Friday 21 December 2012

Joy to the world: 10 environmental reasons to be cheerful

Twenty years ago this year, 1700 of the world's leading scientists issued an appeal to their fellow human beings. The 1992 World Scientists' Warning to Humanity began like this:

"Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. Human activities inflict harsh and often irreversible damage on the environment and on critical resources. If not checked, many of our current practices put at serious risk the future that we wish for human society and the plant and animal kingdoms, and may so alter the living world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know."

They were right, of course. The climate is changing, carbon dioxide emissions are higher than they've been in 800,000 years, the earth is melting, extreme weather events are happening with alarming regularity.

But good things are happening too. Among the countless eco achievements this year, here are a few of my favourites or, as I like to think of it...

10 environmental reasons to be cheerful:

1. Tasmania's forests were protected - January 14 was a good day for trees, specifically the trees and other plants in 428,000 hectares of public forests that were saved from logging in a landmark agreement.

2. The Taiji dolphin hunt ended a month early and Japanese protested for the first time against this barbaric practice that happens every year in a small cove south of Tokyo. See activist Ric O'Barry's recap here.

3. Millions of people in almost 7000 cities and towns in 152 countries switched off their lights for a record-breaking Earth Hour. Join in next year at 8.30pm on March 23, 2013.

4. Los Angeles became the largest city in the US to ban plastic bags. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the north Pacific will breathe a sigh of relief...

5. Australia's carbon tax was finally introduced and the sky, not to mention the economy, didn't fall in. Kudos to PM Julia Gillard for standing her ground and making a tough political decision.

6. Avaaz reported in August that 20 per cent of the world's electricity now comes from renewable sources. The cost of energy from solar panels is cheaper than electricity from fossil fuels in 105 countries. Praise the sun.

Safe: Green turtle at Wilson Is, Qld
7. The Super Trawler Abel Tasman (formerly Margiris) was banned from fishing in Australian waters for two years. In other fish-related news, the EU, world's largest exporter of shark fins, to Hong Kong and China, passed a ban on shark-finning and Coles, IGA and John West vowed to stop unsustainable tuna fishing.

8. The Australian government created the world's largest network of marine reserves, on November 16. Australia has the third largest marine jurisdiction on Earth, giving us a big responsibility to save our seas.

9. Amazon deforestation was at a record low for the fourth year in a row, which significantly reduced Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions.

10. There is a growing awareness, all over the world, of the need to live more sustainably and more simply, and more and more people making a difference to use less, re-use more, recycle, live more closely to the earth, connect with each other. See Green Villages for what's happening in Sydney alone.

If all this doesn't make your heart glow like ET's (happy 30th anniversary, Mr Spielberg!), watch this: The Wilderness Society's 2012 Year in Review video clip. I'm listening to its soundtrack as I write this. 

So from the bottom of my heart, I wish you all a merry Christmas. Peace and love to you and every other being with which we share this great, big, incredible blue and green planet. I, for one, vow to take better care of it next year.

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