7 Environment Achievements to Celebrate in 2010

Life on the green front has been admittedly glum in 2010. A series of deadly spills and explosions, only the least of which was the BP Gulf mess, haven’t yet led to serious reforms; what’s more, the climate bill died a tortured death in the U.S. Senate this summer. All while we are on track for one of the hottest year in modern history, in a year of record-breaking floods, fires and droughts worldwide.

But 2010 also had its high notes, and a lot of those are thanks to victories at a lower level.

All over the world, activists are fighting in their states, towns and cities to do right by the environment. They are also moving to pressure the corporate world. So while, given the results of Election Day in the U.S., progress in Congress will be an uphill battle, I’m confident there will be even more victories to report this time next year.

1) California’s Proposition 23 goes down in flames:

Election Day results do not bode well for climate progress at the national level in the next few years. But the climate movement scored a big state-level victory in California that proves progress could turn stateside. The “first and largest public referendum in history on clean energy policy” was a runaway success as an unprecedented coalition of grassroots activists went to the polls to repudiate Texas oil interests in defeating their attempt to overthrow the state’s landmark climate law.

2) Big Renewable Energy is here:

After a decade-long battle, it looks like Cape Wind, the nation’s first offshore wind farm, might actually get built off the Massachusetts coast. Meanwhile, the Interior Department has approved eight large-scale solar plants in the Sunny west this year and promises to expedite more offshore wind permitting. And despite a slower-than-hoped economic recovery, renewable energy investment is solid and the billions of dollars of stimulus funds in renewable energy, high-speed rail, and plug-in electric vehicle technology will hopefully bring more. In its lame duck session this month, Congress made sure this trend will continue by approving the extension of key tax incentives.

3) Coal power plants are so last decade:

Coal-fired power plants are going out of style. San Francisco is to close its last fossil fuel power plant in January. In Oregon, the state just approved the early closure of the state’s only coal-fired plant. Colorado, too, is getting with the trend. New EPA climate regulations could lead to the shuttering of 50,000 megawatts of aging coal plants (some argue that’s a bad thing, but this study just proves the regulations are effective in combating climate change).

Of course, not everything is coming up roses. In a highly undemocratic process, Kansas regulators just approved a controversial new plant. That’s a lump of coal.

4) Banks are cashing out of mountaintop removal mining:

In response to pressure campaigns, PNC Bank and UBS Bank recently became only the latest banks to announce a policy limiting lending to what may be the worst energy extraction practice on Earth (They join Bank of America, Citibank, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, and Wells Fargo). Even if EPA won’t ban the practice, as many folks in Appalachia are hoping, at least, the likes of Massey Energy should have a lot more trouble finding financiers from here on out.

5) Wilderness is back in vogue:

The Obama administration gave its Christmas gifts to the conservation movement early this year. Late last Thursday, officials announced they would finally end President Bush’s damaging ‘No More Wilderness’ in a big victory for more than 3,100 Change.org members who supported the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance’s campaign.

6) Indigenous activists stop dangerous scientific mission:

The Ayoreo Indians live about as far off the grid as any society on Earth. Thanks to a recent international outcry, that won’t change. In November, indigenous rights group Iniciativa Amotocodie, with some help from Change.org, successfully pressured the U.K. Natural History Museum to cancel its scientific expedition to the inhospitable forests of Paraguay’s Gran Chaco region. The mission would have risked bringing disease and cultural contamination to one of the few remaining indigenous peoples still untouched by Western society.

Now, the group is asking Change.org members to speak out again—this time to condemn the Paraguay government’s raid of their office in retaliation for their victory.

7) Big cities expand bike programs:

Being a bike-friendly city no longer means simply having abundant parking meters to lock our bikes to. This year, Washington, DC revamped its bike sharing program, Denver and Minneapolis started ones earlier this year, and San Francisco, Boston and New York City are planning theirs. Bike infrastructure and lanes are also improving from coast to coast. Unfortunately, driver education and biker safety priorities have not always kept pace, as the astonishing number of tragic accidents (here’s one we featured) and lax driver penalties prove.

By Jess Leber (environment.change)


Source: environment.change, December 29, 2010