2008: A Year Of Change For The Environment And Us

With US Presidential elections, a potential recession, and climate policy in the air, TreeHugger has put its collective head together to channel information from the great beyond about the year ahead. We've called up the most mind-rattling 2008 prognostications about all matters environmental.

What a tumultuous seance it was (as pictured). Our psychic predictions range from a more energy-efficient Latin America to an oral virus-pandemic. Forget the 'waronterra.' The Population Bomb is back.

Year Of The Tree: The US political simile of "grass roots" campaigning or "grass roots" efforts of any kind will get a new twist in 2008: "tree-roots." Critics of carbon offsetting via tree planting or fostering sustainable forestry practices miss the point. People just love trees. They love planting trees themselves...or hiring someone to do it on the cheap.

Add a couple of bucks to the price of an airline ticket: has there ever been a cheaper more convenient, way to plant trees? Ignore the carbon offsetting aspect. Buy an offset (dedicated for tree planting) and you're good to go. Offsetting with trees will grow in popularity, not recede. The FTC and those cynical cable talk show pundits can take a hike. Hopefully, somewhere they can see the forest.The Population Bomb is back: Birth control, abortion, and resource shortages are the fissionables. Illegal immigration, mass refuge movements, and over-crowding are the activators. Expect environmental NGO's to look for some common ground with the culture warriors for a disarmament treaty.

Greening your sex life is only part of the equation. Reproduction planning is the other half. A message easily reinforced when the economy takes a downturn.

Green Lingo Virus (GLV) pandemic. Even the Wall Street Journal, long a bastion of green bashing, now yields many useful articles when searched online with just the term Green. If you tried that WSJ search in early 2007, the only "hit" would likely be 'Green Bay Packers....la dee dah.'

Green Lingo has already found a toehold among Republican opinion leaders (citing McCain and Gingrich as early practitioners). By the fall election in the USA, "Green Jobs" will be a pandemic oral infestation among spokespersons from both US political parties.

More significantly, the political meaning of the term "conservative" has begun a long, slow return to its roots in the conservation ethos of the late 1890's. We might as well get used to it: 2008 will see politicians co-opting green lingo and ideas, focusing more on big picture pragmatism and appealing to young people who see future value in resource conservation.

Latin America gets energized about saving energy: Most countries in the region are facing energy crisis and the easiest way to cope without compromising industrial development (which is finally driving Latin America's growth) will be conservation. A nation that can pay off it's loans faster or an industry that can pay off its capital debt more quickly - because of energy conservation - will be followed.

Thermal solar technologies, in particular, will make strong inroads in South America, coming to prominence in the same fashion that Brazilian ethanol did in 2006-7. If financial markets take notice, its' a big deal.

Per Capita greenhouse gas emissions drop precipitously in the USA: When numerous East German and Soviet factories closed after the fall of Communism and the Berlin Wall, the air in Europe got a lot cleaner. Similarly, there will be a lot less driving, flying and burning of fuel for industry and transport beginning in 2008, as the North American economy spins down.

The resulting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from the USA and Canada will be one of the few positive things coming out of a housing crash that spread through the financial industry, that supplied the money to homeowners, and that helped the retail industry expand to supply stuff to fill all of the houses.

Alas, this "benefit" will be temporary unless, taking a deep cultural lesson from the recession, a majority of Americans learn about true conservatism.

In the meantime, there will be a secondary effect on the US power demand projections. Seeing the reduced projections, banks and trusts will be less eager to loan the asked-for billions for construction of new coal-fired power plants, and for that matter, for expansions in nuclear power that are only cost beneficial if taxpayers underwrite it. The tertiary green recessionary benefit, then, will be to make the financials of wind and solar power look even better - unless oil and coal prices are dropped to freeze them out. That's the wild card spirit of the future that had our seance room in pieces, debris flying around us (as pictured).

Mad rush for the Linux door: At least 10 additional countries will announce a national strategy for going with Linux over Windows as default operating system, breathing new life into existing boxes and bringing Internet access to many who could not otherwise afford it. Less circuit boards being cooked by Chinese and Mexican children can only be a good thing.

Fits with the TreeHugger rule of electronics: the longer you make it last, the better it is for the environment.

Federal, State/local roles move toward to "normalcy:" By normal we refer a more balanced stable, relationship between State/local and Federal environmental policy. There will always be a back and forth between political and legal and technical viewpoints, as epitomized in the "pendulum effect." But, single minded ideology, forced on state and local government from the top down, will begin to lose sway in 2008. Environmental management by executive fiat will end none too soon.

In the most optimistic view, this hoped-for turnabout will begin just as state and local budgets for supporting local initiatives become seriously stressed by the US-led recession. We'd be looking for some Federal buffering effect against the most extreme local budget cutbacks.

Fertile ground for the precautionary principle: It's common sense to keep the public treasure from being wasted cleaning up the messes caused by wasteful business models and treating human health problems caused by bad design. A critical mass of new voters will come to realize that being fiscally conservative and environmentally conservative are complimentary notions.

Water conservation technologies and water saving lifestyles become big news. In the USA, property values will sink faster than the national average rate where severe drought drags on through 2008. Solutions will become sexy. They have to be if property values and communities are be sustained in the most water stressed areas. So, we'll have a go at making water conservation technology and lifestyle practices things of beauty. Hope you can join us.

TreeHugger Team - 2008

Image credit::IHUP, Arthur Conan Doyle, Spiritualism, and Fairies, "Satirical cartoon of physical manifestations during a spiritualist seance."