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)

roottop solar
Big Stock Photo

Why Bret Baier’s solar-powered mansion has climate crusaders fuming

When Fox News host Bret Baier listed his D.C. mansion for an eye-popping $31.9 million last week, some eagle-eyed observers noticed a surprising feature: Dozens of solar panels covered parts of the roof.

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.
monarch butterfly
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Saving monarch butterflies is this Minnesota mayor's conservation project

Amáda Márquez Simula, the mayor of Columbia Heights, explains how her focus on saving monarch butterflies has sparked community interest in environmental conservation.
indigenous brazilian woman
Big Stock Photo

Why native women’s voices are crucial to saving Brazil’s forests

Cristiane Julião — a member of the Pankararu Indigenous group and co-founder of the National Articulation of Ancestral Warriors Women — challenges the deeply rooted sexism that hinders environmental protection in Brazil. “The state needs to listen to women,” she insists.

carrot farm
Image by WikimediaImages from Pixabay

Carrots farms v valley: the battle over a water-depleted California region

The Cuyama valley gets only 8in of water a year – and some of the US’s top carrot farms want a bigger share of the increasingly precious resource.

Some top drug companies are starting to take action on climate

STAT analyzes pharmaceutical company efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and offers an exclusive ranking of 33 companies that have taken action.
Carbon footprints for drugs are hard to calculate
Photo by Roberto Sorin on Unsplash

Carbon footprints for drugs are hard to calculate

Pinpointing the sources of carbon emissions for drugs is tough, presenting a challenge as companies seek to reduce their footprints.

The surprising ecological benefits of sheep grazing for lawn care

Lamb Mowers, billed as the country’s only sheep-led lawn care service, is munching its way to success.

From our Newsroom
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.

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

800,000 tons of radioactive waste from Pennsylvania’s oil and gas industry has gone “missing”

Poor recordkeeping on hazardous waste disposal points to potential for bigger problems, according to a new study.

drought climate farming

Opinion: Climate change and soil loss — the new Dust Bowl?

How we can save our soil, stabilize the climate, and prevent a new Dust Bowl.

climate change health care

Severe flooding increasingly cutting people off from health care

Many more Americans will find themselves regularly cut off from essential services, rescue workers and health care long before water actually reaches their homes, a recent study predicts.

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