2018 was definitely not the best year ever for the environment, or for environmental activists. But, as Earth Island Journal pointed out in its roundup of 2018’s hot stories, there are some glimmers of hope appeared amidst all the bad news. Here are a few items the journal noted:
Climate chaos is growing
The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and several other organizations have raised the alarm about increasing global warming. The American Meteorological Society released a report connecting climate change and recent extreme weather events such as the high winds that exacerbated the California wildfires. The link between the growing intensity and duration of the fire season and global climate change is no longer possible to ignore. Except when it is, as in…
Trump’s climate denial and related policy changes
President Donald Trump has blocked, delayed, or even tried to repeal nearly 80 environmental regulations that were placed on the books during the Obama era. The Trump administration also tried to drastically weaken the Endangered Species Act and intends to do away with Obama-era fuel efficiency standards for cars and SUVs—a plan which would also revoke California’s special authority to regulate emissions from cars and trucks. Then there’s the administration’s easing of regulations requiring oil and gas companies to control leaking and venting of the greenhouse gas methane; opening up huge amounts of public land to oil and gas drilling; and approving the first Arctic oil drilling project in federal waters off Alaska.
According to one analysis, these and other Trump administration actions against the environment will cause respiratory issues for more than a million people and lead to at least 80,00 additional deaths per decade.
Wildlife populations are decreasing
The World Wildlife Fund released a study in October which showed that global populations of vertebrate species have decreased by 60 percent over the past 40 years. Because these populations are all around the globe in a variety of biomes, they can serve as a point of reference for species for which there is insufficient data. The reason for the decrease: primarily habitat loss due to human consumption. Killing for food is the next biggest cause; the oceans are being drastically overfished, and 300 mammal species are being eaten into extinction.
So, where’s the good news? Here are a couple of good things that happened last year.
Monsanto loses pesticide lawsuit
In August, a San Francisco Superior Court found Monsanto to be liable for former groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson’s terminal cancer and awarded him $289 million in damages. Why? The court said Monsanto had failed to warn Johnson of the health hazards related to exposure to its flagship product, the herbicide Roundup, and that the company had “acted with malice or oppression” for years by targeting scientists who spoke out about the dangers of glyphosphate, the primary ingredient in Roundup. Johnson’s suit, and many other legal and legislative challenges to Monsanto, were triggered by the 2015 declaration by the World Health Organization’s classification of glyphosphate as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”
Single-use plastic is becoming a thing of the past
A recent report by the UN Environment Program and the World Resources Institute showed that 127 countries have taken regulatory action to limit the use of single-use plastic bags. According to the report, these policies “include restrictions on the manufacture, distribution, use, and trade of plastic bags, taxation and levies, and post-use disposal.” The form these regulations take varies, but the most common form of regulation is restricting free retail distribution of plastic shopping bags. Considering that plastic recycling rates dropped by about 4 percent in 2018, it’s a good thing there are fewer single-use plastic bags in circulation.
What’s your favorite—or your most concerning—environmental story of 2018? Share it in the comments!
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