12th June 2014
Denis Wright and
10 items of good news re the environment, since 1994
Although it’s mostly been ‘two steps forward, one step back’ for the environment during the first 10 years of the Time Capsule project, let’s be positive. There have been some real steps forward. Here are some examples, in no special order:
1 Kew’s enormous Millennium Seed Bank
Crucially important, conserving genetic biodiversity for an uncertain future. Long-time preservable seeds are a unique feature of some plants; but as science advances we can expect the “seed” model to be increasingly applied to endangered animal species also (ie conserving DNA for future use, a bit like in Jurassic Park!)
2 Conservation of many highly Endangered Species in the wild
Numerous individual examples of success, involving enforced agreements and various biological conservation measures: golden eagles and buzzards, otters, whales, big cats, frogs and cowslips…. But much more needs to be done, especially to preserve endangered habitats for multitudes of creatures in the world’s few remaining wild places.
3 Countryside Rights of Way Act, UK
A successful initiative of Friends of Earth, Ramblers Association and other bodies to preserve wildlife and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
4 Cleaner beaches in the UK
More beaches have the blue flag for cleanliness than 10 years ago.
5 The Eden Project, St Austell (www.edenproject.com)
This environmentally-friendly project with a strong educational component, growing tropical and subtropical plants in huge domes within an old china-clay pit, has been developed entirely since 1994. The Centre for Alternative Technology (www.cat.org.uk), has been around longer and is also a beacon of what might be.
6 Recycling more accepted everywhere,
facilities more available, and recyclability being more often built-in when manufacturing new products (eg the Volkswagen)
7 Energy saving on environmental grounds is more widely understood
eg New building regulations require better insulation, but should be applied to old as well as new buildings. Tax on fossil fuels to promote conservation (and substitution by greener energy) is environmentally good: but advantages are not often appreciated especially in the absence of good public transport!
8 Greener energy sources being researched
Much progress has been made into improved means of harnessing solar power, wind, wave and tidal power, and other options. But: all have their own downsides, and are not so brilliantly simple and convenient to use as oil and gas particularly for transport. We will have to learn to live by each using LESS energy (fewer energy users would also help, , ie stable human numbers).
9 Other examples of using science and technology in “green” ways
Peat bogs being saved worldwide, through discovering recycled substitutes for garden compost; or hydrogen as a vehicle fuel (still has to be made from another energy source but at least it is 100% clean, burning to water only). There are dozens of egs here, involving techniques to make fresh from salt water, better materials for longer-lived products, better coverings to preserve materials from rust etc etc. But they need more widespread application; and sadly science cannot “fix” everything, if we continue to treat a finite world as if it were infinite.
10 Montreal protocol on ozone-damaging CFCs
This is a success story, should be a model for similar much-needed world conservation agreements. Since 1994, CFCs are very rarely now used as propellants for aerosols, and substitutes are being found for applications in refrigeration.