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December 2019 Eco-Report

December 2019 Eco-Report

Part of a series of archived reports in Refugia
Author: Sylh Alanor
Date Posted: December 2, 2019
Dispatch: Unknown
Word Count: 1998

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An’eth’ara, na lethall’en!

This is the Refugia Eco-Report for the month of December 2019, reflecting on our growth and changes experienced in November. Let's get this out of the way here, and then not worry too much about it as we go forward: our numbers look much worse than they are. As you might have noticed, we've experienced an extreme population growth (click the link for an image of the chart!) over the month of November. On November 16th, we had 17 nations, approximately the same number we've had since shortly after we were founded. Starting on that date, Refuge Isle and I teamed up to create a recruitment telegram and drove it out to the masses. As of December 1st, we were at a whopping (for us) 60 nations!

Most of these nations were founded shortly before joining us. Even the most environmentally-stunning starting nation can only have an average in both scores of around 800. I think that having a higher number of nations who share our goals and direction on environmental issues will outweigh the short-term drop in our numbers. But, speaking of those numbers, we should still take a look at them.

As a quick reminder, our goals are to, by the end of the year, reach a regional average of 1500 environmental beauty score and 5000 eco-friendliness score.

Environmental Beauty

We’ll start with Environmental Beauty (click the thumbnail to the left for larger image):

As of 01/11/2019, our regional score was 1249.81, 250.19 away from our goal. And as of 01/12/2019, our regional score was 793.41, 706.59 away from our goal. We are trading short-term success for a long-term result.

But look back at the chart with me. How close did we get to the end result? At the peak of our growth, November 16th, we were at a regional score of 1376.89, a mere 123.11 points from our goal. With the rate of growth we were experiencing at the time, we would easily have passed 1500 by 31/12/2019. I'm proud of all of you, we did a wonderful job!

Environmental Beauty

Now, as for Eco-Friendliness (click the thumbnail to the left for larger image): This is the more exciting statistic of the two, in my opinion. Just like with environmental beauty, we've experienced an extreme drop over the course of this month. As of 01/11/2019, our score was 4354.51, 645.49 points from our goal. And as of 01/21/2019, our regional score was 1856.49, 3143.51 points from our goal. This obviously doesn't look great on its own, and is another investment we're making in the future of our region.

But here's why I think this is the more exciting statistic:

Look at the peak. As of November 16th, we were at 5165.22, exceeding our end-of-the-year goal by 165.22 points. Congratulations everyone, we did it! We not only reached our goal, we went past it far enough (with 45 days left before our deadline) to share the excess with environmental beauty and put that over our goal as well.

Overall, I would say that the general scope and confines of this ecological report don't do proper justice to what this month has brought us, which is why I provided the context. We've picked up 43 new nations, all of whom saw our recruitment telegram and thought that our environmental focus as a region was something they wanted to sign on with. Looking at the population growth, and the long-term prospects that will come of it to our region, I think we're in as good a place as we've ever been. And I'm excited to see the numbers start ticking up again by the end of the year!

Suggestions for Improvement

When I was starting this project with the first Eco-Report at the beginning of October, I laid out a few ideas for this section in a list, thinking that I could pull from that list when there wasn’t any current event I could tie to something. There’s a big one on there that I think will be controversial and unliked, so I will avoid that one for now. Instead, I’ll talk about something that I’ve come to really enjoy over the past couple years: public transportation.

Depending on who you ask, the numbers for exactly how responsible the main emitters of greenhouse gasses by industry/economic sector are can vary, but the top four are usually Electricity/Heating, Agriculture, Industry, and Transportation. Right now I’m trying to suggest low-impact changes to your daily habits to improve the environment, so I can’t do much to dive into agriculture and industry. Don’t worry, we’ll get there eventually (she said, and was promptly removed as Councillor of Needling-Us-About-The-Environment). So far, we’ve addressed using Ecosia (Nov Eco-Report) and lowering the amount of single-use plastics we consume (Oct Eco-Report). But we haven’t tackled any of the big four directly.

