If we want to change the story of the human race in the 21st century, we have to change the stories we tell ourselves.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.

Charles Dickens (1859)

We watched the news this year. Maybe you did too.

It didn’t look good. Countries on the verge of collapse, people taking to the streets, some in peaceful marches and extinction rebellions, others in violent clashes with security forces. Populism rearing its ugly head, bigotry worming its way into the algorithms, power corrupting absolutely, the powerless ignored or locked in cages on the border. Trade wars, surveillance capitalism and ‘re-education camps,’ war-torn hotspots mired in conflict, a global economy incapable of fixing its excesses, the partisan battle lines hardening, the lies becoming more brazen. An entire species fouling its own nest, the emissions (still!) rising, wildfires burning and losses cascading across ecosystems.

Perhaps, like us, you willingly participated in this insane, 21st century global experiment: take a nervous system that’s evolved for running away from cheetahs, and give it a big glowing screen showing it all the bad things happening in the world in near real time.

Fortunately, that wasn’t the only news. There were other stories out there, unsung victories for conservation, health, rising living standards, tolerance, peace, clean energy and environmental stewardship. Most of them didn’t make it into the evening bulletins or our Facebook feeds though, and that means that what we saw on our screens in 2019 was not the world. It was a negative image of the world, in both the photographic and tonal senses.

Here’s a better picture.




1. New surveys revealed that the population of humpback whales in the South Atlantic region now number 24,900 — almost 93% of their population size before they were hunted to the brink of extinction. BBC

2. Chinese authorities began preparations for the creation of the largest national park in the country’s history, covering an area of 27,134 km², and home to more than 1,200 wild giant pandas. NatGeo

3. The indigenous Waorani community of Ecuador won a landmark case against oil companies this year, protecting 180,000 hectares of their land against exploitation. Al Jazeera

4. In 2019, the United States passed a new law outlawing animal cruelty, China issued guidelines stating that from 2020 non-animal testing will be the preferred method for cosmetic products, and in Australia, cosmetics companies were banned from using data derived from animal testing.

5. Dolphins are breeding in the Potomac River in Washington for the first time since the 1880s, whale populations are exploding off the shores of New York, and 100 seal pups have been born on the shores of the Thames, 60 years after the river was declared ‘biologically dead.’ Telegraph

6. In July, Ethiopia smashed the world record for tree planting. Led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, millions of Ethiopians planted 353 million trees in 12 hours. BBC

Abiy Ahmed showing why he’s Africa’s most poplar leader (sorry couldn’t help ourselves). Image credit: CEO Magazine

7. The city of Seoul shut down all its remaining dog butcheries this year, and the Netherlands became the first country in the world to eliminate all stray dogs – not by euthanasia, but through education, free veterinary care and re-homing. Amsterdam Hangout

8. In Kenya, poaching rates have dropped by 85% for rhinos and 78% for elephants in the last five years, in South Africa, the number of rhinos killed by poachers fell by 25%, the fifth annual decrease in a row, and in Mozambique, one of Africa’s largest wildlife reserves went an entire year without losing a single elephant.

9. Belize doubled the size of ocean reserves around the world’s second largest barrier reef, South Africa increased its proportion of protected waters from 0.4% to 5.4%, Argentina created two new marine parks in the South Atlantic, bringing total protected areas to 8%.

10. Canada became the first country in the world to protect more than 10% of its ocean waters, after the government partnered with Inuit custodians to create a vast new conservation zone in the Arctic – the Tuvaijuittuq Marine Protected Area and the Tallurutiup Imanga National Marine Conservation Area. National Observer

11. India reported that its population of tigers has risen by over a third since 2014, and in Siberia, an unprecedented collaboration between China and Russia has paved the way for a new transnational park for the Amur leopard and the Siberian tiger.

12. Since 1990, France’s forest areas have increased by 7%, in Nepal, satellite images revealed that forests expanded from 26% in 1992 to 45% in 2016, and Costa Rica announced it has doubled its forest cover in the last 30 years; half its land surface is now covered with trees, a huge carbon sink and a big draw for tourists.

