All too often, headlines are built strictly from terrible and shocking stories. It’s easy to lose track of the kindness and generosity of humanity, as well as efforts to do good for the planet. If you’ve been following environmental news in 2021, like every year, has highlighted atrocities around the globe. Yet, there are countless stories of policy changes, local cleanup efforts, impactful corporate action and innovations all aimed at decreasing carbon, conserving trees, protecting wildlife and so much more.
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This year’s COP26 saw nations from every corner of the planet focused on the same goals. With the environment in the forefront, seven countries pledged to end oil and gas exploration. None of the seven countries source significant oil from their own soil, but the resulting Beyond Oil and Gas Alliance gives other nations and regions a platform to join the effort. You can read more at 7 countries vow to end new oil and gas exploration.
The Riverside Park Conservancy has been battling invasive species in the park for fifteen years. Although they’ve seen an outpouring of volunteer efforts to clear the plants, they quickly return to the steep hillside that’s difficult to access. So they brought in two dozen goats in an event dubbed, “Running of the Goats.” The goats munched throughout the day and five remained for six weeks to happily eat away at the problem porcelain berry, English ivy, mugwort, multiflora rose and poison ivy. Allowing the animals to graze eliminates the need for toxic weed killers, which are harmful to the land and the citizens.
It’s fairly well established at this point that raising livestock impacts the land in negative ways. There’s the issue with methane release, a greenhouse gas that’s more damaging than carbon dioxide. Plus, land requirements for production results in damaging the soil. Then there’s the concern in regards to animal treatment. Lab-grown meat is leading the way towards a reduction in animal reliance for food. Take, for example, this new facility in California that’s capable of producing 50,000 pounds of lab-grown meat annually and a short-term goal to raise that number to 400,000 pounds.
It’s our nation’s largest national forest, covering 16 million acres in Southeast Alaska. This area is home to 800-year-old trees, Indigenous people and 400 species of wildlife and fish. While there were previously protections in place, former president Trump had exempted the area in his last few months of office, which opened the door for building roads, logging and other damaging activities. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the reimplementation of the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, a win for the natives and the planet. According to the Alaska Wilderness League, Tongass National Forest is one of the world’s largest intact temperate forests. It stores more than 1.5 billion metric tons of carbon and sequesters an additional 10 million metric tons annually.
Without policies to protect existing trees, we’ll be rudderless in our efforts to maintain air quality, slow global warming and mitigate the effects of erosion, landslides and wildfires. Another result of COP26, leaders from 110 nations signed the deforestation pledge, vowing to eliminate deforestation by 2030. It will limit investments in contributing projects and implement restrictions against tree removal to make room for animal grazing and growing of crops such as palm oil.
In addition to protecting existing trees, replanting them is critical to nature’s long-term balance. Fortunately, myriad businesses have begun contributing to reforestation. In addition, non-profits around the globe are making a measurable contribution. One Tree Planted is one such organization. Its mid-year update reports 58,000 mangrove trees planted in a sensitive region in Haiti, the planting of 430,000 native trees in Minnesota, 40,000 native trees in Mexico and over 814,000 trees in California. Also, forests the size of France have been restored in the past 20 years, showing how small efforts grow into notable accomplishments.
If you’ve never heard of it, Google the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In short, it’s a massive area of the Pacific Ocean that has become a collection point for ocean pollution. A Dutch inventor decided to tackle the problem when he was just 18 years old. He began making a device to tackle the problem and started Ocean Cleanup, his organization aimed at eliminating 90% of the plastic floating in the ocean by 2040. After two previous launches that resulted in failure, during the summer and fall of 2021, Ocean Cleanup collected and removed 20,000 pounds of waste, which was brought back to shore and recycled.
You likely don’t give this Australian marsupial much thought, but with the countless plants and animals going extinct each year, it’s good news that the bandicoot has been reclassified as endangered, which is an upgrade from the previous classification of “extinct in the wild.” Officials say it’s been a 30-year effort to protect the small furry animal that was almost completely eliminated by foxes and lack of suitable habitat.
Images via Pexels