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5 Reasons for Environmental Hope in 2020

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

With the UK seemingly more divided than ever, raging wildfires in Australia and a global climate emergency ringing loud and clear to communities everywhere during the turn of a new decade, it’s hard to see the positives coming into 2020. Whether your university, personal or work life is feeling a little strained this new year; take some time to read some reasons to hope for the environment in 2020.

1. The Waorani people of Pastaza have finally won a legal battle against oil companies drilling in the Amazon rainforest.

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What does that mean for 2020? It means the Ecuadorian government’s intentions of drilling for oil throughout seven million acres of south-central Ecuadorian Amazon have been halted.

A spokesperson for the tribe, Oswando Nenquimo, stated: ‘We have protected our forest from oil drilling; we have protected our water from contamination; we have protected our children from sickness. This is a legal precedent for indigenous rights’ but warned for the future…

‘the fight is far from over. The government will appeal because they still want the oil beneath our land. Indigenous Nations across the Amazon and the world must band together to protect our homes.’

2. Scientists have created an “artificial leaf” that could turn carbon dioxide into fuel.

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The artificial leaf mimics the process of photosynthesis, with the help of a cheap red powder called cuprous oxide. The artificial leaf takes in CO2 and produces methanol and oxygen. This methanol can then be collected and used as fuel. Want the juicy science behind it? Read the academic journal article.

Lead researcher Yimin Wu, an engineering professor at the University of Waterloo said:

This technology has achieved the solar to fuel efficiency about 10 per cent. This is already larger than the natural photosynthesis (about one per cent). The next step is to partner with industry companies to scale it up with a system engineering of flow cell for the production of liquid fuels. More efficient artificial leaves can be developed along the lines with industry partners.”

He also noted it may take several years for it to be commercialised- for now we can keep our fingers crossed!

3. U.S. Military Aims to increase total energy consumption from renewable sources

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Solar Panel in Afghanistan Major Paul Greenberg/U.S.M.C.

While continued war and conflict poses mass threat to people, communities, and the environment it unfortunately remains a current occurrence and topic within the media. A less reported area is that the US forces have been attempting to make the switch to renewables; with their initial aim to increase total energy consumption from renewable sources: Army – 25% by 2025; Navy – 50% by 2020; and Air Force – 25% of total electricity use from alternative energy by 2025. But now as we draw closer to the turn of the decade, how have they fared?

It turns out, military renewable power projects have tripled to 1,390 between 2011 and 2015, which has benefited green energy contractors, primarily, utilities and solar companies, the military’s oil consumption fell by 20% from 2007 to 2015. Even though, President Donald Trump is trying to undo green energy policies and regulations set up by former President Obama, the US military remains one government institution that seems to be determined to continue pursuing renewables. James Goudreau, who advocated for a more renewable energy sources as assets for the military during his service in the Pentagon said,

The practical application and efficiency of renewable energy in the combat zone and in disaster relief efforts are paramount.

So it seems they are in no rush to overturn the benefits of renewable sources additionally in regards to reliance and security for troops who are more likely to be attacked when guarding or transporting oil as opposed to greener forms.

4. Scientists in Finland have world’s first vaccine to protect bees against disease

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Around the world since the 1990’s, beekeepers started to observe the sudden disappearance of bees and in particular high rates of decline in honeybee colonies. According to greenpeace, in the UK alone, there’s been a 45% loss of commercial honeybee’s since 2010. The bees have been dying from what’s called “colony collapse disorder”, a mysterious bee epidemic worldwide. This causes major concern not just for the species but for all life on Earth. Bees alone are responsible for about one-third of the food we eat.

In response to this, scientists at Helsinki University have developed a new vaccine that works by giving the bees resistance to fight microbial diseases that can be fatal to the pollinators. It involves a protein and bacteria that pass on immunity to the next generation through the queen bee, who receives the vaccine by a sugar cube. It’s estimated that it will take around 5 years for the scientists to clear customary regulation and get the vaccine on the market.

5. Kenya has installed the first Solar Plant which turns ocean water into clean drinking water.

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The farm uses a filtration system that desalinates the brackish liquid to produce enough water for 35,000 people every day. Photo credit: Give Power

The future of fresh water shortage is imminent and of that, clean fresh water is even harder to come by… according to the World Health Organization, 844 million people across the globe lack access to clean drinking water and among them are more than 300,000 children who die every year due to water-borne diseases.

However, non-governmental organization ‘GivePower’ has stepped in to build its first solar water farm in Kenya, turning the region’s saltwater into clean and sustainable drinking water. This farm filtration system could be implemented further across the country and continent in the coming years and is certainly a player in the race to find innovative solutions for clean water in developing countries.

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It’s easy to get frustrated and bogged down by lots of negative news in the media these days, but remember there are people, communities and establishments doing good! For more incredibly positive things achieved in the world visit The Happy Broadcast.

About the Author: Amy Beckford is a 3rd year Environmental Geography student at the University of York. She is the managing editor here at WILD.

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