Looking Ahead

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(HOST) Commentator Ruth Page has lived in Vermont and followed environmental issues for many years. And while it might be an overstatement to say that she’s optimistic about 2008, she does think there are some hopeful signs.

(PAGE) Well! Here we are in two-thousand and eight, and I’m looking ahead, not back.

We’ve read a lot of discouraging news about the bad things we’ve done to the Earth, and how we’re doing too little too late. Scientists say we’re going to drive some plants and animals to extinction in the next ten or twenty years no matter how quickly we change our ways.

But there are hopeful signs, and we shouldn’t be discouraged. For one thing, a year ago there were still millions of people who didn’t think the earth was warming up because of us, but only as part of its regular climate-changes over the centuries. Very few are making that claim now. "Centuries" has replaced "millennia" as the operative word. While Earth used to take millions of years to alter worldwide climate drastically, humans are now doing it in a single century, as we saw by the end of 2007.

So people have noticed! That’s wonderful. Worldwide we’ve seen the ocean threatening islands and coastal areas. Some very low islands in the Pacific have already disappeared, and others have narrowed so much that residents must either move away from the shore, if possible, or move off the island entirely.

Spring is arriving early for millions of people, and Vermont gardeners’ tomatoes in 2007 were still producing into early November. Our winters are considerably warmer than they were just forty or fifty years ago. We older folks often reminisce about the common sub-zero temperatures and heavy snows of yesteryear.

Here in the U.S., though the federal administration is moving glacially slowly, the rest of us aren’t. Sixteen states, including some at great risk, such as New York and California, are taking their own firm steps to reduce their use of fossil fuels. Vermont is, too. We aren’t just changing light bulbs. We’re driving less, car-pooling more, reducing car-idling, even trying to save water, though it’s still fairly plentiful in our state.

All this means that we’re threatening far fewer of the life-forms, such as bacteria and algae, that are vital to the natural system that supports all life on earth and in its oceans. We’re working to control pesticide and medicinal pollution of ground and waters. That means larger life forms, plants and animals, will face a much reduced threat.

So I’m hopeful about ’08. We’re catching on, maybe in time to save most of Earth’s stunning diversity of life forms.

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