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POSITIVE NEWS - What went right this week: a soaring conservation success, plus more positive news

Posted 18th June 2021 • Written by •

Scotland celebrated a conservation success story, the real winner of the Euros was revealed, and scientists found a novel use for plastic, plus the week’s other positive news

Eagles returned to Loch Lomond after 100 years

Twitchers are aflutter this week after white-tailed eagles were spotted at Loch Lomond for the first time in over a century. A pair of the raptors were seen ‘nest prospecting’, suggesting they intend to stay. 

Persecution and habitat changes pushed the birds to extinction in the UK in the early 20th century. However, subsequent reintroductions have seen them recolonise Scotland where there are now believed to be more than 150 breeding pairs.

Paul Roberts, operations manager of NatureScot, Scotland’s nature agency, said: “This is the latest chapter in the continuing success story of sea eagle conservation.”

Migration was declared the real winner of the Euros

With the Euros getting under way last weekend, a campaign kicked off to highlight how migration has shaped the beautiful game. Launched by London’s Migration Museum, Football Moves People aims to tackle racist sentiment at matches and beyond. 

The billboard and social media campaign comes as boos ring out from the stands at some matches while footballers take the knee in an anti-racism gesture. 

All nations competing in the Euros have squad members who are playing outside of their home countries. The museum’s campaign celebrates migrants that shaped the sport, and highlights how different teams would look were it not for migration.

“It’s no exaggeration to say that without migration, football as we know it wouldn’t exist,” said Robyn Kasozi, head of public engagement at the Migration Museum. “It’s time to put migration at the heart of our national conversations, and with tens of millions of us watching the Euros this summer, where better to start than with football?”

London’s ‘front door’ is to get a radical revamp

Anyone who has jostled for space on its crowded pavements, or had to breathe its toxic air will attest to Oxford Circus being an uninspiring place to visit. But not for much longer, perhaps.

This week, plans were unveiled to turn London’s busiest shopping area into a series of leafy, pedestrian-only piazzas. Space clawed back from cars will feature trees and seating to encourage people to linger.

The pandemic appears to have hastened efforts to make city centres more pleasant for pedestrians. In Paris, plans were recently announced to turn the traffic-choked Champs-Élysées into an ‘extraordinary garden’. Madrid, Barcelona and Birmingham are among the other cities with proposals to reclaim the public realm from cars. 

Plastic was converted into vanilla flavouring

Like modern-day alchemists, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have found a way of turning plastic waste into safe-to-eat vanilla flavouring. How appetising that will be remains to be seen. 

The process uses lab-engineered E. coli bacteria to convert polyethylene terephthalate into vanillin, which is is the primary component of extracted vanilla beans and is responsible for the characteristic taste and smell of vanilla.

Researchers said the discovery highlights the role of microbial science is the burgeoning circular economy. 

Stephen Wallace of the University of Edinburgh, who worked on the research, said: “This is the first time that bacteria have been used to make vanillin from plastic waste. This is exciting to us as it means we can also turn plastic into other useful chemicals in an environmentally friendly way.”

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