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Five hashtags of #Hope

In this column's short life, I've conjured a bleak picture of the state of our environment and the continued human malfeasance it faces.
ban straws Pique columnist Leslie Anthony says social media campaigns like #StrawsSuck are positive developments in the wider enironmental fight. <a href=""></a>

In this column's short life, I've conjured a bleak picture of the state of our environment and the continued human malfeasance it faces. None of that has changed—things are in a damnable, desultory state when it comes to climate, biodiversity, pollution, deforestation, etc.—but I'd be remiss not to make occasional mention of the few positive developments that offer us a little hope. So here are five bad-news hashtags under which you might also find some good:

#StopKM—People-power played a huge role in identifying the hypocrisies and environmental and economic folly of the now-vanquished Northern Gateway Pipeline, Energy East Pipeline, and proposed Lelu Island LNG terminal. Now Canada's #fossilfuels battlefront is squarely focused on Kinder Morgan's plan to twin its existing #TransMountainPipeline from Alberta's #tarsands to the coast. The sheer volume of lies uncovered by investigative reporters on the #TMX file is grounds for the many lawsuits currently proceeding through our courts.

#Methane—The federal government gets failing grades on both the environment and economy when it comes to #oilandgas and #pipelines in general, but at least one pillar of its national climate plan deserves applause: regulations to reduce methane, the most powerful #GHG contributing to climate change. Though one might be rightly cynical about language like "regulations will keep Canada globally competitive while protecting the environment" (meaning continued subsidies for the criminal oil-and-gas sector), encouraging innovation "should" ensure Canada meets its 2025 target of reducing methane emissions by 40 to 45 per cent below 2012 levels. 

#Climatechange—If they follow through, it's another deserved nod to the feds, who identified #NationalParks as an important part of its national climate plan. A @ParksCanada webpage specifically identifies eight key inter-related points in support of creating more parks, doing so in a more strategic way, and putting effort into reconnection, restoration and conservation: 1) protected areas preserve clean water, soil and air; 2) protected areas store carbon; 3) conserving and restoring protected areas makes them resilient; 4) connecting protected areas makes them even more resilient; 5) protected areas conserve species; 6) protected areas are living laboratories; 7) indigenous knowledge of protected areas gives us a more complete view of climate change; 8) protected areas inspire people.

#StopPlasticPollution—Along with #StirCrazy, #PlasticFree and others, this hashtag is the ensign for a growing—and deserved—global backlash against the single-use plastics clogging landfills and polluting oceans. Worldwide, people are busy inventing ocean and beach skimmers for cleaning up plastics, launching community clean-up drives, instituting upcycling and recycling initiatives, and switching to reusable or compostable containers in everything from water to fresh food. Better still, politicians at the highest levels are talking about this, enacting everything from national awareness campaigns to phased-in outright bans on certain single-use plastics.

#StrawsSuck—This gets a call-out on its own as the noble war-within-a-war that has momentarily supplanted the #BanPlasticBags drive. Despite naysayers "fact-checking" the status of straws in the world's plastic waste (but really cherry-picking and not considering things like breakdown) and dismissing the anti-straw movement as "lame liberal activism," this cause célèbre makes sense. Single-use straws are emblematic of out-of-control, disposable consumerism. Limiting (or banning) their unnecessary and dangerous use is importantly symbolic.

Though today's straws are made from non-toxic recyclable #2/#5 plastics, most people don't recycle, and McDonald's alone serves over 50 million meals/year. A team met with McDonald's lawyers in February, and the fast-food giant subsequently announced a phasing out of plastic straws in U.K. branches. But the best news of all is the sudden range of innovative alternatives to plastic straws: Biodegradable Bamboo Paper Straws by Kikkerland; Decorative Borosilicate Glass Straws by Glass Dharma; Endurance Bendy Stainless Steel Straws by RSVP; Reusable Silicone Adjustable Length Straws by GreenPaxx; Reusable Bamboo Drinking Straws by Zone – 365; Collapsible, reusable metal straw by FinalStraw.

Like all environment-related news, this may not be the kind you sing from the rooftops, but it's a start.

Leslie Anthony is a biologist, writer and author of several popular books on environmental science.