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
The climate crisis is overwhelming—and while we can easily get discouraged into inaction, we like to focus on the amazing environmental wins each month to keep us hopeful and motivated to protect our planet.
No matter how big or small, here's our roundup of good environmental news from November...
1. A new modified wheat variety could help fight world food shortages
Photo by Eric Prouzet on UnsplashResearchers at the University of York have found a way to create a modified wheat variety that can increase production of grain by 12 percent. Wheat provides humans with 20 percent of our needed calories globally, so increasing production could help stop food shortages. This is a major breakthrough since previous attempts to increase grain production have created larger-sized grains, but fewer grains overall. By changing the growth of developing grain, researchers doing experiments in Chile now have bigger grains and no decrease in grain numbers.
2. The UK may be getting ready to support plans for a treaty that will fight plastic pollution
Photo by Brian Yurasits on UnsplashLord Goldsmith has said that Britain could play a large role in dealing with the plastic crisis. With growing support for a treaty to help end plastic waste happening internationally, pressure is being put both on the US and the UK. The minister for Pacific and the Environment suggested negotiations start taking place on a UN treaty focused on plastics in a similar fashion to the Paris agreement on the overall climate crisis. A lawyer at the Environmental Investigation Agency, Tim Grabiel, shared support for the UK’s involvement for a plastics treaty and hoped that Canada and the USA may join as well.
3. Offshore freshwater discovery becomes a source of hope for islands around the world
Photo by Jelle de Gier on UnsplashOffshore freshwater reservoirs containing twice the amount of freshwater originally speculated have been found within the submarine southern flank of the Hualālai aquifer. With double the amount of freshwater available than originally thought, there may now be alternative and renewable resources of freshwater that can sustain people in Hawaii. This could also be the case for other volcanic islands worldwide.
4. Railways are getting even greener with solar power
Photo by Luke White on UnsplashTaking the train is one of the most eco-friendly ways you can travel, but trains still use lots of electrical energy. Solar farms plugged directly into a railway networks could start changing that. The UK is currently implementing this initiative and there are hopes that eventually UK train systems will be powered by at least 10 percent solar energy. Nearly 1000 railway stations in India already have solar panels on their roofs and they hope to have all their rails be 100 percent carbon neutral by 2030. Australia already has a train run 100 percent on solar energy which it has achieved by using batteries on the train roofs and at the stations.
5. Offshore wind farms could power UK homes by 2030
Photo by Jack Hunter on UnsplashWind turbines floating in the ocean could eventually become a source of electricity for homes. Wales currently meets 50 percent of the country’s needs through renewable sources and the prime minister wants to have fixed offshore wind farms powering UK homes by 2030. Therefore, an offshore wind farm is proposed for an area off the Welsh coast and will have the capacity to power 90,000 homes. Trials in Scotland also suggest that these floating wind farms could have other advantages, like cost savings and environmental impact.
6. Northern Ireland Water plans to plant one million trees on its estate
Photo by K. Mitch Hodge on UnsplashNorthern Ireland Water is planning to plant one million trees on its estate starting in January 2021. All trees will be native species and the initiative will contribute to a larger project aiming to plant 18 million trees throughout the next 10 years. All work will be overseen by the Woodland Trust.
7. Global map of bee species created to aid conservation efforts
Photo by 冬城 on UnsplashBees play a crucial role in a healthy environment and are endangered due to pesticides, habitat loss and climate change. While some bee populations and species have been well-documented and studied in Europe and North America, other regions such as Asia and Africa have little documentation. Now, researchers have created a global map using data from 20,000 species around the world. The map shows that there are more bee species in drier and temperate areas than there are in tropical climates. It also shows there are more bees in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern, with hot spots in various areas of the USA, Africa and the Middle East. With bee populations threatened worldwide, it’s important to better monitor their locations and numbers.
8. Elephant grass research could help with green energy efforts
Wikimedia CommonsScientists from Aberystwyth University in Wales have helped to sequence the genome of elephant grass (miscanthus). Elephant grass is native to Africa and South Asia and can be used as biomass for generating electricity. Sequencing the genome could help reduce CO2 emissions and find other uses for the plant. The versatility of the plant could allow it to replace fossil fuels in many different ways.