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5 Developments That Will Convince You There Is Still Hope for Climate Progress

by Tim Wenger Dec 19, 2016

DONALD TRUMP’S ELECTION and subsequent filling of important posts have cast a dim light on what under a Clinton presidency promised to be a continuation of Barack Obama’s environmental efforts. In particular, Scott Pruitt’s appointment to head the Environmental Protection Agency when he has filed a lawsuit against said agency isn’t making me feel like he took Al Gore’s words to heart during their meeting the other week.

What all this means, on an actionable level, is that we as citizens must take matters into our own hands. Utilizing state and municipal governments along with eco-minded non-profits and other organizations working to put their green foot forward is how the United States can continue progressing under a non-progressive president.

If you follow daily news like I do, you’ve likely come to adopt a cynical eye over the past few weeks. But beneath all of the dross of depressing cabinet selections, some amazing things are happening. Check out these five spirit lifters:

1. Pena Station Next — A ‘smart’ city.

Just outside of Denver International Airport and near Denver’s new commuter train line from downtown to its famously far-flung airport, Japanese company Panasonic, along with investors, the City of Denver, and DIA, is experimenting with what is being dubbed a ‘smart’ city. The development will boast some features which have received hype in recent years — like LED street lamps and autonomous vehicles — alongside advancements that aren’t as well known (yet) like a parking lot covered in solar panels. The street lights will save 65 to 70% in energy cost, are outfitted with internet-of-things technology that automatically notifies command center when a light is out and can be dimmed during hours when pedestrians and traffic are at a minimum.

Pena Station next is the first development of its kind in the United States, based on the Japanese city of Fujisawa. During the day, the community is solar powered, and during non-sun hours, energy stored in batteries and fuel cells provide the power. Things such as air quality, noise, traffic patterns, and pedestrian flow are monitored by a device manufactured by Argonne National Laboratory in order to maximize parking, traffic, and the environment. Check out this article from The Denver Post for more.

2. Burlington has become 100% renewable.

In September of 2014, the Associated Press reported that Burlington, the largest city in Vermont, has reached the point of sourcing 100% of their energy from renewable sources. This made the city of about 42,000 people the first in the nation to power itself entirely on renewable energy. An amazing feat, to say the least, one that stood the hairs on my arm straight up and had me encouraging my wife to keep looking at that UVT master’s program she’s interested in.

Boulder, CO, another shamelessly progressive town, recently announced a plan to derive all city power from renewables by 2030. Expect other cities to follow with similar plans.

3. Germany just unveiled trains that run on and emit only water.

Powered by hydrogen, the Coradia iLint train emits only steam instead of carbon exhaust, quite a step up from Germany’s existing diesel powered trains. It can travel up to 500 miles per day, and the country plans to use them to ferry passengers as early as December 2017. According to The Independent, other countries including the Netherlands, Denmark, and Norway might be jumping on board as well — looks like it may get easier to reduce that carbon footprint while backpacking through Europe!

4. Divesting is gaining steam.

About five years ago, students at several college campuses around the country kicked off movements requesting that the schools divest funds from fossil fuel stocks. The movement wasn’t a sprint-to-the-finish-line success, but has been picking up traction and now, several investment funds worth trillions of dollars are on board.

There is something you can do on this note. It’s possible to have entirely fossil fuel-free mutual funds and IRA investments, through companies such as Green Century Funds and Domini Social Investments — so if you’re looking to start or roll over an IRA, there is a great way to feel good and make a difference with your money.

5. Bill Gates’ Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund

Fortunately, Bill Gates likes to use some of that $83.8 billion to do good things. He was set to announce on December 12 the formation if the Breakthrough Energy Ventures Fund. Along with investors such as Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, $1 billion is to be invested in fighting against climate change. The Fund, according to its website, is an “investor-led fund made up of members of the Breakthrough Energy Coalition, guided by scientific and technological expertise and committed to investing patiently in developing new ways to live, eat, travel, and build.”

I’ll raise a toast to Mr. Gates. Hopefully, as more concepts and movements like these continue to pop up in retaliation to any nonsense the Trump administration tries to pull, we’ll be not quite as screwed as we might think we are.

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