As one year closes and another begins it is important to seek out the good news stories of the past year. Our news is saturated with negative stories and our tendency to reflect on life’s negatives will often get in the way of hearing about all the good things that have happened. So, enjoy just a few highlights of 2022.
The list of endangered species continued to grow at an alarming rate, but some creatures bounced back from the brink in 2022, proving that extinction is not inevitable.
Beavers, bison and pelicans were among the species identified as having made a recovery according to the trend by the Wildlife Comeback Report, published in September. Most are the subject of reintroduction programmes. Other notable success stories include the rhino’s return to Mozambique and a resurgence of fin whales.
The year drew to a close with the news that nations have struck a deal to protect a third of the planet for nature by 2030. In California, a swathe of redwood forest was handed back to the descendants of Native American tribes; Ecuador ruled that indigenous communities must be given more autonomy over their territory; Europe removed a record number of dams, returning hundreds of rivers to their original free-flowing state. Meanwhile, in Brazil, the incoming president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, pledged to halt deforestation and revive the Amazon Fund.
More progress in LGBTQ+ discrimination was seen in Greece and Israel which became the latest countries to ban conversion therapy, Slovenia ruled that its ban on same-sex marriages was unconstitutional and Singapore pledged to decriminalise homosexuality. And in the US, Congress approved legislation guaranteeing federal recognition of gay and interracial marriage.
An Army physiotherapist from Derby became the first woman of colour to ski alone to the South Pole. Preet Chandi, or “Polar Preet”, completed the 700-mile journey in 40 days, braving temperatures of -50C and finishing five days ahead of schedule. She was “proud”, she said, to be “an Indian woman doing something that isn’t expected. Everybody starts somewhere, and the more you do, the more you realise you’re capable of.”
Britain’s longest-married couple celebrated their 81st wedding anniversary. Ron and Joyce Bond, 102 and 100 respectively, fell in love at first sight and married in 1941, aged 21 and 19. “We never expected to reach 81 years,” said Joyce. “It feels excellent! The couple, who have two children (as well as grand, great-grand and great-great-grandchildren) marked the milestone with a cream tea at their retirement village in Milton Keynes.
A new antiviral treatment for Covid was announced by the government. Pfizer’s Paxlovid drug, which was first approved in December 2021, was shown in trials to cut the risk of being hospitalised or dying of Covid by 88%. Around 1.3 million vulnerable people became eligible to receive the pill if they tested positive.
Joe Biden signed a bipartisan bill to award a Congressional Gold Medal to the only all-black, all-female battalion to have served overseas in the Second World War. The 850 or so women of the 6888th Central Postal Directory Battalion (known as the Six Triple Eight) were mainly stationed in the West Midlands, where they worked around the clock in unheated warehouses, sorting millions of letters and packages sent to US troops. Only six are still alive, including Fannie Griffin McClendon, 101. “It never occurred to me we would even be considered for a medal of any kind,” she said.
Greenfinch populations have plummeted since 1993 because of an outbreak of trichomonosis, a parasitic disease that makes it hard for the birds to swallow. But this year’s Big Garden Birdwatch survey, organised by the RSPB, offered “a glimmer of hope” that populations may finally be recovering. Volunteers contributing to the survey spotted 8% more greenfinches this year than last year.
Nasa released the first images captured by its $10bn James Webb telescope in July. The images, offer the most detailed view to date of the early universe and were unveiled by Joe Biden, who hailed it as a “historic moment” for mankind.
A Ukrainian woman was named as one of the four winners of the Fields Medal, a prize awarded every four years to outstanding mathematicians under the age of 40. Maryna Viazovska, who was only the second female recipient of the prestigious award, won it for proving the best way to pack spheres in eight dimensions.
Scientists have developed genetically modified soya beans whose yields are 25% larger than those of unmodified crops. The hope is that the crops could increase farmers’ incomes in poorer countries, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The team delivered a boost to the plants’ yields by modifying three genes to make their leaves more responsive to lower light conditions.
The Nottinghamshire village of Keyworth has created ‘highways’ for hedgehogs. 42 holes in their garden walls and fences have allowed hedgehogs to roam and, in some cases, have appeared after an absence of 30 years. Residents say it has helped restore a sense of community to the area.
The co-founders of BioNTech, the German company that partnered with Pfizer show that research leading from the rapid production of mRNA Covid-19 vaccines and patient immune system response has led to breakthroughs in the development of potential new treatments for certain types of cancer. Indeed, Uğur Şahin said cancer vaccines based on mRNA might be ready to use in patients “before 2030”
A cure for the most common form of dementia could be close after a drug was proven for the first time to slow the onset of the disease. A study showed that lecanemab, which is delivered as a fortnightly intravenous drip, slowed memory decline by 27% over 18 months by locating and eliminating a toxic protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
A vaccine to treat brain cancer tumours was found to have “astonishing” results in a phase-three trial. A form of immunotherapy, the treatment works by teaching the patients’ white blood cells to recognise tumours and attack them – “almost like training a sniffer dog”, said trial investigator Professor Keyoumars Ashkan.
Written by Emma Browning, our pastoral and wellbeing lead at Livability Millie College. Emma has supported people to improve their wellbeing for over 20 years. Emma says: “Wellbeing is something woven through Livability’s work and I’ll be sharing some wellbeing themes and approaches in these blogs. My hope is that you enjoy reading them and they build a strong foundation for your wellbeing”