Our children may wish for a hula hoop or a hippopotamus for the holidays. Here are some holiday wishes for our World.
More Knowledge and Better Science. Every day, individuals and organizations make choices that impact the environment. The better informed they are, the more likely it is that they will make choices that take those impacts into consideration. For example, if swimming pools owners realize that an inexpensive bubble cover will reduce evaporative water loss by 30-50%, while retaining heat and extending the life of chemicals, they may be motivated to use one. We also need better science to enable us to prioritize and address risks. Better data and increased awareness of how human activities are affecting the planet’s climate will help determine the best corrective and preventive actions. What we don’t know can hurt us.
Breakthrough Technologies. Economically viable energy solutions are still too limited. Without subsidies and incentives, solar power still costs about twice as much as utility power, according to Thomas Leyden, Vice President of PowerLight, a photovoltaic systems integrator. No effective and practical technology exists to remove certain types of radioactive contamination like tritium from groundwater. The radioactivity must either be allowed to decay naturally, which takes a long time, or must be pumped out and managed elsewhere. These are just a few examples of where research and development of new or improved, affordable technologies could help make the planet cleaner and safer.
More Land Conservation. Open space and farmland are being gobbled up by sprawl on a daily basis. Scenery, wildlife habitat, recreation areas, prime agricultural soils, forests and wetlands will be lost forever if do not take action now. Even in a seemingly open area like Woodstock CT, less than 8% of land is protected from development. Many owners of large tracts of land are at an age when they need to be thinking about what kind of legacy they want to leave. I hope families will seriously consider their options, which include a bargain sale, transfer or donation of land or development rights to a conservation organization, reservation of life estate (which allows use of the property for the remainder of the donor’s life or the lives of their spouse or children), conservation easements, a gift of land through a will, or cash donations or endowments. For more information, see “Saving Family Lands” at www.woodstockconservation.org
More Public Funding for the Environment. Everybody wants clean air and clean water. But it takes money to conduct research, purchase open space, maintain parks, and develop and administer programs to protect environmental quality. In 2006, out of a $2.57 trillion federal budget, the Environmental Protection Agency received 7.6 billion. That equates to less than 0.3% of the total budget, and represents a 5.6% reduction from the previous year. At the State level, CT allocated about 0.78% of the budget to the Dept. of Environmental Protection in ’06. These numbers are so insignificant they don’t even constitute a wedge on a pie chart.
The Political Will to Protect the Public Trust. Politicians need the courage to withstand pressure from lobbyists and special interests to do what is in the best interest of the planet and all its inhabitants. On 12/19/07, Bush finally signed a bill to require automakers to achieve an average fleet wide fuel economy of 35 mpg by 2020. We have made little progress in reducing our dependence on foreign oil and coal. Tax laws need to change to make land conservation and donation more appealing. Many of the changes that are needed will only happen in response to public pressure and government mandates.