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People Fixing the World

Brilliant solutions to the world’s problems. We meet people with ideas to make the world a better place and investigate whether they work.

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  • 14.09.2021
    11 MB
    24:31
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    The hotel for homeless people

    What would happen if the government of a country decided to try to find everyone who was homeless and living on the streets and offer them a place to live? That is exactly what happened in England as the coronavirus pandemic hit. The government says 90% of rough sleepers were offered rooms in hotels that sat empty because of the lockdown. Simon Maybin spent the past year and a half following the lives of some of the people who came to live in a Holiday Inn hotel in Manchester. Image: A guest at the Holiday Inn.

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  • 07.09.2021
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    23:56
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    The library where the books are people

    At the human library you borrow a person you wouldn’t usually meet for a half-hour frank conversation. The volunteers have various book titles from polyamorous to former prisoner. The aim of these face-to-face chats is to break down our assumptions and prejudices. We explore whether simple discussions can make a difference. Produced and presented by Claire Bates. Picture: Ronni Abergel, Human Library

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  • 31.08.2021
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    23:50
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    Ways to save the planet: Fridge detectives

    Two sources of greenhouse gas could be lurking in your kitchen: rice and fridges. We meet a biologist breeding climate-friendly rice, and a team of detectives whose job is to stop fearsomely potent fridge gases escaping into the atmosphere. Produced and presented by Jo Mathys and Tom Heap.

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  • 24.08.2021
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    23:56
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    Ways to save the planet: Swap concrete for wood

    Wood is strong enough to build skyscrapers, and bamboo - the fastest growing plant in the world - can also be used for building. Both suck up large amounts of greenhouse gas. We find out what would happen if we used these materials instead of concrete in construction. Produced and presented by Jo Mathys and Tom Heap. Picture: Moelven

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  • 17.08.2021
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    23:51
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    The seaweed farmers adapting to warming seas

    Seaweed - we have been using it for centuries in food and toiletries. It can help to keep toothpaste and ice cream soft, as well as being a tasty snack. It is a billion-dollar industry. But in some parts of the world, supply of the crop has decreased dramatically due to climate change. Now people in Zanzibar are fighting back. They are learning new methods of farming seaweed in deeper, cooler waters. It is boosting the amount of seaweed they can grow and improving their livelihoods as a result.Produced and presented by Celestina Olulode. Additional production by Esther Namuhisa and Nicholaus Mtenga.

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  • 10.08.2021
    11 MB
    23:36
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    Locust hunters

    People in Kenya have been paid to catch swarms of locusts eating farmers’ crops. The insects are full of protein and the captured ones are ground up and put into animal feed. The BBC’s Nick Holland and Claire Bates find out what tricks these 'locust hunters' use to catch the critters and what difference the cull makes. They also hear about a way of capturing tiny micro-plastic particles that come off car tyres and delve into a clever project feeding homeless people in Mumbai. Written and produced by Nick Holland Presented by Nick Holland and Claire BatesImage Credit: Getty Images

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  • 03.08.2021
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    23:45
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    Turning preachers into LGBT allies

    The LGBT community in Mombasa, Kenya has suffered from violent mob attacks in recent years - often fuelled by influential preachers spreading messages of hate. But one group decided to tackle this in a remarkable way: they have directly engaged with faith leaders. In carefully controlled meetings the pastors and imams get to know LGBT people and have their misconceptions challenged. This has led to a big reduction in violence. Now many of those religious leaders use their influence to help the LGBT community fight discrimination wherever they find it. Produced and presented by Richard Kenny Picture: Getty Images

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  • 27.07.2021
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    23:46
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    The ATMs that dispense clean fuel

    Sleek blue machines have been popping up in convenience stores across Nairobi over the past two years. These “Koko points” look like cash machines but instead of giving out money they dispense bioethanol, a fuel made from plants which can be used in cooking stoves.At the moment 80% of Kenyans use wood or charcoal as their main cooking fuel – but these materials have a devastating impact on the environment, and the smoke causes hundreds of deaths every week. Koko’s high-tech solution offers Kenyans a cleaner alternative, although it means a move away from some dearly-held customs. Reporter: Mercy Juma Producer: William Kremer

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  • 22.07.2021
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    18:05
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    Introducing: Season 2 of 30 Animals That Made Us Smarter

    How animals make us smarter – we thought you might like to hear our brand new episode. It’s about a robotic arm inspired by an elephant’s trunk.For more, search for 30 Animals That Made Us Smarter wherever you get your podcasts.#30Animals

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  • 20.07.2021
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    23:50
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    Unsung victories in the fight against disease

