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People Fixing the World


tories about clever or big new ideas to solve global problems – and probing if these solutions actually work. A podcast from the BBC World Hacks team.

tories about clever or big new ideas to solve global problems – and probing if these solutions actually work. A podcast from the BBC World Hacks team.
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tories about clever or big new ideas to solve global problems – and probing if these solutions actually work. A podcast from the BBC World Hacks team.




Can capturing carbon buy us time to tackle climate change?

To prevent the worst effects of climate change, we need to massively cut how much carbon we pump into the atmosphere. But those carbon cuts might not happen in time, so another approach may be needed. Around the world, scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs are working on ways to give us more time to change our way of life. They’re developing technologies and techniques that effectively do climate change in reverse. Instead of pumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, they suck it in and...


Can sleep deprivation help treat bipolar disorder?

People diagnosed with bipolar disorder are commonly treated with a variety of drugs. They aren’t always effective and can come with a range of side effects. For several decades, an Italian psychiatrist has been pioneering a different approach. By asking his patients to stay awake for 36 hours three times over the course of a week – and combining the counterintuitive idea with bright light therapy and lithium – he has found that some of them demonstrate a remarkable improvement in mood, which...


Audience takeover: Your plastic solutions

We hear what you, our listeners, are doing to tackle the problem of plastic waste. The idea came about when you started getting in touch after a previous episode asking why we don’t reuse and refill the plastic containers we’ve already got. (The Reuse and Refill Revolution: Tuesday 23 April.) Since then you’ve sent lots of alternative ideas and suggestions. Nick Holland and Kat Hawkins hear from shoppers cutting down on packaging by buying in bulk, people organising litter-picking trips to...


Reinventing the ranch

It’s not a good time to be a meat eater. Pressure is growing to tackle climate change – and the livestock sector produces 15% of global greenhouse emissions, with cattle farming accounting for two thirds of that. Not only do cows produce damaging methane gas, but creating pasture for the animals has led to widespread deforestation. Nowhere is this more evident than in Colombia: 34 million hectares of land there is devoted to cattle ranching. The land that’s been cleared to graze cattle is...


Working Less For The Same Pay

Matsuri Takahashi was 24 when she died. She took her own life after doing more than 100 hours overtime a month at a large advertising company in Japan. She was a victim of karoshi - dying as a result of overwork. It’s a phenomenon that’s well known in Japan where stories of employees working ridiculously long hours – sometimes until four or five in the morning - are common. The government has introduced a new law to limit overtime, although critics say it doesn’t go far enough and the whole...


Could a device invented in the 1930s help end period poverty?

Period poverty affects girls and women across the world who can’t afford to buy sanitary pads or tampons each month. So what are the alternatives? We look at two very different solutions. In a refugee camp in Jordan, we follow one woman as she tries to get a sanitary pad micro-factory off the ground. While in Malawi, they’re handing out menstrual cups to teenagers - which last for 10 years and don’t produce any waste. Presenter: Vibeke Venema Producer: Tom Colls (Photo Caption: A menstrual...


The tree detectives tackling illegal logging

If you examine the atoms in a piece of wood, you can tell to the nearest 10km where it has come from. Environmental factors, such as the climate, affect trees as they grow and that signature remains in the wood after it is processed. An international group of scientists is hoping to use this information to tackle illegal logging, which contributes to a loss of biodiversity and costs governments billions of dollars in lost revenues each year. It’s thought that up to 30% of timber on the...


The reuse and refill revolution

Should we reuse and refill plastic packaging to limit the amount being thrown away? Nick Holland looks at different ways people are trying to make this happen. One idea is to take used containers back to the supermarkets where, in the future, giant vending machines could refill them. But the scale of the challenge is huge and getting consumers to change their shopping habits will be hard. Presenter: Tom Colls Producer and Reporter: Nick Holland (Photo Credit: BBC)


DNA tests for dogs to tackle problem poo

The average dog produces about 124kg of poo every year, but not all of that gets picked up and disposed of properly. So people living in many residential blocks in the US have had their dogs’ DNA registered on a database, in an attempt to tackle problem poo. If they don’t pick up after their dog, a sample of what’s left behind is sent off to a lab so the perpetrator can be identified. The company behind the tests says it works well in private, gated communities but what about public parks...


