Columns, Opinion

WEIL: An eco-Thanksgiving

Given the current political climate, families could be giving thanks for some unusual things next Thursday. Houses will glow with gratitude for surviving the recession thus far, and thanks will be given as the Bush administration’s clock ticks down to its final days.

In this sustainability-obsessed world, here’s what I’m eco-thankful for this year:

One: I am thankful that I do not live in the Maldives.

Citizens of the Maldives, a series of islands off the coast of India that have earned much acclaim as a luxury tourist destination, are house-hunting. Situated only three feet above sea level, the islands are in danger of flooding caused by that favorite foe, climate change. The government is searching for a new national homeland and has promised that every resident will be able to afford relocation. Talk about democracy.

It shouldn’t have to be the governments of the small island nations that first properly acknowledge climate change’s consequences for humanity. The Maldivians may indeed become the first official refugees of the global climate change disaster, which will hopefully spur the international community to action in the same way we reacted to earthquake, hurricane and flood refugees in the past.

Two: I am thankful that I am not a whale.

Last week, the Supreme Court ruled that the military benefits of Navy expansion of sonar use in submarine exercises trump the consequentially harmful effects on the whale population.

Artificial sonar can severely impact and confuse whale breeding and migration patterns, sometimes resulting in beaching. Why did you let that happen, Chief Justice Breyer? I know you loved Shamu once too.

Three: I am thankful that January 20, 2009 is right around the corner.

As we all know, the next administration is promising change. Obama’s platform looks accommodating for any type of progress, especially his energy plan. There are so many avenues of environmental reform his administration could take, and any departure from President Bush and his cronies’ policies is bound to be an improvement. If the new administration properly focuses on alternative energies, then it can find a solution.

Obama could also renew our role in global environmental politics. The Kyoto Protocol is on its way out, and the next big energy treaty will be negotiated in Copenhagen in late 2009. Obama could make a splash here. If the U.S. comes out swinging, rejuvenated by the new administration and willing to make sacrifices to curb emissions and fund alternative energy, global climate change policies might have the partner they need to make significant progress. Obama has already jump-started American confidence, as seen in the jubilation surrounding election night. That same national mood propelled us to march for civil rights and land on the moon. When Bush’s ever-present environmental veto is at rest, the ‘Yes We Can’ spirit surrounding Obama’s ascendence will dominate, and this country can wholeheartedly join the fight against climate change. This time next year, I hope we can pause in our gluttony and take a moment to be thankful for a truly progressive government.

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