Earth Day Inspires Us To Live Better, Together, For Tomorrow

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On Earth Day 2023, we might be drawn to distressing climate narratives that “the climate time-bomb is ticking.” That the glacial ice sheet is experiencing pulses of extremely rapid, buoyancy-driven retreat. That, despite slower forest destruction rates throughout 2021, the world is not on track to meet the vital 2030 goal set out by the Deforestation Pledge. Or that monster profits for energy giants reveal a self-destructive fossil fuel resurgence. Yes, each of those climate narratives is serious and disheartening. Yet, Earth Day inspires us to look toward the future with hope, with the knowledge that deliberate, intentional action can make a difference to achieve a net zero carbon global energy system — the sooner the better, for all of humankind.

Chip in a few dollars a month to help support independent cleantech coverage that helps to accelerate the cleantech revolution! As you add your voice to the issues that are shaping the climate debate, it’s important to be aware of emerging, evidence-based data that directly relates to changes in our climate. With that prior knowledge, you can stand strong, knowing that lots of individuals are fighting alongside you to address our climate crisis. Here are some positive happenings to inform you, so that, as Earth Day inspires us, we continue to be resilient, strong, and optimistic to create a better, more sustainable future.

Voters support government climate action: In a national survey of likely voters conducted ahead of Earth Day, Data for Progress finds that a majority of voters believe that creating new clean energy projects is one of the most important actions that the US government can take to address climate change. 52% of voters believe fossil fuel companies and large corporations, along with other high-emitting countries like India and China, share “a lot of responsibility” for addressing climate change.

Voters also believe federal, state, and local lawmakers each have a strong responsibility to address climate change, with a plurality of all voters and more than half of Democrats saying each of these groups bear a lot of responsibility to act. To mitigate some of these concerns and address climate change, one-third of voters list investments in new clean energy projects, like wind and solar farms, as one of the most important actions the US government could take to address climate change. Voters believe that planting new prairies and forests (26%), investing in emergent energy technologies (26%), and improving the efficiency of the electric grid (25%) are also important actions the federal government can take to address the climate crisis.

Commercial windows become solar panels: The makers of a proprietary transparent photovoltaic (PV) coating that transforms commercial windows into energy-producing solar panels has received an $3 million award under the Realizing Accelerated Manufacturing and Production for Clean Energy Technologies (RAMP) grant. NEXT received the funding on April 12 as part of the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) ongoing strategy to foster and support clean energy entrepreneurship across the state. The grant will enable NEXT to accelerate its development and commercialization so that it can help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support California’s transition to a cleaner and more sustainable energy system.

Integrated at the point of glass fabrication, NEXT’s technology is enabled by proprietary organic semiconducting materials that are earth-abundant, low-cost, and coated as an ink in a high-speed and low-energy process. Their slot die coating equipment, which has been commonly used in the printed electronics and display industries, is slightly modified so their films fit seamlessly into a window manufacturing line to print directly on glass.

Global Ocean Observing: NOAA wants you to know that every day millions of ocean measurements are collected from the surface to the seafloor, all across the globe. Ocean information and data are used to improve climate prediction models, weather forecasts, and fisheries management, and scientists to better understand how our ocean is changing over time. By absorbing heat and carbon from the atmosphere, the ocean is currently slowing down the impacts of climate change, but this has negative effects on marine life and ecosystems.

For decades, scientists have been working together across international boundaries to study our global ocean and develop a global ocean observing system. This system is made up of a variety of instruments that collect ocean data and all the people who contribute their ideas, research ,and passion for ocean science to improve our world.

Deepwater Horizon, 13 years later: Unprecedented in size and scale, the Deepwater Horizon spill released approximately 3.2 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico over nearly 3 months. The plume of oil moved throughout the water column, formed surface slicks that cumulatively covered an area the size of Virginia, and washed onshore to oil at least 1,300 miles of shoreline habitats. The spill and associated response actions resulted in injuries to numerous habitats and resources, species, and ecological functions—resulting in an ecosystem-level injury.

Every April, the Trustees receive an annual payout of $489,655,172 funds from the $8.8 billion Natural Resource Damage Assessment portion of the settlement with BP, which helps restoration continue to make strong progress. To date, roughly half of the settlement funds have been paid out by BP. Here’s a snapshot of restoration activities that advanced in 2022, courtesy of NOAA.

Rewilding animals: A new report published in Nature Climate Change suggests that trophic rewilding, or restoring and protecting the functional roles of animals in ecosystems, is an overlooked climate solution. According to the report, rewilding just 9 wildlife species or species groups (African forest elephants, American bison, fish, gray wolves, musk oxen, sea otters, sharks, whales, and wildebeest) would contribute more than 95% of the annual requirement to achieve the global target of extracting 500 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere by 2100. This, in turn, would help cap the global temperature rise at less than 1.5° Celsius (2.7° Fahrenheit) below pre-industrial levels, as called for in the Paris Agreement. It requires a change in policy thinking to recognize that trophic rewilding can be an instrumental part of natural climate solutions. There is some urgency because we are losing populations of many animal species just as we are discovering how much they functionally impact carbon capture and storage.

Trophic rewilding animates the carbon cycle and can expand the portfolio of natural climate solutions. Wild animals contain only 0.3% of the carbon held in the biomass globally. However, a synthesis of experimental studies shows that many could nonetheless exert outsized control by causing a 15–250% difference in the amounts of carbon in plants, soils, and sediments relative to the conditions in which they are absent. Animal functional controls come from foraging and movements that redistribute seeds and nutrients across landscapes and seascapes and from trampling, burrowing, wallowing, and ecosystem engineering, which cause soil and sediment disturbance.

Plant-based foods are growing in popularity: The Plant Based Foods Association wants to see its industry prosper. Its recent report indicates that plant-based food sales grew 6.6% in 2022 to $8 billion. Unit sales mirrored the 3% decline also seen in total food and beverage and animal-based foods — all of which demonstrate the strong resilience of plant-based foods during intense inflationary conditions. 60% of total US households are purchasing plant-based foods, and 80% of households are repeating those purchases.

While all animal-based categories declined in units, plant-based categories saw marked unit growth in the following 5 categories: plant-based creamers, eggs, protein powders, ready-to-drink beverages, and dips and spreads. The variety of standout categories speaks to the expansion of consumer interest in plant-based options for occasions from post-workout smoothies to morning coffee to indulgent meals. Engaged consumers drove consistent demand for plant-based options in food service settings, and now 48% of restaurants across the US feature plant-based foods on their menus — a percentage that has grown steadily, without decline, over the past decade.

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Carolyn Fortuna

Carolyn Fortuna, PhD, is a writer, researcher, and educator with a lifelong dedication to ecojustice. Carolyn has won awards from the Anti-Defamation League, The International Literacy Association, and The Leavey Foundation. Carolyn is a small-time investor in Tesla and an owner of a 2022 Tesla Model Y as well as a 2017 Chevy Bolt. Please follow Carolyn on Substack:

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