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1. Greta, Climate Strikes, and Extinction Rebellion. One of the most interesting news stories to come out of 2019 was the acceleration in activism on climate change. What I find fascinating is that the activism did not emerge from the standard environmental groups like Sierra Club or Greenpeace. Instead, the activism was extremely home grown and bottom up. It came mainly from children. Greta Thunberg received Time's Person of the Year accolade. She represents thousands of children who are conducting climate strikes on Fridays around the world to draw attention to global climate change and the lack of serious action on the issue. At the same time, new groups, like Extinction Rebellion, have formed and are rewriting the rules of environmental activism. This is a trend that is going to stick around for a while.
2. Record Heat, Fires, and Flooding. Several major stories have emerged over the last year about record heat, significant fires (California and Australia for example), and extreme rain events that caused flooding. Many of these extreme events can be directly attributable to climate change.
3. National and International Breakdown of Environmental Policy and Practice. There was really bad news in this area all over the world. The recent failure of the UN climate meeting in Madrid was just the latest in a string of really bad international and national policy and the overall lack of environmental leadership at this moment in time (ergo, see 1 above). However, the new policy of the president of Brazil to develop the Amazon, the scuttling of the Pacific climate talks by the Prime Minister of Australia, and the gutting of environmental rules in the US by the current administration, coupled by the presidents silly statements on environmental issues, are all examples of how bad the situation is across our planet right now. There was also bad policy in other major countries like Russia, India, and China.
4. Climate Change Enters Presidential Race and Global Consciousness. One of the striking things about the current US presidential race is that the many, many Democratic candidates all have detailed plans (I've written about two of the candidate's plans here and here). At the debates, there are questions over which plan is better. Regardless of what you think about the plans, the point is they have them! This is very different from the last time around. Also, as noted in this post about Tetra Pak's sustainability initiatives, global consumers are very concerned about global warming. We have crossed a threshold. The public fully understands that we are now in a climate crisis.
5. Earth Profoundly Changed and Increasing Concerns About Global Population. One of the smaller stores of the year, but one that I personally found significant, was part of the most recent IPCC report that noted that 70% of the planet is impacted by human activity in substantial ways. Indeed, back when I was doing mineral exploration work in the 1980's, seeing this change is what prompted me to get into the sustainability field. These changes are accelerating and now that we 7.5 billion people and growing, there is emerging concern over the impacts of current consumption rates of food and stuff and what this will mean to the sustainability of our planet.
What are your top environmental news items of 2019? If you have any thoughts you want to share, please leave them in the comments.
Happy New Year!