Environmental Victories of 2017
This latest blog is giving you a snapshot of just some of the countless environmental victories that happened in 2017, mainly focusing on the largest environmental victories with the furthest reaching results. Environmental Victories are environmental milestones or achievements that have been reached, announced, happened or been created in 2017. 2017 has seen many, many environmental victories, and these victories are more important than ever to inspire us to work harder and achieve many more environmental victories in 2018, a year that will be undoubtedly be full of lots of headlines such as more environmental attacks by the Trump Administration, record-breaking temperatures, soaring deforestation rates and widespread coral bleaching as well as lots more negative news.
This blog has no particular order, instead just listing some of the most important and incredible Environmental Victories of 2017, which have been sorted into different sections. This is just a snapshot of some of the larger, more well-known environmental victories that happened last year, and there will have been many more which I have not covered in this blog but were still important achievements.
The sections are:
Energy and Climate
Wildlife Victories (with a ‘New Species’ subsection)
This section is about new or expanded protected areas such as national parks and wildlife reserves and sanctuaries, which are vital for preserving general biodiversity as well as protecting the habitat and home for many rare and endangered species.
- In 2017 Niue, a small island nation in the Pacific created a marine park that totalled more than 49,000 square miles that protects the ocean from dangerous or unsustainable activities and covers 40% of its economic zone. Chile also created two new marine parks where fishing and all other extractive activities are banned. Together, these two countries alone protected an area over 290,000 square miles – that’s an area two times bigger than Germany!!
- Mexico has also announced the expansion of the Revillagigedo marine park to create the largest marine reserve of its kind in North America to protect sharks, rays, whales, turtles and other important marine species. At about 57,900 square miles, the park will surround four Revillagigedo Islands.
- In the Philippines, over 1 million hectares were protected in Palawan, Philippines, in addition to the 1 million hectare marine protected area (MPA) in Cagayancillo declared in 2016. Palawan is famous all over the world for its stunning natural beauty and biodiversity.
- Towards the end of the year, Papua New Guinea created the Managalas Conservation area, its largest ever conservation area at 1,390 square miles. The Managalas Conservation Area hopes to protect the Managalas plateau from large-scale logging and mining operations.
- In Brazil, a 4,630 square mile Turubaxi-Téa Indigenous Territory in Amazonas state was created, incredible news in a country whose environmental progress has been sputtering over the past few years, especially regarding indigenous rights.
- A court in America saved millions of acres of untouched natural forestland, after turning down Alaska’s challenge to the Roadless Area Conservation Rule, which protects 50 million acres across 37 states in America from roadbuilding and logging. This Rule was created by Bill Clinton in 2001 and protects natural forests by banning damaging development, including the commercial logging and construction of most roads, and this victory was great news for the environment as it was continuing to protect millions of acres of untouched habitats from destruction for the future.
- After a global outcry, Nigeria rerouted a super highway so that it would no longer cuts through the centre of Cross River National Park, although concerns remained about the potential path of the road.
The Rainforest Trust is an incredible organization that works all over the world to purchase and protect rainforests for future generations. This year Rainforest Trust protected over 1.2 million acres of land, while a further 1.9 million acres are in the process of being purchased and protected in the coming months. The protected areas below have been created by Rainforest Trust along with various partners and organizations.
- In Peru, Rainforest Trust and its local partner helped 16 indigenous communities gain titles to their lands, totalling more than 428,815 acres over the past few years. This is part of a larger effort to title over 50 community territories that will form a firewall against colonization around the Sierra del Divisor National Park and the soon-to-be White Sands National Reserve. Together, these two parks and the surrounding community lands will span almost 6 million acres.
- In Panama, Rainforest Trust worked with a local partner to expand the Cerro Chucantí Nature Reserve by 260 acres with a long-term aim of creating a broader government designated protected area. Titled properties were purchased to help establish an important buffer zone that acts as a barrier to prevent squatters from moving into extensive public wilderness areas, and will discourage poachers from hunting in the vicinity.
