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Small Victories Begin To Add Up

July 11, 2011 - An amazing thing has happened while we weren't looking: progress is being made in the fight to mitigate climate change. Some of that progress has occurred in big steps, some in baby steps, but one thing is certain - all progress is important when it comes to saving our planet and providing future generations with a future. People the world over have become fed up, waiting for governments to take the lead, so they're steppin' out and steppin' up. Here's what I mean:

Let's start here in the US. I could scarcely believe my eyes when I read this story! Americans, if you can believe it, now derive 12% of their energy from renewable sources. You read that right: 12 percent of our energy now comes from sources such as wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass. Renewables have far surpassed nuclear, which stands at a measly two percent. While I harbor a few doubts on the subject of burning biomass, I'll set those to the side for the moment and just enjoy the good news.

That's not all. Waste Management (WM), the country's largest waste disposal company, has just added the 1000th truck to its fleet that is powered with liquefied natural gas (LNG). The real kicker is that the gas is produced by the decomposing organic waste in WM landfills. LNG pollutes 20% less than regular gasoline. While this transition cannot be viewed as a long-term solution to lowering greenhouse gas emissions, it at least indicates an awareness on the part of WM that emissions have to be reduced.

With regard to growing corn to make fuel, a significant majority of senators voted this week to end most ethanol subsidies. The savings are, uh, peanuts - $6 billion - but inasmuch as it was never a good idea in the first place, we would do well to stop subsidizing ethanol production when people the world over are starving.

Finally, it is at last becoming widely known that, in a survey conducted 2 1/2 years ago, 97% of American climatologists agreed that climate change is a human-induced phenomenon. It is inspiring to know that someone had brains enough to ask the people who know the most about climate, rather than physicists, astronomers, or economists. What can I say except - d'oh!

Overseas, Africans have decided they've had enough of corporate and governmental exploitation. Desertification of the lands to the south of the Sahara Desert has advanced at such an alarming rate that the countries most affected have joined forces in an effort to halt and repair the damage. Enormous in its conception, but relatively easy and inexpensive to implement, sub-Saharan Africans are in the process of planting a "wall" of trees. Extending from Senegal to Djibouti, the Great Green Wall will cross the entire continent, passing through Mauritania, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, Nigeria, Chad, Sudan, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

At the same time, the women of sub-Saharan Africa have taken food security into their own hands. Appalled by the effects of decades of chemical application on soil fertility and food production, they have made the decision that employing agro-ecology will provide them and their families with a better future. Agro-ecology incorporates any one of a number of organic, sustainable approaches to farming.

Wouldn't you know that McDonald's would have the final word? Vegetable oil, long known as biodiesel, is being recycled by the corporate giant as truck fuel in - of all places - the United Arab Emirates. First used to cook french fries, it is then used to power their entire UAE truck fleet. C'mon, McDonald's - bring it on home!

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