Some good news, for a change….

In a week when everyone seemed mesmerized by the spectacle of the USS Congress ramming right up against that proverbial iceberg, there was actually some good news for the planet.

1. American car-makers backed the new federally mandated emissions standards, requiring cars to get 54 mpg by 2025.  Of course, 2025 seems very far away, but given that longterm target, car manufacturers may very well start tooling up to reach that goal even sooner.  We could still do better, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

2. Mark Bittman, the chef and food writer, publishing in the very mainstream New York Times, advocated that Americans skip meat and cheese one day a week, which would be “the equivalent of taking 7.6 million cars off the road.”  He made this suggestion based on a new report released by the Environmental Working Group, entitled “Meat-eater’s Guide to Climate Change and Health.”

Among many other points that document makes, Bittman pointed to one that made me sit up and take note: “A 2009 National Cancer Institute study of 500,000 Americans found that the people who ate the most red meat were 20 percent more likely to die of cancer and at least 27 percent more likely to die of heart disease than those who ate the least.”

3. Dam removal to restore river habitat for spawning salmon has begun in Washington State on the Elwha River!  Hopefully the Klamath River in Oregon will be next. When I read Derrick Jensen’s Endgame earlier this summer, I was struck by how fervently he talked about taking out dams as an environmental goal (along with felling cell towers).

I didn’t think American agricultural interests in the West would ever allow this willingly, making Derrick’s proposal to actually go out and blow up dams seem entirely reasonable as a strategy for getting the job done.  But lo and behold, it is happening this summer on the Elwha River, and maybe once people see those salmon heading upstream again, they’ll open their eyes to what needs to be done on other, larger rivers as well.

It’s not easy to sit by helplessly as the Tea Party makes a mockery of the American bedrock of bipartisan government.  So much is at stake; so many lives, my own included, will be negatively impacted by the economic ripples that come of this summer’s political gamesmanship.  But it does help to remember that it was America in boom mode that wreaked such havoc on our environment to begin with.

Maybe America in bust mode will become more sober, more efficient, less wasteful, and more focused on what really matters: strengthening our connections with each other, and with the natural world.  I don’t think that’s what the Tea Party has in mind for a moment, but who ever said they knew what they were doing?

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