Giving thanks

Nov. 22, 2018

Expressing gratitude is an important part of the holiday. And while it’s something we should do each and every day, having a special day dedicated to giving thanks serves as an important reminder to acknowledge and appreciate those things in our lives that are truly important.

In the end, we are not all that different from those early settlers whose lives were dependent upon a successful harvest, even though we may not perceive our dependence so directly. Indeed, everything we cherish and everything we are, we owe to the Earth.

In an era when population growth and ecological encroachment threaten Earth’s ability to sustain us through its bounty, we would do well do express our gratitude by using its resources more wisely and preserving its ability to provide for our needs, if not out of respect, then for our own self-interest.

So, here’s some good news to be thankful for.

Although the GOP led congress is attempting to dismantle and weaken it, the U.S. Endangered Species Act ranks as one of the world’s great environmental success stories. Wolves are back, the American eagle is back, alligators are abundant, the peregrine falcon is thriving, and even small wildflowers such as the purple coneflower in Tennessee have been spared from extinction by a mix of science and action. Many species of whales that were once on the brink of extinction have come back. The gray whale was delisted in 1994, and now humpback and California blue whales are recovering to numbers last seen in the 19th century.

In a historic milestone for oceanic conservation, the much anticipated ocean clean up initiative that was created by a Dutch teenager has successfully set sail and is now undergoing its final round of tests before it begins tidying up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The ingenious vessel that has been designed to tackle the massive trash island left San Francisco Bay on September 9th and began testing on September 19th.

Corporate sustainability is increasingly mainstream and seen as an endeavor that enhances profitability. The percentage of companies that include sustainability as a top management agenda item jumped from 46 percent in 2010 to 65 percent in 2014. It turns out, sustainability practices save money.

As part of the Paris Agreement, China pledged to peak its CO2 emissions by 2030 – now, the country may already have fulfilled this commitment 12 years early, with emissions peaking in 2013 at a level of 9.5 gigatons of CO2, and declining each year since. “We conclude that the decline of Chinese emissions is structural and is likely to be sustained if the growing industrial and energy system transitions continue. Government policies are also a sign that the decline in China’s emissions will carry on.

“In response to the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, China has increasingly assumed a leadership role in climate change mitigation, and its five-year progress reports under the agreement will be heavily scrutinized by the rest of the world.” China may lead the world towards sustainable energy economies.

An exciting new report gives us some environmental news to celebrate: the Ozone layer is slowly, but surely, being repaired. Thanks to mankind’s efforts to reduce the amount of ozone-depleting substances (ODS) being introduced into the Earth’s atmosphere, scientific organizations from around the world are reporting a turning point in the fight against ozone depletion.

According to a report that was released by the United Nations, the infamous hole in the ozone layer could be totally healed by the 2060s – and in some areas of the world, it could be as soon as 2030. In 1987, an agreement known as the Montreal Protocol called for the elimination or significant reduction of chemicals found in consumer products like refrigerators and aerosol cans that were harmful to the ozone layer. Ditching these chemicals would result in “the avoidance of more than 280 million cases of skin cancer, approximately 1.6 million skin cancer deaths, and more than 45 million cases of cataracts in the United States alone by the end of the century,” according to the U.S. Department of State. The treaty was devised by the Canadian government and later ratified by the United States in 1988. Since then, the Montreal Protocol has become the first treaty to receive universal ratification from all countries of the world – and now, we have evidence that it is proving to be successful.

This just goes to show that when the leaders of the world unite for the common good and collaborate under the auspice of a shared responsibility, wonderful – even surprising – things can happen.

So there is good news on the environmental front and I am thankful for it.