It’s generally agreed upon that transportation makes up 14% of greenhouse gas emissions globally, and 28-30% of emissions produced in the United States and Canada. And over half of those emissions come from personal vehicles. We can’t do much in the short term regarding the remainder, most of which comes from commercial trucks transporting goods, so we’ll focus here. Obviously not everyone lives in a place where public transportation exists, but those readers might still find the following information interesting.

I haven’t had a car since August of 2018. In that time, I’ve looked for alternate means of transportation, and learned more about the layout of my city than I ever did when I had my own vehicle. My city has both light rail and bus options, and these are generally inexpensive. There’s a stereotype that the United States doesn’t have many options for public transport, and in my research I confirmed that was true, but I was surprised to find more cities than I expected had some sort of option. In fact, the largest city in the US without a public transportation system is Arlington, Texas, with approximately 395,000 people. The second-through-fourth largest cities without public transportation were all approximately in the 100,000 range, and were entirely within traditionally-conservative states (Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida).

Some basics. In terms of pure environmental impact:

  1. A standard city bus carrying seven passengers is more fuel efficient than a single-occupancy car.
  2. A fully-occupied train is on average fifteen times more fuel efficient than a car, full stop.
  3. Buses produce 20% of the carbon monoxide per passenger mile as a single-occupancy car.
  4. Most global light-rail/tram systems run entirely on electricity.

On average, a single person choosing to cut a personal vehicle out of their travel plans cuts their carbon footprint by up to 30 per cent. This is obviously significant, and one of the best things we can do as individuals to improve our impact on the environment. For those of us who live in places without public transportation options, however, what would be a better option?

Walking or biking, if and when it’s possible, is a good start. I grew up in a town without a public transportation system, and I remember the first time it occurred to me to just walk somewhere. I had gotten off work, and ended up walking approximately four and a half kilometres to where my ex was working, and then another one and a half back to our house. It was fascinating to me; I had grown up in this town, and I had never experienced it in the way I did while on foot. The same goes for where I live now; I really enjoy walking and using public transportation because there’s an intimacy to experiencing a place in that way. I bought a bike soon after that first real walk, and used it more often than I did my car.

Of course, I’d never suggest to walk or bike all the time. If you have a car, and it’s snowing or raining and you need to go somewhere, or if you work a significant distance from your home, you should use it. Therein lies the next tip: use it less. In the same manner as when talking about single-use plastics, better should never be the enemy of good. I think that getting groceries once per week and making dinner every night at home is better than going out to eat three nights per week.

In these ways, we can all lessen our environmental impact and start making the world a better place!

Environmental News

Now for some quick positive environmental stories before we go!

First up, a story about how a town in New Jersey that had to weigh where to put a new solar-panel array to power their water treatment plant. Their decision? To build it over the very water basin that they were treating! They took this idea from a vineyard in Napa Valley in California, which took its power from a series of panels floating on top of their irrigation pond. State and local governments, utility companies, and even federal agencies have contacted the project lead for information, interested in taking this idea and running with it.

Next, a report on the continuing decline in global coal usage. The use of coal-fired electricity in 2019 is expected to have fallen by approximately 3 per cent, the largest annual drop for coal power since it’s been recorded!

And finally, because it’s a topic that’s sort of close to my heart, an article on how artists and scientists should work together, giving the latter’s work the former’s ability to more easily communicate complex ideas and concepts to the public. Come for the warm fuzzies, stay for the hilarious attempt to force the idea of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics) into the public discourse.

As always, please always feel free to contact me with any news, suggestions, or improvements you’d like to see in future ecological reports. I try to respond to all telegrams within 24 hours and RMB posts much faster. New nations who are reading this eco-report for the first time, I need your help! Send me your suggestions for how to improve our environmental impact, interesting sites, and uplifting stories about the environment so that I can include them in future dispatches!

Da’reth Shi’ral,
Sylh Alanor