It’s not all bad news: stories of global climate progress

Sophia Wang, Web Manager, Copy Editor

Looking at the news, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that the earth is slowly burning up and humans are at the root of this destruction. While this may be the part of the truth that is reflected in most headlines, it’s also possible to find stories of climate success that lie under the seemingly endless layer of depressing updates.

Intensive agricultural and reforestation efforts in China and India have paid off, as the analysis of satellite imagery from NASA has shown. The study, ending after two decades of observation, indicates that China and India had the biggest percent increase in green leaf area. Though these two countries are the most populous in the world, continuous efforts have been made to restore over-exploited areas. In India, cropping practices necessary to feed its large population have contributed most to the observed greening. China’s forest conservation and tree-planting program is a big part of the greening impact shown, originally introduced to combat the heavy air and soil pollution. Even though this greening trend might not be a full picture of the well-being of the planet, these initiatives show that ambitious steps to improve the environment can have visible impacts.

In recent years, the movement focused on gradually eliminating the usage of single-use plastics has gained traction. Bangladesh became the first country to ban the use of plastic bags in 2002, and since then, dozens of countries and around 200 cities have followed its lead in either banning or taxing plastics. Major companies including Starbucks, McDonalds, and multiple airlines have also pledged to phase out plastic straws in favor of the more sustainable option of paper. More locally, Oregon has banned the use of single-use plastic bags in most restaurants and retail shops, as well as requiring them to charge at least five cents for paper bags and other reusable bags.

On the topic of ocean conservation, the world’s second largest coral reef, the Belize Barrier Reef, was removed from the list of endangered world heritage sites in 2018. Belize started facing public criticism for multiple leases by the country’s government that introduced the threat of oil drilling throughout the entire area. After facing pushback from activists and the general population, the Supreme Court of Belize ruled against the oil drilling contracts, setting the stage for a chain of conservation efforts including environmental taxes, fishing restrictions and regulations to protect coastal vegetation.