrodes into the spines of paralysed people. Electrical stimulation to the spinal cord nerves that control certain muscles is activated remotely through a tablet. Within a few hours of the operation, all three patients could stand, according to the team, and regained even more movement in the following months.

“Thanks to this technology, we’ve been able to target individuals with the most serious spinal cord injuries,” Courtine told the Guardian.

Image: Henry and Co.

And in other medical news ...

A long-term global study found that a “promising” immunotherapy breast cancer drug called keytruda could save thousands of lives. The drug, which is already used to treat other forms of cancer, helps the immune system recognise and attack cancer cells. In women who have triple-negative breast cancer, a particularly aggressive form of the disease, scientists found that the drug could help to stop it from returning.

Prof Peter Schmid, who led the study, said that in the US alone, the treatment – used in combination with chemotherapy – could save as many as 10,000 lives.

Image: Rebekah Vos

The ‘underwater photographer of the year 2022’ was named

A photograph of five hungry whale sharks feeding in the waters off the Maldives has resulted in Rafael Fernández Caballero being named underwater photographer of the year.

‘Giants of the night’ captures the sharks – the biggest fish in the world – feeding together on nocturnal plankton. “It was already incredible when one whale shark came to our boat,” said Fernández. “But more and more kept arriving. I was diving with Gador Muntaner, a shark researcher, who couldn’t believe it as their numbers grew. He counted 11 sharks that night, a once-in-a-lifetime encounter that nobody thought was possible.”

Judge Alex Mustard said: “Photography needs light and simply recording these giants in a dark ocean is a massive achievement. To do this with such beautiful light and careful composition of the five sharks is outstanding.”

Image: Rafael Fernández Caballero

Chimpanzees were observed treating wounds of others

It’s human nature to want to help others when they’re wounded or sick. But is it ‘chimp nature’? Findings published this week in the journal Current Biology would suggest so.

Back in 2019, scientists in the west African nation of Gabon noticed a female chimpanzee named Suzee applying a squashed insect to a wound on the foot of her teenage son. This intriguing behaviour was observed 19 more times over the next 15 months, adding fuel to the theory that animals are capable of selfless acts.

The scientists aren’t sure what type of insect the chimpanzees use for healing in this way but some bugs are known to contain soothing, anti-inflammatory substances.

Simone Pika, co-author of the study, told Agence France-Presse: “It takes lot of trust to put an insect in an open wound. They seem to understand that if you do this to me with this insect, then my wound gets better. It’s amazing.”

Image: Satya Deep
Main image: Tim E. White

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