Whether or not you are the type to embrace the notion of New Year’s resolutions or the type who dismisses them as an antiquated ritual, you likely have taken a moment or two- possibly fueled by a couple glasses champagne- over the past few days and contemplated another year gone by. Likely, there are both highlights and lowlights of the past twelve months- that time you picked a fight with your nephew over a game of Jenga gone awry being of the latter category.
Just like you, the environment has experienced a its own ups and downs this past year, one that may not consist of reducing a seven year old to tears, but a year filled with unique challenges all the same.
So, without further ado, I will start with the bad news.
The Bitter: Mother nature saw her star on the rise over the past decade, with more and more attention paid to the environment and the green movement by mainstream media than ever before. She also learned that fame is a fickle beast without any guarantees of unchallenged success.
Topping the list of hardships facing the environmental movement this past year is arguably the biggest news story of the year, period: the recession. This economic failure has had the ugly habit of dragging everything it touches through the proverbial mud. The Government’s focus over the past year has turned to Economic Recovery and Health Care Reform, leaving less time and attention for the Environmental policy overhaul Obama’s supporters were hoping for at the start of his term.
Although, belt-tightening can be credited for the development of environmentally friendly habits, such as driving and flying less, it has also decreased the attention the environmental movement has received by businesses, governments and individuals. Hopefully, as the recession eases, good habits picked up out of necessity will be kept while money leant to eco-friendly companies and projects will grow.
Other setbacks for the environment in 2009 include the removal of Montana and Idaho Gray Wolves from the Endangered Species list-which allows these beautiful animals to be hunted for sport throughout the Northern Rockies- and the continued depletion of the artic ice sheet. An event that could be a warning of more environmental crisis in both our immediate and distant ant futures.
The Sweet: 2009 was far from a being a total loss in terms of Environmental progress, many steps have been and are in the process of being made in order to better our planet’s future.
While plastic shopping bags are still widely in use across the world, especially in the United States, some progress is being seen in the elimination of these unnecessarily wasteful bags. With many American cities having flip-flopped on the notion of taxing or banning the use of these bags, Washington D.C recently passed a law that makes plastic bag enthusiasts pay five cents for every non-reusable bag they use while purchasing edibles. San Francisco’s bold passing of a law banning these bags in 2007 has seen a great resulting success. Even China has put a ban on plastic bags, claiming a decrease of 37 million barrels of oil as a result. None of this marks the end of the era of plastic bag use, however, it does show progress is being made, slowly but surely, and that with the support of the public such environmental atrocities could possibly be just a page in our history sooner rather than later.
The narrow passing of the American Clean Energy and Security Act by the House of Representatives, an Act that calls for the limitation of Green House emissions, exhibit’s a new willingness among politicians to acknowledge the direness of the problems facing the environment. This Act’s future is currently up in the air, and its marginal win in the House only serves to highlight the struggles facing modern Environmentalist, but it also reveals an inkling of hope that the mindset of the modern politician is not as unmovable as we once thought.
The Brown Pelican’s removal from the Endangered Species List exemplifies the success that hard work and persistence can yield in the Environmental movement. After thirty six long years of being an endangered species, the Brown Pelican’s numbers have finally stabilized.
All in all, a year or even a decade in review can not completely encapsulate the big picture for planet Earth. While it is of utmost importance to remember the past and to learn from its mistakes, as well as its triumphs, we must not let its disappointments dash our hopes for the future. Let 2009 be a reminder that the road to an environmentally sound world is going to be a bumpy and challenging ride. But with persistence , focus and hard work, anything is possible- while, maybe not beating your nephew at Jenga, but don’t feel too badly, I am pretty sure that little rascal cheats.