Seeing the Light

To be an environmental activist these days and keep your balance, you have to be, or be willing to become, bipolar.  It also helps to be relentlessly interested in the subject, even if it can be the love that dare not speak its name in some circles.

So, it’s nearly the end of 2013 and rather than look back in anguish, though there are reasons for that, I want to look forward with hope, in the Emily Dickinson, thing-with-feathers, sense.  I had a short list of items for the year’s thumbs up column, but knew there were many I had overlooked.  And that’s how I stumbled upon to my delight, and I trust to yours.

Founded in 1999 by Rhett Butler (he credits the name to his parents’ sense of humor and a brief family connection to Clark Gable), Mongabay is one of those sources that are so rich and thorough about its subject – The Rainforest and its inhabitants – you wonder how you have not encountered it before.  And there I did find a list of Top Ten Happy  Environmental Stories of 2013.  Enjoy and cheer for them all! Not the least because not one of them includes mention of the ubiquitous Pope Francis, leaving that for me.  Read on.

1. Warren Buffet is investing big in wind energy.  I’ve been an admirer of Buffet for some time, because he is a member of the 1% who refuses to live or behave like one in his personal life.  And for his smart investments, this being one of them.  Kudos to the State of Iowa, too.

2. China’s solar boom – competition will drive innovation and lower prices.  I live in a state that gets enough sunshine in a year to fuel itself and sell the extra to, um, Bellingham, WA.  Here’s China, with terrible pollution problems thanks to its race to the top, doing something different that will change the game. Another culture and continent: Scotland’s energy now 40% renewables.  We can do this.


3. Pope Francis gets it.  From the many examples of the style and substance of his radical leadership, let me chose his phone call to Carlo Petrini, founder of Slow Food, in which the Pope said: There is much need for people and organizations that encourage the cultivation and protection of Creation. Cultivating and protecting Creation is an instruction from God given not just at the start of history (see Genesis 2:15), but to each of us, in order to responsibly make the world grow, transforming it into a place habitable for everyone.

4. While I’m on the subject, Slow Food International did some amazing work during 2013, including a new partnership with the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN) in support of small farmers.  This is the kind of leadership we need.   Join Slow Food and The American Farmland Trust in this country.  Make a donation and get your own No Farms, No Food bumper sticker.

5. Rob Hopkins is no jetsetter, but his US tour gave Transition USA a big boost, practical in some places (here’s his Letter#5 from Milwaukee to sample) and inspirational for those of us who could not catch up with his schedule.  Keep up with the work of Transition, including training and stimulating teleclasses, here.

6. How many ___ does it take to change a light bulb?  Ask no more.  As of January, your little hoard of 60- and 40-watt bulbs will become the relics they deserve to be.  We owe this phase out, which will reportedly save Americans $13 billion on their annual energy bills, to none other than George W. Bush’s Energy Independence and National Security Act of 2007.   OK, it’s more symbolic than substantive, but any sign of sanity from any quarter gets my attention.  Curl up with the new technology.  You have to start somewhere.

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