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Here are all the positive environmental stories from 2022 so far

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.

If you come across a great, positive story that we haven’t covered here – please do reach out to us on social media, either on Instagram or Twitter to share your ideas.

Positive environmental stories from August 2022

Ecuador leads the way in working alongside Indigenous groups to protect sacred rainforest

In an unprecedented show of solidarity, communities in the Amazon, NGOs and local governments are teaming up to protect Ecuador’s rainforest.

Named the Amazonian Platform for Forests, Climate and Human Wellbeing, the collective aims to combat climate change, and protect critical ecosystems and threatened species, while incorporating the vision of the Indigenous nationalities who live in the region.

This paper battery could curb the environmental impact of single-use electronics

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology (EMPA) have developed a paper battery with a water switch that could be used to power single-use disposable electronics.

Once they iron out some kinks in the development, it could be used for smart labels to track objects like packages. Other applications include environmental sensors or even medical devices, the researchers say.

Because paper and zinc are biodegradable, they believe the battery could help reduce the environmental impact of single-use electronics.

The world’s fastest electric ship is taking flight on Stockholm’s waterways next year

The world’s fastest electric ship will set sail in Stockholm next year, slashing environmental impacts and commuter time.

The Candela P-12 is a 30-passenger “flying ferry” that will reach speeds of 30 knots. Even better, the ship is said to be the most energy-efficient yet.

The P-12’s flying ability and subsequent lack of wake prevent wave damage to sensitive shorelines and nature caused by conventional passenger ships.

Cheetahs are being reintroduced to India after 70 years of extinction

In India, cheetahs have been extinct for over half a century. In August 2022, however, the big cats will finally return to the country.

An ambitious conservation project aims to relocate a group of cheetahs from South Africa and Namibia to India. It marks the first attempt to move a large carnivore across continents with the aim of reintroducing it into the wild.

Over the next few years, India hopes to bring cheetahs back to several of its national parks and reserves.

Australia’s Great Barrier Reef shows best signs of coral recovery in 36 years

Two-thirds of Australia’s Great Barrier Reef showed the largest amount of coral cover in 36 years.

“What we’re seeing is that the Great Barrier Reef is still a resilient system. It still maintains that ability to recover from disturbances,” says the Australian Institute of Marine Sciences monitoring programme leader, Mike Emslie.

The reef still remains vulnerable to increasingly frequent mass bleaching, however, according to an official long-term monitoring programme report.

Long lost iguana ‘born again’ on Galapagos Island after nearly two centuries of extinction

A lost species of iguana has been ‘born again’ on the Galápagos Islands for the first time in nearly 200 years.

The Galápagos Island land iguana was last spotted on Santiago Island more than 187 years ago. Ecologists determined that the reptiles were locally extinct.

But three years ago, thousands of the creatures were reintroduced to the islands – and new images prove that the lizard is breeding once again.

Tax the rich: Canada imposes new levy on luxury cars, yachts and private jets

Canada is set to impose a new ‘luxury tax’ on the sale and importation of high-value cars, planes and boats. Coming into effect on 1 September 2022, the Select Luxury Items Tax Act is billed as part of the government’s commitment to a fairer tax system.

It will ensure that “those Canadians who can afford to buy luxury goods are contributing a little more,” according to a statement on the Government of Canada’s website.

Positive environmental stories from July 2022

Berlin’s Tegel airport to be transformed into environmentally friendly 10,000 person community

Eco-conscious German property hunters now have the chance to make Berlin’s former airport-turned-residential community their home.

The ambitious 5-million sqm ‘Tegel Projekt’ renovation will transform the disused Tegel airport into a 10,000-person, 5,000-apartment community with shops, restaurants, schools and parks.

Vertical gardens will keep the apartment blocks cool without the need for energy-guzzling air conditioning,  while the largely-pedestrianised community will put bikes before cars. Electric buses and a tramway are slated as future developments.

Surprise climate deal could be the ‘most significant’ in US history, says Joe Biden

An unexpected deal reached by Senate Democrats would be the most ambitious action ever taken by the United States to address global warming.

The massive bill, which revives action on climate change, could help President Joe Biden come close to meeting his pledge to cut greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030. 

It proposes nearly $370 billion (€362 billion) of spending over 10 years to boost electric vehicles, jump-start renewable energy such as solar and wind power and develop alternative energy sources like hydrogen. 

Environmental defenders celebrate a ‘huge’ win for ‘unique’ Tasmanian rainforest

Environmentalists who took legal action to prevent a toxic waste dump in an ancient pocket of Tasmania’s Tarkine rainforest are celebrating a federal court win.

Chinese mining company MMG gained approval to open a tailings dam near the town of Rosebery on the island’s west coast. 

In July, federal court justice Mark Moshinsky upheld a Tasmanian NGO’s objection to the project on the grounds that the endangered Tasmanian masked owl was not properly considered before approval was granted. A new assessment is now set to take place, effectively halting MMG’s plans for the dam.

France could make it legal to use cooking oil as fuel in bid to battle cost of living crisis

Using cooking oil being to power diesel engines has been illegal in France – until now.

In July, France’s parliament voted on a €20 billion package in response to rising inflation and potential energy shortages this winter. Although the bills still need to pass through the Senate, one of them will allow and endorse the possible usage of frying oil as fuel for vehicles. 

Not only could this provide relief for French wallets amid rising fuel prices, it could help limit pollution from diesel engines.

Tiny floating cardboard homes could be the future of sustainable Dutch living

As urban planners grapple with Rotterdam’s space problem, one company, Wikkelboat, has an idea: tiny floating homes made from cardboard.

