January is one of the gloomiest months in the calendar where, in the northern hemisphere at least, it's often cold, grey and wet. However, the past month was full of feel-good news to brighten your day. Not all of these stories got the mainstream attention they deserved, so what were some of the good news items you may not have noticed?
According to a report in Yale Environment 360, indigenous tribespeople in Panama have won a court ruling that will put them in charge of a vast area of almost pristine forest. The country's Supreme Court found in favour of the Naso people in their claims to the forest, situated in one of Panama's semi-autonomous regions. The indigenous Americans had feared that the area would be developed and that the ancient areas of forest would come under threat. At least two large national parks will now come under the control of the Naso people as a result of the ruling.
Rain forest in Panama shutterstock/Angel deBilio
The American pharmaceutical firm Lilly announced in January that it had good results from the mid-stage of its long-term drug trial in the fight against Alzheimer's disease. The company reckons that its experimental treatment has slowed the rate of mental decline in patients by, on average, as much as one third. Almost 300 people with the disease have been taking part in the study over the last 18 months. A beta-amyloid called N3pG is at the heart of the treatment, something Lilly thinks will be cleared rapidly by the regulators once the full field trial is completed.
Many media outlets reported a breakthrough in January that was announced by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT scientists have been able to grow a wooden material from plant cells that can be put to a wide range of uses, including furniture making. Given that wood is such an adaptable and widely used material, there is little doubt that people will need it for decades to come. However, that has always come with a cost in terms of deforestation. The lab-grown wood could offer a way forward with traditional woodwork without the need to chop down trees.
A German think tank reported in January that clean energy had overtaken reliance on fossil fuels in three European countries for the first time in 2020. Germany led the way with its uptake of solar power, while wind farms were the mainstay of the UK's efforts. The think tank's report found that electrical generation from coal fell across Europe by a further 20 per cent last year while reliance on nuclear production also dropped by about 10 per cent.
Less fossil fuels, more wind farms shutterstock/TedNab
A streak of upwardly discharging blue lightning has been detected for the first time from the International Space Station, according to numerous press outlets. The European Space Agency said that the phenomenon will help scientists to understand the ways in which greenhouse gases behave in the upper atmosphere because the blue flashes of light seem to be connected to them in the ionosphere. A European-made instrument on the space station has been looking for these discharges for some time because they are not observable from Earth. Until now, scientists had only been able to theorise about them.
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Ed Gould is a UK-based journalist and practitioner of Reiki.
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