Saturday, December 28, 2013

The Return of Nature

Each day, thousands of environmental professionals
around the world work to help us maintain positive
environmental conditions on our altered planet.
This firefighter in Georgia is working on a prescribed burn.
Click for photo credit.

At the close of the year, I write a series of posts on overlooked environmental stories of the year.  In previous years, I wrote about the acceptance of the "new normal" in climate change, the growth of GMO food in the US diet, the expansion of benchmarking in sustainability management, the growth in the science of Mars, the acceptance of climate change by big energy, the high carbon cost of the internetwhite nose syndrome, the lack of clear US energy policy, the normalization of sustainability in everyday lives, the decline of the nuclear energy industrythe end of sprawl, and population growth.

It is interesting to go back to those posts and gauge their relevance in today's conversations on the environment and sustainability.  If you have any suggestions as to what I should feature in this year's series on overlooked environmental issues, send a note or leave a comment.

So far this year, I've written about the science of early humans, the stark reality of climate change, and the acceptance of junk science by the American public.  You can catch the posts herehere, and here.

Today, I'm writing about great successes in environmental management in many parts of the world.  While we have a long way to go, it is worth noting the success.  All too often we focus on the negative impacts of human action on the planet without taking time to reflect on how we have changed behavior over the last 40 years in order to protect many areas of the earth.  Please note, that I understand that many areas are still threatened and many species are on the edge of extinction.  But, in this changed world, there are success stories.

For example, this study from a few years ago demonstrated that forests are expanding throughout North America and Europe.  The noted geographer, John Fraser Hart, wrote about the expanding forests (albeit many of them commercial) in the American south and how forests have replaced former cotton plantations in many areas.

But it's not just about the forests.  Many animals have had very successful population increases.  Just take a look at the Florida black bear which was at risk of extinction.  It is now delisted from the state's tally of threatened species.

Overall, we have solved, or at least mitigated, many environmental problems from acid rain to the ozone hole.  We have decreased (at least in North America) most major pollutants and are working on developing solutions to other emerging problems.

We live in a very changed environment and it is changing in interesting ways with us.  We no longer have the natural world of the past.  It is evolving into a heavily altered and managed place.  And nature, in some form or another, is along for our wild ride into modernity.

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