Conservation Column: Bad News, Good News from Here and There

In last month’s column, I reported some bad news on the conservation front, but noted that there were ways that we, as individuals, could help. That’s still true. Sitting at my computer, I find myself, again, mired in more bad news, and I worry about losing my sense of humor.

Bad news first:

  • The Peregrine Fund has found that 52 percent of raptor species are declining around the globe.
  • According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), we have seen an overall 60 percent decline of mammals, birds, fish, and reptiles since 1970. 
  • A report on high-elevation species of birds show population declines. Their ranges have shrunk due to climate change, and they have run out of usable mountain habitat.

  • Although climate change is impacting countless species, including humans, the U.S. is no longer a part of the Paris Climate Agreement, and has removed information about climate change from several government websites including theEnvironmental Protection Agency, the Energy Department, and the State Department.
  • The journal Nature just published a study indicating that, excluding Antarctica, more than 77 percent of Earth’s land and 87 percent of its oceans have been modified by human intrusion.
  • Habitat loss has increased due to conversion to agriculture, development, and extractive industries.
  • Several government agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management have proposals in the works to increase logging on public lands, including close to home in Lane County and around the state.
  • Numerous proposals will open previously protected areas, such as National Parks and Wilderness areas, to mining, oil, and gas extraction under the current administration.
  • Both the executive branch and Congress are proposing weakening environmental laws that range from protection of clean air and water to protection of wildlife under the Endangered Species Act.

But wait! I’m still sitting at my computer, so I begin searching for good news from reliable sources, and I discover that:

  • Pakistan aims to plant one billion new trees.
  • After two centuries of heavy logging that left only a small percentage of U.S. forests intact, the trend has now reversed, with forest growth up from a century ago.
  • In some areas, sustainable practices in farming are allowing for healthy soil and corridors of native plants.
  • A recent report has found that more food is being grown in urban areas.
  • Retailers are selling structures that allow you to grow food up rather than out, reducing food miles.
  • The Institute for Sustainable Development and International Relations released numbers that indicate that Europe could feed all the people who live there even if it cuts its crop yields by 30 percent on average, reduces the production of animal products by 40 percent, and replaces pesticides and fertilizers with sustainable farming methods.
  • In some countries, more people are eating plant-based foods.
  • Initiatives to reduce plastic waste are popping up all over. Their efficacy has been demonstrated; for instance, when the Marine Conservation Society measured the amount of plastic bags on British beaches after plastics reduction legislation, it found a decrease of 37 percent after only the first year.
  • This year, NASA confirmed that the hole in the ozone above Antarctica is recovering.
  • The World Bank has a new policy eliminating funding of oil and gas exploration with a goal to invest at least 28 percent of their lending wealth in environmental causes.
  • Offshore drilling was banned in Oregon by executive order.
  • Countries around the world installed more solar capacity in 2017 than any other kind of energy generation.
  • Technology is developing more efficient batteries to hold, during “off” hours, power that is generated by solar panels.
  • One fairly new type of battery runs on CO2 released from power plants.
  • Some countries and states have banned sunscreens containing ingredients that damage coral reefs (check out the labels).
  • A way might exist to help recover coral reefs suffering from massive die-offs: Scientists have managed to breed coral from the Great Barrier Reef and transplant it back into the wild.
  • Watchdog organizations have recorded population increases of pandas, dolphins, gorillas, and other species, which they attribute to environmental work and legislation like the US Endangered Species Act. 
  • The Center for Biological Diversity noted 23 different marine mammals showing signs of recovery under the ESA.
  • Staff from the Wildlife Conservation Society and its partners released 24 plains zebras into southern Tanzania where they have not been seen for more than 50 years.
  • A judge recently ruled to protect Yellowstone grizzlies from hunting.
  • A Chinese billionaire has committed to donate about one third of her wealth, $1.5 billion, to wildlife conservation.

What a relief! Organizations and people are stepping up. I can keep my sense of humor. And on that note, here’s an eye-roller: Why are seabirds so lucky in love? Because one good tern deserves another!