Good News For August

A very respected reader of this column has complained that it is always full of doom and gloom and has very little optimism. So this week I look on the bright side. After all, Helen Keller said, “Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement. Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.” I agree. However, Sophocles mentioned that “It is the merit of a general to impart good news, and to conceal the truth.” Today, I will impart good news and will not conceal the truth. We’ll visit three spots around the globe to find what there is to smile about.
In the early sixties, the Canadian city of Sudbury was a smoke-filled, seared moonscape! The blackened landscape had been devastated by pollution from mining sites and industrialization. It was awful! But now, thanks to decades of restoration and conservation work, the air quality is excellent, the landscape has come alive with trees and greenery and its lakes, which were once acidified and destitute, have become thriving ecosystems.
“The Sudbury story is a story of success,” said Dr. John Gunn of Laurentian University. “One of the most damaged landscapes on Earth has made a remarkable improvement in the landscape and the lives of people as a result of industry, government, universities, and the public working together.”
Paul Kennedy, who is the host of the CBC radio program IDEAS, spotlighted the Sudbury story as one of his final presentations last season. “I tend to be a knee-jerk optimist on almost every issue, but the future of our planet can seem almost overwhelmingly difficult—too big, too complicated, too divisive. For me, Sudbury is an indication that we aren’t going to lose. Climate change is the biggest and most crucial challenge we face. There is hope.”
Now to Germany where Kuhn Schweitz, the German manufacturing company, has invented the largest electric vehicle in the world. It’s a massive construction vehicle used to transport limestone and rock from Swiss mountaintops to the crushing plant in the valley. It generates all of its own electricity and never has to be recharged.
The Electo Dumper works by ascending steep inclines empty. Once it is loaded with up to 65 tons of ore, it uses a “regenerative braking system” to capture all of the energy that is created by traveling downhill. It generates and stores enough electricity in its batteries going downhill for its next uphill journey.
By making an average of 20 trips up and down a mountain every day, the trucks can generate more than 200 kilowatt-hours of surplus energy daily or 77 megawatt-hours per year. Researchers estimate that the vehicles will continue to save up to 1,300 tons of CO2 and 500,000 liters of diesel over the next ten years.
From the Swiss Alps to Hawaii where there is more good news. After over four decades of federal protection, Hawaiian coral reefs are returning to their former glory.
The Hawaiian – Emperor Seamount Chain is an underwater mountain range in the Pacific Ocean. From the 1960s through the 1980s, the area was trawled extensively for fish by fishermen from around the Pacific. They dragged heavy nets across the seafloor looking for fish but, in the process, wrecked deep-sea corals and destroyed much of the underwater ecological community. In 1977, the United States claimed the region as a part of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone and prevented foreign fleets from trawling the area.
A recent scientific expedition to check out the current state of the reefs was led by Amy Baco-Taylor, a Florida State University Associate Professor of Oceanography. She and her colleagues led four research cruises out to the central and north Pacific Ocean to assess the damage caused by the trawling that had occurred decades ago. She reported, “So, we explored these sites fully expecting not to find any sign of recovery. But we were surprised to find evidence that some species are starting to come back to these areas.” Now, after years of federally mandated protection, scientists see signs that this once ecologically fertile area is making a comeback.
Optimism and good news are always good to hear. But we also need to remember the words of comedian, Bob Hope. “The good news is that Jesus is coming back. The bad news is that he’s really pissed off.”
However, I also like Margaret Atwood’s line: “Optimism means better than reality; pessimism means worse than reality. I’m a realist.”

John Warren on Email
John Warren
John Warren is in charge of Publicity for the International Friendship Club (IFC). His articles describe the programs and charities that IFC supports, the sources of income of IFC and the social experiences, lectures and classes that members can enjoy.
He splits his time between Puerto Vallarta and Lethbridge, Alberta. In the winter months he writes for the IFC, this summer he’s focusing his writing on the environment.