Eco-anxiety, climate doom, environmental existential dread – as green journalists, we see these terms used a lot – and often feel them ourselves.
There’s a lot to be worried about when it comes to the climate and nature crises, but when a sense of hopelessness becomes the overarching emotion, apathy begins to creep in too. Last year three environmental educators, all part of EcoTok, penned this excellent piece for us about dealing with eco-anxiety and the need to remain hopeful – or “stubbornly optimistic”, as Christiana Figueres puts it.
The media has a huge part to play in combatting climate doom. It’s our job to be truthful and accurate in our reporting, not trying to downplay the severity of the situation or greenwash reality. But it’s also our job to show that there is hope!
So, for 2022, as part of our ongoing effort to tackle eco-anxiety (both that of our readers and our own), we are going to be keeping track of all the positive environmental stories from this year.
This article will be regularly updated with the latest good news. It may be something small and local, something silly that made us smile, or something enormous and potentially world-changing.
The new technology has been devised by young Finnish engineers Tommi Eronen and Markku Ylönen, founders of Polar Night Energy, but could be used worldwide.
Though a number of other research groups are testing the limits of sand as green energy storage, the pair are the first ones to successfully rig it to a commercial power station.
Dolphin poo could be the key to saving the world’s coral reefs, according to a new study.
Spinner dolphins, famous for their acrobatic marina displays, have some very special excrement. Their poo has “reef-enhancing nutrients” which are not to be underestimated, a report by Zoological Society London (ZSL) finds.
The dolphins are giving threatened coral reefs in the Maldives and Chagos Archipelago a helping hand by pooing in the shallow lagoons. Published this week, the study shows that the amount of nitrogen absorbed by spinner dolphins during their daily commute can improve coral reef productivity and resilience.
Forget fossil fuel travel – airplanes could one day run on sugar-munching bacteria.
Conventional jet fuel is created by burning fossil fuels like oil and gas, generating a mammoth carbon footprint. But a tiny common soil bacteria could change all this.
The ‘streptomyces’ bacteria creates an ‘explosive’ molecule when it eats sugar and researchers claim it could be used as alternative plane fuel.
“If we can make this fuel with biology there’s no excuses to make it with oil,” says Pablo Cruz-Morales, a microbiologist at the Technical University of Denmark.
**Scientists develop heat resilient plants to survive climate change
A research team at US and Chinese universities say they have discovered a way to help plants survive extreme heat.
With agricultural crops around the world threatened by rising temperatures, this research could help plants resist climate change.
If the findings can be applied to commonly grown crops, it could be vital for protecting food supplies during heatwaves.
Our very own Green deputy editor, Maeve Campbell, meets Henry Emson from ‘One Life, One Tree’ to plant a giant sequoia in the British countryside.
So why are sequoias so special? Watch the video to see what happened.
Millions of tonnes of plastic wind up in the ocean every year, killing plants and animals. That’s why companies around the world have developed novel devices to help reduce the ocean plastic problem.
Dutch company RanMarine has deployed several 157-centimetre wide aquatic drones called WasteSharks that capture rubbish and bring it back to land.
The drones can hold 160 litres of trash, floating plants and algae, according to RanMarine Technology.
This species was thought to have been extinct for more than a century, the only known specimen discovered in 1906. A lone female tortoise was discovered in 2019 on Fernandina island in the Galápagos, providing a hint that the species may still be alive.
Now scientists have proved that the two individuals are in fact related, opening up further mysteries about the species’ survival.
The UK is heavily dependent on imported foods – especially when it comes to fruit and veg. Nearly half of all food eaten in the country comes from overseas.
But one company is hoping to solve this problem by building what will be the world’s largest vertical farm in Lincolnshire, England. It is set to open in autumn this year.
With a lower environmental impact than traditional agriculture, they hope that this innovative solution will produce certain crops 365 days a year without increasing our air miles. We could see British-grown strawberries at Christmas before we know it.
This seagrass covers an area roughly three times the size of Manhattan. It was discovered by scientists at the University of Western Australia and Flinders University.
Initially, they thought it was a meadow of different grasses but have discovered that the incredibly long plant is just one seagrass. They believe it has survived the impact of climate change thanks to one special trait – it has been reproducing asexually.
Finland will become the first European country to reach net zero if it meets ambitious climate targets passed into law by the government. But it wants to go one step further than that by becoming carbon negative by 2040.
The country is still having issues with deforestation but is currently working on a plan to improve the carbon emissions of the land-use sector. It also has a wealth of natural resources it can rely on to help reach its carbon negative target.
The European Commission is hoping to jumpstart a large-scale rollout of solar energy and rebuild Europe’s solar manufacturing industry.
The plan is part of its bid to wean countries off Russian fossil fuels.
“Solar electricity and heat are key for phasing out EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas,” the Commission said in the draft, due to be published next week in a package of proposals to end the European Union’s reliance on Russian oil and gas.
