Environmentally speaking, we're at a grim purpose in human history. unbridled heating and a continuing reliance on fossil fuels threatens to form the trend irreversible, that might have devastating consequences for each physical structure on our planet.
But it isn't all bad news. While we do need to do more for our planet, sometimes it's good to focus on the positive.
Every industrialized nation has had a reckoning with its pollution at some point. Whether it was the Great Smog of London in 1952 or Cleveland's Cuyahoga River catching fire in 1969, certain events put things into focus.
Part of the reason China is a powerhouse today is its rapid industrialization, with a focus on manufacturing. This has caused tons of smog. It's still ranked number one in the world for carbon dioxide emissions.
It's consistently ranked in the top five countries worldwide for carbon dioxide emissions. It's estimated that, in just one year, its smoggy air killed a whopping 1.24 million people.
We live in an industrialized world, which makes it hard to just stop emitting carbon dioxide. But steps can be taken to decrease the damage that it's causing — and that's exactly what's going on in both China and India.
A study that took data from NASA satellites, published in the journal Nature Sustainability, showed a few promising gains for two countries that have worked hard to reduce their carbon footprint. "The world is literally a greener place than it was 20 years ago," says NASA.
The world is definitely a greener place than it was two decades ago. Satellite data shows that India and China, two of Earth's biggest polluters, have also been the biggest catalysts in making our planet more green.
The big problem is carbon dioxide emissions. Since we can't just stop producing carbon dioxide, we can at least plant trees — billions of trees — to provide oxygen to offset the carbon dioxide.
In 2016, hundreds of thousands of Indian citizens planted 50 million trees, somehow, in just 24 hours. You can see the difference in this map, where areas with increased greenery are shown in, well, green.
The trend of Earth becoming more green was first noticed in the 1990s, so researchers examined satellite data between the late 90's and now to get an idea of what had changed.
Lead author Chi Chen of Boston University noted that China and India account for a full third of Earth's greening, adding. “That is a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation.”
NASA research scientist Rama Nemani said it was originally thought that the trend was due to a warmer climate. But with the newer data, it's clear that human initiatives have played a role as well.
Researchers note that both China and India have found ways to maximize how much food they can get from a given plot of land — a necessity when it comes to producing more food for the world's second most populous country.
Factors like India's groundwater supply could make things change for the worse in the future, so researchers say it's important to keep an eye on the ways that things might be affected.
Global warming continues to be a concern, and researchers involved in the NASA satellite study say that the gains don't necessarily offset the loss of deforestation of tropical, equatorial regions.
This isn't a sign that we've fixed everything — but it's a sign that, if we work together, we can start to fix everything.