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The Climate Win: a Big Supreme Court Decision and Flying Without Fuel

Sustainability News
by Tim Wenger May 1, 2020

This is The Climate Win, the most positive sustainability news around the world every week.

Happy Friday, Matador readers. The New York Times reported on Thursday that we’re on pace for an 8 percent reduction in global CO2 emissions this year. But it also noted that it’s not actually good news if we simply bounce back to normal levels of polluting in a post-pandemic world. And we all need a bit of good news right now. So here are four environmental developments that really are positive, plus one way that you can help.

Keeping clean water, clean

We lead this week with a major win for the United States’ waterways. On April 23, the US Supreme Court stood against the Trump administration and extended the protections provided in the Clean Water Act, which passed Congress in 1972. Those protections will now include the groundwater flowing into lakes, streams, and bays, according to a report in Science. This is a huge win for both the activists who had advocated for the ruling and for our waterways. The law will be applied on a case-by-case basis, but it stipulates that the underground flow of chemicals toward and into groundwater must be a primary factor in determining whether the law has been broken.

Taking flight, sans-jet fuel

Harbour Air hopes to develop the first commercial e-plane, following a successful test flight in a 63-year-old Beaver airplane retrofitted to include a battery-powered engine. The pilot, Harbour Air CEO Greg McDougall, was only in the air for 10 minutes, but his recent December flight is a revolutionary step toward greener flying — at least for short distances. McDougall took off and landed on the Fraser River near the town of Richmond, British Columbia. In an interview with Men’s Journal, McDougall noted that they expect the commercial e-planes to have 30 minutes of airtime and keep nearly 13,000 tons of CO2 out of the air per plane, every year. While these short flights are certainly not going to replace most commercial aviation, the test stands at least as concept validation. As batteries continue to progress, the amount of time these small planes are able to stay airborne will increase.

A renewed breath of life for wild animals

There have also been notable happenings in the animal conservation world recently. This is critical always, but any good news is especially warming now given recent reports that cite the devastating impact that reduced tourism may have on anti-poaching efforts in Africa, among other places. This spring, three pairs of wild storks built a nest in West Sussex, south of London. A routine happenstance to the naked eye, but this nest is about to host a momentous occasion: the first wild storks born in the UK in centuries, potentially since the 1400s. The Guardian reported on April 26 that the storks should hatch young in the coming weeks, the first born of a conservation effort that has seen more than 100 of the birds born in captivity.

And, in the Arizona desert, bald eagles have been spotted nesting in Saguaro cacti for the first time since 1937. Science Alert reported last week that, after more than 30 years of observation, a photo of an eagle family nesting in the famous cacti was snapped for the first time by photographer Kenneth “Tuk” Jacobson. This could be a coincidence, or it could be a testament to the species’ rebound in the area following conservation efforts enacted in the 1970s.

Offshore, Atlantic whales are showing signs of reduced chronic stress due to the massive reduction in ship-caused ocean noise.

Five major banks refuse to fund drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

On Earth Day, April 22, we reported on the plight of an indigenous community in Alaska as they stand against proposed increases in drilling within the National Petroleum Reserve. Nearby efforts to drill within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge have faced another hurdle as a fifth major US bank, Morgan Stanley, amended its environmental policy and is refusing to finance drilling operations in the refuge. The bank joins Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, and CitiGroup, who had previously amended policies to withhold funding of the projects. At nearly 20 million acres, the Arctic Refuge is the country’s largest untouched wilderness area and prime habitat for caribou, polar bears, and migratory birds.

Add your voice to the call for protecting the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

You (likely) don’t have the trillion-dollar financial power of Morgan Stanley and the other major banks that have stood up against the drilling efforts. But you do have a voice and a signature, and that’s all it takes to help protect the flora and fauna of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Consider signing up with NoWaaay Corp, an organization working to protect the refuge from development. It will keep you in the loop of simple ways you can take action from home.

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