13. A new study revealed that the status of Great Britain’s carnivores has “improved markedly since the 1960s.” Thanks to conservation efforts, otters, pine martens, badgers and polecats have staged remarkable recoveries. Wiley

14. Canada banned the trade, possession, capture and breeding of whales, dolphins and porpoises, passed a Fisheries Act containing a legally binding requirement to rebuild fish populations, and unveiled new standards for marine protected areas, banning all oil-and-gas activity as well as mining, dumping and bottom-trawling.

15. An unprecedented conservation effort returned the Mexican Grey Wolf from the brink of extinction, giving it a new home in a reserve with other species endemic to its former territories, such as prairie dogs, bison, and longhorn sheep. Mexico News Daily

16. China’s tree stock rose by 4.56 billion m³ between 2005 and 2018, deserts are shrinking by 2,400 km² a year, and forests now account for 22% of land area. SCMP

17. The US Senate passed its most sweeping conservation legislation in a decade, protecting 1.3 million acres and withdrawing 370,000 acres from land available to mining companies. LA Times


Climate change number 1 concern for Canadians, poll says

Part of the Climate Strike in New York City on Sept. 20, 2019. Photo by Fatima Syed

Not long ago, Catherine McKenna told National Observer she thinks the Liberals have done everything they could to fight climate change over the past four years.

A new poll suggests that 50 per cent of Canadians disagree.

Half of the 1,599 Canadians polled said the current federal government has not been bold enough in addressing climate change. The survey, which spanned eight countries, found only 21 per cent of people felt their governments were doing enough to combat climate change.

Most of the Canadian respondents said that climate change was top of mind. When asked to list the three most important issues facing the world today, their top choices were “climate change,” “rising cost of food and energy” and “the environment or pollution.”

And 77 per cent of respondents said they either strongly or partially agreed with the statement “The world is facing a climate emergency and unless greenhouse gas emissions fall dramatically in the next few years global warming will become extremely dangerous.”

Climate change has been central to the 2019 election, as the Liberals defend their environmental record after face criticism from environmentalists for purchasing the Trans Mountain pipeline. The Green Party has been polling higher than past elections, sitting at 9.5 per cent according to CBC at the time of publication. And Elections Canada caused an upset in August by saying climate change may be a partisan issue since Maxime Bernier has expressed doubt about its existence, and called on charities to register as third parties if they want to publish paid ads about whether climate change is real.

Just over half of the Canadians polled also said they would be more likely to vote for a political party or candidate who promised to cut the country’s overall greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. As well, 43 per cent said they strongly felt politicians put the interests of big oil companies before communities.

Graph showing global opinions on whether the world is facing a climate emergency. Data provided by Hope Not Hate, in a survey conducted by Focaldata between Aug. 30 and Sept. 9, 2019, including Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Poland, the United Kingdom and the United States. Data visualization by Stephanie Wood
Country divided on drilling for oil and gas

Canadians’ opinions appeared to be more fractured when it came to how exactly to combat climate change.

While 53 per cent strongly supported building more clean energy, a smaller amount (28 per cent) said they strongly supported the idea to stop digging for and burning coal, and stop drilling for more oil and gas.

A total of 17 per cent said they strongly support increasing taxes for frequent fliers, and 30 per cent strongly supported carbon taxes on polluting products, while cutting taxes on clean products.

The pool was also divided on the Liberals’ federal carbon tax, with almost equal portions saying they strongly supported, partially supported, or did not support or oppose carbon pricing. MORE


LETTER: Comments concerning climate emergency require clarification

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“If we are serious about making changes here that will help with the climate change emergency,  you cannot be an unwilling host for a green energy wind farm and tear it down.”

I want to thank the Picton Gazette for their on going coverage of the White Pines wind farm  saga;  the most recent article published in the June 20, 2019 edition of the Picton Gazette was  really appreciated and well written.

I was however a bit taken aback when I read the last part of the article.

Since the reporter , Desiree Decoste  and I were talking casually about the situation for at least an hour  as she enjoyed the tour of the wind farm, it seems some of the comments need further clarification by me.

There are a huge amount of wind energy supporters in Prince Edward County and beyond, so when I read the line saying  that I was going to the East coast to live by a wind farm where people care,  it sounded like I meant that nobody in the County cares, which couldn’t be further from the truth.

So many people have called me to thank me for my ongoing efforts and have been clear on where they stand in the wind debate, there are far more wind farm supporters than there are  anti -wind people.

