COLUMN: Who killed the world?


The logo for Amazon is displayed on a screen at the Nasdaq MarketSite on July 27, 2018, in New York. Tribune News Service

Who killed the world? It's a question I hope my grandchildren will never have to ask. But catastrophe is looking more and more likely if current trends continue. If we are going to act on a massive scale to prevent it, we need to understand what we are up against. In short, we are fighting the most powerful entities on earth: multinational corporations.

The main culprit is the fuel industry. These companies suppressed knowledge of the dangers of fossil fuels for decades. They then spent millions trying to confuse the public and smear the science. Even now when the science has become mainstream, they continue their polluting practices. They are often lauded when they resist public pressure to act.

Huge companies such as Amazon have refused to consider their own environmental impact. Google and Microsoft have been co-sponsoring events with climate change denial supporters. Both announced  billion dollar contracts to help advance the technology of  fossil fuel companies. The Wall Street Journal describes the new Google division as “created to court the oil and gas industry.”

Beyond the technology sector, investors continue to pour money into environmentally disastrous ventures. JP Morgan Chase recently announced investment in Canadian tar sands. These tar sands are widely regarded as one of the most dangerous forms of fossil fuels available. Other boardrooms around the country are mostly rejecting climate policies, according to the Wall Street Journal.These corporate giants have little concern for the long term health of the world. Each of them have one thing in common: the pursuit of short term profits.

The 2018 United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report was widely discussed for its ominous warnings. However one of the most important findings was ignored. In section, it suggests “civil society may be the only reliable motor for driving institutions to change at the pace required." This was as opposed to large corporations.

Civil society refers to the social and religious organizations, activists and the general public. Presumably, their method of using their political power is through a democratic government. But we run into a problem here as well. In our government, the Republicans are completely devoted to the fossil fuel industry and their investors. It is bad enough that the Public Accountability Initiative describes the party as “de facto wing of the fossil fuel industry.”

The report also criticizes centrist  Democrats. The Democratic front runner for 2020, Joe Biden is currently advocating a “middle of the road” climate policy, while others are also taking money from fossil fuel companies. Speaker Pelosi and her associates in the leadership have taken over $700,000 from fossil fuel companies.

The media is also failing to report on climate change. ABC was recently criticized for having more coverage of the new royal baby in a week than climate change coverage in a year. The lack of coverage extends to other outlets as well.

Our only hope is that members of civil society — the organizers, civic leaders and local voices — are able to reclaim our government. There have been significant gains. Activists across the world have increased pro-environment demonstrations. Many politicians are beginning to rally around the Green New Deal. Some 2020 candidates are putting forth bold proposals.

If the environmental populism continues to grow, then perhaps our grandchildren will instead be asking about who saved the world from the brinkof destruction.

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