Protected with a waterproof coating, these small buildings are insulated, durable, and have low production emissions

The floating mini-buildings have a variety of uses such as hotels, event spaces, offices and temporary accommodation. And it’s hoped they could be part of a solution to develop Dutch cities on the water.

UK energy bills to drop next year thanks to record-breaking investment in renewables

Rising energy costs are plaguing homes across Europe but in the UK, there could be some good news. 

In July, the government invested record-breaking amounts into renewables with the capacity to generate up to 11 gigawatts of energy. That’s enough to power 12 million homes at once. 

It could help generate electricity at prices around four times less than the current cost of gas. 

Conservationist Jane Goodall honoured with recycled plastic Barbie doll

World famous toy company Mattel has launched a doll of renowned conservationist Jane Goodall. 

It comes with all the accessories any aspiring naturalist could need including a model of David Greybeard, the first chimp to trust Jane when she was carrying out her groundbreaking research on these animals. It is also made from 75 per cent recycled plastic.

The primatologist said that she hopes it will provide a positive female role model for young girls. 

‘Sand batteries’ could be key breakthrough in storing solar and wind energy year-round

Solar energy stored in ‘sand batteries’ could help get Finns through the long cold winter, which is set to be even tougher after Russia stopped its gas and electricity supplies.

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 plays ‘significant role’ in helping coral reefs survive, says new study

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.

This tiny bacteria could change air travel forever

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.

Sunflowers and dried mangoes are the key to surviving climate change in rural Zimbabwe

One afternoon in Mupindi Village, Gokwe South, more than 400 kilometres from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, a smallholder farmer called Bernard Mupindi is pruning the rough, hairy triangular leaves that grow around the stem of a sunflower.

The blooming yellow sunflowers in this 3.5-hectare piece of land are less than a month away from harvest. Mupindi still recalls growing sunflowers for his family to eat around a decade ago, but he had no idea how quickly that would change.

Little did he know, growing sunflowers would soon serve to counter the effects of climate change.

Switzerland has spent 14 years and €2 billion building this ‘water battery’

A water battery capable of storing electricity equivalent to 400,000 electric car batteries will begin operating in Switzerland next week.

The pumped storage power plant was built into a subterranean cavern in the Swiss canton of Valais.

With the ability to store and generate vast quantities of hydroelectric energy, the battery will play an important role in stabilising power supplies in Switzerland and Europe.

Positive environmental stories from June 2022

I planted a giant sequoia tree and offset the carbon footprint of my entire life

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.

‘Stop suffocating your vagina’: Reusable period pad launches to help women have plastic-free periods

A Danish startup is pioneering reusable menstrual products to help women go plastic-free on their period.

The company’s latest product, LastPad, launched this week – after a successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than 20 times its initial fundraising goal back in 2021.

LastPad is a reusable menstrual pad for planet-friendly periods that “doesn’t compromise on comfort and protection.” It comes in three sizes (from pantyliners to overnight pads) and is made with three layers. 

Local branch of UK’s biggest church is first to pledge climate action

Christians in the Oxford district of England are being asked to take a very specific pledge to protect the environment.

From now on, those who undertake confirmation or baptism ceremonies at the large Church of England diocese – which spans the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire – will also have to commit to climate action.

The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, recently approved a revision to the formal liturgy which includes the following lines,

‘Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth? With the help of God I will.’

These plastic-gobbling inventions keep rubbish out of the ocean

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.

Extinct ‘fantastic giant tortoise’ found alive on the Galápagos Islands

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. 

Leuven: This forward-thinking city has banned cars from its centre

In 2020, Leuven in Belgium was named the European Capital of Innovation. It invested its €1 million prize money wisely, striving to become carbon neutral by 2050. 

Leuven has become a cycling paradise with cars taking a back seat on its roads.  It is now the only city in Belgium where bikes are actually the preferred mode of transport. Thanks to a strong green mobility plan, cycling has increased by an astounding 40 per cent. 

These Scottish villagers bought a nature reserve – now they are fundraising to double its size

In Langholm, near Gretna Green on the English border, the community raised €4.5 million last year. They wanted to buy 2,100 hectares of land from the Duke of Buccleuch, one of the UK’s most powerful landowners.

The villagers were successful and have already seen results from their protection of this land. Now they are fundraising again to double the size of this community takeover. 

World’s largest vertical farm is being built in the UK and it’s the size of 96 tennis courts

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. 

Back from the brink of extinction: The Spix’s Macaws are returning to the wild

It has been 20 years since this small blue parrot has been seen in the wild. Illegal trade, hunting, and destruction of its habitat led to its disappearance. 

But one of the rarest birds in the world could soon be set for a comeback. A German NGO is working hard to breed a new population of Spix’s Macaws, bringing their number up to 180 healthy individuals. 

World’s largest plant: Scientists ‘blown away’ by 180km long seagrass discovered off Australia

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 is aiming to go carbon negative by 2040 – here’s how

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.

Positive environmental stories from May 2022

Last 10 vaquitas are not ‘doomed’ to extinction

The plight of vaquitas has only worsened in recent years, but scientists have some relatively good news about the little porpoise.

Despite only around 10 individuals still existing in Mexico, a team of biologists have found that the species remains healthy and can survive – so long as illegal fishing in their waters stops.

Vaquitas, which belong to the cetacean family of dolphins and whales, are the world’s rarest marine mammals. With large dark rings around their eyes and dark patches on their lips resembling smiles, they’ve long been a poster child of conservation groups.

But despite their endearing appearance to humans, there’s a sad probability they’ll disappear in our lifetime unless quick action is taken.

Solar panels could be on all Europe’s public buildings by 2025

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.

Spanish diver rescues 12-metre long whale who was trapped in an illegal fishing net

In a gripping underwater rescue, Spanish divers have freed a 12-metre…

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