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It's not all bad news: Wonderful and wild stories about tackling climate change

Avocados grow on trees in an orchard. Researchers in California have developed a new variety that is more resistant to extreme climates.
Alfredo Estrella
/
AFP via Getty Images
Avocados grow on trees in an orchard. Researchers in California have developed a new variety that is more resistant to extreme climates.

News about climate change can be overwhelming. As NPR's climate solutions reporter Julia Simon shared, "I talk with people about climate change — I often hear hopelessness. Like we've already lost. People just throw up their hands ... but what if we reframe the conversation?"

"Humans are driving global warming. And that means we humans can change our trajectory."

And some folks already have; there is good news. But these moments of joy can often get lost in a sea of headlines.

So as part of our week of coverage focused on climate solutions, we pulled together some of the moments of success, of progress small and large. Some are solutions underway; some are efforts from the past that are paying off in new and unexpected ways. Some are weird reminders of the power of nature and the role we play.

And some are just good news.


2023 is on track to be one of the largest pink salmon runs in Puget Sound in the past decade. "In the last two pink salmon cycles, we've seen declining run sizes," Matt Bogaard of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife told KUOW. "So it's great to see a larger number coming back this year."

Here's why La Niña cycles help the pink salmon population.

The Klamath River flows by the Yurok Tribe's headquarters in Weitchpec, Calif., June 9, 2021.
Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
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Getty Images
The Klamath River flows by the Yurok Tribe's headquarters in Weitchpec, Calif., June 9, 2021.

Restoration contractors in California and Oregon will plant nearly 19 billion native seeds as part of efforts to restore land along the Klamath River that is currently dammed. Draining the reservoirs will expose about 900 acres of wet mud. Joshua Chenoweth, a senior riparian ecologist for the Yurok Tribe who is leading the replanting effort, told OPB: "It's our job to make sure it's revegetated. We want that to be revegetated with a healthy native plant ecosystem."

Here's the plan for what's being called the largest river restoration project in American history.

There's a new, more sustainable variety of avocado. Americans consume a lot of Hass avocados: more than 3 billion pounds in 2021. But as KJZZ explains, they require a ton of water and if planted incorrectly can cause soil erosion. Researchers in California have developed a new variety of avocado that is more resistant to extreme climates.

But how does this new avocado taste?

Farmers in Pakistan are trying to make a baby glacier. As NPR's Diaa Hadid explains, this ancient ritual calls for mixing chunks of white glaciers, which residents believe are female, and black or brown glaciers, which residents believe are male (their dark color comes from rock debris). It's an unconventional strategy, but it has a powerful backer: the United Nations.

Jakob Steiner, a mountain hydrologist, explains how it works.

Tesla is building a drive-in movie theater EV charging station in Los Angles. As LAist reports, Tesla's permits allow for 30-some charging stalls, two outdoor movie screens and a restaurant with rooftop seating, among other things, to be built at 7001 W. Santa Monica Boulevard.

Here's what Tesla's take on the classic drive-in could look like.

A handful of coral rescued near Miami spawned in a hatchery lab in August. As WLRN reports, while it was too soon to know whether they'd become viable, making babies could definitely be a good sign for coral that had endured weeks of punishing heat.

Coral reef bleaching is a huge problem for Florida's beleaguered reef. The only inshore barrier reef on the U.S. mainland is not only a major tourist draw but also a powerful barrier to storm surge that's expected to worsen as the planet warms.

Plus, a new study found that urban coral thriving near bustling Port Miami — despite ship traffic churning up pollution and bay bottom — are more resilient than their cousins along Florida's reef.

This haunted house in Philly is terrifying (and an adaptation to flooding). As WHYY reported, floodwaters from Hurricane Ida in 2021 reached 7 feet deep on the first floor of what's now Lincoln Mill Haunted House, causing over a million dollars' worth of damage. Owners made more flood-resistant repairs and reimagined the space for pop-up events like the haunted house.

Owners hope that when the next flood comes, the building will be ready.

This Texas Girl Scout troop is tackling water conservation by doing everything other troops do — but underwater. As KUT reports, the Scuba Scouts is a special-interest troop where girls ages 12 to 17 can become certified scuba divers, taking their love for service to new depths — learning about local endangered species, researching reef-safe sunscreen and working with local businesses to switch to sustainable practices.

The troop also hopes to get more women and girls into scuba diving in the U.S., where 60% of active divers are men.

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Conservation summer programs are working to keep forests in New Mexico healthy and build crew members' connection to the land. As KUNC explains, the Forest Stewards Youth Corps summer program, which started in 1998, is made up of five crews across northern and central New Mexico. Crew members, ranging in age from 15 to 25, are paid for their work and receive education and training in natural resource careers — all while restoring the land in cooperation with local communities.

John Galvan, the tribal forest manager for Jemez Pueblo, says lots of the pueblo's natural resource projects are critical to the livelihood of the Jemez people, as they live by their traditions and live off the land.

