Environmental Almanac: My resolutions for 2014
When I was younger and found myself cornered for New Year's resolutions, I offered up only this: fish more in the new year than I did in the preceding one.
As I've advanced in years, I've added others, but most of them have something of the same self-serving quality. So:
In 2014, I resolve to stay attuned to the local environment as I go about my business and encourage others to cultivate their own appreciation for the wonders of the nearby natural world. (I already have a story in the works based on this. It's about red foxes in urban areas.)
In addition to appreciating the natural world, I resolve to express appreciation for the many people who help to maintain — and sometimes reshape — the local environment. This turns out to be such an extensive list I can't even begin to name names, and I'm sure to neglect some who deserve credit.
To start, there are the city staffers and policymakers responsible for creating naturalized public spaces in Urbana and Champaign. As you may already know, I'm especially fond of the Second Street Basin and Scott Park, which provide wonderful opportunities for seeing birds and other wildlife right in town.
Our local governments also deserve recognition for efforts to promote active transportation and for policy moves that liberate people to produce their own food (especially the change in Champaign's ordinance to allow backyard hens).
Much of the "nearby natural world" I appreciate so much is accessible thanks to the Champaign and Urbana park districts and the Champaign County Forest Preserve District. I'm thankful for the workers who maintain prairies, woodlands and wetlands for us to enjoy and the educators who help us stay connected with the natural world. In addition, I'm thankful for all of the dedicated volunteers — especially East Central Illinois Master Naturalists — who enable those entities to do all they do on constrained budgets.
I'm thankful for the organizations through which citizens of East Central Illinois come together to promote conservation, whether by purchasing land and/or maintaining it, providing opportunities for education and recreation or advocating for policies that protect the public's interests in clean air, clean water and healthy wildlife: Grand Prairie Friends, Champaign County Audubon, Sierra Club Prairie Group, Prairie Rivers Network, Faith in Place and others.
While I'm all for being attuned to the local environment and appreciating the people whose work benefits it, I also remind myself not to lose sight of the bigger picture; we won't meet the global challenges of environmental justice, climate change and species loss without changes in policy on much larger scales.
At the very least, in 2014, I resolve to be consistent in communicating my concerns to representatives at the state and national levels, whether I think they already agree with me or not. So, if you hear me complaining about a lack of initiative on the part of legislators or executives, feel free to ask me when I last wrote to express my views or what other action I've taken to get them moving in the right direction.
In 2014, I also resolve to continue the project of getting my house in order, i.e. reducing fossil fuel use at home. My project is inspired by Scott Willenbrock, a neighbor and UI physics professor, who this year reduced his family's home energy use so far he calculates it can be met with the amount of electricity produced by his rooftop solar panels. (See how he did it at physics.illinois.edu/outreach/zero-net-energy-house/.)
At my house, we're already enjoying the benefits of weather sealing and insulation done last fall. The next step will be to replace our aging furnace and air conditioner. How's that for a more painful resolution?
Environmental Almanac is a service of the UI School of Earth, Society and Environment, where Rob Kanter is communications coordinator. Environmental Almanac can be heard on WILL-AM 580 at 4:45 and 6:45 p.m. on Thursdays.