7 Victories for Our Planet in 2023
January 12, 2024
Fighting for the environment is never an easy task. 2023 was crowned the hottest year yet in recorded human history, scientists discovered toxic plastics tiny enough to interfere with human cells lurk in most of the ‘clean’ water we drink, and there were at least 23 climate disasters causing $1 billion or more in damage relief.
It’s easier than not to succumb to the doom and gloom narrative our planet is in irreparable disarray, as news repeatedly echoes the morbid tale of humanity’s decline and the world’s deterioration. But, just as we shed light on the harsh realities, it is equally important to spotlight positive developments in the fight to protect our planet.
By showcasing the good things happening, we can inspire hope and demonstrate collective efforts are not a waste, they indeed foster positive change. With just 100 days until Earth Day 2024, let’s look back at the past year and celebrate 7 remarkable achievements contributing to the positive momentum of the environmental movement:
#1: The Ozone Layer is on Track to Heal by 2040
The ozone layer is recovering, with projections indicating a return to 1980 values by 2066 over Antarctica, 2045 over the Arctic, and globally by 2040 if current policies continue. Despite fluctuations in the Antarctic ozone hole driven by meteorological conditions, the overall trend since 2000 reflects a gradual improvement in both area and depth!
#2- The EPA Crackdowns on 5 Toxic Chemicals Commonly Used in Plastics
The EPA has prioritized risk evaluations for five chemicals used in plastics, signaling a strong effort to address plastic-related issues. This initiative marks the beginning of a 12-month process likely leading to the designation of each chemical as a “high priority” under the Toxic Substances Control Act. Despite challenges, this move aligns with a commitment to studying and regulating harmful chemicals for a safer environment.
#3: 26 Species at Risk of Extinction Have Recovered in Australia
Australia, often recognized for its high mammal extinction rates, witnesses a glimmer of hope as 26 species have recovered enough to no longer be classified as threatened under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation (EPBC) Act. Notable recoveries include the greater bilby, burrowing bettong, western quoll, and humpback whale. While some species benefited from habitat management and predator control, conservationists emphasize the need for ongoing active management to sustain these positive outcomes.
#4: Scientists Discover Fungus Capable of Breaking Down Plastics
Australian scientists found a breakthrough method using backyard molds, Aspergillus Terreus and Engyodontium album, to efficiently break down persistent plastics, potentially enhancing plastic recycling rates. The fungi achieved the highest degradation rate reported globally, breaking down plastics in about 140 days. This breakthrough presents optimism for addressing the plastics crisis by offering an environmentally friendly and efficient solution to break down persistent plastics.
#5: Youth Activists Win Historic Victory Against the State of Montana
In a landmark decision, a Montana state judge ruled the state’s support of fossil fuels violates citizens’ constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment, offering a legal precedent for climate activists. The ruling deemed a state policy barring consideration of greenhouse gas emissions’ impacts in fossil fuel permitting unconstitutional, establishing legal protection against climate change-related harms. The decision, coinciding with widespread wildfires and heatwaves, sets a precedent for future lawsuits nationwide, signaling a turning point in the fight against climate change and governmental responsibility.
#6: Pepsi Cola Gets Sued for Their Part in the Plastics Crisis
In a positive move towards environmental responsibility, New York state’s Attorney General, Letitia James, has filed a lawsuit against PepsiCo and its Frito-Lay subsidiaries, holding them partially accountable for plastic litter affecting Buffalo’s drinking water. The lawsuit alleges the company’s large-scale production of plastic bottles and wrappers contributes to environmental damage, creating a public nuisance. By taking legal action, the state emphasizes the right to clean water and aims to address plastic pollution, signaling a commitment to holding major corporations responsible for environmental impacts and pushing for cleaner practices.
#7: There Were More Investments in Solar Power Than Oil
The International Energy Agency (IEA) reports a significant shift in energy investment patterns, with solar power investments surpassing spending on upstream oil for the first time in human recorded history. More than $1 billion per day was invested in solar power in 2023, exceeding the total spending for new upstream oil projects. The rise in clean-energy spending, driven by factors like government initiatives, signals a transition towards a new global energy economy and reflects a substantial increase in a short period, offering optimism for efforts to combat climate change and promote sustainable energy solutions.
Amidst the ongoing trajectory towards dangerous environmental threats, exacerbated by rising carbon levels and a surge in plastic production leading to environmental and health crises, urgent and substantial progress is imperative. Through these ongoing challenges, 2023 marked significant victories for our planet, highlighting the resilience and dedication of individuals, communities, and the global community.
As we reflect on these achievements, let them serve as inspiration to keep the positive momentum going, fostering a future where the planet thrives, sustainable practices become the norm, and green muscle memory guides our daily actions towards net-zero carbon. The Earth Day 2024 theme, “Planet vs. Plastics,” stands as an opportunity for continued dedication and action towards a healthier, plastics-free world, epitomizing the shared commitment to preserving our precious planet! To learn more and join the movement, please visit: https://www.earthday.org/earth-day-2024/