Is the Wikileaks Saga the Biggest Crypto-Environmental Story of 2010?

julian assange illustration

image: Jose Mesa/Creative Commons

As 2010 comes to a close, the time for giving thanks for all those small green steps that we've collectively taken over the past twelve months now past by a couple weeks, ever media outlet is trying to make a bullet-pointed list of the year's high- and low-lights for easy consumption. Doing that in environmental business politics, the Gulf Oil Spill, the US mid-term election results, the semi-revival of the UN climate process at COP16 all pop quickly to mind. But as the saga of Julian Assange and Wikileaks continues, I increasingly think that this may well turn out to be the biggest environmental story of the year and next. The environmentally-related cables released so far haven't been entirely revelatory--though the Dalai Lama commenting that environmental issues in Tibet need to take precedence over political ones for a while was unexpected--but the reaction of politicians in the US and abroad, across the mainstream political spectrum, as well as much of the mainstream media, says more about the challenge we collectively face in creating a more socioecologically sustainable future than any of the overtly environmental events of 2010.

If a crucial part of creating that future is bringing greater transparency and greater democracy to all of our business and political dealings, then credit card companies and banks cutting off service to Wikileaks, calls for assassination of Julian Assange even by so-called liberal politicians, Orwellian directives from government offices that unauthorized employees shouldn't view classified cables even though they are de facto now in the public domain, all indicate that the road ahead is longer and more difficult than we'd like to think.

Corporate and political transparency, corporate and political responsiveness to the needs of communities are all key to dealing effectively with the myriad bigger-than-self environmental issues looming on the horizon. Climate change, biodiversity loss, natural resource overconsumption, peak oil--and implementing effective, lasting and egalitarian solutions to these--require the exact opposite response than has been exhibited over the past couple of weeks as the behind the scenes dealings of US foreign policy get incrementally revealed.

To adequately deal with these environmental problems we need less concentration of power and wealth, less alignment of business and governmental interests in supporting that concentration. We need more transparency not less; we need less secrecy not more.

Other specific events may be important green milestones, marking progress and regress, but in terms of clearly defining the sort of world the environmental movement is trying to transform, the Wikileaks reaction is highly illuminating.

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More on Wikileaks:
Wikileaks Reveals Hushed Concern Over Tar Sands in US State Dept
Wikileaks: Dalai Lama Says Tibet's Environmental Problems Cannot Wait, But Political Solution Can
Wikileaks Reveals Shell Oil Has Agents Installed in Nigerian Government
Wikileaks Cables Show US Pressured Saudi Arabia to Back Copenhagen Accord, and More

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