Reading even a few pages of “Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming” (ISBN: 9781594204012) reveals heretofore hidden facts about the business aspects of climate change. Author McKenzie Funk takes you around the globe to reveal the gnarled hand of the marketplace at work.
Obviously, you are sorely mistaken if you’re one of the morons who denies the reality of climate change, but misconceptions exist even among the sentient beings who accept the cold (then hot and then colder and then hotter) facts of the matter.
Melting ice at the polar extremities of the planet will have disastrous consequences. Take the dripping destruction of the Greenland ice cap, for example. The more the ice melts, the more water enters the seas. The more water entering the seas, the more land that is endangered:
It isn’t anyone in Greenland’s fault, but the Maldives are probably doomed. Tuvalu is probably doomed. Kiribati is probably doomed. The Marshall Islands are probably doomed. The Seychelles are probably doomed. The Bahamas are probably doomed. The Carterets are probably doomed. Bangladesh, at least a fifth of it, is probably doomed. Large portions of Manila, Alexandria, Lagos, Karachi, Kolkata, Jakarta, Dakar, Rio, Miami, and Ho Chi Minh City are probably doomed. Water enough to flood them all is stored in the world’s biggest reservoir, the Greenland ice cap, the frozen inland mass that covers 81 percent of the island. The rate of the ice cap’s melt had been increasing by 7 percent a year since 1996. If someday it melts entirely, global sea levels will jump more than twenty feet.
How many of us started reading that paragraph thinking “well, at least it doesn’t really affect us here in the good old USA”) only to be caught up short when an American city appears in the litany of the condemned?
At the opposite end of things from the rising waters is a global upsurge in wildfires that is remarkable. We have recently endured “The largest fires in Georgia’s recorded history, in Florida’s recorded history, and in Utah’s recorded history.” Another scary thought: in the USA, the fire season is now 78 days longer than it was just forty years ago.
What author McKenzie Funk (ya gotta love that name!) finds amidst the oncoming terror is a strange and dreadful tale of capitalism on the march. Entire nations may disappear and beachfront property may be forever redefined but lots of companies are moving to take advantage of new ways to profit from the situation.
This involves alternative energy solutions, of course, and conservation technologies, absolutely — but also land-grabs, predatory pricing, and the creation of new money-making methodology like water mutual funds which are being offered by organizations like Credit Suisse, UBS, and Goldman Sachs.
Just consider a publication from the Koch Brothers-funded anti-think tank, the Cato Institute: “Water for Sale: How Business and the Market Can Resolve the World’s Water Crisis.” (For clarity, you should replace “Resolve” with “Profit From” since no one involved with the Cato criminals ever sought to resolve anything unless lucre can be changing hands and people without means can be screwed.)
Having been involved in advertising and public relations for much-too-much of my checkered past, I currently watch the media deal with facts about humanity’s fate and shake my head in wonder and puzzlement. It’s not just my jaundiced eye. Funk has also noticed:
Among many activists, politicians, and scientists, the assumption is that climate change now suffers mainly from a PR problem: If the proper nudges can be found or the reality of it finally made visceral, the public will take action. Unspoken and scarcely examined is a second, much bigger assumption: that “taking action” means trying to cut carbon emissions. That taking action will take a certain shape: Green roofs. Carbon caps. Green cars. Solar panels. Footpaths. Forests. Fluorescent bulbs, Bicycles. Insulation. Algae. Inflated tires. Showers. Clotheslines. Recycling. Locavorism. Light-rail. Wind farms. Vegetarianism. Heat pumps. Telecommuting. Smaller homes. Smaller families. Smaller lives. We hope our collective fear of global warming will push us inevitably toward collective behavior. But what if the world as we know it goes on even as the Earth as we know it begins to disappear? There’s another possible response to melting ice caps and rising sea levels, to the reality of climate change — a response that is tribal, primal, profit-driven, short-term, and not at all idealistic. Every man for himself. Every business for itself. Every city for itself. Every country for itself.
Funk takes the next 280 pages to examine many aspects of that profit motive and we view the results with a rueful sigh. In 2008, for example, Royal Dutch Shell (the company we in the USA know as Shell Oil) “publically released two scenarios describing the world up to 2050…that explicitly warned of the dangers of climate change.” But was their goal in any way altruistic? Of course not: their aim is to build-up profits no matter which way the world turns.
Even something as simple as insurance comes under brief investigation in the book: “Because it allows insurers to jack up rates, ‘hurricane season is actually quite a positive thing.'” And land speculation is another constant:
A partner at a storied Wall Street investment bank showed me photographs of Ukrainian farmland and said his firm had tried to buy up “vast tracts” of it. Soviet-era collective farms had reverted to “pseudo-subsistence agriculture,” he said. “You could come to these guys and get thousands of hectares for a few bottles of vodka and, like, two months of grain.”
It is a horrible irony that the populations who are most responsible for the greenhouse gasses that are befouling our atmosphere are the ones who will gain the most from the new business ventures being developed to cope with the coming changes.
While the upshot of Funk’s revelations can be quite frightening, what is so odd about the stories, scenes, and vignettes is how ordinary it all seems. Avarice is mundane. I guess it’s only to be expected that humanity would react this way, even in the face of human-made disaster. After all, voracity is a human constant. Greed got us to this point and greed will carry the day as we inch forward in history while regressing toward a planet devoid of humankind. But with profits for some.
More information on the publisher’s site: http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781594204012,00.html?Windfall_McKenzie_Funk .
McKenzie Funk TED Talk:
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