There was hope for stabilising the climate, a ‘magic’ treatment for depression showed promise, and a map revealed the extent of global rewilding, plus more positive news.
A landmark study offered fresh hope for the climate
After last week’s alarming report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there was some positive news at last – for the first time nations appear to be on track to keep heating to below 2C.
Analysis of the net-zero pledges made by countries last year at COP26 suggests that the world will limit warming to 1.9C if (and that’s a big ‘if’) states make good on their promises. The research, published in Nature, is the first peer-review study to quantify the climate impact of the updated emissions pledges.
“When adding up the pledges of countries just a year ago, we couldn’t see 2C being within reach,” said lead author, Malte Meinshausen of the University of Melbourne. “That has changed. Keeping the global temperature rise to just below 2C seems possible now.”
However, the researchers warned that we are unlikely to keep warming below 1.5C unless countries rapidly and substantially upgrade their emissions reductions targets. Scientists consider 1.5C the safe upper limit for warming, though even in that scenario floods, droughts and wildfires will become more common.
An all-female newsroom launched in Somalia
A newsroom comprised exclusively of women has launched in Somalia to provide a female perspective on the country, which ranks among the world’s lowest for gender equality.
The Bilan newsgroup is aimed at society as a whole and is led by journalist Nasrin Mohamed Ibrahim. “Women are expected to babble all they like in the kitchen, but to keep their mouths firmly shut in public,” she wrote in the Guardian, outlining the obstacles she hopes to overcome.
Ibrahim added: “Never before have Somali female journalists been given the freedom, opportunity and power to decide what stories they want to tell and how they want to tell them.”
Indonesia outlawed forced marriage
Justice campaigners rejoiced this week as forced marriage and sexual harassment were finally made illegal in Indonesia.
On Tuesday, lawmakers passed legislation criminalising nine forms of sexual violence, including physical and verbal assault, harassment and forced sterilisation.
The laws also include prison terms for forced marriage, sexual exploitation and the circulation of non-consensual sexual content.
Psilocybin was found to ‘open up’ depressed brains
More evidence has emerged that suggests psychedelics could be an effective treatment for depression.
Researchers at Imperial College London published the results of two studies this week. Their findings? That psilocybin – the active compound in magic mushrooms – could help people with depression ‘break out of a rut’ in a way that traditional therapies cannot.
Prof Robin Carhart-Harris, who led the research, said: “In previous studies, we had seen a similar effect in the brain when people were scanned whilst on a psychedelic, but here we’re seeing it weeks after treatment.”
A map revealed global rewilding efforts
From Scotland to South Africa, rewilders are rolling back the years for nature by restoring habitats. Keeping track of their efforts can be tricky – but not anymore.
The Global Rewilding Alliance and OpenForests have launched an online map to showcase rewilding projects around the world. The idea is to highlight what progress has been made and inspire others to get involved.
Users can click on pins to see photographs and videos of what has been achieved and read more about the organisations behind the efforts.
“It creates inspiration but also gives the confidence that something’s really happening there,” Alexander Watson, CEO of OpenForests, told Mongabay.
Wooden bodyboards hit the waves
In the context of the global plastic pollution crisis, polystyrene bodyboards might seem like small fry. But thousands of the things are discarded annually in the UK alone, posing a risk to marine life.
Riding to the rescue is the Newquay-based startup Surf Wood to Good, which is lending beachgoers free, UK-made wooden boards at locations across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Jamie Johnstone, its founder, decided to act after seeing piles of broken polystyrene bodyboards at his local beach. “I wanted to offer a sustainable alternative to those disposable boards,” he said. “I wanted to make a version that lasts forever.”
England got a new river bathing site
A stretch of the River Thames in Oxford has been designated an official river bathing site. It’s only the second river in England to be classified as such, the other being the River Wharfe in West Yorkshire.
The designation means the site will be tested regularly for bacteria, boosting transparency in an area where sewage discharge has been a problem. It also puts a duty on landowners, the council and Thames Water to improve the water quality.
Michelle Walker of the Rivers Trust said: “We are absolutely delighted that England has a long-overdue second river bathing site. This is a real positive for people and wildlife.”
Wales got its first breast milk bank
A breast milk bank has opened in Wales to help sick and premature babies whose mothers are not able to produce enough themselves.
Welsh hospitals had to rely on deliveries from England before the facility in Swansea opened this week.
Women with milk to spare will be able to donate it to the city’s Singleton Hospital.
A free book festival launched in London
Access to literature is something many of us take for granted, but the closure of libraries and the cost of living crisis have made it harder for some people to access books.
A new festival aims to address that. Launching in Peckham, London this weekend, Free Books Fest features literature workshops and a bookshop where all tomes are free.
The event is organised by the Free Books Campaign, which aims to help ‘excluded readers’ discover the joys of literature.
“Books can help us understand our place in the world, they can be our escape and they can be our home,” said the campaign’s founder Sofia Akel. “Everyone deserves the chance to read books that they love.”