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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: the ‘Green Nobel Prize’ winners, plus more

Posted 28th April 2023 • Written by •

Frontline eco heroes were honoured with an award

Eco warriors who triumphed in David and Goliath battles with mining and petrochemical giants were among those honoured by a prestigious environmental award this week.

The Goldman environmental prize – dubbed the ‘Green Nobel prize’ – is given to grassroots activists who go above and beyond to protect the planet.

This year’s winners were: Alessandra Korap Munduruku (main image), who saved Indigenous Amazon land from mining; Chilekwa Mumba, who sued the owners of a polluting Zambian copper mine; Delima Silalahi, who reclaimed swathes of Indonesia from a paper company; Zafer Kizilkaya, who expanded Turkey’s marine protected areas; Tero Mustonen, who pioneered peatland restoration in Finland; and US fisherwoman Diane Wilson who “lost it all” taking on ocean polluters (and winning).

Wilson (pictured) revealed how she had been dismissed as a “hysterical woman” when she began her fight, which, she said, cost friends, her marriage and her job. “The funny thing is how you can lose it all, but you gain your soul,” she said.

River restoration had a dam good year in Europe

Hundreds of weirs, dams, levees and culverts were dismantled in European waterways in 2022 – a record-breaking year for river barrier removal. 

At least 325 were removed across 16 countries, reconnecting more than 515 miles (830km) of habitat and clearing the way for migratory fish to reach breeding areas. Spain led the way with 133 removals, while 29 barriers were removed in the UK. In Norway, a dam that had blocked the Tromsa River for more than a century was blown up. 

The figures were published by Dam Removal Europe (DRE), a coalition of conservation organisations, including Rewilding Europe and the World Fish Migration Foundation (WFMF).

Herman Wanningen, WFMF director and founder of DRE, hopes the progress can be replicated across the planet. “We have started a riverlution,” he said. 

England’s ‘lung trucks’ improved cancer diagnoses

The roll out of ‘lung trucks’ in England means people in deprived communities are now more likely to get an early cancer diagnosis, figures reveal.

The mobile screening units (pictured) have been deployed in supermarket car parks since 2018, and are now at 43 sites across England. New data from the National Health Service (NHS) suggests they have diagnosed more than 1,700 cases of lung cancer. Seventy six per cent of cases in deprived areas were spotted at stage one or two, compared to just a third in 2018.

Dame Cally Palmer, NHS England’s national director for cancer, said: “While early diagnosis rates for cancer have traditionally been lower for deprived groups, thanks to the rollout of lung trucks, the NHS has turned a huge corner – and is now finding and treating those who would otherwise have been undetected.”

Social media inspired more kids to read

British and Irish children read almost a quarter more books last year, with social media trends such as Booktok – where avid readers share bite-sized reviews on Tiktok – nurturing new interest.

The 2023 What Kids Are Reading report, compiled by educational software provider Renaissance, surveyed 1.3 million kids and found they read more than 27m books in the last academic year, up 24 per cent on 2020-2021.

However, it also sounded a note of caution, recognising that reading comprehension declined in the transition from primary to secondary school, and suggesting older readers need to take on harder books more suited to their age.

The news coincides with a resurgence of bookshops in the UK, and a record year for the UK publishing industry.

A toymaker brought diversity to playtime

Mattel has launched a Barbie with Down’s syndrome to “celebrate inclusion”. The US toy giant said it consulted medical professionals to ensure the doll accurately represents women with the condition. 

Ellie Goldstein, a British model with Down’s syndrome, was chosen as an ambassador for the new Barbie. “When I saw the doll I felt so emotional and proud,” Goldstein wrote on Instagram. “It means a lot to me that children will be able to play with the doll and learn that everyone is different.”

The Barbie’s launch coincides with Goldstein’s appearance on the cover of Vogue. “Never give up on your hopes, dreams and aspirations,” she told the magazine. “My disability never stops me.”

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