When I was a child, my father took me fishing on the Detroit River, where we caught plenty of perch and silver bass, but no whitefish. I might catch one in 2008 because whitefish are reproducing in the Detroit River for the first time since 1916, as the U.S. Geological Survey recently reported.
“The return of lake whitefish to the Detroit River is partly the result of 40 years of pollution prevention and control activities in the Detroit/Windsor metropolitan areas,” explained Leon Carl, director of the Geological Survey’s Great Lakes Science Center. Similar efforts have paid off in other areas.
The Aral Sea, a freshwater body straddling Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, was once the fourth-largest freshwater body in the world. The Soviet Union diverted 75 percent of the Aral Sea’s water during the second half of the 20th Century for massive irrigation projects. That led to the desertification of the region, killed most of the fish in the Aral and destroyed much of the local economy. Now, the process has been reversed.
Over the last few years, the Aral Sea’s volume has grown back by 30 percent to a level of 38 meters from a low of 30 meters. That is two-thirds of the way back to the level of 42 meters considered necessary for its natural ecosystem to be viable once again. Fish are slowly returning, and there are plans to begin restocking the Aral with additional native fish species.
Back in North America, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service released a new report titled “Status and Trends of Wetlands in the United States,” the first such report since 2000, with more good news. The United States is now gaining wetlands. But environmental progress is not limited to water. Even the United Nations, typically pessimistic on the environment, noted grounds for optimism in two recent reports.
The U.N.’s State of the Future report notes that, “People around the world are becoming healthier, wealthier, better educated, more peaceful, and increasingly connected and they are living longer,” and expects this positive trend to continue.
The U.N.’s Food and Agricultural Organization issued its latest State of the World’s forests report, offering a positive outlook even in regions such as Africa that are still experiencing forest loss. Net forest loss continues to decline globally and has been reversed in Asia. The U.N. notes, “even in regions that are losing forest area, there are a number of positive trends on which to build.”
For example, net deforestation in Brazil has fallen by two-thirds over the last four years.
The leading environmental issue continues to be climate change, with new findings and contradictory data appearing on an almost daily basis. Some facts are not in dispute.