The great mosquito swap

Every year, it’s estimated that nearly 400 million people around the world are infected with dengue fever, a potentially fatal illness that’s passed on by mosquitoes. No vaccine is effective at preventing people catching the disease, but what if the mosquitoes themselves were treated to stop them spreading it? In one city that is severely affected – Medellin in Colombia — an ambitious project is underway to swap wild mosquitoes for a variety that is identical in every way, but with one...


The mums saving each other from a taboo condition

"Get rid of the girl who smells" - this is the reaction thousands of traumatised new mothers face every year. A prolonged or obstructed childbirth can lead to a condition called obstetric fistula, where women are left incontinent, continually leaking urine and faeces. Without treatment they often become socially isolated. But in Madagascar, some women who have successfully been treated for fistula become patient ambassadors. They travel on foot to remote villages to find and help others with...


Can phages save us as antibiotics stop working?

Tens of thousands of people die every year because bacterial infections are becoming resistant to antibiotics. That number is expected to explode, as more antibiotics stop working, making antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, one of the gravest health threats facing humanity. But could viruses come to the rescue? Bacteriophages, or phages for short, are viruses that infect and kill bacteria. They were discovered 100 years ago and have been used to treat infections for decades in Georgia. But...


The digital detectives tackling child sexual abuse

Europol, the EU's law enforcement agency, is taking an innovative approach to solving disturbing crimes. It holds more than 40 million images of child sexual abuse. In many cases the perpetrators remain at large, and their victims unidentified. By posting parts of those photos online - with the abusers and their victims removed - they are hoping members of the public can help them find out where the crimes took place, and so trace the perpetrators. Around the world, ordinary people are...


Crossing divides in Cyprus

Cyprus has been divided since 1974, but a community centre is bringing Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots together in the buffer zone between the two sides. Cyprus has been a divided island since 1974, with Turkish Cypriots living in the north and Greek Cypriots in the south. The two communities have been able to cross the island at police checkpoints since 2003, but memories of past conflict have held many back. However, one unique community centre is bringing people together right in the...


Last video messages to help children grieve

Children who lose a parent may struggle to come to terms with this for the rest of their lives. In the UK about one in 20 children will lose a parent before the age of 16. In other countries, the figure is even higher. However, Gaby Eirew thinks she has a solution that can help. She works in counselling, often dealing with childhood trauma. Using that experience she has created a free app that has been downloaded in more than 30 countries around the world. It helps parents to create an...


Turning old clothes into new ones

It’s estimated that 400 billion square metres of fabric are made every year – enough to cover Germany – for the fashion industry. The sector produces a similar amount of greenhouse gases to the international airline and shipping industries combined. The two most-used materials are cotton and polyester. Growing cotton requires a vast amount of land and water, and often chemicals too. Polyester is a by-product of the oil industry which has a massive environmental impact. But after clothing has...


Predicting suicide

About 800,000 people take their own lives every year, that’s one person every 40 seconds, according to the World Health Organization. For decades, doctors and researchers have tried to establish the key risk factors that identify someone as being at risk of suicide - depression, drug addiction and low social support have all been proposed - but research shows that no one variable gives doctors a useful steer. This makes it very difficult for mental health professionals to predict who might...


‘No Men Allowed’ – The Gym Getting Women Fit and into Work

In 2006, Turkish entrepreneur Bedriye Hülya set up her first women-only gym, b-fit. It’s cheap to join and is now a successful chain. Many women in Turkey don’t feel comfortable exercising alongside men and their male relatives may not allow them to use mixed gyms, so b-fit is a place where they can go. Women in Turkey are more likely to be overweight than men, according to government statistics, and the World Health Organization says nearly two thirds don’t get enough exercise. All the gyms...


How Nepal Doubled its Tiger Population

Over the past 10 years, Nepal has almost doubled its population of Bengal tigers – it’s estimated the country now has 235 of the magnificent beasts. After years of decline, a combination of smart strategies has turned the tide. The army runs anti-poacher teams, using CCTV, data monitoring and elephant patrols. Income from tourism is channelled to communities bordering the park to build fences to protect them from wildlife and create business opportunities to make poaching less attractive....


The shopping mall where everything is recycled

There are 14 specialist shops at the Retuna shopping mall in Eskilstuna, Sweden, but they all have one thing in common. Every item for sale in the shopping centre is second-hand. The clever thing about this mall is its location. It is right next to the city’s refuse and recycling centre. When people come to drop off mattresses and cardboard, they also pass by the mall’s basement to leave unwanted items that can be resold – or indeed items that can be ‘upcycled’, given a new lease of life as...