The world’s first ‘net-zero’ operation has been performed in the UK, paving the way for more sustainable practices in healthcare.
Doctors at Solihull Hospital in the West Midlands carried out a five-hour bowel cancer surgery that was completely carbon neutral.
Though patients’ health is of course the priority, hospitals have a surprisingly large carbon footprint. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) accounts for around 6 per cent of the country’s total CO2 emissions.
Which makes last month’s operation all the more significant. Consultant colorectal surgeon Aneel Bhangu says that – as a high emitter – the NHS will have an impact on people’s health in the medium and longer term.
We love this story simply because it shows how brilliant people can be.
The winner wrote an open letter, while keeping his anonymity, to explain why he has made the excellent decision.
Can’t recommend reading this piece enough, especially if you’re feeling down about the world.
This was one of our top-performing articles this month – it seems our readers just can’t get enough content about solar power!
And this was some particularly good news to receive.
Specially designed panels could help solve the current problems with solar energy, by generating power once the sun has gone down.
The panels were discovered in 2020, when scientists at the University of California Davis, US, hit the mainstream.
Created by Professor Jeremy Munday and coined ‘anti-solar cells’, the solution allows us to harvest electricity from the night sky. Research conducted this year now confirms these nighttime solar panels produce enough energy to charge a mobile phone.
Solar and wind power can grow enough to limit global warming to 1.5C if the 10-year average growth rate of 20 per cent can be maintained to 2030, according to a new report.
Solar generation rose 23 per cent globally in 2021, while wind supply gained 14 per cent over the same period. Together, both renewable sources accounted for 10.3 per cent of total global electricity generation, up 1 per cent from 2020.
The Netherlands, Australia and Vietnam had the fastest growth rates for renewable sources.
“If these trends can be replicated globally, and sustained, the power sector would be on track for 1.5 degree goal,” thinktank Ember said in its report.
With the largest percentage of forestland in Europe, Sweden is looking at new ways to incorporate trees into its architecture.
This wooden skyscraper in the city of Skelleftea is constructed from over 12,000 cubic metres of wood – and is capable of sequestering nine million kilograms of carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime.
Could this be 2022’s greenest innovation yet?
through their constitutions or the court system.
Billionaires often have quite a bad reputation when it comes to climate change. But Mike Cannon-Brookes, the third richest person in Australia is trying to change that.
Frustrated with the Australian government’s disregard for the climate, he is trying to buy three of the country’s coal power plants. The aim is to do what the government won’t by shutting them down for good and replacing them with renewable energy.
In what the UN Environment Agency has called “the most significant environmental deal since the Paris accord,” government officials punched the air after they agreed to create the first global plastic pollution treaty.
The details of the final, legally binding pact are still being worked out but it could have big ripple effects on businesses and economies around the world. It is due to be finalised by 2024.
Positive environmental stories from January 2022
Although coral reefs all over the world have been damaged by rising sea temperatures, leading to wide-scale bleaching – it turns out these ghostly white tropical reefs seem to still remain rich sources of micronutrients.
This doesn’t mean we should stop trying to prevent coral bleaching events, but it does mean that where the damage has been done, there is still some hope. This is particularly good news for the many coastal communities that rely on reefs for food.
There’s a lot we can learn from Tallinn it turns out. The Estonian capital is set to be the European Green Capital for 2023, due to its innovative and modern approach to sustainability.
What’s particularly impressive about Tallinn is that it used to be home to a number of heavily polluting industries. It’s a shining example of how change is always possible, and hopefully a blueprint for other cities in Europe and beyond.
This is a good example of crisis leading to innovation. While the reason for the invention is still deeply troubling, the students behind this project have created something truly brilliant.
Their design is able to provide shelter for at least six weeks, and could be used as storage for food, water, medicine and sanitation products as part of resilience programmes.
There’s something really compelling about any story to do with a species returning from the brink of extinction. While it’s of course terrible that things reached a tipping point like this, it also goes to show that there is always hope – even when the worst possible outcome seems inevitable.
This particular case is fascinating. The tiny tequila splitfin disappeared from the wild in 2003 due to human activity, but thanks to the efforts of conservation centres, colonies of this little freshwater species are thriving once again.
While the climate crisis gets the most attention, the biodiversity crisis is something we should all be paying a lot more attention to. That’s why this company’s project, combining AI with drones, is so fantastic. It’s a faster, cheaper way to tackle deforestation.
At the same time, however, it doesn’t cause the issues often found with tree-planting schemes. The method is designed to boost the health of the surrounding ecosystem, while being careful to avoid monocrops and non-native species.
Diving in the waters off of Tahiti’s tropical coastline, marine researchers uncovered one of the largest coral reefs ever found. And, unlike many of its counterparts, it appears to be completely unaffected by human activity.
Although they occupy just 0.1 per cent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to a quarter of all marine life.
So it’s easy to see why this is such excellent news.