By Warshall, Peter
Environmentalism, like almost everything else, does not work by the Julian calendar. The big shift took place from 1986 to 1988. The next decade will refine, define, and combine the consequences of these events, not create whole new scenarios.
In 1986, Chernobyl blew. Global atmospherics made it abundantly clear that thinking globally and acting locally were not enough. We had to act and think both locally and globally. Chernobyl was water-cooled; we could no longer think that energy and water flows were separate, or that energy policy and water policy were discrete channels of thought.
Chernobyl taught the dangers of unaccountable government and suppressed info, helping to fuse the environmental and democracy movements to achieve greater transparency, accountability, and participation. In the same time period, the Danube movement against further channelization and dams helped Hungary and Czechoslovakia move "greenness" and democracy into mainstream politics.
Much of the world no longer vigorously distinguishes among environmentalism, democracy, empowering marginalized communities, and promoting civil and women's rights. The new Europe, with its green parties, is the region to watch. What the EU turns into law is another indicator of the fate of the Earth. The US lags pitifully in holistic imagination.
Cashflows are a great challenge to the green movement. Major markets in Asia and Europe reject genetically modified soybeans. If the Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) accepts a separate listing for conventional v. GMO soybeans, we will see a major change in the commodity markets and farming. If a third listing, for organic soybeans, makes it to the CBOT, then a truly wildcard scenario of a "green future" will transform the WTO, operationalize senses of fair v. free trade, and enhance shareholder/consumer choices.
After stimulating redesign of almost every major sector of the materials economy (e.g., harvesting minerals and oil, producing paper, recycling office materials, envisioning a nontoxic industrial chemistry), the environmental movement is poised to influence cashflows. In 1986, it forced Congress to pass a law that taxpayer funds given to the World Bank for its megaprojects are subject to environmental and social impact reviews. The World Bank has backed off on a few loans and investments and completely altered its rhetoric. …