Generally, I have contempt for these “end of the year” countdown posts. But in the spirit of the “season,” I’m going to set that aside and think positive. Lots of people have had a stinky 2011. Here are five reasons why 2012 is going to be better…

5. The rise of public bicycles.

First, it was the pragmatic bike craze. Everyone sprouted fenders and racks. But what about people that aren’t ready to commit hundreds of dollars (minimum) to be a part of this “movement”?

For those sort of people, systems like those in Europe where you pay to use a bike temporarily (like the carts at the airport) are quite helpful—sort of like the public transportation version of owning a car, y’know?

2011 saw systems debuted in Boston and NYC. One hopes that with success in these two cities, 2012 will see more cities debuting their own systems.

As parents trying to encourage our kids to get outside, this is hopeful news for the future. Not only because of the at-face-value coolness of being able to rent bikes, but also because of the cultural force this represents. Every time a person sees one of these stations, it is like a commercial for healthy, human-powered transportation. Personally, that’s the future I’d like to imagine for myself and my child. Rather than smaller and smaller “smart” cars or segway scooters…

4. “Apocalypse Novs. An Ancient Mayan Prophecy.

Read this blog post from earlier this fall by Richard Louv (I know, I know, we seem to always be cheerleaders for Louv, but it’s only because his mission in life seems to dovetail so well with ours.) As I alluded to in #5, the future is only what we choose to do with our lives. In the post, Louv offers many reasons for hope.

What is up with the 2012 thing, anyway? The Mayans suggested long ago that the world would end this December, according to…. someone. And now lots of people seem to take it for some sort of fact, with no research whatsoever. Despite the Spanish subjugation of the Mayans (don’t even get me started on the justice or lack of it in that situation) by 1697, here on the cusp of 2012, they know all about what will happen? (Too bad we didn’t pay as much attention to their culture in the 1600’s as we do in 2011)

“Scenarios suggested for the end of the world include the arrival of the next solar maximum, or Earth’s collision with a black hole, passing asteroid or a planet called ‘Nibiru’” (Wikipedia).

But this isn’t even ABOUT Mayans. This is one of those nonsensical movements. Mayan scholars have dismissed this “prophecy” as a misrepresentation of Mayan culture. Astronomers have pointed out that simple observations debunk the idea of black holes or asteroids (not even giving enough credence to “Nibiru” to discuss it).

So, my advice is to set your mind (and of course, the minds of your children) on the real things that are happening this year, not on the “madness of crowds” (click the link, it’ll make sense).

3. The Slow Food Movement.

I’m taking one of the reasons for hope out of Louv’s blog on #4, but I do it because I think this one in particular represents hope and could fire up all of our thinking about other possibilities.

I hope they don’t mind if I quote from their manifesto:

“Born and nurtured under the sign of Industrialization, this century first invented the machine and then modelled its lifestyle after it. Speed became our shackles. We fell prey to the same virus: ‘the fast life’ that fractures our customs and assails us even in our own homes…

..Against those—or, rather, the vast majority—who confuse efficiency with frenzy, we propose the vaccine of an adequate portion of sensual …pleasures, to be taken with slow and prolonged enjoyment.

Appropriately, we will start in the kitchen, with Slow Food…
In the name of productivity, the “fast life” has changed our lifestyle and now threatens our environment and our land (and city) scapes. Slow Food is the alternative…

…we can begin by cultivating taste, rather than impoverishing it, by stimulating progress, by encouraging international exchange …by defending old-fashioned food traditions.

Slow Food assures us of a better quality lifestyle. With a snail purposely chosen as its patron and symbol…”

Of course, though these folks (rightfully) focus on food and what the modern world has done to eating, what I want to focus on is the larger idea that they represent. What other old-fashioned traditions have been left by the wayside as our lives become ever faster and faster? As you know, the more efficient we become (we can check our email ANYWHERE now!) the more leisure or at least rest it should provide us. And yet we seem to only speed up.

So where do YOU want to slow down this year? Maybe it IS in food. Our family needs to learn to sit down and enjoy eating around the table together. Or maybe it’s something else, like taking the time to walk in the woods each day and thus returning nature into your family’s DNA?

2. Global Warming Good News from “Science” Journal. There was a report released this week which I can barely understand, but it showed that the rate of water vapor in the atmosphere, which rose dramatically in the 80’s and 90’s, has fallen since 2000.

This of course doesn’t mean that GW is stopped or reversed, but it is a small ray of light in a subject that many of us have been trained to think is without any hope at all.

The article itself is HERE. Good luck. For the New York Times explanation of what it means, go HERE.

1. Happy Xmas – War Is Over!

One billion dollars per week (about $2 billion/week in 2006‒2008) according to these statistics from the Center for Defense Information was spent on the war in Iraq. We are not here to debate politics about the United States’ time there. We have withdrawn now.

And one parent to another, the first happiness of this news must be safe troops, parents returning to their children, children returning to their parents, spouses reunited. I know it’s not QUITE that simple, but even by moving from combat into safety, these soldiers are in an early sense “returning” to their families.

Economically speaking, though, the second cause for hope here is that one would imagine (hope, dream?) that this money will now be available to fund projects in our own country, projects that have been sorely in need. (One thinks of the old bumper sticker—“I can’t wait for the day that they have to have bake sales to buy a new bomber” or something along those lines.) The first project that pops into my mind is of course THIS ONE, but there are so many positive things that could start happening with this money, that would incidentally also stimulate our own economy.

So, there’s my list. Maybe not all rainbows and unicorns, but it’s made me feel better just compiling this list. I hope you draw some hope from it, too- and my sincere wish for all of our readers is that you and your children would have a wonderful, meaningful, year of learning, loving, and living.

Thanks for reading this website this year! See you in 2012!



Published by Monkey's Uncle

The Monkey's Uncle was brought up in Western PA, and grew up playing in the woods, skipping stones, and bringing animals home from the creek to "save". He was- as a child- a proud subscriber to Ranger Rick. At the age of 11, he discovered BMX bikes, and his life has never been the same since that day. These days, he spends time with family, and goes hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, and spends lots of time at the beach.

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