It can be easy to only notice the bad things going on in the world, especially when it comes to environmental issues. While it’s important to stay concerned and connected to the planet’s challenges, it’s equally important to stay tuned in to the stories of hope. These stories remind us possible when our relationships with creation are restored.
Wildlife returns after a drastic beach clean-up in Mumbai
No more than three years ago, concerned individuals around grew tired of the trash that had accumulated on the sands of Versova Beach in Mumbai. One individual in particular, Afroz Shah, simply said he was “fed up” with all the trash and waste on the shore. Indeed, at the time, the garbage was knee deep, even as high as five feet high in certain parts.
As Shah organized hundreds of volunteers over the next couple years, nearly 12,000,000 pounds of trash were cleared from the rivers. They also installed better waste management systems and public toilets in order to prevent future waste.
To top off their efforts, they planted over 50 coconut trees, and next they plan to line the entire coast with mangroves. This will prevent floods from taking over and will keep the water clearer. The United Nations labeled their efforts the largest beach clean up ever.
It didn’t take very long before the beach began to heal. The healing nature of the ocean, combined with the boost from human helpers, restored the beach to a place where locals could sunbathe and swim.
To many people’s surprise, Olive Ridley turtles began to return. These species had once laid eggs along the coast, but as the trash accumulated, they were unable to climb past the heaps of waste. “I had tears in my eyes when I saw them walking towards the ocean,” said Shah.
The United Kingdom significantly reduced its dependence on coal
While much attention has highlighted the negative health and environmental impacts of coal as an energy source, many considered a shift away from its use to be an unrealistic goal. This was especially true in the United Kingdom.
The UK was one of the earliest adopters of coal in the world. New technology had enabled its expansion throughout the 19th century. In 1913, coal use peaked, with the UK producing about 300 million tonnes. However, some recent data shows how much the nation has been able to shift towards more sustainable sources of energy.
A graph released earlier in the year by Gridwatch has shown how much coal use has decreased just in the past seven years. In 2012, over 50% of Britain’s power was generated by coal almost every single day. Things improved gradually, then more steeply around 2016. In 2018, the country went coal free for a few days, then for many more in 2019.
On a grand scale, this only continues a trend that has been going on for nearly a century. Coal production and use has been on a steep decline since the 1920s. In 2017, the UK produced only 3 million tonnes, a mere one percent compared to where production was a century ago. The areas that once produced so much coal have seen improved air quality, while a variety of other industries have kept employment strong and stable.
Bison populations are making a comeback in North America
In the early 1800s, bison dominated the Great Plains of North America, from Canada down to Oklahoma. These bison were the anchors of a truly diverse ecosystem. But hunting and human settlement drove those numbers down over the course of a century. By the end of the 1800s, only 1,000 remained.
As bison populations were beyond decimated, many believed that the species would never make a full comeback. Wildlife reserves in Yellowstone National Park and Alberta, Canada were set up. These efforts meant to preserve some wild populations, but their future was uncertain.
These immediate efforts may have prevented immediate extinction. Then indigenous communities began to make a push to restore the presence of bison on their ancestral lands. Working with conservationists, the bison population began to expand.
In the early 2000s, it crossed the half-million mark for the first time.
The benefits of bison are numerous. As large, grass-feeding herbivores, they help control the growth of wild grasses that tend to dominate landscapes. This control is beneficial for other plants trying to grow in the same ecosystem. They are more nomadic grazers, compared to cattle. That approach is friendlier to cycles of rest and growth for the soil. Finally, their grass-rich manure is an extremely valuable fertilizer for grasslands.
Today, the bison population in North America is around 50 million. They have contributed to increased ecological resilience in Alberta, Montana, Wyoming, and other plains areas. Efforts to protect these creatures and their habitats has benefitted all.
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