    Recent years have seen remarkable successes against some of the most unpleasant illnesses on the planet. While much of the world’s focus has been on the fight against Covid-19, the battle against other diseases rages on. From the battle against hepatitis C in Egypt, to the war against metre-long parasitic worms, to the near elimination of sleeping sickness in the Ivory Coast, we hear the good news that you might have missed. Produced and presented by Tom Colls Image: Treating sleeping sickness in the Ivory Coast (Credit: Vincent Jamouneau)

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  • 13.07.2021
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    23:46
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    How five friends can change a refugee’s life

    Dutch friends Evelien and Roel are part of a group sharing their social networks and local knowledge with Laila, a Syrian refugee, and her family. They’re taking part in a pilot project in the Netherlands called Samen Hier, which matches locals and newcomers. The idea is to help people who live nearby get to know one another and encourage integration. Produced and presented by Claire Bates Picture: Getty Images

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  • 06.07.2021
    11 MB
    23:40
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    The great mosquito swap

    A large study published in June showed how a peculiar intervention could help prevent the spread of dengue fever. Instead of vaccinating people, the World Mosquito Program has found a way to breed mosquitoes carrying bacteria that prevent them catching the disease in the first place. The organisation releases millions of these designer mosquitos into a city with the aim of displacing the wild population and protecting the human residents. People Fixing the World saw the method in action in Colombia in 2019 – this is another chance to hear that report, and get an update. Presenter: Tom Colls Reporter / Producer: William Kremer (Photo Caption: The Aedes Aegypti Mosquito / Photo Credit: Getty Images)

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  • 29.06.2021
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    26:30
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    The career where it helps to have a criminal past

    Former criminals are being employed to run part of the probation system in one of America’s deeply troubled, gang-ridden communities. It’s a bold new approach to crime prevention, and it seems to be working - young lives are being transformed and reconviction rates are dropping.Produced and presented by Jo Mathys

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  • 22.06.2021
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    23:29
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    Test-tube rhinos

    Scientists have hatched an incredible plan to save the northern white rhino from extinction. The team is using IVF techniques to produce a calf because the only two females left alive are infertile. Nick Holland reports on how close they are to succeeding and of their hopes to eventually release a whole herd back into the wild. Produced and presented by Nick Holland

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  • 15.06.2021
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    24:08
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    Smashing the glass ceiling for young Africans

    A young Zimbabwean, Farai Munjoma, has set up a network of mentors to help Africa’s youth achieve their dreams. The idea is to link young people up with someone who can inspire and guide them as they apply to university and jobs. Reporter: Victoria Uwonkunda Producer: Jo Mathys

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  • 08.06.2021
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    23:50
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    The helpline for jealous and violent men

    This week we hear from Colombia, where a helpline with a difference recently opened. Its aim is to stop domestic violence, but instead of targeting victims, it targets the perpetrators. The idea is to get men in particular, who are struggling with jealousy, anger and other strong emotions, to phone in and get help. Produced and presented by Craig Langran Picture: Getty Images

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  • 01.06.2021
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    24:22
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    Turning the desert green

    The Sinai desert in Egypt is a dry, barren place where not much grows. But Ties van der Hoeven has come up with a scheme to turn it into a green and fertile land. It’s a plan on a huge scale which involves dredging a lake, restoring ecosystems, and even bringing back rain to the desert. He’s been inspired by a successful project to restore the Loess Plateau in China. But could it work in the Middle East?Produced and presented by Richard Kenny.Picture: Getty Images

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  • 25.05.2021
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    23:59
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    Catching up with the problem solvers

    Are stickers still saving lives? Was a coral reef repaired? Did the volcano erupt? In this episode we check back in with three projects that have featured on our programme over the past four years and find out if everything went to plan. We hear from the scientist who developed a sticker that stops car crashes, the people behind an insurance scheme for coral reefs, and find out if a plan to deliver aid before a disaster was up to the test. Producer/presenter: Tom Colls Reporters: Richard Kenny and Jo Mathys Image: The Red Cross operation in Ecuador

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  • 18.05.2021
    13 MB
    28:10
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    Regrowing the rainforest

    It has taken him 40 years, but Omar Tello has turned a patch of exhausted farmland in Ecuador back into rainforest. One of his biggest challenges was repairing the soil. His land was so degraded he had to make enough new soil - from unwanted wood shavings and chicken manure - to cover the entire plot. That alone took about 15 years. He also travelled deep into the Amazon for days at a time, looking for seeds and plants he could rescue. Now his forest is flourishing and the wildlife has returned - it is home to snakes, toucans, monkeys and many other animals. And he is sharing what he has learned to encourage others to protect the rainforests instead of cutting them down. Presented and produced by Jo Mathys.Repeat - first published 31 March 2020.

