By Matt Palmer
The above link is a post today from Richard Branson‘s blog. It includes a thought-provoking video about the propaganda campaigns by the tobacco industry to mislead people about the dangers of smoking, and the political right to discredit climate science.
First of all, tactics or propaganda that put corporate profits ahead of the health and welfare of people or the planet are wrong. We as a society have a role to play in changing these outcomes. I think it is wrong for companies to downplay the impacts of their products, whether it be in the development, production, distribution, or consumption. Companies should be honest about their impacts and what can be done to lessen or mitigate them.
What’s really disturbing about this video is that it demonstrates the worst of human nature. It’s easy these days to rail against corporate greed, and in many cases for good reason. Many of us have lost our way, and winning at all costs has become most important. Last fall, Apple reported their earnings, ad they had a 54% increase in profit. 54%!! Yet, for Wall Street and others that was not good enough, and their stock fell as a result. What company in the world would not be happy with a 54% increase in profit? This is the world we live in.
And when the pressure on companies is to make huge profits, reasonable and right decisions will be sacrificed. Corners get cut. Quality is sacrificed. Public relations campaigns are started to distract people from the real issues. But there are companies who make the right decisions, and put employees and environment first, and they succeed.
Man has an impact on the planet. Look at the size of modern cities. Look at all the commodities and products we surround ourselves with. We have altered the earth’s ecosystem by our presence and our thirst for natural resources. We deny this impact at our peril.
So what about climate change? My challenge with this whole debate, or the fact that it is even a debate, is that science is not perfect, and centred a result there will continue to be disagreement. Climate change is an outcome. It is an outcome from how we use natural resources to fulfill our desires. We want electricity – we burn coal or build wind turbines. We want to drive cars – we burn gasoline. All of these processes require natural resources to build the infrastructure to harness the energy. Some processes have greater impacts than others, and with some processes we still don’t fully understand what the impacts will be when built on a global scale.
Rather than argue about whether climate change is real, again an outcome, why not shift the conversation to things that most reasonable people might agree on. Like reducing pollution from industrial processes, reducing consumption, being more responsible with our resources and our environment.
So much of the climate change issue, as I see it, has been centred on creating a tremendous amount of fear about the potential outcomes in order to motivate massive change. In pushing the climate change fear discussion has become so adversarial, anyone who even questions climate change is derided as a heretic. This is equally true of the people who are skeptical of climate change, so that we have two sides calling each other nasty names.
We cannot continue to be irresponsible with our resources. We need smart solutions to our problems. In forty years there will be nine billion people on the planet. They are all going to want their fair share of energy and resources to be able to enjoy a good standard of living. The choices we make today will have tremendous impact on how successful we will be in the future. Will we continue to take the adversarial approach, the fear based approach where the opposing sides are fearful and mistrustful of each other? Or do we opt for something different.
There is a reality that must be faced though, and that is we cannot just quit oil. If you believe we can, then you should start with turning off your computer, march into the woods and begin foraging for food. I don’t write that be facetious, but rather to illustrate that without oil our modern lives would look radically different. It’s just a fact.
But we know we have a big problem to deal with in terms of CO2 emissions and other pollutants in the atmosphere. Whether you believe climate is change is real or not, or that the earth is warming or cooling, or whether man even has anything to do with I would suggest we need to change our approach to how we exist on the planet and how we interact with each other.