It’s easy to feel blue about the state of the planet: temperatures are rising, extreme weather is more extreme, and Prince is dead. However, there is always cause for optimism on this spinning orb we call home, and so, to mark this Earth Day, we find some milestones to feel good about.
1. The Paris climate accord is on track.
OK, so we’ve heard the criticism — the agreement has voluntary targets, it doesn’t go far enough, and it ignores the needs of the poorest nations. But let’s just take a moment and acknowledge how remarkable it is that 195 nations got together and agreed to do something about climate change. Will it be enough to prevent the seas from lapping our doorsteps? Who knows! But, hey, Paris got everyone talking about the problem. It seems appropriate 175 nations signed the accord at a ceremony Friday.
2. Renewables are hot.
With the coal and oil industry taking major financial hits — oil is at record low prices and coal companies are going bust left and right — things are looking especially bullish in solar. Solar jobs are expected to surpass jobs in oil by the end of the year and there are already 77 percent more workers than in coal. The solar industry is growing crazy fast, thanks in part to Congress extending renewable energy tax credits at the end of 2015, and analysts predict solar installations to grow 119 percent in 2016.
3. Keystone XL is dead.
Ding-dong, the pipeline is dead! While President Obama’s decision to reject the Keystone XL permit last year was largely a symbolic victory, it was also hugely important for the grassroots campaign to keep fossil fuels in the ground, despite the mountains of cash and political power fighting back.
4. Corporations are taking sustainability more seriously.
It might seem crazy to talk about corporate responsibility considering the scandals at Volkswagen and Exxon, but there are some bright spots in big money. From fast food companies investing in cage-free eggs to agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland sourcing soy and palm oil in a more sustainable way, our corporate overlords are realizing that customers care about the planet.
5. There are millions more acres of protected natural lands.
In early 2016, Obama designated three new national monuments and extended protection for 1.8 million acres of land in the Southwest. And that’s just his final year. Since he took office, Obama has protected more than 265 million acres of land and water, more than any other president in history. Time to crank up that solar-powered RV, folks! There’s a whole lot more natural beauty to see.
6. Global emissions are down.
You might be confused about this trend considering all the hot air coming out of the presidential race, but it’s true! Global Carbon Project projected in a December analysis that global emissions dipped 0.6 percent in 2015, even while the economy grew, in no small part because China’s coal consumption dropped off. In another encouraging sign, 21 countries showed they could shrink their carbon footprints while boosting their GDP.
On Earth Day, let’s remember that it’s not all doom and gloom, but we’re we’re certainly not in the clear, either.
Get Grist in your inbox