- In Colombia, Rainforest Trust and its partner expanded the Selva de Ventanas Natural Reserve by 120 acres. This is a vital component of the strategic network of biological corridors being created to connect remaining forest fragments. This expansion contains 32 percent of the global population of the Ventanas Magnolia, the most endangered tree species in the region with only 25 adult individuals known in the world.
- In Guatemala, Rainforest Trust helped its local partner purchase six properties totalling 995 acres to establish the Cerro Amay-Chimel Cloud Forest Preserve. The Cerro Amay Cloud Forest is among the largest areas of intact forest left in Central America. Together, Rainforest Trust and its partner are strategically purchasing properties to connect the entire network for a corridor of protection while attracting researchers, promoting ecotourism and implementing sustainability initiatives in the indigenous villages surrounding the Cerro.
- In Kenya, Rainforest Trust supported the protection of over one million acres to safeguard the world’s most endangered antelope, the Hirola. This new conservancy will not only safeguard the Hirolas that currently call this region home, but will also help the species recover by re-establishing a free-ranging population between protected areas. Other species that will benefit from this refuge include Reticulated Giraffes, Grevy’s Zebras, African Savannah Elephants, African Wild Dogs, Lions, Cheetahs and several other antelope species.
- In Australia, Rainforest Trust purchased and protected the 44,726-acre Caloola property on the Cape York Peninsula of Australia; remarkably almost the entire habitat was completely undisturbed. The Caloola property strategically creates a permanent connection among a vast network of protected areas that spans over 700,000 acres.
- Also in Australia, in addition to supporting its Australian partner in the purchase of the Caloola property, the conservation groups also helped create the 173.5-acre Misty Mountain Nature Reserve. This site now functions as a wildlife corridor and safeguards the remaining missing link to complete a nearly 3 million-acre high priority rainforest mosaic in Australia’s Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. Rainforest Trust also worked to expand the Daintree National Park. The Daintree Rainforest is among the oldest rainforests on Earth and is the largest continuous area of tropical rainforest remaining in Australia.
- In the Philippines, Rainforest Trust and a local partner established a refuge for the Critically Endangered Palawan Forest Turtle, one of the 25 most threatened turtle species in the world. 2,413 acres were designated by the municipal government of Mendoza, and Rainforest Trust is working diligently with its partner to expand this protection to total 4,552 acres.
- Rainforest Trust also worked with another local partner to establish the Hibusong Wildlife Sanctuary of 1,390 acres on the biodiverse island of Dinagat. The sanctuary is the first in a series of four new protected areas that will comprise more than 17,800 acres in the coming year to secure forest and coastal habitat. Dinagat Island is recognized as a Key Biodiversity Area, with numerous threatened species such as the Golden-crowned Flying Fox, Dinagat Bushy-tailed Cloud Rat and the Dinagat Moonrat. Before the sanctuary was established by Rainforest Trust and its partner, there were no protected areas on Dinagat.
- In Malaysia, Rainforest Trust permanently protected a 34,414-acre former logging concession in the last great forests of Northern Borneo. This vital habitat for Critically Endangered Bornean Orangutans and Sunda Pangolins is now incorporated into the Kuamut Forest Reserve, which safeguards the last vulnerable flank of the pristine forest of the world-renowned Danum Valley Conservation Area.
- Rainforest Trust also supported a land purchase to create a critical wildlife corridor in Borneo to secure a safe passage for Pygmy Elephants. This project with a local partner protects the Kinabatangan Corridor which links two wildlife reserves and provides orangutans and elephants with safe passage along the northern banks of the Kinabatangan River, one of Malaysia’s most beautiful rainforest wetlands.
- In Indonesia, Rainforest Trust and a local partner conserved vital nesting grounds for the Endangered Maleo in northern Sulawesi. These 316 acres secured by Rainforest Trust and its local partner will contribute to the overall project which will form a 47,328-acre protected area of nesting sites, coastal habitat, forest conservation area and agroforestry buffer zone.
