12 positive & inspiring environmental stories showing 2016 wasn’t all bad

2016 left many of us feeling like this “face-planting” bobcat from Planet Earth II.

Many of us are glad to see the back of 2016. But hidden within those difficult months were some positive stories about nature and the environment which made us smile.

From celebrating David Attenborough’s 90th birthday, to renewable energy milestones, and heartwarming stories of humans helping animals, we’ve found 12 of our favourite — and most liked and shared — stories of 2016.

#12: Humans helped an injured mockingbird get back on her feet

An injured mockingbird was rescued by the California Wildlife Centre as her feet were misshapen, or “knuckling” under, which made walking or perching difficult.
 
The story went viral after vets at the centre came to the bird’s aid with custom-made snowshoes — made from tiny cardboard pieces — to correct the knuckling and help her walk again.

The mockingbird with misshapen feet (left) and with her temporary snowshoes (right). Photos: California Wildlife Centre

After wearing the shoes for about a week, the little bird spent some time in rehabilitation at the centre before being released into the wild.

It’s gratifying that such an easy fix here can change an animal’s life,” said vet Dr. Lorraine Barbosa.

#11: Wind-erful! Portugal was powered by renewables for four days in a row

Back in May, Portugal made history by running for four days in a row on renewable energy alone. The entire country was powered by wind, solar, and hydro-generated electricity from 7th to 11th May.

Take a bow, Portugal!

“This is a significant achievement for a European country, but what seems extraordinary today will be commonplace in Europe in just a few years,” says James Watson, the CEO of SolarPower Europe.

#10: Video of a deer skipping across a beach at dawn

Many of us smiled when this video of a magical moment in nature was shared in our newsfeeds in September.

The beautiful video showing a deer skipping along Poole Harbour at dawn, was captured by Dave Mott as he walked his dog.

Deer skipping along Poole Harbour (video by Dave Mott). Gif source: Giphy.

“It’s thought it’s a Sika deer that may have swum over from Brownsea Island where there’s a resident population,” wrote BBC South Today.

#9: Rare Arabian sand cat seen for first time in a decade

Endangered Arabian sand cats were spotted by scientists in the United Arab Emirates for the first time in 10 years in 2015. But the story didn’t go viral until this year, when the study was published.

Sand cat photographed in Iran. Image: Payman sazesh. Note: Photo is not from the study mentioned.

Sightings of these secretive creatures are rare in the wild, but researchers baited camera traps with cat food over several months and were able to capture images of three individuals. 
 
It’s hoped their research will help protect both these beautiful cats and their habitat.

#8: Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar and mentioned climate change in his speech

“Climate change is real and it’s happening right now.”

When Leonardo DiCaprio finally won an Oscar in February, the Revenant star used his Best Actor speech to speak up about the urgent need for action on climate change and the threat posed to Indigenous People and others on the front line as our world warms.

We know, it shouldn’t take a Hollywood actor to get people to listen to the threat posed by climate change but, unfortunately, it often does. Leo’s message about environmental protection was watched by over 34 million people, as well as shared on social media, and reported around the world.

Watch Leonardo DiCaprio’s Best Actor acceptance speech at the Academy Awards 2016.
“A single speech, at a very opportunistic time, at the Oscar ceremony, resulted in the largest increase in public engagement with climate change ever,” said John Ayers of San Diego State University.

Later in the year, Leo released a climate change documentary Before the Flood, timed for release (for free) around the world just before the U.S. election in November.

#7: Stunning video of a snowy owl soaring along a Highway

Female snowy owl flying over a Montreal Highway. Gif source: Gizmodo

This spectacular footage looks like something you see in an Attenborough documentary, but it was actually captured by a traffic camera in Canada.
 
The video, which went viral way back in January, shows a young female snowy owl most likely looking for a place to perch. “I think they are attracted specifically to the highway because it has open, grassy fields nearby which is perfect for hunting their favourite prey, which is small rodents,” said Barbara Frei, the director of the McGill Bird Observatory.

