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The Corporate Climate Coup

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
First published here:
http://activistteacher.blogspot.com/2007/05/dgr-in-my-article-entitled-global.html

then reproduced, among other places, in Canadian Dimension:
http://canadiandimension.com/articles/2007/05/01/1090/

Justin Podur, among others, has responded criticizing Noble (as well as Rancourt and Cockburn) here:
http://www.zmag.org/content/print_article.cfm?itemID=12796&sectionID=1



The Corporate Climate Coup

David F. Noble
(guest blogger)

Don't breathe. There's a total war on against CO2 emissions, and you are releasing CO2 with every breath. The multi-media campaign against global warming now saturating our senses, which insists that an increasing CO2 component of greenhouse gases is the enemy, takes no prisoners: you are either with us or you are with the "deniers." No one can question the new orthodoxy or dare risk the sin of emission. If Bill Clinton were running for president today he would swear he didn't exhale.

How did we get here? How did such an arcane subject only yesterday of interest merely to a handful of scientific specialists so suddenly come to dominate our discourse? How did scientific speculation so swiftly erupt into ubiquitous intimations of apocalypse? These are not hypothetical questions but historical questions, and they have answers. Such events as these do not just happen; they are made to happen. On the whole our ideas tend not to be our own ideas; rarely do we come up with them ourselves but rather imbibe them from the world around us. This is especially obvious when our ideas turn out to be the same as nearly everyone else's, even people we've never met or communicated with. Where did this idea about the urgent crisis of global warming and CO2 emissions come from and get into our heads, given that so few of us have ever read, or even tried to read, a single scientific paper about greenhouse gases? Answering such a question is not as difficult as it might seem, for the simple reason that it takes a great amount of reach and resources to place so alien an idea in so many minds simultaneously so quickly, and the only possessors of such capacity and means are the government and the corporations, together with their multi-media machinery. To effect such a significant shift in attention, perception, and belief requires a substantial, and hence visible and demonstrable, effort.

Until quite recently most people were either unaware of or confused and relatively unconcerned about this issue, despite a growing consensus among scientists and environmentalists about the possible dangers of climate change. Global warming activists, such as AI Gore, were quick to place the blame for that popular ignorance, confusion, and lack of concern on a well-financed corporate propaganda campaign by oil and gas companies and their front organizations, political cronies, advertising and public relations agencies, and media minions, which lulled people into complacency by sowing doubt and skepticism about worrisome scientific claims. And, of course, they were right; there was such a corporate campaign, which has by now been amply documented. What global warming activists conveniently failed to point out, however, is that their own, alarmist, message has been drummed into our minds by the very same means, albeit by different corporate hands. This campaign, which might well prove the far more significant, has heretofore received scant notice.

Over the last decade and a half we have been subjected to two competing corporate campaigns, echoing different time-honored corporate strategies and reflecting a split within elite circles. The issue of climate change has been framed from both sides of this elite divide, giving the appearance that there are only these two sides. The first campaign, which took shape in the late 1980's as part of the triumphalist “globalization" offensive, sought to confront speculation about climate change head-on by denying, doubting, deriding, and dismissing distressing scientific claims which might put a damper on enthusiasm for expansive capitalist enterprise. It was modelled after and to some extent built upon the earlier campaign by the tobacco industry to sow skepticism about mounting evidence of the deleterious health-effects of smoking. In the wake of this "negative" propaganda effort, any and all critics of climate change and global warming have been immediately identified with this side of the debate.

The second -“positive”- campaign, which emerged a decade later, in the wake of Kyoto and at the height of the anti-globalization movement, sought to get out ahead of the environmental issue by affirming it only to hijack it and turn it to corporate advantage. Modelled on a century of corporate liberal cooptation of popular reform movements and regulatory regimes, it aimed to appropriate the issue in order to moderate its political implications, thereby rendering it compatible with corporate economic, geopolitical, and ideological interests. The corporate climate campaign thus emphasized the primacy of "market-based” solutions while insisting upon uniformity and predictability in mandated rules and regulations. At the same time it hyped the global climate issue into an obsession, a totalistic preoccupation with which to divert attention from the radical challenges of the global-justice movement. In the wake of this campaign, any and all opponents of the “deniers” have been identified – and, most importantly, have wittingly or unwittingly identified themselves – with the corporate climate crusaders.