- In the Republic of Palau, Rainforest Trust supported a crucial land purchase to save Endangered Megapodes. The reserve is the first private land converted to a protected area on the island of Peleliu, and it protects a vital foraging area for the Micronesian Scrubfowl, known locally as the Micronesian Megapode.
- In Myanmar, Rainforest Trust and a local partner created the 66,965-acre Kaydoh Mae Nyaw Wildlife Sanctuary which protects subtropical broadleaf forest and provides a safe haven for wildlife such as the Asian Elephant, Tiger, Dhole, Banteng, Phayre’s Leaf-monkey and two species of Pangolin – the Sunda and Chinese – both of which are Critically Endangered.
Energy and Climate
This section is all about breakthroughs, records and achievements made in the renewable energy sector, and also the reduction of fossil fuel usage and dependency by countries.
- In 2017, Costa Rica ran for 300+ days on renewable energy, beating the record it had previously set when Costa Rica ran for 299 days on renewable energy in 2015 and 271 days in 2016. Costa Rica will undoubtedly be running on 100% renewable energy by 2020 from the current amount it is progressing and is also setting many more examples to the rest of the world, as will be discussed later in this blog.
- France announced an immediate ban on all oil and gas exploitation permits in French territory. France also announced that they’ll stop all existing extraction and production by 2040.
- Ecuador announced a ban on all new oil and mining concessions without the prior consultation of the local communities, this surprise announcement came after nearly 10,000 indigenous people marched for two weeks and over 200 miles from the Amazon rainforest to Quito.
- Brazil’s environmental regulator rejected Total’s and BP’s requests to drill in an area just 17 miles from the newly discovered Amazon reef at the mouth of the river. The reef was discovered in 2016 and the species there are only just being recorded. The request was rejected as Total and BP hadn’t put enough information about the environmental impacts of the drilling on the forest and reef. If Total and BP fail again to deliver a satisfactory report their request to drill will be terminated, protecting the newly discovered but uncharted reef for the future.
- TransCanada ended its proposition Energy East tar sands pipeline. Tar sands oil is just about the dirtiest way to get electricity, even for a fossil fuel, and causes huge damage to vast areas during its extraction, so this was great news for the fossil fuel free movement.
- Britain announced that all coal power stations will be phased out and shut down completely by 2025 or even earlier, so by 2025 Britain will be completely coal free. Offshore wind is now cheaper than nuclear power in the UK, and over 10,000 people are employed by the wind sector in the up today within the UK, along with over 100,000 people in America.
- Some huge news came when the World Bank announced that they would stop funding any upstream oil or gas projects from 2019, showing that message is sending – the age of fossil fuels is over, and that we want to transition to renewables as quickly as possible.
- In 2017, China connected the world’s largest floating solar farm to their grid, and now over 2.5 million people are employed by solar energy in China alone.
- Many more countries are now beginning to take renewable energy seriously and are investing in huge renewable energy projects. In 2015, 500,000 solar panels were being installed each day worldwide. Now, I would guess this number to easily be between 1-2 million per day, but quite likely much higher. China, the world leading producer of solar panels, increased its production of solar panels by 25% between the end of 2016 and half way through 2017.
These are victories related to animals; this includes new animal species discovered in 2017 (listed at the bottom of this section), and instances this year where animals have had their status changed (e.g. from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘endangered’), as well as advances in animal rights, welfare and conservation.
- Snow leopards had their status lowered from ‘endangered’ to ‘vulnerable’ this year, this came about because their numbers have risen sufficiently due to extensive conservation efforts and larger protected habitats and territories. However this is not as positive as it seems as this lowered status means that snow leopards will receive less protection as their need is seen to be less urgent, which could lead to an increase in poaching. As a result the Snow Leopard Trust is planning to appeal this decision.
- Right on the last day of 2017, a ban came into force that banned the sale of all ivory in China, a decision that has been called ‘one of the most important days in the history of elephant conservation.’ This decision was announced last year, and by March 3rd, around 67 ivory carving factories and shops had been shut down, and the remaining shops and markets shut down by December 31st, the day the ban came into effect.
