Climate change remediation and social responsibility are bedeviled by the status quo two-step


Climate change remediation and social responsibility are bedeviled by the status quo two-step


“Stop Denying the Climate is Dying,” was one of the slogans at the Sept. 25, 2020 #FridaysForFuture protest rallies around the world.[1]

“Our planet is headed for disaster,” broadcaster and natural historian Sir David Attenborough said on 60 Minutes two days later.[2]

Just “20 per cent” is complexity scientist Thomas Homer-Dixon’s answer to the question, “What are our chances for a prosperous, humane civilization two centuries from now?”[3]

Calling for urgent action on climate change, the Sept. 25th global rallies are the first since the coronavirus crisis began. While COVID-19 has been top-of-mind for most world leaders, “the climate crisis was more acute than ever.”[4] According to The Globe and Mail’s “climate issue” of Sept. 26, “we are witnessing… a cascade of disasters from climate change that scientists have warned about for years.”[5]

But as Time magazine’s 2019 Person of the Year, Greta Thunberg, said on the 25th, “The climate crisis has never once been treated as a crisis.”[6] The problem is that the status quo, which we need to fundamentally change, is hugely resilient in its resistance to change.

Underpinned by market capitalism and/or the reinforcing power of privilege, the status quo is a wily devil adept at saying one thing while doing another to protect itself. This is imperilling humanity. This is why the same old methods, approaches, and political parties are no longer good enough.

Economist Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, is an example of the problem. He has said “today’s corporate capitalism—‘neo-liberalism,’ as he describes it—is dangerously broken, a ‘free market on the rampage, a brakeless train wrecking havoc.’ We urgently need ‘new thinking on how we combine or how we blend money-making and social responsibility.’”[7]

Yet when Schwab introduced U.S. President Donald Trump at the January 2018 WEF meeting in Davos, Switz., he “fawned” over him to “hisses and boos” from the audience. “On behalf of the business leaders here in this room,” he said, “let me particularly congratulate you for the historic tax reform package passed last month greatly reducing the tax burden on U.S. companies.”[8]

According to University of British Columbia law professor Joel Bakan, author of “The New Corporation: How ‘Good’ Companies are Bad for Democracy,” the Trump tax bill “arguably reflects precisely the free-market-on-the-rampage, brakeless-train-wrecking-havoc capitalism… Schwab condemns.”[9]

While the Business Roundtable, composed of more than 200 U.S. top CEOs and headed by JP Morgan Chase’s Jamie Dimon, announced on April 19, 2019 that, in Bakan’s words, “the purpose of publicly traded corporations would be to serve the interests not only of shareholders but also of workers, communities and the environment,” the truth is that purpose is routinely subverted.

“For decades ‘new’ corporations have aggressively schemed to avoid taxes, and thus deprive governments the revenue needed to pursue social and environmental goals—the very goals those corporations purport to champion,” according to Bakan. “Corporations squirrel away profits in offshore tax havens, manipulate laws with complicated subsidiary regimes and lobby governments to cut taxes…. Corporations embrace social and environmental values to help them make more money—not to make less of it.”[10]

Schwab’s diagnosis is spot on: “how we blend money-making and social responsibility” must be changed in favour of the latter. It is an existential imperative.

As the good book says, it’s not money but the love of it that’s the problem. We have now arrived at a point where it is literally beginning to kill us.

Two centuries ago, Johann von Goethe wrote: “Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Willing is not enough; we must do.”

For democratic governments to take the necessary steps, to act with clarity and effectiveness, they must feel their constituents propelling and supporting them.

This article was originally published on this site in October 2020 under the title, “Use unnecessary B.C. election to start making necessary changes.”

An author and historian, Patrick Wolfe lives in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada.

  1. Kate Abnett, “Thunberg leads wave of global climate protests,” The Globe & Mail, Sat., Sept. 26, 2020, A10.
  2. “Sir David: A crime has been committed,” 60 Minutes, Sept. 27, 2020 broadcast.
  3. Brian Bethune, “Don’t give up on hope. The world needs it.” Maclean’s online, Sept. 17, 2020, and October 2020 print issue.
  4. Abnett.
  5. Ryan MacDonald, Senior Editor, Climate and Environment, “The climate issue,” The Globe & Mail, Sat., Sept. 26, 2020, A11.
  6. Abnett.
  7. Joel Bakan, “Keeping ‘good’ company,” The Globe & Mail, Sat., Sept. 19, 2020, O9.
  8. Bakan.
  9. Bakan.
  10. Bakan.
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