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Seventh Generation Laundry detergent in front of washer

Read the news these days and you might think we’re all doomed. Not so fast. Ugly headlines may get all the ink, but there’s much between those lines to celebrate, and it paints a surprising picture of a world headed for a brighter future. Consider yourself warned! This post may fill you with a crazy little thing I call hope.

Some people think being an environmental optimist is the equivalent of rushing for a bucket on the Titanic. But the S.S. Earth can certainly be saved, and the proof is in good news like this the media keeps ignoring:

In the last 10 years, investments in renewable energy have risen from $43 billion per year to $270 billion. And those dollars buy more clean energy every year—solar power costs have dropped 59% since 2009 while wind costs are over 11% lower. No wonder global solar capacity is 100 times what it was in 2000!

Speaking of rays of sun, an analysis from the London School of Economics says that greenhouse gas emissions from China, the world’s leading climate polluter, will peak five years earlier than predicted and fall rapidly thereafter, which means limiting global warming to the 2-degree average rise needed to prevent disaster is no pipe dream.

You’ll think you’re dreaming when you read this: According to the International Energy Agency, the world economy grew 3.3% last year but CO2 emissions were unchanged from 2013. Previously, emissions only stopped rising during economic downturns, which means history has been made and those who say we can’t have growth without growing pollution are wrong.

Here’s another dream come true: In June, institutional investors representing more than $5 trillion in assets joined forces with big companies like Walmart, Proctor & Gamble, and a company you may have heard of called Seventh Generation to demand higher standards for sustainable palm oil. That means increased protection for rainforests, which are cleared for palm plantations.

Mass extinction or mass hysteria? The “sixth great extinction” that generated a week’s worth of headlines last month is endangered by exaggeration. A hard look at the numbers finds just 23,214 of the world’s 1.5 million identified species at risk. Even if they all died out (they won’t!) and the rate of extinction stayed steady, it would take centuries before anything resembling “mass extinction” occurred.

Case in point is the Louisiana black bear, which has bounced so far back from the brink that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service just recommended it no longer be considered endangered. Thanks to conservation, new populations have emerged and habitat that can support the bear has increased 430%.

Our collective desire to do the right thing is also increasing. In the last month alone, General Mills announced it was removing all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. So did Pizza Hut, Papa John’s and Taco Bell. Panera said it was tossing 150 food additives from its recipes. The Minnesota Senate banned plastic microbeads. Home Depot said it would phase out toxic phthalates from its vinyl flooring. McDonald’s announced it was eliminating deforestation from its supply chain. The EPA proposed banning the dangerous insecticide chlorpyrifos. And Walmart asked meat suppliers to limit their use of antibiotics to sick animals.

With news like this, the environmental naysayers soon aren’t going to have anything to say at all. And if you ask me, that’s the biggest headline of all.

Geoff the Inkslinger and his Dog

The Inkslinger has written about environmental issues for over 20 years and is a freelance writer for some of America's most iconoclastic companies and non-profits. His true loves include nature, music of the Americana/rock and roll variety, interior design, books, old things, good stories, pagan rituals, and his wife of 24 years, with whom he lives in an undisclosed chemical-free rural Vermont location along with his teenage daughter and two infinitely hilarious Australian shepherds!