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  • 11.05.2021
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    22:59
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    Turning oil platforms into reefs

    There are thousands of oil and gas platforms in the world’s oceans and in the coming decades many will become obsolete. Some people think that instead of treating them as industrial waste, we should embrace the ecosystems they’ve created and leave them in the sea as artificial reefs. This approach has been adopted by some US states, and scientists are considering whether this could also work in the North Sea. Produced and presented by Celestina Olulode Picture: Getty Images

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  • 04.05.2021
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    23:29
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    The forest sound detectives

    Scientists are checking up on the health of forests by analysing the sounds in them. They test their vital signs by measuring the croaks, tweets and hums of resident creatures. If they can hear a full range of animals they can be confident an ecosystem is doing well. However, if gaps start to appear, it’s a sign something is up.Nick Holland hears more about how it works and how it’s being used to strike a balance between the needs of Papua New Guinea’s growing indigenous communities and the need to preserve the biodiversity of the forests they live off. Produced and presented by Nick Holland Image: The Nature Conservancy

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  • 27.04.2021
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    23:46
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    The detection dogs tracking poachers and Covid-19

    Marlo the labrador is learning how to sniff out Covid-19 in the UK. In Tanzania, Polish hound Thor is on the track of wildlife poachers. We explore how their extraordinary noses are tackling these issues and more around the globe. Produced and presented by Claire Bates

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  • 20.04.2021
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    24:01
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    Pedal power: How bicycles can change lives

    This is the story of how one man is trying to transform lives through the power of the humble bicycle. Many rural communities in rural Africa don’t have access to cars or good roads, which can make it hard to take fresh produce to market or get to school. But Wyson Lungu wants to change that with an innovative scheme to sell affordable bicycles. We follow him as he delivers a new set of bicycles to excited customers in southern Zambia. Produced and presented by Richard KennyImage: unfoldstories.co.uk

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  • 13.04.2021
    11 MB
    23:28
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    Shred it yourself: The DIY plastic recyclers

    Machines to shred, melt and mould waste plastic are popping up in workshops around the world - from the UK to Malaysia, Kenya to Mexico. The project is being led by an organisation called Precious Plastic. They put designs for the devices online for anyone to download and build themselves. More than 400 teams around the world are now taking on the challenge of plastic waste using these machines, making everything from sunglasses to plastic bricks in the process. Presented and produced by Tom Colls Image: Precious Plastic

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  • 06.04.2021
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    23:30
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    Helping animals cross the road and other obstacles

    Irrigation pipes have been designed to double as mid-air walkways to help slow lorises cross open farmland in Indonesia; and a footbridge has been built for a rare breed of monkey in Brazil - the golden lion tamarin. These are just two examples of new infrastructure designed to help wild animals cope with human obstacles. Picture credit: Little Fireface Project

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  • 30.03.2021
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    23:31
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    Watching out for Gran with help from her toaster

    As many countries contemplate the best way to care for an ageing population, a common question is how to support the elderly to continue living in their own homes for as long as possible. One idea is to monitor their use of home appliances, such as kettles and ovens. Advocates say NILM – non-intrusive load monitoring – offers family and carers an insight into a person’s daily life without invading their privacy. It could even be used to track or help diagnose long-term health conditions. Reporter William Kremer road-tests the technology with his own parents and finds out about a NILM project in Japan. Picture: Getty Images

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  • 23.03.2021
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    23:30
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    How to reuse a demolished building

    Is it possible to construct a new building, just by reusing materials from homes and offices that have been knocked down? That’s the dream of a pioneering Swiss architect Barbara Buser, who trains specialist treasure hunters to track down everything from window frames to steel beams for her buildings. People Fixing the World finds out about her latest project, which is made of 70% reused material. We ask whether Barbara’s approach, which has a much lower carbon footprint than building with new material, can take off around the world. Presenter and producer: Charlotte Horn Image: Barbara Buser’s building K118 (Copyright: Martin Zeller)

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  • 16.03.2021
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    23:30
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    Using satellite photos to help distribute cash

    Togo has found a high-tech way to identify people who need financial help in the pandemic and send them emergency cash, using satellite photos and mobile phones.Computers search for clues in images, such as the density of buildings, roofing materials and road surfaces. They combine this with data collected before the pandemic to work out how wealthy different areas are and which ones may need financial support. Produced and Presented by Hannah Gelbart Picture: Getty Images

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  • 09.03.2021
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    23:29
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    The magic greenhouse

    A greenhouse cooled and humidified by seawater and the wind is transforming arid land. In Somaliland, vegetables have been grown in a spot previously thought too hot and dry for farming. It works by creating a cool oasis that shields the plant from the heat. The designers believe if more were built, they could make Somaliland completely self-sufficient in fresh produce. Presenter Julie Ball Written and Produced by Nick Holland and Julie Ball Picture: Karl Fletcher, Seawater Greenhouse

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  • 02.03.2021
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    24:28
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    The secret to making your stuff last longer

    The world generates more than two billion tonnes of rubbish every year. So we’re visiting companies in Sweden that want to make it easier to mend things when they break instead of replacing them – whether that’s clothes, bikes or washing machines.We also hear about the country’s tax breaks designed to give people a financial incentive to repair more.Produced and presented by Maddy Savage

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  • 23.02.2021
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    24:00
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    Tackling sport’s concussion problem

    Head injuries in sport can have a devastating effect on the brain, which is often only noticed later in life. So lots of people are investigating ways of making it safer to play sports such as American football, boxing and soccer. We look at new technology including smart mouth guards and innovative helmets, and we find out about the latest medical developments that are helping people to combat the risk of brain disease. Produced and presented by Ben Wyatt

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  • 16.02.2021
    12 MB
    25:23
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    Beating superbugs

    A small team of Indian scientists think they’ve found a new way to kill superbugs. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria are killing hundreds of thousands of people every year, and that number is going up fast. But one Bangalore-based biotech company thinks they might be on the verge of a breakthrough. Produced and presented by Jo Mathys Picture: Science Photo Library

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  • 09.02.2021
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    How to store power in soil and salt

    Giant towers of building blocks rising into the sky and huge vats packed with volcanic rock or molten salt are being used as massive batteries. They are the latest ideas for storing energy generated by the sun and the wind – so you can keep the lights on when it’s dark or the wind isn’t blowing. We meet the entrepreneurs and scientists who are trying to harness the fundamental forces of physics to power the world. Presenter: Tom Colls Image: The Energy Vault tower (c/o Energy Vault)

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  • 02.02.2021
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    The breath of life

    A clever invention is saving the lives of hundreds of children.Pneumonia kills about 1.4 million children under five every year. Treatment with concentrated oxygen could save many of them, but the machines that provide it need a reliable source of electricity. Some hospitals have frequent power cuts though, which can be fatal.So scientists in Australia and Uganda came up with an innovative way to deliver oxygen when the electricity cuts out.Produced and presented by Ruth Evans.Repeat. This episode was first broadcast on 12 May 2020.

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  • 26.01.2021
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    The spacesuits saving mothers’ lives

    A suit originally designed for astronauts has been adapted to save the lives of mothers who experience bleeding after giving birth. It stems the bleeding, buying time until people in remote areas can get to hospital for treatment. Produced and presented by Craig Langran

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  • 19.01.2021
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    A forest down your street

    Forests the size of tennis courts are being planted in towns and cities around the world. They use a special method from Japan which can grow a dense forest in just a few years. At that size they won’t make much of a dent in global warming but they do have many benefits including bringing increased biodiversity into the heart of the city. Produced and presented by Richard Kenny Picture: Afforestt

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  • 12.01.2021
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    The solutions whisperer

    Dhruv Boruah’s mission is to inspire other people to solve problems facing the planet. What’s more, he gets them to come up with their ideas in just one day. But are their solutions any good and can they survive in the real world? Nick Holland went to Dhruv Boruah’s first solutions event in 2019. Two years on, he tracks down some of the people who were there to see whether anything came of their ideas. Produced and presented by Nick Holland

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  • 05.01.2021
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    23:38
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    Can doughnuts save the planet?

    Imagine a ring doughnut. This is the basis of an idea about how we could run the world in a way that gives everyone what they need - food, homes, healthcare and more - and save the planet at the same time. Economist Kate Raworth, who came up with the idea, explains how it works. And we visit projects in Amsterdam that are using the model to provide food, clothing and sustainable housing. Produced and presented by Anna Holligan.

