Five Reasons for an Environmentalist to Give Thanks

Lands End in San Francisco

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I have found five reasons for an environmentalist to give thanks today:

#1:  National Parks

Can you imagine our federal government today voting to set aside huge tracts of land for public use, and investing in the land’s wellbeing?  It’s a radical concept, but thanks to John Muir, Theodore Roosevelt, and several other men, treasures like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Chaco Canyon are preserved for us today.

The national parks still face threats.  For example, federal budget cuts and the government shutdown have impacted park infrastructure, closed campgrounds, and decreased the number of rangers.  When a national park is in danger, so is the town around it.  Bar Harbor, Maine outside Acadia National Park experienced a 30 percent loss in revenue as a result of the March sequester cuts.

But there’s still good news: a recent Hart Research Associates poll shows tremendous support for national parks among the voting public, without regard for party affiliation.  In fact, 82% of those surveyed said that the closing of national parks was a good reminder of how important they are and why we need to keep them open.

Thank you, 19th-century radicals and today’s voting public for creating and protecting our national parks!

#2:  Increased Renewable Energy

Clean energy sources are better for our health and our planet than coal and oil.  That’s why it’s great news that development of these energy sources accounted for almost all of the recent new energy development.  Clean Technica reports:

According to the latest “Energy Infrastructure Update” report from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of Energy Projects, solar, biomass, and wind “units” provided 694 MW of new electrical generating capacity last month or 99.3% of all new generation placed in-service (the balance of 5 MW was provided by oil.)

And there is more good news:  Despite today’s divisive political climate, there is actually bipartisan support for clean energy.  The Green Tea Coalition, a Georgia-based tea party group, hosted Sierra Club members at its August 6, 2013 inaugural meeting.  Both groups have found common ground in their desires to fight traditional utilities’ market power by pushing alternative energy sources, especially solar power.

Thank you clean energy developers, Sierra Club members, and tea party activists for helping improve air quality and reduce greenhouse gas emissions!

#4:  Pope Francis

Okay, okay, I may just be jumping on the “I Heart the Pontiff” bandwagon, but I can’t resist.

In March of this year, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope and took the papal name Francis in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.  St. Francis of Assisi preached the duty of humans to protect and enjoy nature as both the stewards of God’s creation and as creatures ourselves.  In 1979, Pope John Paul II declared St. Francis to be the Patron of Ecology.

Pope Francis seems to be living up to his namesake.  He used his first Easter homily to speak out against those who give in to “easy gain” in a world filled with greed, and made a plea for humanity to become a better guardian of creation by protecting the environment.  In June, he denounced our “culture of waste”:

We are living in a time of crisis: we see this in the environment, but above all we see this in mankind … Man is not in charge today, money is in charge, money rules. God our Father did not give the task of caring for the earth to money, but to us, to men and women: we have this task! Instead, men and women are sacrificed to the idols of profit and consumption: it is the ‘culture of waste.’

He was also recently pictured holding an anti-fracking shirt. If this is what Pope Francis can do for the environmental movement during his first year as the Pontiff, I can’t wait to see what the future has in store.

Thank you Pope Francis for renewing my faith!

#3: Innovative Communities

Across the country, and around the world, we have seen a proliferation of municipal innovation.  For example, more than 500 cities in 49 countries host bicycle share programs.  These initiatives are a win-win for commuters who don’t want to deal with traffic, tourists who want to get around cheaply, and the environment.  Other cities have also adopted plastic bag bans and composting programs.  China has had a ban on plastic bags since 2008!  These programs greatly reduce the amount of municipal waste.

Municipalities are a great testing ground for new environmental programs.  And cities are constantly learning from each other so that they can create better places for their residents to live.

Thank you mayors, city staff, and innovators across the country and around the world for improving our lives!

#5:  People Like You

If you’re reading this list, that means that environmentalism and spirituality mean something to you.  That gives me hope.  Hope that I will continue to enjoy nature’s gifts.  Hope that things can get better.  Honestly, it gives me hope in the future.

Thank you, reader!

Please comment and let me know what you’re thankful for.

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .