Right now, it is easy to sense from reading about the environment that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Temperatures are rising, natural disasters are increasing in frequency, the charts are becoming more alarming – and yet humanity’s countermeasures are woefully inadequate.
But, however tempting it may be to sink into doom scrolling – or worse, defeatism – it is not all bad news.
On the occasion of World Environment Day 2021 (June 5), here are some gems of real good eco-responsible news that have occurred since World Environment Day 2020 …
1. “Extinct” species return from the dead
It’s almost impossible to prove a negative, and the word “extinct” actually means “not seen for a long, long time.” It’s not quite Jurassic Park but over the past year several ex-species have returned to scientists’ radars, including mammals, amphibians and reptiles.
DNA analysis confirmed earlier observations of three wild New Guinea song dogs – long considered extinct in the wild – living 14,000 feet above sea level on a mountain in New Guinea. A hotel garden in Madagascar delivered the unseen 100-year-old Voeltzkow chameleon, while an expedition to Bolivia found lost species of frog (devil-eyed) and butterfly, believed to be extinct for the same period.
2. Wind and solar double the global share
Of all the eco-areas most likely to get you down, carbon emissions could be the most soul-destroying. It’s bad news throughout the week, but if you squint your eyes really hard, a major Ember 2020 report on global energy offered a silver lining.
Over the past five years (2015-2020), wind and solar power generation has doubled and now accounts for around 10% of global electricity. Unfortunately, coal consumption also fell by less than 1% during this period. At this point, we’ll take what we can get.
3. Eastern giants commit to net zero commitments
At the end of 2020, the huge East Asian economies of Japan and South Korea committed to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 – the same target set by the European Union in 2019. The countries are currently the 5th and 7th largest emitters of carbon dioxide, respectively, and have both intensified climate rhetoric over the past 12 months.
Joe Biden’s United States joining the Paris Climate Agreement has understandably swallowed up the thumbs, but it is in Asia as much as in America that the climate battle will likely be won and lost. Too bad for words, the world is now waiting for action.
4. The crew completes a world record for cleaning the ocean off Hawaii.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is certainly one of the most tangible and visually striking signs of mankind’s ill effects on the planet. A vast expanse of garbage and debris floating on the surface of the sea, the patch covers an area roughly three times the size of France – now slightly less thanks to the efforts of the Ocean Voyages Institute.
In 2020, a 48-day expedition cleared 103 tonnes of fishing nets and plastic waste, which would be the largest such operation ever. Unfortunately, the patch contains almost 80,000 tonnes in total, so you don’t have to be a mathematician to realize that there is still a lot to do …