Is it not time to follow the idea that ''problems give opportunity'' or that ''time waits for no man''
For environmentalism to have impact, most of the time it needs to be mainstream, with enough people demanding an end to biodiversity loss, unchecked global warming and long-lasting pollution. Political players, from Ed Miliband to the UN climate chief, Christiana Figueres, have stressed the importance of such a public mandate to help achieve a climate deal.
But with even the independent Office for Budget Responsibility warning that austerity will last for decades even after the current deficit-cutting push, do most people have enough head space to care, when they're dealing with the more immediate problems of rising energy and food bills at a time of high unemployment and largely static wages?
History suggests maybe not. In hindsight 2007 looks like it was the high watermark for environmentalism in the UK. After more than a decade of steady GDP growth, the year saw a groundswell of support for climate legislation in the shape of the Climate Change Act, Europe setting carbon targets for 2020, supermarkets including Tesco and M&S competing in carbon cuts rather than price wars, and Al Gore receive a Nobel for An Inconvenient Truth.
Thousands of people camped at Heathrow to protest against a third runway on environmental and social grounds, and activists climbed the chimney at the Kingsnorth coal power station.
But since the ensuing financial crash and beginnings of an austerity drive, Climate Camp has in effect disbanded, the climate talks have been kicked into the long grass, and environmental activism – particularly as protesters have shifted to tax and social justice campaigns – has been noticeably quieter.
History clearly shows us that environmentalism has survived previous austerity, in the 70s, 80s and early 90s. But veteran green campaigners admit that such financial austerity slows down the green agenda.
Former Friends of the Earth director Charles Secrett wrote in the Guardian last year that "in the early 1980s and 1990s recessions, the movement ran badly out of steam. Each time, green groups had to rethink and reorganise. And they bounced back stronger than before."