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[/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 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 hereSix 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 windSpain 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.[/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 extinctionA 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.[/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.