Making sense of what happened at the COP 16 global climate change summit in Cancun is not easy, especially when environmental and climate justice activists seem so intensely divided among themselves (and when the mass media has paid so little attention to it all). Democracy Now yesterday pitted Friends of the Earth’s policy analyst Kate Horner against Center for American Progress senior fellow (and fellow environmental philosopher) Andrew Light, and the two of them seemed to be speaking from different planets. Light’s extended take on the “Cancun compromise” is available here, while FOE International chair Nnimmo Bassey laments the “hijacking of Africa” at the summit here.

Part of my problem is that I’ve been getting Bolivia’s ongoing messaging about the conference (e.g., from the World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth blog), and they’ve been sending a lot out. (There’s a nonlinear effect for you: subscribe to a handful of blog feeds on a certain topic and when one or two of them start burning their fuel well into the red, their message bleeds over into any sense of balance one might get from a more unfiltered scan of news sources.) Bolivia was the one official holdout to the “compromise” — its indigenous president Evo Morales has been championing the notion of a global “climate debt” promoted by anti-poverty and indigenous organizations as well as the green left (including groups like the Indigenous Environmental Network and La Via Campesina, and blogs including Ian Angus’s Climate and Capitalism and Derek Wall’s Another Green World) — and it has taken a lot of flak for its intransigency. Bolivia plans to follow up by taking the summit’s agreement to the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Pragmatists, on the other hand, seem somewhat impressed with the way things came together late in the day: with Mexico’s leadership (hard to imagine from the footage of cops beating up climate activists on Democracy Now), India’s suddenly playing a constructive role, and other countries’ efforts, including Brazil’s and South Africa’s, into carving out the agreement that, while weak, is better than what came out of Copenhagen and provides the infrastructure for working out further details in future meetings.

As always, Grist has been a reliably informative source of news on the summit. Other useful perspectives include Canadian Green Party leader Elizabeth May’s (I took my title from her) and Nature’s Jeff Tollefson‘s.

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