When I was talking about the climate emergency that the County of Prince Edward just declared, I certainly did say the County was an embarrassment when it comes to that because we say the words but don’t act the part.

If we are serious about making changes here that will help with the climate change emergency,  you cannot be an unwilling host for a green energy wind farm and tear it down. The devastating environmental impact of such actions would be huge. also, we can’t keep approving and building non-stop on wildlife habitat and agricultural land, caring only about a dollar and not the lives these decisions are destroying.

So yes, if this County makes choices against the environment and for the economic growth by destroying our natural resources, then this place is an embarrassment to the rest of Canada.

How can a person not feel  ashamed to be a part of a place that works against the need to change?

A place that ignores the warnings of climate change  and destroys a wind farm that should  have been producing clean energy for months now.

The other clarification needed in the article was about the leadnow petition which was completed months ago so people can not sign there.

There are 19,000 names and comments from people who care about their children’s future and the fate of all that share this suffering  planet, but the best thing we the supporters can do is to keep voicing your opinion to MPP Todd Smith and Premier Doug Ford.

If this wind farm comes down  I don’t know how any one who fought against it can feel good when they look in their children’s eyes and tell them ‘I am proud to be a part of destroying your healthy future and taking away your hope’.

Jen Ackerman


The serious $70 BILLION climate plan you’ve heard nothing about

Environment and Climate Change Minister Catherine McKenna and Equiterre co-founder Steven Guilbeault attend an announcement at global Clean Energy Ministerial meetings in Vancouver on May 29, 2019. Photo by Jennifer Gauthier

When the prime minister’s long-awaited announcement approving the twinning of the Trans Mountain pipeline finally came, few citizens concerned about environmental hazards and climate change could cheer it.

Nor could many Indigenous communities applaud ⁠— so many of those that signed agreements with the project felt enormous pressure to salvage at least some benefit, skinny as it might be.

The whole exercise has both exhausted and galvanized opponents, and few minds will be changed by any commentary.

‘For many Canadians, blocking TMX became synonymous with winning the climate war. If you support the pipeline, you’re a sellout. If you don’t, you’re a climate hero. If only things were that simple,’ writes @garossino #opinion

And yet.

There’s an extraordinarily compelling case to be made for Trudeau’s climate plan, and how the TMX pipeline fits into the bigger picture.

We have to do better than rally around symbols. We have to do the much harder work of changing the game.

The fight we can’t afford to lose

The real front line in the climate war is our transition to clean energy, as demand for all forms of energy, including oil, continues its inexorable rise.

This is the fight the world can’t afford to lose, and we’re losing it.

In 2018, the International Energy Agency issued a stark warning that governmental neglect of renewable energy constitutes a grave threat to the Paris Accord. The IEA estimates that clean energy will only account for 18 per cent of world consumption by 2040, well below the 28 per cent needed to meet the Paris goals, and global investments have stalled.

The chart below, from Natural Resources Canada, tells the story: only eight to 11 per cent of our energy production is in clean energy.

This is the chart we must change dramatically, and very quickly.

It’s here, in the fight for clean energy transition, that the Canadian government has amassed a stunning war chest of more than $60 billion, with billions more on the way.

Source: Natural Resources Canada

The plan is to add up to $10 billion in TMX-generated tax revenue to this fight. In a nutshell, the government aims to help provide consumers and industry with affordable clean alternative options to complement and accelerate carbon tax impacts, while supporting jobs and investor confidence.

The $70-billion plan

Here’s what the Canadian government has already committed to do, according to the Department of Finance: MORE

Feeling helpless about climate change? There’s lots you can do

‘We can go on the offence’: A more positive way to look at climate action

(Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

According to a recent survey of 14,000 respondents in 14 countries, people basically fall into four groupings when it comes to tackling climate change: “optimists,” “supporters,” “disempowered” and “skeptical.” The optimists and supporters generally feel they can have an impact and are doing their part to mitigate rising emissions and temperatures.

The disempowered, however, think it’s too late to stop the damage and feel, well, paralyzed. But Per Espen Stoknes, a psychologist who has also served as a member of Norway’s parliament, has ideas about how to change that.

Stoknes is the author of a 2015 book called What We Think About When We Try Not to Think About Global Warming, which focuses on the barriers that keep people from making change — and offers ideas to overcome them. Stoknes shared some of his insights with Stephanie Hogan via email.

