Welcome to yet another series of our Climate Joy reports. This is the first edition for this month and reviewing the stories in this week’s roundup, May is looking pretty positive already.
Anyway, without further ado, here are the joyful climate news that’s making our heart sing. Literally.
This is an ‘eco’ win of epic proportions. On Saturday, April 27, the 2019 edition of the London Marathon was held. The significant sporting event turned into an eco joyful one as the event committed to a milestone of reducing plastic. In place of plastic water bottles, organisers instead stocked up on edible water capsules to give the runners. The runners could either drink the contents by biting into the capsule or simply throw the entire thing into their mouth; the latter being the most popular option for runners.
These edible capsules known as ‘Ooho’ are made of seaweed and are designed to decompose within a month of disposal. Skipping Rocks Lab, a London-based startup is behind this wonderful innovation.
This event could spark a change in how refreshments are distributed in mass sporting events. Sharing these water pods at the London Marathon was a real-time trial of viability of the new practice, and dare we say, the result was a resounding success. According to the organisers, they have been able to reduce the plastic bottles used from 920,000 last year to 704,000 so far this year. We expect greater reductions if they keep up this eco practice in the years to come.
Maine has become the first American state to ban polystyrene commonly known as Styrofoam. The law, which was signed in last Tuesday and will come into force on January 1st 2021, very simply prohibits restaurants, caterers, coffee shops and grocery stores from using the to-go foam containers in product packaging. This new law also precludes the use of plastic beverage stirrers. If found violating the law, offenders will be fined as much as $100.
To better appreciate this development, it is necessary for you to know that the Natural Resources Council of Maine (NRCM), had previously listed plastic foam food containers as among the top 10 most commonly littered items in the US. According to the NRCM, over 250 million pieces of disposable foam cups, plates, bowls, platters, and trays are used every year in the state alone. This law is necessary because not only did Maine have a high rate of polystyrene usage, the material cannot be recycled in the state.
The Government sees this as a first step towards getting people to stop relying on single-use plastics. This ban comes in the wake of other ones enacted across the country, most recently New York’s banning of single-use plastics as we reported in the first instalment of the Climate Joy series. With more governments taking environmental action, it’s impossible not to be stirred with hope in the fight to save our world.
According to data released by the Global Forest Watch, the year 2018 witnessed a reduction in the rate of disappearance of tropical rainforests. In 2018, about 30 million acres of forest were lost due to deforestation. While still terrible, not in contrast to what had occurred in preceding years. For instance, 2016 and 2017 which were hotter years and witnessed widespread fires, resulted in 42 million and 39 million acres of forest land lost respectively. The difference in numbers from 2017 alone may seem negligible until you realize that 9 million acres is right about the size of Belgium as we know it.
While tropical forests remain under grave threat (the pattern since these reports began in 2001 shows the trend is on the rise) the respite in 2018 more than anything encourages hope.
The report points out the anti-deforestation measures in Indonesia seem to be working better than expected and serves as a contributor to the reduction in numbers. This is good news because amongst other things, it demonstrates what good can come from a seemingly hopeless situation when we refuse to give in and stand up for nature.
4. The United States Interior Department Delays its Plan of Opening Up the US Coastline for Oil Drilling
Last week, the US Administration confirmed that it was likely going to delay the release of its long-awaited plan to open up the nation’s coastline for drilling.
This delay comes in response to a recent court judgement which had blocked off all drilling activities along the Alaskan coast. The news of this delay was happily greeted by many environmental groups worldwide. Colin O’Mara, the extant president and CEO of the National Wildlife Federation said, “Every single governor from Maine to California has opposed offshore drilling off their coast, Republican and Democrat alike”.
Naturally, the oil heads are dissatisfied with these delays and have expressed a desire for the legal issues to be settled quickly so they can “proceed with the important work of exploring America’s offshore resources without delay”.
Score one for the environment, zero for the oil-loving Trump administration so far.
At the beginning of the series, we reported on the enormous growth of the renewable energy sector and how renewables have grown cheaper than coal. We are happy to report that last month, the use of renewable energy resources finally surpassed that of coal in actual power generation in the US.
According to the EIA’s Short Term Energy Outlook, coal which has long been the backbone of power generation in April accounted for 20% of all power generation. Meanwhile, renewable energy sources accounted for 24%. This trend is expected to continue in May with coal at 21% and renewables at 22%.
While natural gas still leads the pack at 36%, it is safe to say that coal is on the decline and renewables will become a greater source of power generation. This is the very first time renewable energy has generated more than coal on a monthly basis, a fact American environmentalists are celebrating.
And that’s a wrap. Be sure to check in next week for some more Climate Joy news. Until then, don’t forget to spread the joy by sharing this article with far and wide.
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Feature image of a runner taking an edible water bubble at the London Marathon 2019 via Dezeen.