3 Green Holiday Dinner Conversation Starters (That Everyone Will Like)

War, science denial and Fox News. It’s what’s going on in the world, but it’s not especially merry, merry. If you’re feeling anxious about the eco conversation turning an ugly shade of green at the family Christmas dinner, rest easy. It’s not all doom and gloom. (Besides, there will be plenty of time post-feast to take on Uncle Ulysses on Wikileaks, your sister Sue on why being green doesn’t actually make you a commie, and cousin Clive on the South Atlantic Gyre.)

So, for your dining pleasure, I submit to you three news items everyone can be happy about:

1. Good for flora…

How is this for a dream headline: “Amazon deforestation in dramatic decline, official figures show.”

This is from the Guardian, which reported this summer that data from satellites shows that large areas of forest destruction was about halved in the period between August 2009 and May 2010, compared with the same period a year earlier (to about 930 square miles from about 1860 square miles). The story notes that the Brazilian environment agency, Ibama, said “the drop was due to the increased use of satellite data to spot the felling of trees and new tactics to deter loggers, including ending their ability to hide under cloud cover.” Along these lines, we recently reported here that Google’s announcement this month of its Earth Engine will allow for even more monitoring and measurement of changes in the Earth’s environment. With its eye in the sky, the system will “function like a watchdog camera, supporting the development of ‘monitor, report and verify’ (MRV) efforts to stop global deforestation.” Go, trees!

2. Good for fauna…

Things are looking up for some pretty cool endangered species – you know, the sexy ones that get lots of press and for which even your most “who-cares” relatives have a soft spot. Consider first the mountain gorilla, the number of which in national parks of three African countries has risen by 26 percent in the last seven years, says a recent census. Next, how about those tigers, whose on-the-brink status has led to a recent summit among the 13 nations where the animals still exist in the wild. The takeway was $300 million raised to save the animals (including a cool million from actor Leonardo DiCaprio), as well as agreement to attempt to double their number by 2022. And finally, there’s the canary in our global coalmine – the polar bear – for which The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has just designated 87,000 square miles along the north coast of Alaska as protected “critical habitat” as part of a settlement in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups (although a lump of coal to the Obama administration for declaring polar bears merely “threatened” today).

3. And good for us…

Hooray for the home team on the emissions front. As a result in an increase in United States fuel economy standards, a new EPA report is showing a 14 percent per mile drop in carbon dioxide emissions over the last six years, and a 16 percent drop in gasoline use, with a rise of 3.1 miles per gallon to 22.5. In fact, “C02 emissions have decreased while fuel economy has increased every year since 2005, reversing the trend of the previous eight years.” This doesn’t mean we’re all to breathe easy and lose our discipline on this issue, but good news is good news.

So there. Eat, drink and be environmentally merry. A little more champagne, please! Go ahead and top off the glass.

Special thanks to the Great News Network (GNN) for reminding me that all’s not dire on the environmental front.

Images: Sara&Joachim, Johan J.Ingles-Le Nobel, wwarby, ^riza^

Scott Adelson

Scott Adelson is EcoSalon's Senior Editor of HyperKulture, a monthly column that explores opening cultural doors to initiate personal change. He is also the author of InPRINT, which reviews and discusses books, new and old. You can reach him at scott@adelson.org.