January is often regarded as something of a downbeat month after the holiday season, with little to recommend it. However, in fact, there were plenty of positive news stories that made it into the press this January. Ed Gould shares his top ten inspirational news items that are full of hope and happiness.


1. Belize Ends Oil Operations

In an effort to protect one of the largest barrier reefs on the planet, the state of Belize has banned all oil operations in its territorial waters. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the suspension of drilling and exploration for oil – which came into effect in January – will help to safeguard the future of around 1,400 different species. According to a WWF reef scientist, the government of Belize has stepped up to become a world leader in ocean protection by ending all oil industry activity in its waters. The move marks a significant step forward for 'people power' and was brought about by a public campaign supported by around 450,000 people. The WWF is now expected to target other governments with valuable reef colonies in its oceanic waters.


2. World Record Wind Power in Denmark

According to an announcement made by the Danish Ministry of Energy, Utilities and Climate, the country is on track to exceed its carbon reduction target set by the European Union thanks to its take up of wind power. Reuters reported that the use of wind power has been so successful in the country that it accounted for 43.4% of all the electricity consumed there last year. The International Energy Agency praised Denmark's efforts, which mark it out as a global leader in de-carbonisation.

The Bright Side: January - The Good Things That Happened - happiness.org
Wind turbines: almost half of all electricity consumed in Denmark was generated by wind power


3. Robots Take Over Blood Deliveries in Africa

The Guardian reported in January that a robotics firm has helped to slash the delivery times of blood needed for transfusions in Rwanda thanks to their innovative drone delivery systems. Zipline, a tech company in the US, teamed up with the Rwandan health ministry to deliver blood parcels in rural areas of the state. In many cases, this brought down the number of time patients had to wait for their precious blood for as little as 30 minutes. The high-tech drone deliveries are thought to have saved many lives – including those of infants in childbirth – since the work began. The government of Tanzania is currently in talks with Zipline about providing similar services to their population.


4. Passenger Air Travel Continues to Set Safety Records

The Civil Aviation Safety Review for 2017 was released in January. According to the Netherlands consultancy that produced the industry-wide report, passenger air travel has never been better. In positive news that all nervous flyers will want to take on board, in fact, jet passenger travel in 2017 was the safest on record. The report's author stated that the chance of a passenger on a jet being involved in a fatal accident is now as low as one in 16 million, making air travel just about the safest of all transportation options.


5. LGBT Weddings Boost Congregation Numbers

Although it's often reported how congregation numbers across the Western world are in a steady decline, a positive news story in the Telegraph may offer hope to faithful worshippers who feel they are becoming increasingly sidelined. Their report focused on a study by the University of Leeds and York in which churches which carry out LBGT weddings and who actively engage in that community tend to pick up more followers. By opting into the LBGT community, the study argues, churches are successfully able to market themselves as inclusive places of worship.

The Bright Side: January - The Good Things That Happened - happiness.com
By attracting the LGBT community, churches are appearing to become more inclusive


6. Brain Functions Similar in Friends, Science Reveals

Have you ever noticed how close friends might finish off each other's sentences or know how the other is thinking without exchanging words? It might not just be pure empathy, but to do with our neural networks, according to a report in the LA Times. Following a study programme that placed people in an MRI machine, it was found that similarity in brain functions was associated with an increased likelihood of friendship in a correlation that the scientists called 'dramatic'. The work was conducted by a team from UCLA and Dartmouth College.


7. Ear Growth Hope for Children With Microtia

According to the esteemed journal Ebio Medicine, Chinese researchers have found a new way to help children suffering from microtia. The condition means that their outer ears do not develop normally or, in some cases, form at all. The scientific work has led to a new way of creating a prosthetic ear that the body won't reject. Basically, health professionals use a 3-D printing model using cells taken from the body of the patient. Not only does it bring happiness to the children who undergo treatment, but it helps to improve hearing function, too.


8. Curry Improves Memory, Study Shows

For some, nothing brings greater happiness than a delicately spiced curry. Indian cuisine is popular all over the globe, but new research indicates that curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, may improve memory functions. In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study that ran for 18 months, a 28% memory improvement was found in tests given to those involved with the trial. Doctor Gary Small, the director of geriatric psychiatry at UCLA's Longevity Centre, said that the outcome may be as a result of curcumin's noted ability to reduce brain inflammation.

Curry: tastes great and may boost your memory power too! 

9. Fur Farming Ban Announced in Norway

There were some 340 fur farms operating in Norway with no limit on their future until the Norwegian Animal Rights Organisation announced in January that the activity would soon be outlawed. Thanks to a 30-year campaign against farming animals for their fur, the practice will be banned. Reuters reported that farming of animals such as fox and mink will no longer be possible from 2025.


10. Humpback Whales Spotted in New York

New York City may not seem the obvious place to see these majestic ocean-going creatures. However, according to Popular Science magazine, humpback whales are now often spotted in the waters surrounding one of the world's greatest metropolises. Demonstrating just how clean the city has become and how little water contamination there now is, the return of humpbacks to this area means that sufficient food must be available to them. It's thought the whales feed on zooplankton in the ocean around the city whilst migrating to the Caribbean Sea. Legislation that led to cleaner waters has taken time to yield results, but campaigners point out that the numerous sightings of humpbacks represent a long-term success. 


Photos: Colourbox.com, Unsplash


Written by Ed Gould

ed-gould.jpgEd Gould is a UK-based journalist and freelance writer. He is a practitioner of Reiki.



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