Thursday, November 27, 2014

5 Reasons for American Environmentalists to Be Thankful

Photo by Mario Gomez
Happy Thanksgiving everyone!  In honor of the holiday, I put together a list of 5 reasons for American environmentalists to be thankful.

1.  Energy Independence.  In the U.S. we are very close to being energy independent.  This is driven, in part, by a surge in the development of renewable energy sources like solar and wind.  Greater energy efficiency and technology (like electric hybrid cars) also helps considerably.  We are also significantly increasing our traditional energy production of oil and natural gas.  The reason that we should celebrate this is that we are no longer exporting the impacts of our high energy consumption to countries that do not have strict environmental rules.  For decades, our high energy use and concomitant environmental impacts, were felt in places all over the world.  From an international environmental justice perspective it is appropriate that we feel the impact of our high energy consumption locally.  Don't like mountaintop removal?  Let's build wind farms!  Don't like fracking?  Let's build solar arrays!  In other words, as we start to feel the impacts of our own energy consumption, we will likely move more quickly to renewables.  American energy independence is a win for the global environmental movement in that our consumption is not being felt in places with few environmental protection rules.

2.  Wind and Solar Energy.  The U.S. is now the leading producer of wind energy in the world and we are increasing that production more and more every day.  At the same time, there are now more people working in the solar energy field than in the coal energy field.  In Long Island, hundreds and hundreds of homes have converted to solar energy production.  That number is repeated in urban and suburban regions all over the country.  The last decade has seen a revolution in local renewable energy production and there is no end in site to the growth in renewables.

3.  Successful Non-Profit Organizations.  In the last several years, we have seen many successful initiatives put forward by a number of non-profit groups.  The Center for Biological Diversity, for example, has been a strident defender of the environment and forced a number of policy initiatives related to global climate change and ecosystem protection via their efforts.  The noted group 350.org--one of the newer players in the environmental non-profit world--works tirelessly on issues related to global climate change.  They were the leading organizer of the successful People's Climate March in New York City that saw over 400,000 in attendance.  Other organizations, like the U.S. Green Building Council, the Sierra Club, and the American Association for Sustainability in Higher Education, continue to do great work and advance the cause of sustainability.

4.  Sustainable Food Initiatives.  There is no doubt that there is a growing sustainable food movement in the United States.  Once thought elitist, the green food movement is expanding to all regions and all social groups.  Organic and sustainably grown food is becoming much more affordable and we are seeing many urban areas improve rules to allow and promote small farms, bee keeping, chickens, and farmers' markets.  One of the fastest growing jobs among young people around the country is agriculture--many of these jobs are in the production of sustainable food.

5.  Science.  The scientific community continues to help us understand and improve our environment.  There have been many advances in the last few years on understanding global climate change--particularly the storage of heat in oceans and the puzzling out of ancient climate records stored in caves, sediment, and ice.  At the same time, engineers are seeking improvements in resource efficiency--especially water and energy--and in technology to make our homes, electronics, and vehicles more efficient.  Science is also helping to find ways to improve the lives of others around the world by creating affordable water purification and by developing greener and affordable materials.

While there are many environmental challenges we face, it is worthwhile to celebrate and be thankful of the successes and advances we are making in creating a greener country and a more sustainable world.

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