The first campaign, dominant throughout the 1990's, suffered somewhat from exposure and became relatively moribund early in the Bush II era, albeit without losing influence within the White House (and the Prime Minister's Office). The second, having contributed to the diffusion of a radical movement, has succeeded in generating the current hysteria about global warming, now safely channeled into corporate-friendly agendas at the expense of any serious confrontations with corporate power. Its media success has aroused the electorate and compelled even die-hard deniers to disingenuously cultivate a greener image. Meanwhile, and most important, the two opposing campaigns have together effectively obliterated any space for rejecting them both.

In the late 1980's the world's most powerful corporations launched their "globalization" revolution, incessantly invoking the inevitable beneficence of free trade and, in the process, relegating environmental issues to the margins and reducing the environmentalist movement to rearguard actions. Interest in climate change nevertheless continued to grow. In 1988, climate scientists and policy-makers established the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPPC) to keep abreast of the matter and issue periodic reports. At a meeting in Toronto three hundred scientists and policy-makers from forty-eight countries issued a “call for action” on the reduction of CO2 emissions. The following year fifty oil, gas, coal, and automobile and chemical manufacturing companies and their trade associations formed the Global Change Coalition (GCC), with the help of public relations giant Burson-Marsteller. Its stated purpose was to sow doubt about scientific claims and forestall political efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions. The GCC gave millions of dollars in political contributions and in support of a public relations campaign warning that misguided efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions through restrictions on the burning of fossil fuels would undermine the promise of globalization and cause economic ruin. GCC efforts effectively put the climate change issue on hold.

Meanwhile, following an indigenous uprising in Chiapas in January, 1994, set for the first day of the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement, the anti-globalization movement erupted in world-wide protest against market capitalism and corporate depredation, including the despoiling of the environment. Within five years the movement had grown in cohesion, numbers, momentum and militancy and coalesced in designated “global days of action" around the world, particularly in direct actions at G8 summits and meetings of the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the new World Trade Organization, reaching its peak in the shutting down the WTO meetings in Seattle in November, 1999. The movement, which consisted of a wide range of diverse grass-roots organizations united in opposition to the global "corporate agenda,” shook the elite globalization campaign to its roots. It was in this charged context that the signatories of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which had been formulated by representatives from 155 nations at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, met at the end of 1997 in Kyoto and established the so-called Kyoto Protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through carbon targets and trading. The Kyoto treaty, belatedly ratified only in late 2004, was the sole international agreement on climate change and immediately became the bellwether of political debate about global warming.

Corporate opposition anticipated Kyoto. In the summer of 1997 the U.S. Senate passed a unanimous resolution demanding that any such treaty must include the participation and compliance of developing countries, particularly emerging economic powers like China, India, and Brazil, which were nevertheless excluded in the first round of the Kyoto Protocol. Corporate opponents of Kyoto in the GCC, with the swelling global justice movement as a back-drop, condemned the treaty as a “socialist" or "third-world” plot against the developed countries of the West.

The convergence of the global justice movement and Kyoto, however, prompted some of the elite to rethink and regroup, which created a split in corporate ranks regarding the issue of climate change. Defections from the GCC began in 1997 and within three years had come to include such major players as Dupont, BP, Shell, Ford, Daimler-Chrysler, and Texaco. Among the last GCC hold-outs were Exxon, Mobil, Chevron, and General Motors. (In 2000, the GCC finally went out of business but other like-minded corporate front organizations were created to carry on the "negative” campaign, which continues.)

