Meltdown or Green Deal?

Gary Gardner and Michael Renner

The still-unfolding global financial crisis is claiming casualties far beyond either Wall Street or Main Street. With all eyes on financial markets and economic ministers, problems that only months ago were described as "urgent" and "historic" seem to have slipped off political leaders' radar screens. Climate change was commonly termed a "planetary emergency," modern species loss represented "the first mass extinction in 65 million years," and billions living on US$2 a day in a world of unprecedented wealth was nothing less than a "global scandal." Yet the global credit crunch threatens to slow funding for environmental and anti-poverty programs to a trickle.

Relegating urgent needs to the sidelines until the economic crisis is resolved is a luxury we cannot afford. The perfect storm of today's economic, environmental, and social ravages requires a robust, multi-pronged response. Indeed, the challenge for global political leadership, including U.S. President-elect Obama, is not merely to kick-start the global economy, but to do so in a way that creates jobs and stabilizes climate, increases food output using less water and pesticides, and generates prosperity with greater equality of incomes. Successful political leaders will be those skilled at identifying synergies among today's hydra-headed problems and using them to craft powerful global coalitions from such constituencies as business, labor, and community organizations.