Ten stories that tell us it's not time to throw in the towel
- For most of us this past year, staying on top of environmental coverage was rather grim.
- Our oceans are polluted, our forests are on fire and our ice is melting — fast.
- But, in light of starting the new year on a more optimistic note, here are some environmental wins we witnessed in 2019.
1. The mass mobilization of young people through climate strikes
Last year it was Greta Thunberg sitting outside of Swedish parliament every Friday instead of going to school to call on government authorities to act on the climate crisis. This year 7.6 million people worldwide marched for climate action during the last week of September. More local groups continue to organize strikes and marches within their communities calling for definitive environmental action and policy.
2. Municipal governments declare climate emergencie
Not only was “climate emergency” declared Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year, but it also signalled a significant shift in public perception and government acknowledgement of the need for climate action. To date, nearly 500 Canadian municipalities and 1216 jurisdictions across 26 different countries have declared a climate emergency. While this declaration doesn’t convey any special powers to the government, it symbolizes a promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and invest resources wisely.
3. Over one million come together to protect pollinators
Early this year, the Million Pollinator Garden Challenge surpassed their goal of registering one million gardens. The goal of MPGC is to create networks of gardens designed to benefit pollinator species. An estimated eight million people are involved, primarily in the United States, Canada and Mexico. From small yards to public garden spaces, the registered land adds up to around five million acres of pollinator habitat
4. The humpback whale population bounces back after near-extinction
After a brush with near-extinction, the western South Atlantic humpback whale population has resurged to 25,000 — nearing pre-whaling numbers. A study released in September suggests the population has grown to 90 per cent of its size before commercial whaling resulted in its steep decline.
5. The first Pacific Garbage Patch clean up was a success
Earlier this month, The Ocean Cleanup completed “Mission One” and presented their first plastic catch onshore in Vancouver, B.C. Plastic trash was collected from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and will be transformed into sustainable products for sale. The profit collected from sales will then go towards continuing cleanup projects. The system used captures and collects plastic debris as large as ghost nets and as small as millimetre-sized microplastics.
6. Renewable energy counts for one third of global power capacity
The renewable energy sector continued to grow through 2019. IRENA’s annual Renewable Capacity Statistics 2019 report indicates growth in all regions of the world. This year saw a 7.9 per cent increase, with solar and wind energy accounting for 84 per cent of that growth.
7. Costa Rica sets an example by promising decarbonization by 2050
Costa Rica adopted a plan this year to achieve a zero net emissions economy by 2050, in alignment with the Paris Climate Change Agreement. The plan includes concrete measures in infrastructure and economic sectors including public and private transport, energy, industry, agriculture, waste management, soil and forest management.
8. Plant-based eating surges in popularity
This year saw rapid growth in the development and adoption of plant-based foods. With more light being shed on the environmental impact of the commercial animal agriculture industry, more and more people are incorporating meatless meals into their diets. In Canada, it’s even being encouraged through the national food guide.
9. More species were awarded protection at the global conference on wildlife trade
Nine animals and over 130 species won protections at this year’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, a global agreement that oversees cross-border trade in wildlife. Giraffes and mako sharks were two of the animals given enhanced protection. This means neither can be traded unless proven it wouldn’t threaten the survival of their population in the wild.
10. Researchers release “first-of-its-kind” roadmap to transitioning to renewable energy on a global scale
A report released by a Finnish university includes a global road map to reduce emissions before 2050. It breaks down how different regions can transition to 100 per cent renewable energy and is the first of its kind to outline a cost-effective international strategy to prevent the planet’s carbon emissions from exceeding 1.5 degrees Celsius.