Politics isn't necessarily the best course, nor politicians the best people to plot such a course, to judge by the glacial, boulder-strewn pace of talks here in Rio.
The science is clear on so many of the issues, and ministers acknowledge it - but they see many other factors too, which is why the political response on issues such as climate change often lags way behind the science.
If politics can't get on with it, what about the law?
In 1996, lawyer Mark Gray had a simple vision: make ecocide (destroying nature) a crime.
Well, you might say, any country can do that - and many countries have, in various degrees. Depending on where you live, lighting bush fires, stealing birds' eggs, dumping old motor oil in streams and building on the habitat of a protected newt can all land you in court.