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Why 2017 was a Pretty Good Year for the Environment

The Arctic will never be frozen again, America rolled back so many environmental protections and pulled out of the Paris climate accord. I can understand that you feel like 2017 was a bad year to be a planet, but you’d be wrong. For every bad-news story, there are little rays of hope, people who stood up and fought or just, you know, recycled. All the small acts of kindness to animals and the environment added up to big changes. Here are some of the best things that 2017 had to offer.

Google went Renewable

This year saw Google go 100% renewable on all it’s operations globally using a combination of wind a solar energy and making it the biggest corporate buyer of renewable energy in the world. According to Google, they consume a whopping 2.6 gigawatts of energy-almost twice as much as Marty McFly needed to drive his DeLorean through history.

Americans Still Love the Environment

A US group calling itself “America Pledge” has elected to stick to their Paris Climate Accord commitments. The group consists of 20 states, 110 cities and more than 1,000 businesses and universities.

Oregon and Washington have committed to phase out coal by 2030. Madison, Wisconsin laid out its plans for 100% renewable energy and net-zero carbon emissions and Abita Springs, Louisiana voted use only renewable energy by 2030.

Rock Port, Greensburg, Kodiak Island, Burlington and Aspen are five US cities that run entirely on renewables and the entire state of Hawaii has committed to renewables by 2045.

China for the Win

China has traditionally produced almost double the carbon emissions of the US, but that is all about to change. 2017 started with China announcing a $361 Billion Renewable Energy Investment by 2020. The next seven months saw a drastic increase in solar installations with 35GW—more than twice as much as installed by any other country in 2016.

Electric Vehicles Gain Ground

The sale of electric vehicles increased by 63% in 2017. Researchers at the International Monetary Fund and Georgetown University predict that 90% of all passenger vehicles could be electric by as early as 2040.

Conservation in Action

Many new conservation areas on land and sea were created to protect our at-risk environments. Chile announced a 740,000-square-kilometer (285,700-square-mile) marine reserve around Easter Island while Chile created a 117,000 square kilometers (45,170 square miles) reserve off Diego Ramírez Islands, and a 484,000 square kilometers (186,870 square miles) protected area around the Juan Fernández Islands in the southern Pacific.

The Comeback Kids

Some species believed to be extinct showed up in strange places this past year. A guard in the Cuchumatanes Mountain range in Guatemala chanced upon a Jackson’s climbing salamander (Bolitoglossa jacksoni) for the first sighting in 40 years of this little critter. A naturalist in India spotted a cobra lily which hasn’t been seen for nearly 80 years. The Táchira antpitta (Grallaria chthonia) bird, not seen since the mid-1950s, made an appearance in a remote part of the Andes. The Vanzolini’s bald-faced saki (Pithecia vanzolinii), a big black and gold monkey, was seen for the first time in 80 years.

Manatees and humpback whales have been removed from the endangered species list. Moves to protect habitats have meant that manatee populations have increased 500% in Florida from only 1,367 in 1991 to 6, 300 with 13, 000 manatees worldwide.

The ban on whaling (that’s everyone except Japan of course) has seen the number of humpback whales increasing. When the ban on whaling was proposed in 1966, only about 1,400 humpbacks were left but today there are around 21,000. In 2010, only 1% of the world’s oceans were protected compared to around 3.5% today which is better, but not nearly enough (still looking at you Japan!)

So keep fighting that good green fight eco-warriors. Recycle, pick up garbage, eat less meat, don’t use pesticides, lobby your government representatives, buy eco-friendly products, hug trees and teach your children to love nature and all the creatures who live around us, even the ugly ones. And together, we’ll make this list a lot longer by the end of 2018.

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Nikki is an author and writer specializing in green living ideas and tips, adventure travel, upcycling, and all things eco-friendly. She's traveled the globe, swum with sharks and been bitten by a lion (fact). She lives in a tiny town with a fat cat and a very bad dog.

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