The other posts in this series can be found here. The first one with an explanation of what this is about is here.
Warren McLaren, Sydney, Australia
Hope. Seems a quaint old word. Suited more to generations well passed, than today's era of digitally enhanced 'can do'. Hope. A word taken down from the shelf and dusted off, in times of adversity, when 'happy ever after' outcomes are not assured. Yet in a darkened tunnel, hope is the light at the end. The positive boat bobbing bravely in a sea of negative. After 13 years of working in eco-design, resource recovery and land conservation, 2006 has been the one that has provided the most hope.Climate Change became a household phrase. On everyone's lips. Through lives personally impacted severe droughts, flooding, and hurricanes the populace at large sat up and started to take notice. Greenhouse Gas Emissions found their way to the front page of newspapers. Melting polar caps were no longer relegated to obscure science documentaries but featured in mainstream cinema releases to packed audiences. Carbon Trading was discussed openly, even in countries where the Kyoto Protocol had been swept quietly under the carpet. Be-suited world renowned politicians, economists, and scientists added their voice to that of long haired activists, whose cry had grown faint and hoarse with unheeded repetition.
To a lesser degree, but equally significant, Peak Oil finally started to get some recognition. Organic food was going ballistic, as was Fair Trade produce, but remarkably these admirable initiatives were being challenged by the embryonic Buy Local movement, also worried about oil, CO2 and jobs. It felt like every second furniture designer was beginning to use Forest Stewardship Council certified timbers. And on it goes. After talking to a brick wall for so long, 2006 really felt like the year when people started listening. And most importantly acting. Installing rain water tanks, low flow shower heads, compact fluoro lighting, offsetting the carbon from their travel, visiting the organic aisle of their supermarket or a local farmers market.
In Australia the buzz has been downright palpable. Energy and water conservation have somehow managed to become topics of everyday conversation, slipping in between sport and sport. Even our home grown football code has vowed to go carbon neutral! And the auto section of major newspapers regularly berate local car manufacturers for continue to churn out gas guzzlers in the face of imports like the Prius. We have green products stores open up not only online, but in traditional shop fronts. Governments have established carbon banks, former rock stars and conservationists become environment shadow ministers, bookshops are awash with how to go green, or how to garden organically books. All new cars are labeled for their fuel efficiency. Directories listing thousands of green businesses have hit the newstands, alongside new green lifestyle magazines (and blogs).
But where to from here? We are likely to have a federal election at the end of 2007 and 'climate change' has already been identified as a key issue in voter's thoughts. Nuclear power is being touted as one solution, but the public remain far from convinced, preferring renewables, or even so called 'cleaner coal.' Many might hope the whole thing would just go away, but our newly erratic weather, if nothing else, will keep it foremost on people's minds. (States recently ravaged by severe bushfires found themselves having a White Christmas. Snow in December, in Australia! More than weird.) While we might be slowly adjusting to pressing energy and water concerns, our unfettered consumption continues unabated. With a festive season spending binge reported by retailers as being the best for a decade. Maybe, as our one-in-a-thousand-year drought causes rising food prices, coupled with continuing high oil and fuel costs, we'll further assess our needs — in balance with our wants. It's unfortunate that there will be more pain before we further ramp up our collective actions. But the rapid shifts of the past year do engender hope. As a country (and a species) we finally seem to be shrugging off the torpor of a long sleep and stirring into action. 2007 marks my fourth calendar year with TreeHugger, which chronicling solutions rather than problems. And while the issues are certainly not diminished, we no longer need go searching for the good news stories, they now come at us thick and faster. Hope's pulse grows stronger by the day.