Those who split off from the GCC quickly coalesced in new organizations. Among the first of these was the Pew Center for Global Climate Change. funded by the philanthropic offering of the Sun Oil/Sunoco fortune. The board of the new Center was chaired by Theodore Roosevelt IV, great grandson of the Progressive Era president (and conservation icon) and managing director of the Lehman Brothers investment banking firm. Joining him on the board were the managing director of the Castle-Harlan investment firm and the former CEO of Northeast Utilities, as well as veteran corporate lawyer Frank E. Loy, who had been the Clinton administration's chief negotiator on trade and climate change.

At its inception the Pew Center established the Business Environmental Leadership Council, chaired by Loy. Early council members included Sunoco, Dupont, Duke Energy, BP, Royal Dutch/Shell, Duke Energy, Ontario Power Generation, DTE (Detroit Edison), and Alcan. Marking their distance from the GCC, the Council declared “we accept the views of most scientists that enough is known about the science and environmental impacts of climate change for us to take actions to address the consequences;” “Businesses can and should take concrete steps now in the U.S. and abroad to assess opportunities for emission reductions. . . and invest in new, more efficient products, practices, and technologies." The Council emphasized that climate change should be dealt with through "market-based mechanisms” and by adopting “reasonable policies,” and expressed the belief “that companies taking early action on climate strategies and policy will gain sustained competitive advantage over their peers."

Early in 2000, “world business leaders" convening at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland declared that “climate change is the greatest threat facing the world.” That fall, many of the same players, including Dupont, BP, Shell, Suncor, Alcan, and Ontario Power Generation, as well as the French aluminum manufacturer Pechiney, joined forces with the U.S. advocacy group Environmental Defense to form the Partnership for Climate Action. Like-minded Environmental Defense directors included the Pew Center's Frank Loy and principals from the Carlyle Group, Berkshire Partners, and Morgan Stanley and the CEO of Carbon Investments. Echoing the Pew Center mission, and barely a year after the “battle of Seattle" had shut down the World Trade Organization in opposition to the corporate globalization regime, the new organization reaffirmed its belief in the beneficence of market capitalism. “The primary purpose of the Partnership is to champion market-based mechanisms as a means of achieving early and credible action on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that is efficient and cost-effective." Throughout its initial announcement this message was repeated like a mantra: “the benefits of market mechanisms," “market-oriented rules," “market-based programs can provide the means to simultaneously achieve both environmental protection and economic development goals,” "the power of market mechanisms to contribute to climate change solutions.” In the spring of 2002, the Partnership's first report proudly stated that “the companies of the PCA are in the vanguard of the new field of greenhouse gas management.” “The PCA is not only achieving real reductions in global warming emissions,” the report noted, "but also providing a body of practical experience, demonstrating how to reduce pollution while continuing to profit.”

This potential for profit-making from climate change gained the avid attention of investment bankers, some of whom were central participants in the PCA through their connections with the boards of the Pew Center and Environmental Defense. Goldman Sachs became the leader of the pack; with its ownership of power plants through Cogentrix and clients like BP and Shell, the Wall Street firm was most attuned to the opportunities. In 2004 the company began to explore the “market-making” possibilities and the following year established its Center for Environmental Markets, with the announcement that “Goldman Sachs will aggressively seek market-making and investment opportunities in environmental markets;" The firm indicated that the Center would engage in research to develop public policy options for establishing markets around climate change, including the design and promotion of regulatory solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The firm also indicated that Goldman Sachs would “take the lead in identifying investment opportunities in renewable energy;” that year the investment banking firm acquired Horizon Wind Energy, invested in photovoltaics with Sun Edison, arranged financing for Northeast Biofuels, and purchased a stake in logen Corporation, which pioneered the conversion of straw, corn stalks, and switchgrass into ethanol. The company also dedicated itself “to act as a market maker in emissions trading” of CO2 (and SO2) as well as in such areas as “weather derivatives,” "renewable energy credits," and other “climate-related commodities.” “We believe," Goldman Sachs proclaimed, “that the management of risks and opportunities arising from climate change and its regulation will be particularly significant and will garner increasing attention from capital market participants.”

