The good news is that the post-festivities slump that is January, is coming to an end. As each day goes by we are gaining sunlight hours, and getting closer to spring. For those of us who have the added burden of caring about the environment, 2018 seems to just keep kicking us when we are down.
But it’s not all bad news, and with that in mind, we thought we would share some of the many reasons to be hopeful in 2018. Here are UKYCC’s top 10 reasons to be hopeful this year:
1 China is building a forest city to tackle air pollution!
2 The cost of solar energy has dropped by 25% in just one year!
Every hour the sun sends enough raw energy to earth to meet the entire planet’s energy demands for a whole year – who is to say renewables can’t stand alone as our energy future? Although Trump has been threatening to meddle with taxation on renewables, 2018 is likely to see even further developments in technology, further cost reductions and the expansion of renewables elsewhere.
3 Goodbye Microbeads!
These tiny little balls present in many body scrubs, exfoliators and toothpastes, filter through our drainage systems and head straight for the ocean. Not only do they contribute to our ever-increasing plastic oceans, but they are often eaten by marine animals, and inevitably end up on our plates – gross. Recently, the UK, Italy, Canada and New Zealand joined many other countries by banning microbeads. So, in 2018 those of us in the UK can kiss these pesky little guys goodbye!
4 Indonesia wins second place for the “Country Who Dumps the Most Plastic in the Ocean!
Although this may not seem like something to be hopeful for, Indonesia’s reaction to this award is. As an acknowledgement of their victory, the Indonesian government has pledged to spend up to $1 billion a year to try and reduce their plastic habit by 70% over the next eight years. An ambitious target, but a huge leap in the right direction nonetheless and 2018 will mark the start of their clean up!
5 Marae Moana reserve (Pacific Islands) & the Ross Sea Last Ocean reserve (Antarctica)
These new reserves are some of the largest marine protected areas in the world. Both created in 2017, at 1,976,000 and 1,555,851 square kilometers respectively. Together they add to the global movement to protect our oceans: benefitting biodiversity, the health of our oceans and contributing towards the fight against climate change. This increased marine protection helps to pave the way forward for more ambitious protection of our oceans.
In 2018 discussions will begin on attempts to create marine protected areas in the high seas – this would be a world first! The UN launched initiative hopes to create binding legislation to protect the oceans in areas beyond national jurisdiction (covering nearly half of the Earth’s surface)! This would be a monumental achievement for ocean protection.
7 Six years of Fracking Resistance!
In Lancashire, along with many other front-line communities, last year marked six years of resistance to fracking in the UK! Ongoing protests have slowed the fracking company Cuadrilla’s progress as well as inspiring similar action elsewhere. Check out Friends of the Earth’s article sharing the story, as well as some personal accounts at the Guardian. Not only is this continued resistance inspiring and productive, but it is forcing people to listen. In 2017 Scotland banned Fracking – making it harder and harder for Theresa to ignore this issue!
8 Taking climate change to court!
Last year a monumental court case was launched in Norway. A people-powered lawsuit was filed against the Norwegian government after they granted new licenses to drill for oil in the Arctic Barents Sea. Plaintiffs (Natur og Ungdom & Young Friends of the Earth Norway) argued that this decision violates the Paris Agreement and a right to a healthy and safe environment for current and future generations as outlined in the Norwegian Constitution.
This is the first court case that challenges new oil and gas drilling based on the Paris Agreement and it’s success could pave the way for others to do the same. Similarly, it is the first time that oil’s impact on the right to a healthy and safe environment will be challenged in a court setting – a right replicated in over 90 other countries constitutions! This year we will find out the all important verdict. If successful, environmental lawyers better get ready because it’s unlikely that this case will go unnoticed…
9 US withdrawal from Paris?
Although you might be surprised to see Trump being mentioned in a list of environmental things to be hopeful for, the U.S’s withdrawal from the Paris Agreement has forced others to step up in positive ways. Led by New York City’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, a delegation of 15 states, 455 cities, 1,747 businesses and 325 universities across America have proclaimed their commitment to Paris on behalf of U.S citizens – saying “we are still in”.
Meanwhile Bill Gates through the Gates Foundation has revealed a $300 million grant to support agricultural research to help with climate change, and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation has promised to give over $20 million in grants to local and global nonprofits working on conservation, human rights and the environment.
There may be environmental turbulence in America, but the Trump Effect is also inspiring others to step up and take charge. Going into 2018 that can only be a good thing!
10 New discoveries!
Just when you thought we had discovered all there is to discover, scientists struck gold this year with a host of new species and many rediscoveries. Jackson’s climbing salamander was spotted, 40 years after it was first recorded; the extremely rare cobra lily was found after 80 years in hiding; and Vanzolini’s bald faced saki also revealed itself after 80 years. Although our forests are under threat and biodiversity is ultimately declining, these new discoveries and re-discoveries help make a stronger case for habitat protection. See the top 20 new species found in 2017 in Mongabays article.
So kick off your January blues, and quit burying your head in the sand. Climate change is a challenge of epic proportions, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do something about it. As Margaret Mead said:
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,
committed citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”