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Thread: Is there any good news on the environment?

  1. #1
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    Is there any good news on the environment?

    I happened to spot this article in The Hill while web-surfing at work today. It got me thinking about two things. First, it was buried among a dozen other stories at the bottom of the page--apparently this kind of news doesn't merit going above the fold any more. Second, it reinforced the sense I've had for some time that whenever I see a news story about global warming, it seems that the problem isn't as bad as we think--it's considerably worse.

    My question is: Has anyone seen anything in the news lately to prove that belief wrong? I'm talking about real science from reputable, preferably peer-reviewed sources (the article above was taken from Science magazine).

    I'm prepared not to receive any responses here--I was just wondering if someone has seen something I haven't.

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    Whatever I read states that we have a short window to turn climate change around while it’s still possible.

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    It seems pretty bleak. And climate change is only one problem. My permaculture teacher has said, and I agree, that talking climate change is just one piece of the issue--and unfortunately it's one that doesn't carry a relatable message to most. What relevance does 350ppm of carbon dioxide have to an everyday person? It's a number. And does the average person know the implications of the oceans getting 2 degrees warmer?

    So even setting aside the whole climate change crisis, there are other problems beyond greenhouse gasses--there's also the problem that our agricultural system is depleting the earth of rich topsoil, stripping biodiversity, and poisoning countless species with chemicals.

    Finally, there is a flat-out lack of reverence for the world. If people stop looking at the world with wonder, it becomes a commodity, and it's toast.

    I heard one uplifting thing today: it's a video of Paul Hawken talking about the thesis of his book, Blessed Unrest (it's an older book, but the video is a good reminder). He talks about the global, quiet uprising of a whole new movement that cares. At least that's good news.

    .
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    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    Palu Hawken has a good case that is hard to measure or discredit.
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    I would add that there has been a great improvement in the water quality of the River Charles and Boston Harbor. The combined annual sewage discharges to the Charles River from the municipalities of Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Watertown, and Waltham dropped 99.5% from 1988 to 2013.

    The bacterial standards for boating are met 95% of the time; for swimming in dry weather conditions 95%; for swimming in wet weather conditions 64%.

    "...Love That Dirty Water" song lyrics no longer apply!

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    Senior Member Rogar's Avatar
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    At least in my circle there has been an increasing acceptance that climate change is real and probably related to human activity, even among some former deniers (and even republicans). Not so much from any science studies, but just from observations of weather extremes, droughts, and hotter seasons. The broadcast news I see has also been featuring climate change reports. Don't know if much will become of it, but it seems like a general shift in attitudes.

    I've also noticed just recently some of the major food chains are offering vegan and vegetarian menu options. Panera and Taco Bell being the most recent. I understand that some people prefer meat choices for health reasons, but a plant based diet is probably better for the planet. Also, maybe another shift in awareness. It's new and may not catch on but at least someone is trying.

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    Quote Originally Posted by dado potato View Post
    I would add that there has been a great improvement in the water quality of the River Charles and Boston Harbor. The combined annual sewage discharges to the Charles River from the municipalities of Boston, Cambridge, Newton, Brookline, Watertown, and Waltham dropped 99.5% from 1988 to 2013.

    The bacterial standards for boating are met 95% of the time; for swimming in dry weather conditions 95%; for swimming in wet weather conditions 64%.

    "...Love That Dirty Water" song lyrics no longer apply!
    This kind of thing is indeed very good news. The same thing has happened in my area--bodies of water that were badly polluted decades ago are now relatively clean. You can now (mostly) eat fish out of local waters, and there are all kinds of shore birds around that you never saw when I was a kid.

    That's not really the kind of thing I'm talking about, though. I guess I was hoping someone might know of any scientific evidence that things are anything other than totally grim.

    It's also worth pointing out that the kinds of improvements you're describing were almost entirely the result of legislation, not individual efforts. (except insofar as legislation results from individual efforts). Corporations and municipalities would never have taken the actions needed to clean up their waterways unless compelled by law. This just reinforces my belief that when it comes to global warming, only legislation will save us.

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    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    A link from Factfulness by Hans Rosling on the slow transition away from fossil fuels - https://www.gapminder.org/topics/energy-sources/ and https://www.gapminder.org/topics/co2-per-capita/
    They are updating their info giving this response:
    "We're updating 127 pages
    In the book Factfulness there are 127 links to web pages like this one, to let readers check all the data behind our fact-based worldview. Unfortunately we didn’t manage to clean up all the documentation in time, before the book was released in April 2018.
    You probably came here to check the facts. That's great! Please give us your email address and we'll let you know when this page is ready, or simply click the button below and we'll give this page higher priority."
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by oldhat View Post
    It's also worth pointing out that the kinds of improvements you're describing were almost entirely the result of legislation, not individual efforts.
    Absolutely. That's why Trump's rollbacks on environmental regulation are so devastating.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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    Senior Member Rogar's Avatar
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    I think the move GM made toward electric and self-driving cars is encouraging. There is a US based company called Rivian that claims to be offering production electric pickup trucks and SUV's in 2020 and VW is working on various electric concept cars. I'm actually surprised that these are not more popular in Europe where gas is so expensive. I understand that there are environmental costs to electric vehicles, also, but it seems like a promising step. A few of the barriers are the lack of supporting infrastructure for charging, the relatively short operating range between charges and purchasing cost, but those are showing improvements. I could almost see a day when individual ownership of a car will become less common. Our city has been working on a light rail system that will eventually reach to most of the surrounding burbs.

    I've also seen an increase in bike lanes and paths even in some of the smaller cities in our state. Unfortunately these seems to mostly be used for recreation rather than commuting, but I do see handfuls of bicycle commuters around and the inner city has a rent-a-bike program for short trips downtown.

    There are a lot of questions around certain recycling programs and I'm not sure where things will end up eventually, but there was a day that doesn't seem that long ago when curbside recycling was unheard of and single use plastic shopping bags were the bags of choice.

    We do need better government leadership and legislation, but it seems like people are becoming more aware that climate change and other environmental issues are real and are doing a lot of things both as individuals and businesses. It just seems like a very slow process and it could be a long wait for government to catch up .
    Last edited by Rogar; 1-11-19 at 2:40pm.

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