Cracked — which now probably eclipses CNN and MSNBC in reporting accuracy — has a great article up this morning on seven good pieces of news that no one is reporting. I suggest you read the whole thing — they don’t even have space for the plunging crime rates. But there is one piece of news in particular I wanted to focus on: the ozone hole.
Just like our reserve of gaping-hole jokes that don’t involve yo’ mama, the hole in the ozone layer is steadily shrinking every year.
Australian scientists have accounted for the numbers behind the fluctuations, which are apparently all about a natural weather phenomenon called dynamical forcing. Take away the weather-driven ozone swings and you still have a hole in the ozone layer, but one that has shrunk by 15 percent since its peak in the ’90s.
Even better, the hole has shrunk consistently every year, which hopefully means the ozone will be back to its pre-1980 conditions sooner than 2060, as previously predicted. So, good news for the planet. Bad news for all you heartless sunscreen moguls out there.
They also note how fast the Gulf of Mexico is cleaning itself up.
This story has been repeated, in one form or another, over and over and over again over the last forty years. Lake Erie was almost dead; now it’s not. LA used to be wreathed in a thick blanket of smog; now it isn’t. Acid rain was a dreadful problem; now it’s not. It seemed like half our body weight was from lead pollution; lead levels have plunged. Even the satanic gases of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse chemicals aren’t so bad. Economic output per unit of CO2 has surged in the US. CO2 levels are holding steady while the economy keeps growing. And population growth? Even Islamic countries are showing falling fertility rates.
All of this has happened while tacking into the gale-force negativism of the environmentalists. None of these trends were supposed to reverse without massive economic sacrifice, long periods of suffering and, of course, incredible government empowerment. But all have improved during the largest economic expansion in human history.
All of this didn’t just happen of course. Sensible pollution controls enforced by the government cleaned up the lakes, banned CFC’s, forced catalytic converters into cars and installed cap-and-trade on sulfur dioxide emissions. But in all these cases, the action was straight-forward regulation, not complex schemes that enriched political operatives while doing little to work the problem. There have been a few negatives — the ban on effective asthma inhalers, for example, or the removal of lead-based solder in favor of solders prone to electrical shorts. But our world has not been turned upside down.
That’s why I remain an optimist on our remaining environmental issues (global fish stocks and AGW, mostly). The situation is never as bad as the environmentalists claim. And the solution is never as destructive as the skeptics claim. We tend to solve our problems rather smartly. IF we’re allowed to do so.