So far, 2018 has been a pretty tough year for the planet. So was 2017. And 2016. In fact, the past 16 years have been the warmest years on record, according to NASA. The rate at which the average global surface temperatures has increased has been 233% since 1980.
Yet we remain optimistic. In Atlanta alone, countless organizations and individuals are working tirelessly to build a resilient future and a more regenerative economy that future generations can enjoy. Every day (not just on Earth Day), they choose to put Earth first. Today, we highlight just a few of the reasons we are motivated to keep fighting for our planet and everything that lives here.
We remain optimistic because this year Georgia legislators have enacted more environmental conservation regulations and have taken clear action to ensure our natural spaces remain a vital asset to the region’s shared prosperity and future. The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, which passed the State Legislature earlier this year with bipartisan support, would allocate three-fourths of all tax revenue from sales of outdoor recreational products to preserving and protecting the state’s conservation areas. This funding framework would provide resources to properly maintain local and state parks, as well as wildlife management areas. The last time a similar bill was presented in the Georgia Legislature was 20 years ago. Now in 2018, Georgia citizens and lawmakers have made it clear that the state’s natural and public spaces are valuable resources.
We remain optimistic because of initiatives like the Climate & Cultural Resilience project, which folds art, creativity, history and cultural identity into climate resilience projects in Southwest Atlanta. In partnership with WonderRoot and the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), Southface is working with community members in Southwest Atlanta and the Utoy Creek Watershed to understand how unplanned development has negative environmental and social impacts on their neighborhood, including flooding, displacement and exposure to pollutants.
This project catalyzes the power of art and culture to strengthen communities and tell the story and history of their neighborhood and its importance. The project will amplify community member voices utilizing creative placemaking installations to connect people to the watershed, and cultural and environmental assets under threat by climate change, development and social inequities. These pieces, designed and created by a local artist, will reflect the diverse, vibrant community in which they are displayed, further encouraging community partnership and investment in historic communities that have been disproportionately impacted by development and environmental challenges.
We remain optimistic because of the City of Atlanta’s resolute stance on transitioning to 100% clean energy by 2035 for the city and 2025 for City of Atlanta operations. Anchored by strong leadership, the City of Atlanta has made it clear that the health and wellbeing of its citizens and natural spaces is a priority, from increased renewable energy generation to cleaner air for all. Additionally Atlanta’s Better Building Challenge, part of a lager movement started in 2010 to reduce commercial building energy and water consumption in the U.S. by 20% by 2020, remains the national leader. The City’s program is set to exceed the 20% goal ahead of schedule.
We remain optimistic because organizations like Trees Atlanta are steadfast in their commitment to protecting and expanding the area’s urban tree canopy. Since its founding in 1985, the organization has planted more than 119,000 trees across the region, planting their mission for a vibrant, healthy urban forest in neighborhoods, schools, and communities throughout Atlanta. Because of their work, Atlanta has the highest density of urban tree canopy in the country and is positioned as a beacon for other cities as they expand their own environmental and greenspace initiatives.
We are optimistic because people just like you have helped divert tons of hazardous and recyclable materials from landfills.The award-winning Live Thrive Atlanta's Center for Hard to Recycle Materials has served thousands of visitors, who've recycled and/or properly disposed of 1,500 tons of waste since 2015.These items include materials that aren't collected in curbside recycling programs, like paint, polystyrene, mattresses, light bulbs, tires, and more.
For many, Earth Day is a 24-hour celebration of our planet and its people. Yet countless organizations, groups, and individuals across the country (and around the globe) fight for a more sustainable, equitable, vibrant world each and every day. These heroes of sustainability, these champions for a regenerative economy are why we are hopeful for a resilient future and continue striving for change.
We remain optimistic because this is what moves us forward and gives us the power to make change for our environment.