Tuesday, January 1st 2013, 3:13 PM EST
2012 was the worst year for the environment in living memory.
It was the year of living dangerously. In 2012 governments turned their backs on the living planet, demonstrating that no chronic problem, however grave, will take priority over an immediate concern, however trivial. I believe there has been no worse year for the natural world in the past half century.
Three weeks before the minimum occurred, the melting of the Arctic’s sea ice broke the previous record(1). Iconic remnants of the global megafauna – such as rhinos and bluefin tuna – were shoved violently towards extinction(2). Novel tree diseases raged across continents(3). Bird and insect numbers continued to plummet, coral reefs retreated, marine life dwindled. And those charged with protecting us and the world in which we live pretended that none of it was happening.
Their indifference was distilled into a great collective shrug at the Earth Summit in June. The first summit, 20 years before, was supposed to have heralded a new age of environmental responsibility. During that time, thanks largely to the empowerment of corporations and the ultra-rich, the square root of nothing has been achieved. Far from mobilising to address this, in 2012 the leaders of some of the world’s most powerful governments – the US, the UK, Germany and Russia – didn’t even bother to turn up.
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