What is it about climate change that makes people feel helpless?

The barrier of distance makes planetary-scale climate disruptions feel very far away. It is … remote in terms of space, time, impacts and responsibility, except for the relatively few people who are directly hit by wildfire, floods or droughts at any time.

The scale … and the invisibility of CO2 all contribute to the feeling of helplessness and the lack of self-efficacy to contribute real change with an impact. It makes many voters give climate disruption a low priority relative to immigration, unemployment, health issues, et cetera.

Does the way we talk about climate change make a difference?

Language is hugely important.

When communicating about climate, we should never accept the [negative] frames (doom, uncertainty, cost, sacrifice). There is no need to negate them, or repeat them or argue them in order to counter them.

Rather, we can go on the offence with our own framing: that more commercial and political action is needed right away to ensure safety for society, secure our health, be prepared for what comes and realize the amazing opportunities for jobs and better lives that the shifts in clean energy will bring.

What kind of action can help an individual feel more empowered?

Doing something together with others is the basic remedy. Many think of psychology as individualistic and assume that a psychology of climate solutions would be about what each of us as individuals can do separately, that we only get better one by one.

It is clear, however, that individual solutions are not sufficient to solving climate alone. But they do build stronger bottom-up support for policies and solutions that can. Our personal impact on others is much more valuable in giving momentum to the change of society than the number of [kilograms] of CO2 each action generates. It works like rings in water: If I see someone else that I respect taking action, then I want to as well. Enthusiasm is contagious. That is why engaging together with other people is so crucial.

How do you take that action further?

Organize, organize, organize. The key is to make climate disruption into a social issue by taking action together with others. Start a local chapter of Climate Citizens Lobby or 350.org and make it visible to let your neighbours, friends and colleagues see that you are taking action with solar panels on the roof, electric mobility and/or a more plant-based diet. The largest cuts in climate emissions — from solutions in agriculture to buildings to mobility — can be addressed when thousands of people start taking action together. The Drawdown.org project gives a wonderful and inspiring overview of all the solutions. SOURCE

A critical solution to climate change is right here in the West

In pursuit of a ‘Green New Deal,’ don’t forget public lands.

Image result for national parks us
Saint Mary Lake in Glacier National Park, Montana. DAVE SIZER/FLICKR

Despite the willful denunciation of proven climate science by the White House and some members of Congress, there is a hopeful awakening in the United States: Young activists are stepping forward to demand a Green New Deal that guarantees climate action, justice and economic security for all.

It is not a single law, but rather a collection of policies that embody many of the actions needed to expand clean energy, grow job opportunities, reduce climate pollution, improve air and water quality, and enhance the resilience of communities

In any plan to help us transition from an economy built on fossil fuels to one driven by clean energy, our public lands should feature prominently. MORE

The Green New Deal Rises Again

It was a good idea that didn’t catch on in 2007. Now we’re running out of time.

A technician monitoring turbines at a wind farm in Glenrock, Wy.CreditCreditDamon Winter/The New York Times

There is no agreed-upon policy road map for a Green New Deal. But as one of the leading climate bloggers, Joe Romm, recently pointed out, “Since the midterms, dozens of U.S. representatives and at least four Democratic senators have pledged support to create a Select Committee to create legislation for a Green New Deal.

The goal is a ‘detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization plan’ to rapidly transition the country away from fossil fuels and toward clean energy, such as a solar, wind, and electric cars.”

The Green New Deal that Ocasio-Cortez has laid out aspires to power the U.S. economy with 100 percent renewable energy within 12 years and calls for “a job guarantee program to assure a living wage job to every person who wants one,” “basic income programs” and “universal health care,” financed, at least in part, by higher taxes on the wealthy. MORE

Ten charts show how the world is progressing on clean energy

Combined world map and bar chart showing The installed capacity of wind power at the end of 2017, in gigawatts (GW). Source: Drax 2018.

Rapid progress towards clean energy is needed to meet the global ambition to limit warming to no more than 1.5C above pre-industrial temperatures.

But how are countries doing so far? In our Energy Revolution Global Outlook report, written with colleagues at Imperial College London and E4tech – and published by Drax– we rank progress in 25 major world economies. MORE