Ten good things that happened

by Jason Schwartz

February 25, 2014

Environmental news can be a bit of a bummer. But good stuff is happening in 2014, too. Here's a few things to make you happy.

Urban Diversity

[caption id="attachment_24006" align="alignnone" width="640"]A peregrine falcon near the NYC's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin A peregrine falcon near the NYC's Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. Photo courtesy of Metropolitan Transportation Authority / Patrick Cashin[/caption] A study found that cities actually retain a lot more biodiversity than previously thought. They also tend to retain the species that are endemic to their region (while of course also bringing in ubiquitous species like pigeons and certain common grasses). The findings should inform conservation efforts in cities, reinforcing the importance of managing urban parks, waterways, and wildlife corridors for animals and native plants.

Solar going big

[caption id="attachment_24010" align="alignnone" width="640"]The Ivanpah facility sprawls across 5km of California desert. The Ivanpah facility sprawls across 5 square kilometers of California desert.[/caption] The largest solar energy generating facility in the world, Ivanpah, went online on February 13th. This news came along with word that solar was literally keeping the lights on in California, whose hydroelectric sector had been curtailed by persistent droughts. Meanwhile, two utility-scale solar projects were just approved in the California desert, bringing the tally of new solar projects online or proposed during President Obamas tenure to 50. Prior to his coming to office, there were none.

And not just here

Six state-owned companies in India have pledged to up Ivanpah by an order of magnitude, agreeing to build what will be, when finished, the largest solar facility in the world. It will be larger than the island of Manhattan and will have the generating capacity of 4 full-size nuclear reactors.

And dont forget wind

Spain was the first country to boast wind as its primary source of electricity. Added capacity and a windy year contributed to wind beating out nuclear by a hair.

Another blow to fossil fuels

[caption id="attachment_24011" align="alignnone" width="600"]A greenpeace activist stands in front tar sands tailings in Alberta. A greenpeace activist stands in front tar sands tailings in Alberta.[/caption] February was a pretty awful month for Big Oil and Big Coal. Most of the news coming out of that dark place was, predictably, pretty dark. But then aNebraska judge ruled in favor of families trying to defend their homes against the Keystone XL pipeline, declaring a government takeaway of their land through eminent domain was null and void. It was yet another delay to the realization of a horrendous idea.

Despite the sixth extinction

A bunch of new species of animals were verified to exist. [caption id="attachment_24012" align="alignnone" width="500"]The pig-shaped tapir. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Prata. The pig-shaped tapir. Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Prata.[/caption]
  • A new type of tapir was discovered in the Amazon (of course local people knew it existed forever). It is the smallest tapir, which, if you dont know, is a pig-shaped creature.
  • Also in the Amazon (well, technically the Araguaia river system in the eastern Amazon) a distinct species of river dolphin was found.
  • The largest species of day gecko was discovered in Sri Lanka.
  • A species of beaked whale, an elusive group of whales renowned for their incredible diving abilities, was described.
[caption id="attachment_24013" align="alignnone" width="640"]An Amazon river dolphin. Photo courtesy of Joachim S. Mller. An Amazon river dolphin. Photo courtesy of Joachim S. Mller.[/caption]

Speaking of whales

Scientists have used satellite technology to do what seems to be an accurate population count of whales. Yes, we can count whalesfrom space. This task has traditionally been slow, grueling, inaccurate, and dangerousa number of people have died in plane crashes doing aerial whale counts. The researchers focused on southern right whales, a species once almost driven to extinction, whose numbers are not well known. [caption id="attachment_24014" align="alignnone" width="640"]A southern right whale breaches. Photo from Flickr courtesy of Chronon 6.97. A southern right whale breaches. Photo from Flickr courtesy of Chronon 6.97.[/caption]

Not technically good news maybe, but

A newly discovered, mouse-shaped marsupial was found to have a strange, notable characteristic. After "mating behavior," say scientists, stress levels are so high that the male of the species tends to succumb and die. We like to think that maybe its not stress in the classic sense that does the little guys in, but something a little more, well, benign.

Tarheels stand up!

[caption id="attachment_23671" align="alignnone" width="600"]A scene from the moral march on February 8th. A scene from the moral march on February 8th.[/caption] About 100,000 North Carolinians and their allies marched in Raleigh on February 8th, rejecting the policies of the largely conservative state government. Since the state was taken over in a tea-party led sweep, social programs, public education, environmental protections, LGBT and immigrant rights, and unemployment benefits have all been cut down. Greenpeace was there, and we were so happy to stand with our friends.

Real-time forest tracker

The World Resources Institute released its Global Forest Watch, which is capable of giving real-time updates on forest cover change. This will help organizations like Greenpeace better track companies we have gotten to swear off deforestation. On the one-year anniversary of our historic agreement with Asia Pulp and Paper, this seems to offer an exciting new tool for monitoring. Plus, its a lot of fun to play with.
Jason Schwartz

By Jason Schwartz

Jason Schwartz is a media officer for Greenpeace USA based in New York City.

We Need Your Voice Join Us!

Want to learn more about tax-deductible giving, donating stock and estate planning?

Visit Greenpeace Fund, a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charitable entity created to increase public awareness and understanding of environmental issues through research, the media and educational programs.