Saturday, December 14, 2019

Was I a Sustainability Psychic in 2019? Checking in on My Predictions

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Each year about this time, I make predictions about sustainability for the coming year. I thought it would be a good idea to check in to see how I did over the last year. Below are the predictions I made on December 18, 2018 followed by some comments. What do you think? Was I a sustainability psychic this year?

1. Significantly worse news on biodiversity. News reports over the last year have noted ecosystem problems in many parts of the world. Expect more bad news from Africa on megafauna, from Australia on the barrier reefs, and from the Arctic on changing habitat due to climate change.

I give this prediction an A. There was an abundance of bad news regarding biodiversity and I was prescient about the exact locations of some problem areas.

2. Greater isolation of politicians who deny climate change. As we start to see accelerated impacts due to climate change, it will be harder for politicians to continue to deny the science of climate change. Politicians who deny climate change will become toxic to a national audience.

I give this prediction an A. Politicians who deny climate change are getting called out on their beliefs in greater numbers. They are becoming more isolated (and look more evil) as more and more evidence about climate change pours in.

3. Environmental justice concerns grow in autocratic countries. In places like China, Russia, and Venezuela, there is little real opposition to centralized national power. As a result, there is little voice to those who face environmental consequences of national actions. Expect to see greater focus on environmental justice in these places in the coming year.

I give this prediction an A. There is no doubt that environmental justice continues to make news in all of the places I mentioned. However, Brazil has garnered the most attention as of late due to the killing of many indigenous people as the Amazon rainforest is cut for agricultural development.

4. Good news on plastics. The world is starting to get more serious about plastic pollution as we see greater pollution problems around the world. The coming year will see a variety of actions at the local, national, and global levels. Expect to see more plastic straw bans and serious initiatives to clean up ocean plastics.

I give this prediction an A+. Plastic policy was one of the most significant issues to emerge this year. Across the world, plastic bans are going into effect and socially there is more of a move away from plastic use. Great job world! We need to do more, but this year was a watershed.

5. Water supply woes continue around the world. While there is good news coming on plastics, there is bad news coming on water. Many areas around the world have passed their ability to sustainably provide water to their populations. Whether it is Yemen or Las Vegas, many places are having more challenges to maintaining a steady water supply.

I give this prediction a B. There are certainly serious water issues that are emerging and many areas have reported shortages. However, we haven't seen a major breakdown of a system which is great news!

6. Rewilding of abandoned areas. As populations have become more urban around the world, some places are reverting back to wilderness. Expect this trend to continue in areas seeing rural population declines.

I want to give this prediction an A but I am going to give it a B. Rewilding is definitely happening, but it hasn't gotten the attention I think it deserves.

7. Questions on resiliency. Over the last several years, many have used the term resiliency to refer to the ability of populations to react to a variety of challenges such as climate change or severe storms. A number of initiatives have moved forward around the world to try to make communities more resilient. Expect to see critical evaluations of these initiatives in the coming years.

I give this prediction a D. I still believe that there will be more critical assessment of resiliency in the future, but alas, 2019 was not the year for it. Instead, there was more discussion about trying to make communities more resilient. Sigh.

8. Food quality problems grow. Last year there were several problems that emerged in the quality of the food supply. These problems will continue in the coming year as producers struggle with how to maintain high quality standards in food that needs to be shipped great distances.

I give this prediction an A. There were a number of major food recalls this year including major pork, lettuce, and chicken recalls.

9. Advances in green energy technology. Each year, there are magnificent advances in green energy technology that allow us to reduce our use of fossil fuels. There will be great advances in non-battery storage of green energy (wind and solar) to allow temporal stabilization of energy supply.

I give this prediction a B-. There were definitely major advances in green energy (particularly the recent announcement about improvement in concentrated solar energy technology). However, there was not as much movement as I thought there would be in non-battery storage of green energy.

10. Rejection of consumerism. It is becoming more and more uncool among young people to be associated with big-ticket luxury items. The young see the previous generation as responsible for many or the problems that they are facing--particularly economic and environmental problems. They see luxury items as symbolic of the generational rift. Expect to see a greater rejection of consumerism in the coming generation.

I give this prediction an A. There is no doubt that the younger generation is very concerned about the future of our planet. Climate strikes are a manifestation of this concern. Many people are also embracing minimalism and rejecting consumerism. 

Overall, I think I did pretty good with my predictions. While there were a few non-A grades, I think it is clear that I can comfortably say that I am a sustainability seer, a guru of green, and a swami of swamps. 

Stay tuned for my predictions for 2020 coming up some time in the next week or two.

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