rancho seco

Peter Dykstra: The green bucket list

Sites across the U.S. where environmental challenges have been met.

When you’re immersed in environmental science and environmental politics, it’s sometimes hard to step back and measure progress.

Here are a few gains and victories to charge your batteries.


Rancho Seco, California 

In 1975, the City of Sacramento cut the ribbon on its own nuclear power plant. After years of substandard performance and at least one unnerving emergency shutdown, city voters narrowly chose to deactivate the plant in 1989.

Today, Rancho Seco is a sprawling park, 25 miles from downtown, with a sizable solar farm, a gas-fired power plant, and cooling towers unlike those in any other city park in the nation—and a reservoir designed as an emergency source of coolant water is now one bodacious fishing hole.

Greensburg, Kansas

environmental good news

Banner photo credit: Lauren Ayres/flickr

In May 2007, a tornado wiped this Kansas prairie town off the map. With so little left to lose, town leaders accepted a challenge: Rebuild Greensburg all-green, with 100% clean energy.

A decade and a half later, it’s mission accomplished for Greensburg. Its municipal wind farm sells power back to the grid.

Hubbard Brook, New Hampshire 

A research forest in North Woodstock, New Hampshire, where Gene Likens and a team of scientists were among the first to study the causes, sources, and potential solutions to acid rain.

Warren County, North Carolina

environmental justice

Credit: Jimmy Emerson, DVM/flickr

When plans were disclosed to landfill carcinogenic PCB waste in a predominantly poor Black county, national civil rights organizations joined local groups in a series of protests and blockades.

More than 500 arrests later, the environmental justice movement was born.

Storm King Mountain, New York 

Con Edison, the utility giant that powers New York City, was on the lookout for new generating capacity. Storm King rises 1,400 feet above a particularly lovely stretch of the Hudson River. In 1962, Con Ed sought permission to convert Storm King into a giant pump-storage facility – hollowing out the mountain to create a vertical reservoir, releasing the water to power electrical turbines during peak demand periods.

Swift opposition came from hikers, fishermen, ambitious lawyers and Manhattan millionaires. Seventeen years of court cases and public hearings later, Con Ed dropped its plans for Storm King. But the battle is considered the birthplace of American environmental law.

Baraboo, Wisconsin 

There are two reasons to enshrine this town of 12,000: It’s home to the Aldo Leopold Foundation, dedicated to one of America’s greatest environmental authors; and also to the International Crane Foundation, the leading NGO in protecting crane species worldwide.

These are sites where problems yielded inspired solutions. Next week, we’ll look at American sites with unresolved problems we can learn from.

Peter Dykstra is our weekend editor and columnist and can be reached at pdykstra@ehn.org or @pdykstra.

His views do not necessarily represent those of Environmental Health News, The Daily Climate, or publisher Environmental Health Sciences.

Banner photo: Canoeing in Rancho Seco. (Credit: Robert Couse-Baker/flickr)

climate change COP28

An audio diary from the COP28 climate conference, Part 1

Sights, sounds and scenes from the largest climate gathering on the planet.

Dr. Robbie Parks joins the Agents of Change in Environmental Justice podcast to give listeners a front row seat at the largest, most consequential climate change conference on the planet.

Keep reading...Show less
Senator Whitehouse & climate change

Senator Whitehouse puts climate change on budget committee’s agenda

For more than a decade, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse gave daily warnings about the mounting threat of climate change. Now he has a powerful new perch.
rural opposition to large-scale solar
Credit: Vrabelpeter1/BigStock Photo ID: 78435575

Sunblocked: Resistance to solar in farm country

Across the country, rural communities are pushing back against large-scale solar development.

Jane Muncke: "Perils of Plastic Packaging”

On this episode, toxicology scientist Dr. Jane Muncke joins Nate to discuss the current state of food production and the effects of ultra processed foods and their packaging on our health.

coastal erosion & flooding vulnerability
Credit: NCDOTcommunications/Flickr

Dolan, Godfrey: Scientists proved Outer Banks are moving

Findings more than 50 years ago by coastal geologist Robert Dolan and husband-and-wife researchers Paul and Melinda Godfrey changed barrier island understanding and led the National Park Service to reverse longstanding policy.
Solar pumps empowering women farmers
Credit: Prashanth Vishwanathan/Water Alternatives Photos/Flickr

Solar pumps are empowering women farmers in India

On top of its climate benefits, the technology is boosting women's income and confidence while challenging traditional gender norms.
2023 global heat record
Credit: Chris Yarzab/Flickr

2023 smashes record for world’s hottest year by huge margin

Rapid reduction in fossil fuel burning urgently needed to preserve liveable conditions, say scientists, as climate damage deepens.

Brain drain worries grow as energy, climate lawmakers exit

Congress will be losing prominent legislators from top committees, scrambling the landscape of energy and environment policymaking.
From our Newsroom
COP28 climate change conference

An audio diary from the COP28 climate conference, Part 2

The sights, sounds and scenes from the largest climate gathering on the planet.

republican climate change denial

Opinion: House Speaker Mike Johnson’s climate change playbook — deny the science, take the funding

The two-faced charade of climate denial while diving into the pot of federal renewable incentives and tax breaks.

childrens health climate change

Delays in joining the RGGI regional climate program means excess ER visits and child illness in Pennsylvania

Up to 128 premature deaths from air pollution could have been prevented if the state had entered the program in 2022 as planned.

environmental justice

LISTEN: Carlos Gould on wildfire smoke and our health

“Information matters a lot — trying to explain not just that there’s a problem, but how to do something about it.”

fracking PFAS

“Forever chemicals” in Pennsylvania fracking wells could impact health of surrounding communities: Report

More than 5,000 wells in the state were injected with 160 million pounds of undisclosed, “trade-secret” chemicals, which potentially include PFAS.

Stay informed: sign up for The Daily Climate newsletter
Top news on climate impacts, solutions, politics, drivers. Delivered to your inbox week days.