30 Reasons to Be Thankful This Thanksgiving
It is hard to argue that 2015 has been a good year for the environment. Due to a steady increase in temperature—the year is on track to be the hottest year on record—we have witnessed an increase in the frequency and severity of storms, widespread ocean acidification that is creating marine dead zones around the globe and numerous species that are struggling to survive amid what has been termed the "Sixth Extinction."
Droughts, floods and wildfires are negatively impacting natural ecosystems, crops and local communities. The effects of climate change, in particular a growing lack of resources like water, food and fuel, have also acted as catalysts for conflict, sparking regional violence, terrorism and the civil war in Syria. Climate change is also exacerbating the refugee crisis, driving people from their homes by destroying their livelihoods. Rising seas threaten to drown coastal cities and engulf island nations. Scientists have identified dozens of "global warming tipping points" that could trigger natural disasters. The pernicious climate denialism in the U.S. is not helping: In just three years, secretive donors have given climate denial groups over $125 million to help undermine rules to reduce carbon pollution.
Across the world, consumerism, overpopulation and globalism are also taking a heavy toll on our planet's limited resources. Plastic trash is polluting the seas and killing wildlife. International trade deals are expanding corporate rights and challenging regulations meant to protect the environment and public health. In the U.S., environmentalists and conservationists are fighting battles on many fronts. Environmental racism is rampant. Oregon's wolves lost their endangered species protection. The well-intentioned but ultimately destructive biomass industry in Europe is decimating America's southern forests, home to the endangered Louisiana black bear and more than 600 imperiled, threatened or endangered species.
On the food front, there is also much concern. As of 2014, more than 48 million Americans live in food-insecure households. Almost 15 percent of Americans live in poverty. Over 600,000 Americans are homeless. Against this worrisome background of widespread hunger, big food companies are pushing legislation to prevent consumers from knowing whether or not foods contain GMOs. Pesticides that are killing critical food crop pollinators like bees and butterflies and endangering human health continue to be used worldwide. Coca-Cola has been exposed for funding research that misleads the public about the health effects of its sugary drinks.
Still, amid all the bad news are some striking victories, stories of hope and visions for a better future. The good news is the result of action by people who care, from environmental activists who dangled from a bridge to stop Shell's icebreaker ship from going to the Arctic, to farmers suing agrochemical giants, and even to readers like you who have signed petitions, some of which have helped make things better, one issue at a time. Deeds such as these serve as an important reminder that, while it may be easier to complain than to commit, only action will enact positive change.
If you care about the environment, sustainability, renewable energy, food safety, food security, organic food systems and animal welfare, there is still much work to be done. But if you're looking for things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving, you also have many reasons. Here are 30, in no particular order.
1. Shell abandoned Arctic drilling.
2. Pope Francis released a powerful encyclical on the environment.
3. An Illinois farmer sued the world's largest agrochemical company over GMO corn.
4. Taco Bell decided to source only cage-free chickens.
5. Colorado established a new GMO-free zone to protect traditional farming.
6. Kikkoman, a popular soy sauce brand, decided to end animal testing.
7. The Women's Collective of Tamil Nadu in India is restoring traditional foods and farming methods.
8. The United States is finally ending invasive experiments on chimpanzees.
9. Palau created the world's sixth largest marine sanctuary.
10. The $2.6 trillion fossil fuel divestment movement is growing.
11. Pop Weaver, the second largest popcorn supplier in U.S., became the first American company to phase out bee-killing seed coatings.
12. India is home to the world's first solar-powered airport.
13. A group of humpback whales tried to save a baby gray whale from a killer whale attack in a remarkable display of interspecies empathy.
14. The World Health Organization classified Monsanto's herbicide as a "probable carcinogen."
15. Following the tragic murder of Cecil the lion, several major airlines banned the transportation of animal parts from the trophy hunting industry.
16. President Obama rejected the Keystone XL pipeline.
17. SeaWorld decided to put an end to its orca shows in California.
18. Morocco is poised to become a solar energy superpower.
19. Washington became the first state to crack down on illegal wildlife trafficking by a people's vote.
20. Scientists discovered that plastic-eating mealworms can safely digest Styrofoam.
21. Across the world, urban agriculture projects are changing the way food is grown.
22. Fracktivists crashed Monday Night Football.
23. Texas finally put a stop to greyhound racing.
24. Poland became the 14th European nation to ban GMOs.
25. Jon and Tracey Stewart converted a 12-acre farm into a farm animal sanctuary.
26. U.S. and Russia have teamed up to save polar bears.
27. The Swansea Bay Tidal Lagoon in Wales will use ocean tides to power more than 150,000 homes.
28. Activists promised the largest climate civil disobedience ever at the Paris summit.
29. Prop 2 took effect, banning extreme confinement of hens, pigs and calves in California.
30. After years of resistance, Ringling Bros. Circus announced it would retire elephants from its traveling circus acts.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Add your thoughts, and thanks, in the comments.