This year was the hottest year on record. Temperatures reached 38.7 degrees in Cambridge – the hottest ever recorded in the UK. Fires devastated California, Greece, the Arctic and continue to burn in Australia.
In fact, data from the Sentinel-3 World Fire Atlas shows that there were almost five times as many wildfires in August 2019 compared to August 2018. And David Bellamy died.
However, this is the end of 2019 and I believe it’s just as well to look back at the positive things that happened this year.
Nestlé is, in my opinion, one of the worst companies out there. They don’t appear to have any moral conscience at all. Although they state that ‘As the ‘Good Food, Good Life’ company, we enhance quality of life and contribute to a healthier future’, one of their nasty tricks is to divert water supplies from rural communities and bottle the water, selling it to the world.
There have been many legal cases against Nestlé, many of them unsuccessful. Michael O’Heaney, director of the environmental group Story of Stuff Project, said: “You have Nestlé spouting this idea of shared benefits and ‘We’re in it for the communities’, but when you see the way they operate on the ground – they’re very skilled at cozying up with legislators, state officials … and getting their way.”
However, this year, a court overturned a decision that would have forced the Michigan township of Osceola to allow Nestlé to build a huge water pumping station. An online petition managed to raise over $50,000 to pay for the legal and administrative fees for the legal challenge that saved the township from bankruptcy. It took over three years but with over 375,000 people supporting the cause from all around the world, and tens of thousands of Michiganders, Osceola is now safe.
One of the demands from climate action group Extinction Rebellion is for climate change to be taught in all schools in the UK. In a positive move that may yet set a precedent for the rest of the world, Italy is to become the first country to make climate change lessons compulsory for school children.
Lorenzo Fioramonti, the education minister, announced that all state schools will spend one hour per week discussing climate change issues from the start of the next academic year. Other subjects such as geography, mathematics and physics will also be studied from the perspective of sustainable development.
Fioramonti said: “The entire ministry is being changed to make sustainability and climate the centre of the education model. I want to make the Italian education system the first education system that puts the environment and society at the core of everything we learn in school.”
In my opinion, another company which puts profit over environmental concerns or human rights is Bayer. They have immeasurable wealth and top lawyers, which means any fight against their products is most often shot down in flames.
However, with increasing pressure from all areas, MEPs from the European Union refused to renew the licence for Bayer’s pesticide thiacloprid. Alongside this, they refused to consider a draft proposal by member states that watered down measures to protect bees. It was dissatisfied with the protection measures for bumblebees and solitary bees and said that the proposal didn’t take into account more recent research.
“By opposing evaluation criteria, which are far too weak given the danger that pesticides pose to bees, we wanted to ask a simple question: are we serious about protecting the environment? Are we serious about protecting living organisms? Are we serious about the Green Deal?” said Environment Committee Chair Pascal Canfin (Renew, FR).
“The result is very clear: thanks to our mobilisation, a very large majority of the European Parliament did not want watered-down legislation on the protection of bees. We are now asking the Commission to review its text, and to present us with legislation that eliminates pesticides that pose the greatest danger to pollinators.”
Returning to Bayer’s insecticide thiacloprid, farmers will now not be allowed to use the insecticide after 30th April, 2020, when its current approval expires. A report from the European Food Safety Agency published in January 2019, raised concerns about the active substance being toxic for humans and present in too great a concentration in ground water.
Between July and September this year, electricity to UK homes and businesses was, for the first time, provided from renewable energy more than fossil fuels. Renewable energy provided 40% of energy as opposed to fossil fuels which provided 39%.
A study by the Crowther Lab in Zurich released in July, stated that planting trees would be the best thing we could do to tackle climate change. By using the 0.9bn hectares of land suitable for reforestation globally to plant trees, this could capture as much as two-thirds of all emissions that have been released by human activity. In response to this, many organisations worldwide reacted by pledging to plant millions of trees. In the UK, the Lancaster City Council urged residents to help plant 1million trees and Cornwall Council pledged to cover 8,000 hectares of the county with trees
by 2030. Pledges were also made by the Irish government and footwear company Timberland among others.
Founded in 2005, The C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group is a group of 94 cities around the world that represents one twelfth of the world’s population and one quarter of the global economy.
‘Mayors’ of the C40 cities are committed to delivering on the most ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement at local levels and for the past 10 years, C40 cities around the world have been championing the actions needed ‘to create healthier, cleaner, and more prosperous communities’. From their website, their successes so far include –
• 82 cities have implemented cycle hire schemes,
• There are now more than 66,000 electric buses
on the streets of C40 cities,
• 24 cities have committed to achieving 100%
renewable electricity by 2030,
• 18 cities have banned or restricted single-use,
• 17 cities now have restrictions on
high-polluting vehicles covering a significant
part of the city.
It certainly has been a meaningful year for
progress towards a paradigm shift in the way we think and behave with regards the environment.
May next year bring even greater advances.