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5 signs of hope for the environment

On Earth Day, a few rays of hope shine through a grim environmental outlook.

By Rich_Maloof Apr 22, 2013 2:04PM

Good news about the environment is not easy to come by.

The acceleration of global consumerism is far outpacing our capability to protect our planet, let alone undo the damage done. The current rate of mass extinction among animal and plant species is unprecedented. Massive ice sheets are melting at incredible rates, with the potential to drive up the sea level catastrophically. Photo: Signs of hope Earth Day / PBNJ Productions/Getty ImagesEnvironmental scientists believe many of nature’s systems are speeding toward a “tipping point,” meaning that environmental factors that appear to be stable today may suddenly and irreversibly collapse.

More from MSN Living: 20 animals that are going extinct

But on Earth Day 2013, a few rays of hope do cut through the carbon-filled clouds. While we caution against seeing a green future through rose-colored glasses, here are five signs of hope for the environment.

The Gulf of Mexico has been rebounding after the largest accidental oil spill in history. After the explosion of BP’s Deepwater Horizon, an estimated 206 million gallons of crude oil gushed into the gulf. Scientists have been surprised that their worst fears have so far not been realized. High levels of hydrocarbons were expected but not found in some sea life, and shore environments are clearer than predicted by this time. Researchers are optimistic, though the short-term effects were devastating and the long-term effects are yet to be seen.

More from MSN Living: 10 interesting facts about the Earth

Acid rain is decreasing.  Concentrations of acid ions in rainwater, a result of sulfur and nitrogen compounds being released when fossil fuels are burned, have been dropping. Acid rain remains a very real threat, but a long-term study covering 1984 to 2009 indicated that regulations on emissions have had a positive impact on reducing pollutants in rain.

More waste is being recycled.  Recycling rates have been inching higher. In the Environmental Protection Agency’s last report (dated 2010) on waste generation and recycling in the U.S., the agency said the country had recycled 82 million tons of its 243 million total tons of annual waste, or about a third. The recovery of recyclable plastics is still low, due largely to lack of curbside programs and increased use of bottled water.

More from MSN Living: Should we abolish Earth Day?

More environmental initiatives are being embraced around the globe.  Last year, the European Commission laid out a plan to phase out conventionally fueled cars by 2050. China, the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases — its coal consumption nearly matches the entire globe’s — has announced it will begin levying a per-ton tax on carbon emissions to encourage companies to reduce their carbon footprints. The cost of producing and using solar energy is rapidly declining. Green initiatives still need to become more cost-effective and universally accepted, but some people predict a new economy built on the back of environmentally savvy businesses.

Bing: Earth Day in the news

Environmental awareness is up.  With green education standards established in nearly every state, the nation’s schools are producing the most environmentally literate generation in history. Experts still cite a major disconnect between awareness and meaningful action, but tomorrow’s consumers, scientists and entrepreneurs may be better equipped and more highly motivated to heal our damaged planet.

Primary sources: Reuters, EPA, NPR, TerraDaily, University of California, Los Angeles

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Photo: Signs of hope Earth Day / PBNJ Productions/Getty Images

Apr 22, 2013 11:15PM
The biggest driver of human folly is human arrogance. And the most absurd thing about human arrogance is we think we can have it both ways.

We think that it is arrogant to believe that a single species can have such an effect on the world by its excesses as to cause global changes. And yet the evidence is clear. that Homo sapiens is the dominant force of the biosphere. We clear cut forests. We burn billions of tons of fossil fuels. We dump tons of plastics into the oceans. We tale both the young and the old fish from the oceans, and wonder why there are so few fish for the next season. Our chemical industry has created thousands of chemicals never seen by Nature, and that are toxic.

Still, we say we are insignificant. And that is the most arrogant statement we could ever make. We have already turned the Earth into a machine to support our own biomass. We are already at the point that Malthus predicted, and probably beyond. The last time that our planet was anything like what we are doing to it was before mammals (even the tiny shrews) existed.

So think about it. We are deliberately turning Earth into a world that did not support mammalian life. BTW, that is us. The oceans will survive, plants will survive, lots of animals will survive. Some animals will not survive.

Humanity will not survive swimming in its own waste. But we think we will, and we think that we are not even causing it no matter how big our waste pile grows. That is ultimate arrogance.
Apr 22, 2013 5:29PM
Nope.  I disagree.  As long as corporations like Monsanto own the government, the land, the patents, and have the ability to subvert the Constitution and the will of the people, we will be polluted with GMO and chemicals.
Apr 22, 2013 5:25PM

Acid rain decreasing?


Not on the West Coast, downwind from China.

Apr 22, 2013 5:11PM

Hope for the earth? Ha Ha Ha Ho Ho Ho Ha Ha Ha. Ain't no chance folks!

Apr 22, 2013 5:10PM
 Can you imagine what people thought during the early days of the industrial revolution. The mega-wealthy capitalist leaders of industry during those time saw the Earth as a giant playground for growing wealth. We felt that this planet belonged to humans, because it had to, we where that smartest of all the species that inhabited the Earth( or so we thought). We had a motto then that we still have today, "WEALTH MAKES RIGHT". As long as men and women remain egotistical, self-serving zealots, the problems for our planet are still going to compound, in spite of the good works being done to preserve it.
Apr 22, 2013 5:09PM
The plant is going to be just fine!!! A few million years and you will barely know we were here!!!
Apr 22, 2013 5:02PM
I usually get really pessimistic about mankind when I look at Chicago and Massachusetts.
Apr 22, 2013 4:56PM
Mother Nature always has, and always will, take care of Herself.
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