- Britain also announced that the sale and export of almost all ivory items was going to be banned, and this ban included ivory of all ages, not just ivory from after 1947 where the ban had previously been.
- Fashion brands such as Gucci, Net-A-Porter, BCGB and Michael Kors to name a few are all banning animal fur from their products in the coming years because of massive protests and pressure from groups such as PETA, great news for animal rights groups because of the cruel and outdated methods employed to obtain the fur from the animals.
- California became the first state in America to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores, also including rabbits and cats. It requires pet stores to sell shelter animals only. California also banned the sale of foie gras, however the ban won’t go into effect immediately due to continued appeals from the foie gras industry.
- Animal testing for cosmetics was banned in Switzerland, Guatemala and Rio de Janeiro and similar bills advanced in Australia, Chile and South Africa.
- In the last week of 2017, the last of Nepal’s dancing bears were finally freed. Dancing bears are snatched from their mums when they are babies and are trained though harsh methods to become submissive and obedient. The last 2 bears, Ranglia and Sridevi, were finally freed, shivering, cowering, pacing and sucking on their paws, and showing many more signs of trauma, and are most likely going to be moved to a sanctuary in India.
This is a subsection of the ‘Wildlife Victories’ section and I have created it as there have been lots of new species discovered and indentified in 2017. This isn’t really a ‘victory’ as such, but I thought was an interesting section to include as it shows that even today there are still many species that we know nothing about, and these newly-discovered species represent just a fraction of all the plant and animal species that we still know nothing about. In the past 12 months there have been at least 18,000 new species discovered, and many of these still to be named, below are just a few of the many species discovered last year.
- Scientists reported a new species of orangutan towards the end of the year, the first new species of great ape described since the Bonobo from the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1929. The newly described Tapanuli orangutan (Pongo tapanuliensis) lives in Sumatra, Indonesia, and may be the most endangered great ape on the planet.
- One team of scientists discovered 19 new species of geckos within limestone hill caves in Myanmar. Others uncovered 50 new spider species in Australia, several new species of frogs in India, and two primates: a new species of dwarf lemur in Madagascar, and a new species of bushbaby in the forests of Angola.
- In June, scientists described two species of reptiles from Sumatra: Lycodon sidiki, a Colubrid snake, and Pseudocalotes baliomus, an agamid lizard.
- One new spider species that was discovered in early 2017 is the Gryffindor’s Hat Spider. These spiders are only 2mm in length but look magical and as their name suggests – very similar to the hat once owned by the wizard Godric Gryffindor and used as the famed sorting hat in Harry Potter.
This section is about other environmental victories that don’t fit into the sections above, but are just as interesting and important, ranging from advances in the fight against single-use plastic, to tree-planting achievements to new electric car regulations.
- In 2017, Kenya joined countries such as Rwanda, Uganda and Morocco in a blanket ban of all plastic bags in a bid to reduce plastic pollution. Many countries are now beginning to take this incredible step and ban all plastic bags, or are imposing a small charge on plastic bags at supermarkets. This method also proves to be very effective and reduces plastic bag usage by up to 90% or more in countries that have imposed this small charge on each bag.
- Costa Rica went one step further in 2017 and announced that they would be banning ALL SINGLE-USE PLASTIC by 2021. This incredible decision is what I consider to be one of the best environmental victories of the whole year, not only because it is a blanket ban on ALL single-use plastics, but also because it is the first country in the world to do this and is setting an example for the rest of the world to follow. Also it is incredible because they are banning all single-use plastics from 2021, which is very close, and is a brave step not many countries would be prepared to take. Single-use plastics are plastics that as their name suggests are only used once. This includes plastic bags and things such as that useless plastic wrap that you get around fruit and veg, and most other products in the supermarket.
- Sri Lanka banned all plastic and disposable materials in July after a massive landfill collapse in the capital.
