As it has been said, many times, many ways - Happy New Year. Out with the old, and in with the new. Out with the 00's, and in with the teens. So let's start the year off correctly - by taking stock of society's position so that we can understand the actions we need to take in the coming year.
Bad news first. To be blunt, things are not good. We lack global consensus that there are even eco-climate crises, let alone their severity or the necessary responses - as Copenhagen clearly proved. There is a growing and increasingly organized backlash against definitive action in the US, and a sense of paralysis globally. There is also a spreading belief that the environmental movement is being "hijacked" by large corporate interests - either by manipulating policy to suit their industry, or by greenwashing their products and services.
2010 is not going to be an easy period for those who value the survival of the human species, or the planet's ecology.
Now the good news. There is finally a definite recognition by the major economic actors (specifically the US and China) that the issues we face are global and require a coordinated global response. The weak and limited "agreement on principles" that did come out of Copenhagen presages the potential for something much more significant. Despite the disappointment we can rightfully feel about the proceedings, it must be said that there was a world before Copenhagen, and now there is a world after it. The battle now is not that there is action (there will be, even if the courts and the EPA ram it through the US's economy), but how much, how fast, how transparent (will China allow 3rd party audits?) - and who calls the shots (civil society, lobbyists, bureaucrats, corporations, all of the above?).
The growth of the quasi-libertarian/populist conservative assault on the Green movement in the US, while a significant concern, does prove the proverb "first they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win". It shows that the efforts of the last 40 years have reached a point of saturation in the national consciousness sufficient to panic those with the greatest entrenched belief in the status quo. It tells me that we've reached a society-wide tipping point, that if followed through upon properly, will unleash the radical transformative change we need so desperately to save ourselves and the planet. And that realization scares the hell out of the people who consider themselves on the other side of argument.
The "hijacking" of the environmental movement is an interesting conundrum, that is truly only appreciable through one's economic/political filter. The one consensus issue is greenwashing - which is a huge problem and needs to be fought tooth and nail by any reasonable individual. There is nothing more certain to dilute and undermine all efforts by our economy to embrace sustainability than in the deliberate misleading of consumers regarding a product or service's environmental impact.
Unfortunately, the rest of the debate is not so neat. I myself embrace and support any efforts made by any organization for or not for profit to become more sustainable. I also think its naive to imagine that corporations will be passive actors in the Green movement. Considering how heavily companies rely upon the planet's ecology to meet societal demands, their realization of their own vested interest in preserving natural capital and ecosystem services will naturally lead them to taking on a great role in the ongoing dialogue. And, to be truly politically neutral, the fact that such large economic actors who had previously been broadly opposed to environmental responsibility are now taking steps to move towards sustainability is nothing less than a resounding success for our civilization.
But, I am not blind to the market pressures that can lead companies to seek to monopolize or restrict access to necessary resources. Corporate involvement in the broader Green movement can not be mistaken for unerring altruism, just as it would be a mistake to cyncically dismiss it as greed-driven grab for power. We, as stakeholders in the planet, must be diligent in our vigilance over the planet's ecosystems and access thereto. We must hold corporations to the same standards that we hold all citizens - no more, no less.