No one I’ve talked to since January 1st can believe it’s 2012! My how time flies and with this year brings jitters of environmental disasters. With the coming of 2012, people are talking about the impact of climate change on our world. But it’s not just 2012 that brings these thoughts. Environmental issues have been upon us for a long time and regardless of what doomsday prediction you believe in or don’t, they have impacted your life. We figured since it is a new year, we would take this moment to reflect on the worst environmental moments of 2011. It’s always a good idea to review before going forward. Hopefully we can learn from these events and change how they impact our future. So here they are and here’s to hoping 2012’s good events outweigh the bad.

Worst Environmental Events of 2011: 

1) Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster. By far the worst environmental event to occur in 2011. Following an 8.9 earthquake off the coast of Japan and the subsequent disastrous tsunami, the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant exploded and continued to meltdown. This was the single worse nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. The event, which happened only months after Obama spoke of “clean nuclear power” in his State of the Union address, triggered countries throughout the world to review their own nuclear plants. It even sparked Germany end their nuclear programs. The radiation spread through Japan and was even picked up in Hawaii and California. It will be decades before we know the real impact of this disaster on our environment, our bodies, and the way we view nuclear energy.

2) Drought in East Africa:  Due to weather patterns and government issues, the people of the Horn of Africa suffered a severe drought in the Summer of 2011. Millions of people in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia were literally facing starvation. Refugee camps surged with hundreds of thousands and tens of thousands of children starved to death. The drought and it’s effects continue on for these countries. With little resources, humanitarian aid is still needed to combat these issues.

3) Fracking: Both the US Geological Society and a British Fracking Firm published studies stating that fracking does indeed cause earthquakes. Many earthquakes experienced in places such as Oklahoma and Ohio were shown to be directly connected to fracking, or hydraulic fracturing of the Earth to extract natural gases and petroleum. Not only was it proven to create earthquakes, but the EPA acknowledged the process has leaked toxins into Wyoming drinking water as well are re-issued a report from the 1980’s showing water contamination in West Virginia. Despite these studies, fracking continues to occur in the US as well as abroad. We are hoping these reports change our perspective on the practice in 2012.

4) More Oil Spills: Even though no oil spill on the magnitude of 2010’s Deepwater Horizon  occurred during 2011, last year still brought too many spills for our standards. In fact there was a smaller oil sick in the Gulf caused by a Shell pipeline, causing more damage to the barely recovered region. New Zealand and China also experienced decent sized oil spills, including one in China that was hidden from the media for almost a month. And just to add insult to injury, the villain of Deepwater Horizon, BP, experienced another spill. This time the victims were the arctic tundra as the Alaskan pipeline began to leak.  It will take decades to understand the effects of these oil spills and continues to raise eyebrows on our dependency on oil. Hopefully, these spills will fuel, pun intended, the alternative energy field.

5) Politicians Being, Well, Politicians: It’s no surprise that Washington is dragging their feet on real environmental policy. Well, technically it is a bit of a surprise that Obama, who ran on an environmental and clean energy bill is, but that’s besides the point. Our politicians are busy making deals with fat cats and oil executives and ignoring any real chance at making a difference. Here are just a few of 2011’s let-downs. Obama failed to tighten smog limits, even though we know carbon levels are rising. He has even been quiet on the Keystone Pipeline, with many analysts expecting him to approve it. Meanwhile, the Republicans continue to push for fewer environmental regulations. And with the 2012 elections fast approaching, candidates will do anything to please voters. Republican candidates have all vocalized their disgust with the EPA, with some promising to close its doors and end environmental regulation all together. No one knows how the election will turn out, but let’s hope for our Earth’s sake, the politicians wake up and stop worrying about getting re-elected for a change.