• Ed Flattau

Overshadowed "Good News"

It’s easy enough to identify negative environmental impacts that the nation experienced during 2020. There was no shortage of record-breaking floods, droughts, and heat waves, exacerbated by the presence of a viral pandemic and its related ecological damage.

There were, however, some positive environmental developments that occurred during the year. It’s just that they were overshadowed by the sensational nature of bad news. Human nature finds disasters more tantalizing than what is often perceived as “run-of-the-mill”, “taken-for-granted” favorable environmental news.

These positive environmental developments included US Congressional review of the 1973 Endangered Species Act (ESA) and reaffirmation of the standard that cost should not be considered in determining a species’ eligibility for an “endangered” listing.

Another objective of the ESA is to de-list “endangered” species, and such recoveries certainly occurred in 2020. Were you aware of the removal from the ESA list of grey wolves, White Southern rhino, and prairie dogs? However, environmentalists were not impressed with many of these de-listings, regarding them as a sop to landowners (and corporate donors) seeking to lay claim to species’ critical habitats.

Did you know that renewable energy generated more new jobs in 2020 than the fossil fuels industry? The environmental movement is campaigning to gradually phase out fossil fuels in favor of renewable clean energy.

In 2020, President-Elect Biden used his anticipated authority to take steps to reverse the Trump Administration’s reductions – at the behest of the extraction industries – in the size of undeveloped land in southern Utah’s national monuments. It is the same reversal that Trump used to shrink the size of these monuments which had expanded during former President Obama’s term.

Biden also set the stage for a 2021 ban on new oil drilling on all public lands by ordering an anticipatory “pause”, much to the chagrin of the energy industry.

Ultimately, the general public needs to pay more attention when the “good” eclipses the “bad” so that other positive environmental outcomes receive credit where credit is due.

APWA Silicon Valley 2020


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