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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: saving Europe’s ‘last wild river’, plus more

Posted 17th March 2023 • Written by •

Europe got its first ‘wild river park’, dance became a form of protest in Iran, and England expanded free childcare, plus more good news

Europe got its first wild river national park

They call it Europe’s ‘last wild river’, and this week the Albanian government promised to keep it that way, as it made the Vjosa and its main tributaries a national park. It’s the first waterway on the continent to enjoy such a status. 

Flowing unimpeded for 170 miles across Albania to the Adriatic Sea, the Vjosa supports many endangered species, including the European eel, Egyptian vulture and Balkan lynx. Plans had been submitted to dam the river, which would have wreaked havoc on wildlife. National park status protects it from such developments, marking a victory for campaigners who fought hard to safeguard the river. 

At a ceremony to mark the occasion, Albania’s minister of tourism Mirela Kumbaro Furxhi said: “Maybe Albania does not have the power to change the world, but it can create successful models of protecting biodiversity and natural assets.” 

The International Union for Conservation of Nature described the move as “a milestone for the people and biodiversity of Albania”.

Dance became a form of protest in Iran

Dancing in the street has become the latest symbol of defiance in Iran, after five young women posted a video of themselves vibing to pop music without headscarfs – an act deemed illegal by the oppressive state. 

Posted last week on International Women’s Day, the video has since gone viral. According to Iran International, a news site, the clip has inspired more protesters across the country to dance defiantly in the street.

The video has, however, come at a cost to the women, who were detained by the authorities and forced to film an apology. Yet a spirit of defiance prevails. “Nothing can stop the freedom of Iranian women,” wrote the Iranian-French actor Golshifteh Farahani as she shared the video online. 

Iran has witnessed a series of mass protests in recent months. More than 500 people have reportedly been killed.

Speaking of protests…

Young demonstrators in South Korea have forced the government to rethink its plans to expand the working week, the Guardian reports.

In a country already renowned for its punishing work schedule, the government wanted to increase the maximum working week from 52 to 69 hours. But the idea is being revisited following a backlash from young protesters, who claimed it would destroy their work-life balance. 

The policy is at odds with the growing trend for a shorter working week. Four-day weeks have been trialled in a number of countries, notably the UK, where the largest pilot of its kind was declared a win-win for staff and their bosses. 

Diabetes risk lower with Mediterranean diet - study

The Mediterranean diet’s already lofty status was further elevated this week as a study associated it with a reduced risk of developing dementia. 

Researchers found that people who ate a diet rich in seafood, whole grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables and olive oil – the foundations of the Mediterranean diet – had a 23 per cent lower risk of developing the condition than those who did not. 

The study was based on data gathered from 60,000 people via UK Biobank, a medical database. Its findings come as scientists scramble to develop treatments for dementia, which in the UK alone is forecast to affect 1.5 million people by 2040. 

There is a growing body of evidence linking the Mediterranean diet with improved health outcomes, with numerous studies suggesting it can improve heart health, slow ageing, and even speed up recovery from cancer.

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