#6: England’s plastic bag charge led to an 85% reduction in bag use in the first 6 months

It’s been a big year for positive news in tackling plastic pollution, with several places around the world banning single-use plastics, but is one of our favourites stories.
 
England’s 5p plastic bag charge - introduced in the previous October - led to a whopping 85% reduction in single-use plastic bags, according to reports.

Plastic bag use was down 85% in the first six months since the charge was introduced in October 2015.

The number of single-use bags used dropped to 500 million in the first six months since the charge was introduced, compared with seven billion the previous year.

While this is great news, the fight against ocean plastic pollution is only just beginning. Take the plastics pledge now.

#5: David Attenborough turned 90 and continues to inspire us

One of our most shared posts this year celebrated David Attenborough’s 90’s birthday.

On May 8th over 22,000 of you shared a post thanking him for inspiring us to care about the natural world, and hundreds wrote messages about how he inspires you.

Always an inspiration, you share your joy and love of our world. Thank you so very much for teaching us all about so many of our fellow species. I have been blessed to live in the same world as you,” wrote Teresa.

More recently, Attenborough brought us the groundbreaking Planet Earth II series. Thanks for continuing to inspire us all.

#4: ‘Extinct’ bird seen in eastern Nepal for the first time in almost 200 years

A red-faced liocichla. Photo: Paulo Coteriano, Flickr

Here’s a story that gives us hope. A bird species thought to be locally extinct was re-discovered by chance by a group of birdwatchers on a tour of the Nepalese forest.

The red-faced liocichla is found across much of south east Asia, but hadn’t been seen in eastern Nepal for 178 years.

#3: An inspiring story about kindness and reducing food waste

More than 24 million people watched a viral video on an Indian restaurant’s inspiring way of reducing food waste and helping others.

Pappadavada’s owner keeps a fridge full of food outside her shop to provide free meals for the homeless.

Pappadavada urges its customers, as well as the wider community, to put their leftover food in a fridge outside the front of the restaurant. The fridge is open all day, so anyone in need of food can visit it any time.
 
 Hopefully more restaurants will start doing this!

#2: Wind wins! Scotland’s wind power broke records

Scotland produced enough power from wind to meet more than 100% of the country’s needs on August 7th.

Scottish wind farms produced enough electricity to power the country for 24 hours, following high winds.

More wind turbines in 2017, please!


#1: Penguin swims miles to visit the man who rescued him

If this doesn’t convince you there was some good in 2016, nothing will. Dindim the penguin’s heartwarming story was liked by over 26,000 of you.

Joao Pereira de Souza and Dindim the penguin. Source: Giphy.

Back in 2011, part time fisherman Joao Pereira de Souza found the tiny penguin covered in oil and starving on his local beach off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. He washed oil from the penguin’s feathers and nursed him back to health.

He tried to release the penguin back to the sea after a week, but he wouldn’t leave. “He stayed with me for 11 months and then, just after he changed his coat with new feathers, he disappeared,” Joao says.

But that wasn’t the last Joao would see of Dindim, as a few months later he saw the bird on the beach where they first met and the penguin followed him home.
 
Since then, Dindim spends eight months of the year with Joao and the rest of his time in breeding colonies off the coasts of Argentina and Chile. It’s thought the penguin swims up to 5,000 miles to be reunited with the man who saved his life.

Still not convinced about 2016 not being all bad? Check out 12 of our top campaigning moments from last year — in pictures.

Bonus: A big win for the Arctic!

This big news happened after we’d finished putting our lists for 2016 together, but we had to squeeze it in somewhere…

The Canadian government blocked new oil and gas licenses in the Arctic! And President Obama granted permanent protection from offshore drilling to the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans!

Thanks to the millions of you who took action to make this happen.

Want to see more stories like these? Follow us on Facebook or Twitter. Bring on 2017!

Danielle Boobyer is a digital campaigner at Greenpeace UK.