- Wilfredo Lee/ Getty
- There are a number of times when people tried to save the planet but instead made things even worse.
- In the US, people tried to save butterflies but instead ended up killing many more, while in the Pacific, people tried to save fish but instead helped dwindle the population further.
- In the ’80s, people were told to use plastic bags because paper bags harmed the environment. Now, plastic bags are killing sea animals.
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When it comes to the environment, human mistakes can have cataclysmic results.
Throughout the years, people have been trying to counteract climate change, global warming, and the increasing fear of a dying planet. Even though they had the best intentions, sometimes these environmentalist acts backfired and actually harmed the planet.
Here are seven times we’ve attempted to save the planet but accidentally made things worse.
Daylight-saving time was meant to conserve energy, but recent studies show that it does the opposite.
- Brian Snyder/Reuters
In 1784, Benjamin Franklin created the idea of daylight-saving, and the US implemented it in World War I. The plan was to reduce the number of hours we use light and therefore reduce the amount of electricity we use.
A 2006 study in Indiana proved that it actually cost the residents over $7 million in electricity bills. Turns out the plan reduced light usage but did not account for the increased use of heating and air conditioning during the extended periods of light.
In the ’80s, plastic bags became popular because paper bags destroy trees. Forty years later, we learned that plastic bags are also harming the environment.
- KARTIKA SUMOLANG/ Reuters
In the late ’70s, plastic bags were introduced to the American public. By the ’80s, they became the more popular bag at most grocery stores. People were told that paper bags harmed the environment and led to deforestation. Plastic bags were also cheaper to make.
But, now we have learned that plastic bags are just as harmful to the environment as paper bags. For example, there is the Pacific Trash Vortex, which is a large bundle of plastic in the ocean. It has destroyed the ecosystem and killed many sea animals because they think it’s food. Most recently, a dead whale was found with 1,000 pieces of plastic in its stomach when it washed up on a beach in Indonesia.
Americans tried to save the declining population of monarch butterflies, but their attempts only killed them faster.
- Wikimedia Commons
In 2015, the North American monarch butterfly was named an endangered species after herbicides killed its habitats. In an attempt to save the butterflies, millions of Americans planted milkweed because it was believed that the insects used the weed for sustenance, according to The Washington Post.
Turns out, there are different kinds of milkweed and the gardeners planted the wrong kind. The milkweed these butterflies like usually dies in the fall months, giving them a reason to migrate south, wrote the Post. Since the weeds that the gardeners planted didn’t die on time, the butterflies stuck around and became, well, lazy. Ultimately, their efforts increased the decline of the monarch butterfly.
An island in the Pacific attempted to save the fish population but accidentally increased fishing rates.
- Jonas Gratzer/ Getty
Back in 2009, the island of Kiribati in the central Pacific attempted to curb the fishing industry and stop the problem of over fishing. To do so, the government gave residents an incentive to pick coconuts instead by subsidizing the coconut oil industry. In other words, they thought if there was a larger financial benefit to picking coconuts, then people would stop fishing.
Instead, fishing on Kiribati increased by 33%, decreasing the fish population by 17%, according to NPR. This was happening because people were getting paid more to pick coconuts, which meant they were able to work less. With their newfound free time, residents of Kiribati fished, putting the entire ecosystem at risk.
In the ’50s, an ecologist thought killing elephants would stop deforestation. He was wrong.
- Mike Hutchings/Reuters
In the ’50s, ecologist Allan Savory believed that elephants in the African national parks were the cause of deforestation. He was convinced the elephants were stomping on the grasslands and turning them into deserts. When Savory convinced other scientists that this was true, Zimbabwe’s government (then Southern Rhodesia) killed 40,000 elephants over a few years, according to NPR.
“It got worse, not better,” Savory told NPR. “That was the saddest and greatest blunder of my life. And I will carry that to my grave.”
Turns out, grasslands need wildlife to survive, and the movements from the elephants actually help keep the grasslands healthy.
Environmentalists attempted to save coral reefs by dropping 700,000 tires into the bottom of the ocean off the coast of South Florida. The tires, instead, destroyed the remaining coral reefs.
In 1972, 100 boatloads of tires were dumped into the ocean off Hugh Taylor Birch State Park in south Florida. The project was called the Osborne Tire Reef, according to the Los Angeles Times, and it was meant to be an environmental way to get rid of rubber tires. The plan was that fish would be attracted to the tires and, therefore, corals would grow.
But the opposite happened. Barely any coral grew, while pieces of the tires broke off and killed coral and destroyed natural reefs nearby.
In 2015, divers attempted to remove some of the tires from the ocean floor but thousands still remain, according to the LA Times.
When a small island off of Scotland tried to save the local bird population by killing all the rats, the rabbit population boomed, harming crops and the ecosystem.
- Tim Graham/ Getty
Back in 2008, the small island of Canna had a mouse problem. The rodent infestation was causing a decline in the island’s local birds and was harming the ecosystem. The island brought in exterminators from New Zealand, which cost over $600,000 to kill over 10,000 rats, according to The Telegraph. Eventually, the rat population disappeared from the island.
With its main predator gone, the rabbit population dramatically increased. The rabbits burrowed into archaeological monuments and destroyed them. Gardens were also destroyed, turning most of the crops useless.
Residents tried to kill and eat more rabbits on the island, but it did nothing to curb the population.
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