What Will You Be Thankful For?

As I’m sure everyone knows, it is a long standing Thanksgiving tradition to go around the table and say what you are thankful for. The standard answers are along the lines of family, friends, or the food before you. This year I invite you to be unique and give thanks to one of 2017’s environmental success stories. I’ll even give you the rundown on a couple I have found.

  1. Coal used to be one of the largest sectors of the energy industry, resulting in a variety of negative environmental impacts including, but not limited to destruction of habitats, deforestation, contaminated groundwater, air pollution, methane contributing to global warming, and direct health effects on humans. Luckily, the UK and Canada have taken the lead on an alliance that pledges to entirely eradicate the use of coal by 2030. This year the UK went a full day without the use of coal, which indicates the realistic possibility of the goal they have set forth. So far France, Finland, and Mexico have signed on to the alliance, and the plan is to have 50 more members signed on to the Powering Past Coal Alliance by the UN conference next year.
  2. The term “ozone hole” was coined around 1985 when scientists realized that the emission of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC) into the atmosphere was causing the ozone gas in the stratosphere above Antarctica to become severely depleted. Chlorine and bromine can both be found within CFCs and when these elements reach the stratosphere they cause a chemical reaction that diminishes the ozone gas. This September, when NASA measured the size of the ozone hole they found that it had shrunk from the original 10 million square miles it covered to 7.6 million square miles. While this is still a large area exhibiting depleted levels of ozone gas, the ozone hole is the smallest it has been since the 1980s and is being repaired faster than scientists predicted.
  3. Throughout the world’s oceans humans have contributed to nutrient pollution that can lead to, among other thing, loss of habitat, reduction in fishery harvests, and low oxygen dead zones. One of the leading nutrients polluting the oceans is nitrogen. This past fall scientists made a discovery that bacteria living in oysters is capable of converting the excess nitrogen in sea water into nitrogen gas, a form of nitrogen that is harmless to most ocean species. Obviously, the best solution here would be for humans to reduce or end the nitrogen pollution discharged into oceans, but the revival of oyster bed communities provides a much more realistic and less radical, alternative solution.

The Holiday season is one of the best times of the year, and in a world where the news is filled with tragedy it is important to take a moment to appreciate the small glimpses of hope. Be thankful for these and any other success stories you manage to find, because before you know it new years will be here and your resolutions will force you to take on the question of what still needs to be improved.

– Carly LeMoine


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