It’s been a tough year. Instead of focusing on more bad news, we’ve rounded up the most encouraging environmental stories that made headlines this month
With COVID numbers climbing in many places throughout the world, we all need some positive news to help us through. So let’s celebrate these huge environmental wins that happened in October and stay motivated to protect our planet!
1. After years of drought, waters at Lake Cowal in Australia are rising again
flickr/Graham WinterfloodAbove average amounts of rain have started refilling Lake Cowal in Australia. Previously damaged by drought, the lake is located in New South Wales and the local ecosystem is starting to thrive once again. Not only that, but now that water is returning, so are thousands of waterbirds such as red-necked avocets (pictured).
2. Biodiversity is increasing in UK orchards
Photo by Annie Shelmerdine on UnsplashSince 1950, more than half of the apple orchards in the UK have vanished. Additionally, approximately 2 million apples are wasted and start to rot every day in the UK. A cider-maker called Hawkes is trying to save apples from going to waste. Their program allows people to donate their apples and get rewarded with cider. An organization called The Orchard Project, which partially benefits from the profits of Hawkes, is also planting more and more apple trees on school grounds, former monasteries and helping to regrow abandoned orchards in cities such as Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, Glasgow, Leeds and Manchester.
3. Beavers have been released in England to help create new wildlife habitats
Photo by Svetozar Cenisev on UnsplashTwo beavers from Scotland have been released on a country estate in England as potential ‘eco-system engineers’. The beavers, named Glen and Dragonfly, are part of a five-year trial to see if the beavers' habits, such as building dams, can help to create a healthy ecosystem for other types of wildlife. The conservation manager and chairman of the Cumbria Beaver Group, David Harpley says a previous trial showed that beavers could help slow flood waters, improve water quality and create a safer habitat for more wildlife. There are also hopes that the two beavers will mate and give birth to kits in the springtime.
4. China’s tree-planting efforts to reduce carbon are helping more than originally thought
Photo by Joshua Sortino on UnsplashChina is responsible for about 28 percent of global carbon emissions, but the country recently made known their intentions to move to carbon neutrality by 2060. For many years, China has been planting more and more trees to battle soil loss and desertification as well as to aid their paper and timber productions. Two of China’s carbon sinks (reservoirs/forests that absorb more carbon than they release) have been deemed under-appreciated and the amount of CO2 they are actually absorbing has been said to be previously ‘underestimated’. In fact, the land biosphere in southwest China has shown a sink (CO2 absorption) of -0.35 petragrams (-0.35 billion tonnes) per year.
5. Cheap and sustainable water purification system has successful field testing in Brazil
Photo by Markus Spiske on UnsplashEngineers from the University of Bath have discovered how to capture and use energy created by natural reactions within microorganisms that live in soil. They have proven that soil microbial fuel cells (SMFCs) buried in the earth can create a sustainable source of energy to power an electrochemical reactor in order to purify water. These cells can provide sustainable solutions for accessible drinking water without the need for excess chlorination.
6. Scientists find a way to sequence the cauliflower coral genome
Photo by David Clode on UnsplashYou might be thinking: why is sequencing a type of coral’s genome important for the environment? The cauliflower coral (pocillopora verrucosa) has had its genome sequenced, which can provide the international team of scientists working on it a resource to study how corals adapt to different environmental conditions. This could help scientists understand how corals respond to global warming. In fact, coral is super-important for the health of ocean ecosystems and it’s extremely important to understand how global warming impacts it since so much coral is rapidly dying off. Perhaps this discovery could help scientists come up with new ways to save coral habitats.
7. Endangered leopard numbers on the rise in China
Photo by Himesh Kumar Behera on UnsplashMost leopards are endangered and numbers are constantly declining; however, leopard numbers in northern China are giving us some hope! Leopard populations in northern China are actually increasing, which is an amazing feat. The leopards are part of a subspecies called Northern Chinese leopards. Scientists aren’t sure exactly how much the population has increased, but believe that the increase is due to reforestation efforts.
8. Oregon’s last coal-powered energy plant closes
Photo by Vasiliki Volkova on UnsplashThe Boardman Coal Plant, Oregon’s last coal-powered energy plant, officially closed on October 15 as Portland General Electric continues to transition to renewable energy sources. Spokesman Steve Corson said that the closing of the plant has definitely been "bittersweet" because despite the fact that the city is moving to more renewable options, many people lost their jobs because of the shutdown. The Boardman Coal Plant was previously responsible for pushing 1.5 to 2 million tons of CO2 per year, making it the biggest source of greenhouse pollution in Oregon.
9. Solar power is now cheaper than coal
Photo by Sungrow EMEA on UnsplashThe International Energy Agency (IEA) has announced that solar energy is now cheaper than coal. The IEA works with different governments worldwide to create sustainable energy policies. Solar photovoltaic generation (solar PV) is said to be becoming more and more affordable in the majority of the world’s countries. The IEA has even stated that "solar projects now offer some of the lowest-cost electricity ever seen." This is great news because one of the biggest hindrances for people and companies to make sustainable choices is cost-related. So the fact that solar power can save companies and families some money is a huge win!
10. France announces ban on wild animals in circuses
Photo by Becky Phan on UnsplashFrance has announced a gradual ban on wild animals in circuses. The new ban does not have an implementation date, but people can expect to no longer see bears, tigers, lions, elephants and other animals in circuses. The ban does not apply to zoos or other attractions. In addition, France’s marine aquariums will no longer be able to breed or bring in new dolphins or orcas and no new aquariums will be built. The French government is also considering the creation of an animal sanctuary for the animals that will be released from captivity.