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  • 29.12.2020
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    What happened next to our problem solvers

    We revisit Lewis to find out how the hydrating sweets he designed for people with dementia have gone into production. We find out how a housing project where residents have to promise to socialise has coped with Covid. And the latest from a pharmacist in the Netherlands - after a setback, her operation to make cheap medication for her patients has started up again. Produced and presented by Claire Bates

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  • 22.12.2020
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    Saving mums and their unborn babies

    Women in a village in Northern Nigeria have come up with an emergency transport scheme that is saving lives. They decided to act when they saw mums-to-be and their unborn babies dying in childbirth because they couldn’t get to hospital in time. Their solution also inspired the state government to help thousands of other women. Produced and presented by Bara’atu Ibrahim

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  • 15.12.2020
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    Making meat in a lab

    Imagine if the meat we ate was all grown in shiny silver vats, with no animals harmed in the process. That’s the vision of start-ups around the world, each trying to perfect lab-grown or cultured meat. It’s a huge challenge in bioengineering to make it work at a cheap enough price. But there are big benefits for the planet if they can pull it off. Presented by Amy Elizabeth Produced by Amy Elizabeth and Tom Colls Image: Lab-grown meat produced by Memphis Meat

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  • 08.12.2020
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    Building with fungi

    Companies are growing light and durable packaging from mycelium that is easy to compost. Another team in Europe is creating a fungal home, which will sense when it’s dark and switch the lights on. And researchers in the UK are developing strains of fungi that won’t just replace plastic, but eat it as well.Produced and presented by Claire BatesPicture: Getty Images

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  • 01.12.2020
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    Perovskites: The future of solar?

    A new kind of solar cell - made by drying a special liquid on a surface - is being heralded as a revolution in solar power.The minerals known as perovskites were discovered more than 150 years ago. More recently, their crystal structure has been copied using other materials and used to produce energy.If it can be made to work, these crystals could be used to literally print out solar cells to put on skyscraper walls, furniture and electrical gadgets.Produced and presented by Tom CollsImage: Olga from Saule Technology

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  • 25.11.2020
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    Riding the solar railway

    Can you make the railways greener by powering trains with energy from the sun? We hear about the pioneering train in Australia that’s run entirely on solar power. Plus we visit the solar farm that’s plugged directly into a railway in Britain and hear about Indian Railways’ big plan for converting to renewable power.Produced and presented by Richard Kenny

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  • 25.11.2020
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    27:51
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    From prison to star employee

    Why former criminals are being chosen for jobs at hundreds of companies in a small US city.One boss even tells us that some violent and sex offenders have become her best employees.Produced and presented by Jo MathysPhoto: Getty Images

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  • 12.11.2020
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    23:58
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    Audience takeover: Your questions answered

    Audience members praise and pick holes in solutions we’ve covered. Nick Holland and Kat Hawkins hear the best comments and questions and try to get answers.Among the solutions under review is a story about a man who regrew a rainforest in Ecuador. One listener is worried it’ll just get cut down again when he dies. And eyebrows are raised about nurses in Kenya using motorbikes to rescue snakebite victims.Producer: Nick Holland

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  • 12.11.2020
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    Teenage inventor special

    In this inspiring episode, we hear ideas from high school students in Asia, Africa, Europe and America. They’ve created a new form of sound insulation, refined a forensic process to use at crime scenes, won an award for predicting crop yields and made going to the beach a little safer in the age of Covid.Image: Team Hibla from the Philippines.

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  • 12.11.2020
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    Saving Cape Cod’s dolphins

    The mass stranding of dolphins, orcas and whales is depressingly common. We join a team on the East Coast of the United States who have dramatically improved the survival rates of beached dolphins there. And we are with them as they fight to save a dolphin mother and calf. Plus we look at how Silicon Valley AI tech, and its power to understand dolphin communication, could lead to even more being saved. Produced and Presented by Ben Wyatt Picture credit: Getty Images

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  • 12.11.2020
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    How to put the internet in a box

    What happens when you take a little box containing some of the vast knowledge amassed on the internet, to communities that live offline? From a peaceful valley in the remote Himalayas to a bustling Rohingya refugee camp, people are carrying gigabytes of data - from school curricula to the whole of Wikipedia - into places where access to the internet is impossible. Inspired by one of our listeners, we delve into the world of the “sneakernet” - a network of people who carry information to places where the signal doesn’t reach. Produced and presented by Tom CollsPhoto Credit: Getty

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  • 12.11.2020
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    How jellyfish can help us

    Jellyfish blooms can cause havoc, scaring away tourists, clogging up fishing nets, and even getting stuck in power station cooling pipes. But scientists are finding ways to use the creatures to help us solve some big problems. They think jellyfish mucus could filter microplastics from our water systems, and their collagen could help us develop new medicines. And some want to see jellyfish on our plates. Produced and presented by Ruth Evans Picture credit: Getty Images

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