Among those capital market participants was former U.S. Vice President AI Gore. Gore had a long-standing interest in environmental issues and had represented the U.S. in Kyoto. He also had equally long-standing family ties with the energy industry through his father's friendship with Armand Hammer and his financial interest in Hammer’s company Occidental Petroleum, which the son inherited. In 2004, as Goldman Sachs was gearing up its climate-change market-making initiatives in quest of green profits, Gore teamed up with Goldman Sachs executives David Blood, Peter Harris, and Mark Ferguson to establish the London-based environment investment firm Generation Investment Management (GIM), with Gore and Blood at its helm. In May, 2005 Gore, representing GIM, addressed the Institutional Investor Summit on Climate Risk and emphasized the need for investors to think in the long term and to integrate environmental issues into their equity analyses. "I believe that integrating the issues relating to climate change into your analysis of what stocks are worth investing in, how much, and for how long, is simply good business,” Gore explained to the assembled investors. Applauding a decision to move in this direction announced the day before by General Electric's CEO Jeff Immelt, Gore declared that “we are here at an extraordinarily hopeful moment. . .when the leaders in the business sector begin to make their moves.” By that time Gore was already at work on his book about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, and that same spring he began preparations to make a film about it.

The book and the film of the same name both appeared in 2006, with enormous promotion and immediate success in the corporate entertainment industry (the film eventually garnering an Academy Award). Both vehicles vastly extended the reach of the climate change market-makers, whose efforts they explicitly extolled. “More and more U.S. business executives are beginning to lead us in the right direction," Gore exulted, adding “there is also a big change underway in the investment community.” The book and film faithfully reflected and magnified the central messages of the corporate campaign. Like his colleagues at the Pew Center and the Partnership for Climate Action, Gore stressed the importance of using market mechanisms to meet the challenge of global warming. "One of the keys to solving the climate crisis," he wrote, “involves finding ways to use the powerful force of market capitalism as an ally.” Gore repeated his admonition to investors about the need for long-term investment strategies and for integrating environmental factors into business calculations, proudly pointing out how business leaders had begun “taking a broader view of how business can sustain their profitability over time.” The one corporate executive actually quoted in the book, in a two-page spread, was General Electric's CEO Jeffrey Immelt, who succinctly explained the timing and overriding purpose of the exercise: “This is a time period where environmental improvement is going to lead to profitability.”

By the beginning of 2007 the corporate campaign had significantly scaled up its activity, with the creation of several new organizations. The Pew Center and Partnership for Climate Action now created a political lobbying entity, the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP). USCAP membership included the key players in the initial effort, such as BP, Dupont, the Pew Center, and Environmental Defense, and added others, including GE, Alcoa, Caterpillar, Duke Energy, Pacific Gas and Electric, Florida Power and Light, and PNM, the New Mexico and Texas utilities holding company. PNM had recently joined with Microsoft's Bill Gates' Cascade Investments to form a new unregulated energy company focused on growth opportunities in Texas and the western U.S. PNM's CEO Jeff Sterba also chaired the Climate Change Task Force of the Edison Electric Institute. Also joining USCAP was the Natural Resources Defense Council, the World Resources Institute, and the investment banking firm Lehman Brothers whose managing director Theodore Roosevelt IV chaired the board of the Pew Center and was soon also to chair Lehman's new Global Center on Climate Change. As Newsweek now noted (March 12, 2007). “Wall Street is experiencing a climate change," with the recognition that “the way to get the green is to go green.”

In January, 2007, USCAP issued “A Call for Action," a “non-partisan effort driven by the top executives from member organizations.” The "Call” declared the "urgent need for a policy framework on climate change;" stressing that "a mandatory system is needed that sets clear, predictable, market-based requirements to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.” USCAP laved out a “blueprint for a mandatory economy-wide market-driven approach to climate protection,” which recommended a "cap and trade" program as its "cornerstone,” combining the setting of targets with a global carbon market for trading emission allowances and credits. Long condemned by developing countries as “carbon colonialism,” carbon trading had become the new orthodoxy. The blueprint also called for a "national program to accelerate technology, research, development, and deployment” and measures to encourage the participation of developing countries Iike China, India, and Brazil, insisting that “ultimately the solution must be global.” According to USCAP spokesperson General Electric's CEO Jeff Immelt, “these recommendations should catalyze legislative action that encourages innovation and fosters economic growth while enhancing energy security and balance of trade."

