Our planet is in peril and it seems there’s more grim environmental news every day. Of course, it’s important we recognize the gravity of the situation so we can change rather than continuing blithely in our old, polluting habits. But the relentless delivery of bad news makes it easy to succumb to despair and the natural human reaction to despair is inaction.
We need hope. Not blind optimism that it’ll be all right in the end, even if we don’t change our ways. But genuine hope that if we all pull together and make a sustained, dedicated effort, then we can turn the ship around.
We’re not praying for a magic wand (though that would be nice), but we want to believe that our efforts will not be in vain. Together we hope to achieve our realistic goals of preventing the worst effects of climate change and species loss and eventually to start healing the planet.
We also know that living a sustainable life is the right thing to do regardless of the outcome. It brings its own rewards in terms of personal happiness and fulfillment but it’s not without sacrifices and frustrations. You need inspiration and friendly advice rather than hectoring.
It’s about kaizen – the Japanese term meaning ‘continuous improvement’ rather than black or white (or should that be green?). It’s not do or fail – we’re all on a journey and hopefully it can be fun, too.
The truth is, there is plenty of good news out there but it often gets lost among all the doom and gloom. The environmental movement achieves victories, big and small, all the time. The environmental agenda is becoming more mainstream among policymakers and the business community.
Years of hard work to rehabilitate formerly polluted eco-systems can pay off and species on the brink of extinction can return. People can change their lifestyle habits, companies can reformulate their products and packaging, and green technology can solve problems overnight – all of this can have a huge aggregate impact.
Good news shouldn’t close our eyes to the enormity of the problems, but it’s important to cherish the victories as a powerful antidote to despair and to provide inspiration for and motivation for our efforts.
With that in mind, we plan to bring you a monthly round-up of good environmental news stories. Enjoy!
Despite the global economic downturn, the market for recycled materials is proving resilient, according to the Waste Resources & Action Program in the UK. In fact, greater demand from China is pushing up prices for recycled materials. That means less trash going to landfill waste sites and fewer raw materials being used to make glass, paper, plastic, tin and aluminum.
The Fair Trade movement is going mainstream. Chocolate giant Cadbury has announced it’s using fair trade cocoa in its popular Dairy Milk bar in the UK and Ireland and will take its other products fair trade as soon as it can. Fair trade guarantees fair prices – a surplus above the cost of production – for farmers in developing countries. As well as the obvious social benefits, fair trade also helps the environmental agenda by protecting the viability of small, family-owned farms with mixed crops. It helps keep people on the land growing their own food, instead of swelling the world’s slums, and growing mixed crops rather than industrialised monoculture farming generally means fewer chemicals.
The City of San Francisco has submitted a proposal to U.S. federal authorities to build a wave power project about eight miles off the Pacific coast. Mayor Gavin Newsom writes a guest post on CleanTechnica where he says that the power plant could create significant amounts of electricity and around 100 jobs.
EcoGeek reports that Mexico City is trying to improve the quality of its air by integrating vegetation into the urban environment with a new project called Sustainable Housing Units. The project will place vertical gardens, rain water filters and solar panels in newly constructed housing towers.
In related news, Taiwan is building skyscrapers with rooftop gardens, according to InHabitat. While the Mexico City project was focused on air quality, the intent here is to insulate the interiors, reduce rainwater runoff, and mitigate the urban heat island effect.
A sustainable village in Nepal – including super adobe domes, solar panels and a bio-gas plant – is housing former street children. EarthFirst has the details.
The economy might be tanking but the solar energy industry is expanding thanks to the extension of tax credits. If you’re looking for a new job or career, you could do worse – the sector is set to create 440,000 new jobs by 2016, according to TriplePundit.
TriplePundit also brings news of how the economic downturn is improving air quality in industrialised parts of China such as Taiyuan province.
Sales of the Toyota Prius hybrid car in Europe are expected to rise 15% this year, according to the Guardian. Great news, assuming they replace ordinary cars, rather than adding to the vehicles already on the road.
President Obama has been busy rolling back the anti-green laws of the Bush years – most recently removing laws weakening protection for endangered species.
And finally…Nuns are going green in the name of God. Treehugger reports that the Episcopal Sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit in West Harlem, New York are building their very own eco-convent. (Catch our report here.)
Image: Darwin Bell