A vacant lot outside Boston has been turned into a quarter-acre "food forest." Unlike community gardens, food forests mimic natural ecosystems, with a focus on native food-bearing plants that provide habitat for insects and birds. And asWBUR explains, anyone in the community can harvest food for free.

The group that helped created the food forest hopes to develop 30 of them by 2030.

Plus, a Wyoming food forest recently added a medicinal garden consisting of over 100 plants that have spiritual, medicinal or nutritional significance to the Northern Cheyenne Tribe and that help avoid the loss of traditional knowledge and plant varieties.

More than 120,000 acres have just been set aside as a conservation area in Idaho. As Boise State Public Radio reports, the Bennett Hills conservation area covers more than 120,000 acres of rolling grasslands in southwest Idaho, home to upland game bird species and wintering elk and mule deer.

Bennett Hills is the largest of the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's backcountry conservation areas and is intended to "support wildlife-dependent recreation and hunting activities," according to the bureau.

A volunteer group known as the Garbage Humans of ATX gathers regularly to keep parks clean in Austin, Texas. As KUT reports, despite ambitious goals to divert landfill waste to reuse programs, some trash won't even make it to the dumpster. Compelled to do something, Kellie Stiewert and her friends started regular cleanups.

Taking action is helping the volunteers combat feelings of "climate doom."

A farmer tends to millet growing in his field on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, on Jan. 6.
Manjunath Kiran / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
A farmer tends to millet growing in his field on the outskirts of Bengaluru, India, on Jan. 6.

Farmers in the Midwest are turning to millets, a highly resilient and cost-friendly grain, to keep growing in a changing climate. As Harvest Public Media reports, the United Nations has declared 2023 the International Year of Millets to encourage more awareness and a bigger market for the extremely sustainable, weather-resilient, nutritious grain.

Linus Rothermich, a farmer in central Missouri, has found success growing Japanese millet in his crop rotation since the early 1990s.

These Cape Cod "old ladies" dive into local ponds to surface trash. As CAI explains, in just 90 minutes this small team of swimmers — the Old Ladies Against Underwater Garbage — can remove hundreds of pieces of trash. Again and again, they surface with fistfuls of beer cans, golf balls, fishing lures and dog toys.

As founding member Susan Baur puts it, "We are heroically adventurous. And I'm not leaving the age of competence, thank you very much. Not for a while."

This school district in Alaska has switched to a subsistence calendar to allow students to participate in seasonal harvests. As KYUK explains, students now begin the year a week later and finish 10 days earlier than other schools in the state. The strategy is designed to help pass along traditional knowledge of land stewardship to the next generation.

The shift has also meant the school district can supplement its lunch program with fish and moose that the students catch.

The Soil Your Undies campaign is helping Montanans monitor the health of their soil by observing how a pair of cotton underwear decomposes when buried underground. As Montana Public Radio reports, healthy soil means healthy plants, which leads to more nutrient-rich foods for people and livestock. And with over 2 million cattle living in Montana, soil health is especially important.

As Holly Stoltz with the Western Sustainability Exchange explains, "If you pull up your underwear in two months and it is literally just the waistband left, [you] you have a lot of activity in your soil, which means your soil is very healthy."

This year's participants included Republican state Sen. Butch Gillespie and his wife.

Milwaukee-area artists have created an immersive art experience to highlight the impact of invasive species. As WUWM explains, visitors' mission is to collect data on each species (while also playing synthesizer sturgeons and making rainbow shadow puppets).

The exhibit imagines what the Great Lakes ecosystem might one day look like if overrun by invasive species.

Oklahoma has restored nearly 100 unhealthy streams thanks to water monitoring and regenerative agriculture. Officials work with farms in the CARE program to develop conservation plans and share the cost of implementing them.

Greg Kloxin, who leads the Oklahoma Conservation Commission's soil health program, told KOSU that these nonregulatory, individualized solutions that have come out of the program make a big difference for Oklahoma's soil and streams

Here's how they're regenerating the landscape one pasture at a time.

More cemeteries in New England are embracing natural burials. As Vermont Public reports, Green Mount Cemetery and more like it are burying the dead wrapped in shrouds and laid to rest in wicker baskets and pine boxes, letting them decompose and avoiding the carbon associated with conventional burials or energy for cremation.

People have been buried this way forever. It's the custom in Jewish and Muslim burials. But the process is new for a lot of cemeteries in the United States.

A 100-acre nature preserve in Hawaii is producing food and medicine and repurposing invasive species into usable goods. AsHawaiʻi Public Radio reports, Kōkua Kalihi Valley Comprehensive Family Services is the only community health center in the country to have a large nature preserve as a place for healing. Herbs to make traditional Hawaiian medicine grow at the preserve, named Hoʻoulu ʻĀina. And some doctors even recommend that their patients visit to start their own healing process.

The preserve is helping to highlight all that the forest has to offer the community.


NPR'sEmily Alfin Johnson produced this piece and NPR'sAmy Morgan edited this piece, which includes reporting from member station newsrooms across the United States.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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