The media loves to ballyhoo the bad stuff. Thus a lot of encouraging news slips past us, including news about how things are getting better. So I'm kicking off this new year by pointing out some good stuff, including some efforts you may want to join. And also a tip of the hat to Jimmy Buffett for trying to save one lost man. As the Jews say, "He who saves one life, saves the world."
So here's some good news you may have missed:
1. Ever wonder what happened to all those Russian nukes after we signed disarmament agreements? Those nukes have been lighting your life! During the past 20 years, no less than 10% of America's electricity has come from the nuclear material in the Russian nukes. Oddly, no one much recognizes this wonderful conclusion to 40 years of terror nor the concomitant 10% drop in our use of fossil fuels.
2. Due in part to a cutback in miles driven and an Obama-required increase in auto fuel efficiency, America's importing of oil has dramatically dropped. (More required auto efficiency comes in 2015.) This is not only good environmentally but signals a big shift in U.S.-Arab relations, i.e. no more boot-licking of "friendly Arab leaders". Was this lessening of dependency on Arab oil part of the Arab Spring? In our oil-soaked past we would have leapt to protect our "friends" on their seats of power. Instead, i the Arab Spring, we let the people determine the outcome.
3. We may be near a resolution of the Arab-Jewish standoff in the Middle East, says Secretary of State John Kerry. True, this has often seemed imminent over the last 60 years and never actually occurred, but Kerry is a different from any of his predecessors. He's a hell of a lot tougher. Unlike Hilary Clinton and other previous Secretaries, he's gotten the two sides back to the table. And don't forget how he pushed Iran to agree to halt nuclear enrichment. Also remember how he manipulated Russia's Putin into getting rid of Syria's chemical weapons. Kerry may be just the one who can push the two sides past their intransigence.
Items #4 and #5 are mentioned in #3. We are safer from these weapons of mass destruction. That's always good news! So where's the celebrating?
6. Although acidification of the oceans may be killing the great coral reefs, hundreds - maybe thousands - of volunteers are transplanting more resistant reef segments onto the ocean floor so as to give the reefs a second chance. Also Presidents Clinton and Obama both took significant action to protect the reefs off U.S. coasts. Millions of ocean acres are now federal preserves. Google the preservation of ocean reefs to see what you can do to help. An estimated 60% of ocean life depends on the reefs. As for the acidification, it's a by-product of the carbon in the atmosphere that's also causing global warming. And we all know what we can do to cut down global warming. So in 2014 just DO IT! Drive less, put on a sweater and turn down the thermostat, insulate, turn off and/or unplug your lights and appliances when not using. And, most of all, get your city and state to enact conservation measures. YES,YOU CAN get measures adopted. Most laws start with one person wanting something very, very much. Let it be you!
Take a break in this long blog. That's why it's in two parts. Go take a nap, or go for a walk, or make some coffee. P.S. The Jimmy Buffett story is in Part II below.
7. GOP denial of global warming is the worst enemy of the earth. It's the death knell too for the human race. Why? Because we can't get international treaties controlling carbon emissions until Congress enacts a law legally binding the U.S. to uphold the treaty commitments it makes. Absent such a law, other nations just don't trust us. So here's the biggest thing you can do in 2014 to fix this beautiful old world and give your grandchildren a chance at life: WORK AND CONTRIBUTE TO ELECT A DEMOCRATIC HOUSE AND 60 DEMOCRATS IN THE SENATE. Do this NO MATTER WHERE YOU LIVE! Beginning soon, I'll try to identify the 17 House seats where we have a chance of winning back a House majority; same re the seats we need in the Senate to get our majority to 60 and thus preclude filibusters. After we win in 2014 we can DO SOMETHING BIG ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING! We can enact the law that will convince other nations we mean to do ur share. Thus we can get a strong treaty. YOU CAN SAVE THE WORLD with 17 more House seats and four more Senate seats!
8. Good for Jimmy Buffett! A small story perhaps but a heart-warming one. A reminder of the goodness in each of us. Like #7, it's about the ocean. Buffett had engaged a boat to go fishing off the New England coast when word came that a fisherman was overboard somewhere in a huge area. When Buffett heard this he instructed the captain of the boat he'd hired to take them on a search mission instead of the fishing trip. Buffett didn't find the lost man but, against all odds, someone else did. Found him alive. It's like Sean Penn rescuing people from Katrina. Or George Clooney trying to save people from the slaughter in Africa. It's a testament that none of us are absolved from our duty to each other. With that in mind we are an unstoppable force for good.
9. Occupy Wall Street yet lives! Its goal in 2011 was to make a statement and it succeeded. It focussed the political mind wonderfully well for the 2012 election, clarifying for voters the real issues in GOP v. Democrats and thus helping Obama win. Its progressivism and populism also promise to have an impact in 2014. The rallying cry of Obama et al is increasingly "economic fairness", "equal opportunity" and"closing the gap" between the super rich and everybody else. Under this banner will come, hopefully, an increase in the minimum wage and an extension of unemployment benefits. Baby steps perhaps (except to the recipients!) but a start toward the tax reform needed to strip the wealthy of the big breaks shoveled at them by the GOP in the Bush years.
10. We are going to plant some trees in 2014. Yes, the "we" includes you. Newly-planted trees eat lots of carbon out of the atmosphere. Trees ARE carbon. If we plant enough trees we can do much to reduce increases in global warming. As it is, the air that blows west to east across America leaves our east coast cleaner than when it entered from the Pacific, thanks to our forests. Smokey the Bear was right! We need our forests. All year I'm going to nag you to plant a tree. GO GET THAT SHOVEL!
So it's hi ho, hi ho, we're off to save the world in 2014. Just like our predecessors did all that good stuff in prior decades, the stuff I wrote about last time. The torch has passed, not to a new and younger generation but to all of us here now.
Don't let the light go out!