After a year of uncertainty, in 2012, only one thing really matters.
We know that the farmers market is becoming the new supermarket, and that for those who can afford it, ‘buying experiences’ trumps buying stuff.
Hillary Clinton is retiring and Elisabeth Warren looks like the new Hillary Clinton. Syria has become the new Libya, while local is replacing organic. Credit unions are slowly gaining traction over multinational banks at the same time that solar is gaining on wind.
Social entrepreneurship is the hot topic in business schools, and women have finally been recognized as more important in the boardroom than men.
These trends, however important, are often simply indicators of more important movements that seethe deeper below the surface.
While U.S. insurance losses in 2011 due to weather-related disasters will top records, this is just the beginning: Fukushima and Irene were a warm-up exercise for a planet that has gone from angry to totally pissed off.
Climate Change: Up; Turmoil: Way Up
In 2012, we will see Mother Earth take continued revenge at the tail end of an industrial revolution that failed to recognize the first and second laws of thermodynamics. Button down your supply chains and buy a generator, because 2012 will change – at long last – the way we in the U.S. think about and act on global climate change.
Activism: Up; Violence: Up
The activist emerged from her long sleep in 2011. Reemerging from a seemingly endless nap that began after the Vietnam War. Activism in the Western world will increasingly turn to violence in 2012.
The Almighty Stock Market: Up. Then Down; Then Up. And Down. And Up…
The stock market became wildly volatile in 2011: Up 300 points, down 400 points – day after day after day. Whiplash became a normative experience. In 2012, people will begin to sit on the sidelines as we lose confidence that anyone really understands, let alone predict, where markets are headed.
Unemployment & Poverty: Up
It doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, and those thinking about the stock market, Elisabeth Warren and global climate change are lucky compared to the 1.6 million homeless children in the United States.
Or, the 46.2 million Americans living below the official poverty line; the one out of every seven Americans who now rely on food stamps; and native-born African-Americans with less than a high school education for whom the U-6 unemployment rate is 42.2 percent.
Inequality in America today is worse than Egypt, Tunisia or Yemen.
What Will Matter in 2012
How does one weave together a perspective on the future out of the turmoil in the present?
The present is mostly what we make of it. What we choose to include in our frame of reference, and what we’re willing to include in our point of view. Most of us are highly selective. Our minds filter out the information and facts that do not support what we already believe. That, not surprisingly, leads to many self-fulfilling prophecies.
In 2012, only one thing really matters.
United we stand, divided we fall. We must see what we have in common rather than what divides us. What we agree upon rather than where we differ.
Together, anything is possible. And we can no longer afford to let that possibility allude us.
Next: Talkback Senior Editor Francesca Rheannon sums up the year.
2011 in Retrospect: CSR & Sustainability News, Views and Trends
Part III: Will SRI Occupy Personhood in 2012?
Part II: What Luxury Brands Teach Us about Sustainability
Part I: CSR in the News