It will continue. How could it not? This question was asked before the December 2009 UN Climate Change Conference, which did result in a treaty (sort of), but that agreement has been criticized as toothless mainly for the reason that the signatory countries did not commit to hard targets of CO2 reduction, and because the treaty lacks an enforcement mechanism. What effect has it had on the environmental movement, both in the time since the summit, and going forward? I don’t think it will have much of one. Regardless of what happened in a room full of politicians at a convention center in Denmark, are people who are passionate about conservation, renewable energy and reversing climate change really going to put down their banners, stop raising money for nonprofits and awareness, and shut down research and development into alternative energy sources? Is the World Wildlife Fund website going to go offline because some activists, politicians and reporters have criticized the lack of a meaningful treaty coming out of one meeting? Fundamentally, the environmental movement as a whole is mostly local. Even if an activist in Peoria is raising money online to save endangered hardwood forests across the globe in Burma, it would be impossible for that same activist not to be concerned about some environmental issue that occurs closer to home. A hazy film across the sky on a hot morning, driving by a wooded area to find it’s being logged for development, an article in the paper or on the Internet about how pandas are dying in China–are any of these factors that could potentially motivate environmental activism even going to be affected by what happened (or did not happen) in Copenhagen?
My personal belief is that people believe in environmental activism because they know, fundamentally, that it’s the right thing to do. Whether a panda dies in China or whether Barack Obama signs a specific piece of paper is not the issue. The issue is, we all want to have a planet we can pass on to our children and grandchildren. I don’t see that desire being changed by one lackluster summit, or even 50 more years of political summits that achieve even less than Copenhagen did. If the desire to preserve the environment continues, the environmental movement will forge ahead.
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