With casualties in Iraq reaching record numbers, the war in Lebanon punctuating the continuing crises in the Middle East and the ongoing slaughter in Darfur, 2006 looked to be (in the headlines) a year without hope. Add up all the good news, however, and the world reemerges looking a whole lot brighter. Steady progress to reverse global warming, species decline, oil dependence and disease in 2006 alongside hopeful trends toward peace and sustainability make it worthy of congratulations. Presenting the 8th Annual Top Ten Good News Stories of the Year…
• A Giant step was taken to win the hearts and minds of world citizens in the cause of reducing global warming when Al Gore premiered the film, An Inconvenient Truth. With it’s theatrical release came an expansion of our understanding of climate change.
• Stars like Brad Pitt cast a spotlight on Green building practices that help reduce warming. He helped create a Sustainable Design Competition for New Orleans this year and when the winner was announced, a ‘green’ housing plan was unveiled for the city’s Lower Ninth Ward incorporating the newest sustainable technologies to cut pollution, as well as energy costs by 50 to 60 percent.
• British billionaire, Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Conglomerate (and Virgin records and airline) announced in September he will personally invest $3 billion in alternative energy initiatives. He committed all personal profits from his airlines and rail company for the next ten years toward developing energy sources that do not contribute to global warming.
• As of October, 2006, 320 mayors of US cities had boldly gone where the U.S. president would not — into the forefront with 164 nations to embrace the Kyoto Accord setting targets that will lead to reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 2012. Big cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Dallas have signed on to Seattle mayor Greg Nickels’ Climate Protection Initiative pooling their best ideas to share with smaller cities .
• Big bad Wal-Mart is sending engineers to its supply-chain factories to find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Green means green in their pocket: "What we found absolutely staggered us," said one engineer. They cut electricity bills by 60 percent at one factory by installing readily available low emissions lighting.
• In one of the biggest environmental victories this year, the Bush Administration issued new rules in June requiring oil refineries to begin making ultra-low-sulfur diesel (ULSD), "a fuel with 97 percent less sulfur than ordinary diesel," which will cut smog-forming emissions by 10 percent. A spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council called the new EPA rule "the biggest step toward cutting vehicle pollution since lead was taken out of gasoline two decades ago." By October, all filling stations selling diesel were required to sell ULSD instead of or in addition to diesel.