Resolve to save the planet

Many people talk about new year’s resolutions at this time of year. I understand it to some degree, but for me, if you see something that you would like to change, do more of, do less of and know it’s something good, then doing it any time of the year is good!

I would like to have a look back over 2018 and talk about the environmental successes of those people, projects and organisations who started their campaigns and had, and kept, that ‘new year’ enthusiasm and momentum to see their goals come to fruition.

In 2015 the government introduced a 5p charge on plastic carrier bags from shops. Many people thought this was a great idea and just two years later, the sale of these bags was down by 86% and the charge had raised more than £58 million for local and national good causes. The success of this scheme has paved the way for a charge on plastic bottles and coffee cups, once the government decides to take that step!

The hole in the ozone above Antarctica is recovering. This is the one thing that I remember being so concerned about as a child that it kicked off my career in environmentalism. That, and saving the pandas.

In the mid-80s it was discovered that there was a hole in the ozone layer, one that was getting bigger due to, amongst other things, the human use of gases such as CFCs. An environmental agreement, the Montreal Protocol, was enforced and in 2018 NASA announced that the hole is repairing well and is on track to being back to how it was before we started mucking around with ozone depleting substances.

Rising sea temperatures are causing the coral on the Great Barrier Reef to die.
Between 29 – 50% of the coral has been lost and there doesn’t seem to be any slowing of this process. However, scientists have managed to take samples of the live coral spawn and eggs, mature them in a lab and transport them back to the reef. By mid-2018, these transported corals were alive, thriving and making a difference to the decreasing biodiversity of the reef.

Currently, more than 26,500 species are threatened with extinction. Remember the panda? Luckily the Giant Panda was saved from extinction and listed as ‘vulnerable’ rather than ‘endangered’ in 2016.

Whilst there is bad news for many species such as the Eastern Gorilla and the Red Fronted Macaw, it is positive news for the Mountain Gorilla whose status has gone from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’, and the Fin Whale who has gone from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ due to the ban on whale hunting in the North Pacific and reduced catch quotas in the North Atlantic.

And finally – trees. Pakistan has completed their ‘Billion Tree Tsunami’ and has replaced great swathes of forest that had been decimated by natural disasters and over-logging.
In the last budget, the British government pledged £60m for tree planting which will see over 10 million trees being planted in the UK this year. In a report published in Nature towards the end of last year, it was revealed that global tree cover has increased by 7% since 1982 – that’s the year I was born.

Although this is good news in that the amount of tree cover worldwide is not decreasing, it doesn’t sound like much does it? Just 7% in 36 years. Let’s hope that this report will kick-start the rest of the world into planting billions more trees. And charging for plastic bottles. And saving the Eastern Gorilla. New year’s resolutions? Let’s save the planet.

Laura White

Author: Laura White

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