Different cultures around the world have celebrated the start of a new year at different times. The current Gregorian calendar, which we follow here in the States, marks the New Year in January to honor the Roman god Janus. Janus is the god of gates or doorways, always facing forward and backward. The symbolic nature of looking forward as you look back is never more relevant than the start of the new year. Thus, many cultures today, including our own, reflect in the month of January as they simultaneously start a new year.
With that idea in mind, we wanted to take a moment and reflect on the triumphs and setbacks for the environment during 2010. Last year was filled with great strides and environmental disasters. As we look over what was accomplished or hindered during the last year, it is important to see where these events may take us in the next year and decade.
Worst Environmental Losses of 2010:
Gulf Oil Spill: Obviously the biggest and worst environmental story of the year was the Gulf Oil Spill, which not only claimed the lives of workers, countless flora and fauna, but lasted for several months. The spill came on the tails of President Obama announcing a move to increase offshore drilling. The devastating spill, whose true effects will only be measured in the coming years, temporarily halted further offshore drilling. However, an entire region and eco-system was ravaged by this irresponsibility. Hopefully, this disaster as well as the spill in Michigan will encourage our leaders to re-think offshore drilling and invest their efforts in more renewable sources.
Hottest Year on Record: 2010 was certainly a scorcher! It wasn’t just in your mind that the summer felt hot. In fact, 2010 was the hottest year on record, with global temperatures at an all time high. Not only was it hot, but intense storms in places such as DC and London had everyone feeling the weather was, for lack of a better term, whacked out. Seventeen countries total reported record high heats and rising temperatures in the oceans led to irreversible coral bleaching. To make matters worse, 2010 also set a record as the year with the highest CO2 levels ever. This is scary stuff.
The Climate Bill is Killed: Congress failed to pass the Climate Bill, which would have regulated pollution as well as offshore drilling. The bill failed to pass during the summer on the heels of the oil spill. With the midterm elections giving the Republicans power in the House, it seems unlikely the bill will see the light in the coming year. However, we can hope that the effects of the weather and last year’s oil spill will make them spring into action.
Best Environmental Wins of 2010:
First US Offshore Wind Farm: 2010 wasn’t all bad weather and devastation. In April of last year, the very first offshore wind farm in the US gained approval. Cape Wind, which is proposed to be built off of Cape Code in Massachusetts, battled with opponents for years, including the all powerful Kennedys. However, the state received approval and federal funding to begin the project. New renewable energy is on the horizon, quite literally.
Child Nutrition Act Passed: It had been thirty long years (that’s right: thirty), since any upgrade had been made to school nutrition! With the urgings of Michelle Obama, those thirty years came to an end and the Child Nutrition Act was passed late last year. The act makes it more difficult for students to purchase junk food on public school campuses, regulates nutrition of food, including healthier lunches, increases school food purchasing from local farms, and provides more free school lunches for the disadvantaged. With childhood obesity numbers soaring, it is out with the soda and in with the carrots!
First Mass Marketed Electric Car: After decades of setbacks and hybrids stealing the scene it was encouraging to finally see a true electric car on the market! Nissan finally released their much anticipated Leaf, their 100% electric car. Technically this is the first mainstream-oriented electric vehicle in history (not counting the prematurely discontinued GM EV1) , even though it still costs over $25,000 to have one. The introduction of this vehicle is very hopeful for the advent of more electric cars as well as other green technologies.