Friday's Big Green Question: is Climate Change Hijacking the Environmental Agenda?


Photo via St. Louis Today

It's Friday, and quite frankly, my brain hurts. It's been a long week, filled with dismembered tigers, robots designed to keep plants alive on Mars, the noisy end of Cash for Clunkers, and me getting yelled at (via civil and intelligent comments, of course) for suggesting we're in the beginning stages of a new nuclear renaissance. Naturally, when I stumbled upon the very big question posed by the BBC--Are environmental causes getting hijacked by climate change?--I could only emit a low sigh, and think to myself, 'Not today.' So I hereby pass on that responsibility to you. What do you think? Is climate change unduly taking precedence over other environmental causes? Now, I realize that it is most likely Friday where you are as well, and you are probably equally as exhausted. But it's a good question to mull over, whether you immediately disagree or just think it doesn't matter--it asks us to consider how we conceive of the modern green movement in general right now.

The BBC frames the question:

As the UN climate summit in Copenhagen approaches, exhortations that "we must get a deal" and warnings that climate change is "the greatest challenge we face as a species" are to be heard in virtually every political forum.

But if you look back to the latest definitive check on the planet's environmental health - the Global Environment Outlook (Geo-4), published by the UN two years ago - what emerges is a picture of decline that goes way, way beyond climate change.

Species are going extinct at perhaps 1,000 times the normal rate, as key habitats such as forests, wetlands and coral reefs are plundered for human infrastructure.

Aquifers are being drained and fisheries exploited at unsustainable speed. Soils are becoming saline, air quality is a huge cause of illness and premature death; the human population is bigger than our one Earth can currently sustain.

So why, you might ask, are the world's political leaders not lamenting this big picture as loudly and as often as the climate component of it? Has climate change hijacked the wider environmental agenda? If so, why? And does it matter?

There it is. Quite the question for a winding-down Friday.

So what do you think?

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