The good news about Connecticut's environment is that it's not getting worse. The bad news is that it's not getting better. It's been static, more or less, for several years. The era of climate change demands a better effort.
This middling-at-best news is from "Environmental Quality in Connecticut 2012," the annual report prepared by the state's Council on Environmental Quality. When compared with the past two years, we see not much change; some small improvements here, minor retreats there. For example, on the minus side, the number of "good air" days dropped from 342 to 338 from 2011 to 2012, and the portion of Long Island Sound with adequate oxygen declined, not insignificantly, from 88 percent to 73 percent. On the plus side, more people took buses, and automobile use declined slightly.
Climate change increases the challenge. Severe rainstorms send more nutrients into the Sound. Rising temperatures create a greater imbalance between water temperatures at the surface and in deeper water, which encourages the oxygen-depleting condition known as hypoxia. Rising seas threaten marshes, which filter and absorb nutrients and support the organisms that build the aquatic food chain. Also, warm-water aquatic species are moving into the Sound as cold-water species depart. "There's something happening here, and the state needs to pay attention to it," said CEQ executive director Karl J. Wagener.
One of the most disappointing aspects of the report is the lack of overall progress in recycling. Despite the adoption of single-stream recycling in many communities — which certainly has helped — the state's recycling rate hovers around 24 percent, roughly where it's been for two decades. The state's goal is to recycle 58 percent of solid waste by 2024. To get there, all communities need to adopt single-stream recycling, and a major push must be made to help commercial and multifamily properties recycle as much as possible.
The report reminds us that how we live affects our ability to live, and it's a message we can't get often enough.