- One of New Zealand’s largest supermarket chains, CountDown, announced that they would phase out all plastic bags by 2018. Even this act by a supermarket chain in a relatively small country will be saving over 350 million bags a year. A few days later New World, another large supermarket chain in New Zealand announced that they would also end their use of plastic bags. These two victories came about because of extensive efforts by Greenpeace, who are now pushing for a ban on plastic bags all across New Zealand.
- France announced that they are banning all plastic cups, plates and utensils by 2020.
- A province in Pakistan finished planting an incredible 2 billion trees in just 2 years, restoring over 350,000 hectares of degraded forest and farmland.
- India announced in 2017 that all new cars sold from 2030 will be electric. This has been done to help India’s smog problem in its cities which kills millions of people a year.
- Similarly, Britain announced that all new cars sold from 2040 will have to be electric.
- Also in India the city of New Delhi banned all plastics, joining many other cities all over the world, and India also hosted the world’s largest beach cleanup in history in 2017. India also cancelled plans for almost 14 gigawatts of coal-fired power stations because for the first time in India, solar power prices dropped so that it is now cheaper than coal power. It is hopeful that India will be investing lots in the coming year in solar and other renewable energies.
What to look forward to in 2018
I personally believe that 2018 will be the ‘turning year’, the year where global opinions towards environmental issues finally change and we finally begin to take these issues seriously, and take the necessary steps to prevent them, or slow down and reduce the effects. Already as I am writing this in the first few days of 2018 there have been many environmental victories this year already all over the world including new environmental regulations set out in the UK, including plans to tackle the plastic crisis, progress in stopping destructive dams in the Amazon and lots of environmental promises from China regarding the environment as well as many more victories. 2018 is looking to be an incredible overall year for the environment even though obviously there will be headlines that aren’t positive, mainly from America and the disgraced President Trump who seems to be doing all in his power to dismantle all environmental progress by Obama, and back America out of their responsibilities for the environment as the world’s most powerful country. However, even this looks quite positive as a ‘rebel’ alliance of states, cities, universities and businesses has been created who will continue to work under the terms of the Paris Agreement, despite Trump’s decisions, and already this year after Trump’s announcement on planning to open up 90% of federal waters to oil and gas mining, almost all coastal states publicly condemned Trump and expressed their outrage at this ridiculous decision, voicing that they don’t want their waters sold off to large companies to make profit out of. The governor of Florida was so vocal that now Florida has been exempt from this plan, and hopefully many more states will be following, showing that even though Trump hates the environment, many others in powerful positions in America don’t, and want to help it and follow the Paris Agreement and generally help conserve the planet for the future.
There are also many environmental court cases going which could have large environmental effects and towards the end of the year there is going to be a vote by around 20 countries on whether to create the Antarctic sanctuary. This decision will have to be unanimous by all countries but if it succeeds it will undoubtedly be one of the biggest environmental victories in the last huge news. The sanctuary will be massive, the largest in the world, and will also be protecting things such as the rich fish stocks found in the Antarctic from unsustainable practises, as well as many other untouched but extremely fragile ecosystems containing lots of incredible animals. To make sure that all participating countries vote for the creation of the sanctuary massive campaigns will be going on throughout the year by many environmental groups and you will be able to help this campaign in various ways such as signing petitions and emailing your representatives, donating to the groups such as Greenpeace who will be leading the campaigns as well as actively protesting. As the year progresses i will probably be making a blog about this campaign as it is so important, and that will have lots more ways on how to ensure that this sanctuary is created.
- www.rainforesttrust.org – This is where I got all the info about the protected areas that Rainforest Trust protected this year, please check out their website for lots more info, all of my info via updates in the ‘News’ section.
- www.mongabay.com – info about environmental victories of 2017
- www.iflscience.com – This is where I got info about newly discovered species
http://vegangreenplanet.com/2017-huge-victories-for-the-animals – more info about animal victories
My name is Oscar and I am the face behind Rescuetheworldtoday. I am a student who is passionate about the environment and like to raise awareness about it through daily posts on Instagram on my account (@rescuetheworldtoday) and I also do environmentaly-themed blogs here on RippleZoo, I hope you enjoy them.