The following month yet another corporate climate organization made its appearance, this one specifically dedicated to spreading the new global warming gospel. Chaired by AI Gore of Generation Investment Management, the Alliance for Climate Protection included among its members the now familiar Theodore Roosevelt IV from Lehman Brothers and the Pew Center, former national security advisor Brent Scowcroft, Owen Kramer from Boston Provident, representatives from Environmental Defense, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the National Wildlife Federation, and three former Environmental Protection Agency Administrators. Using “innovative and far-reaching communication techniques,” Gore explained, “the Alliance for Climate Protection is undertaking an unprecedented mass persuasion exercise” – the multi-media campaign against global warming now saturating our senses. Don’t breathe.

If the corporate climate change campaign has fuelled a fevered popular preoccupation with global warming, it has also accomplished much more. Having arisen in the midst of the world-wide global justice movement, it has restored confidence in those very faiths and forces which that movement had worked so hard to expose and challenge: globe-straddling profit-maximizing corporations end their myriad agencies and agendas; the unquestioned authority of science and the corollary belief in deliverance through technology, and the beneficence of the self-regulating market with its panacea of prosperity through free trade, and its magical powers which transforms into commodities all that it touches, even life. All the glaring truths revealed by that movement about the injustices, injuries, and inequalities sowed and sustained by these powers and beliefs have now been buried, brushed aside in the apocalyptic rush to fight global warming. Explicitly likened to a war, this epic challenge requires single-minded attention and total commitment, without any such distractions. Now is not the time, nor is there any need, to question a deformed society or re-examine its underlying myths. The blame and the burden has been shifted back again to the individual, awash in primordial guilt, the familiar sinner facing punishment for his sins, his excesses, predisposed by his pious culture and primed now for discipline and sacrifice. On opening day of the 2007 baseball season, the owner of the Toronto Blue Jays stood in front of the giant jumbotron, an electronic extravaganza, encircled by a ring of dancing corporate logos and advertising, and exhorted every person in the crowd, preposterously, to go out and buy an energy-efficient light bulb. They applauded.

In his bestselling 2005 book the Weather Makers, Tim Flannery called his readers to battle in “our war on climate change." With a forward for the Canadian edition written by Mike Russill, former CEO of the energy giant Suncor and now head of World Wildlife Fund/Canada, the book well reflected the corporate campaign. Each of us "must believe that the fight is winnable in social and economic terms,” Russill insists, “and that we do not have to dramatically change the way we live," "The most important thing to realize," Flannery echoes, “is that we can all make a difference and help combat climate change at almost no cost to our lifestyle." “The transition to a carbon-free economy is eminently achievable,” he exults, "because we have all the technology we need to do so.” "One great potential pitfall on the road to climate stability," he warns, however, "is the propensity for groups to hitch their ideological wagon to the push for sustainability.” "When facing a grave emergency,” he advises, “it's best to be single-minded." The book is inspiring, rallying the reader to battle against this global threat with ingenuity, enthusiasm, and hopefulness, except for one small aside, buried in the text, that gnaws at the attentive reader: “because concern about climate change is so new, and the issue is so multi-disciplinary," Flannery notes, “there are few true experts in the field and even fewer who can articulate what the problem might mean to the general public and what we should do about it.”

The corporate campaign has done more than merely create market opportunities for mainstream popular science writers like Flannery. By constructing an exclusively Manichean contest between mean and mindless deniers, on the one hand, and enlightened global warming advocates, on the other, it has also disposed otherwise politically-astute journalists on the left to uncharacteristic credulity. Heat, George Monbiot's impassioned 2006 manifesto on the matter, is embarrassing in its funneled focus and its naive deference to the authority of science, "Curtailing climate change,” he declaims, “must become the project we put before all others. If we fail in this task, we fail in everything else." “We need a cut of the magnitude science demands,” he declares; we must adopt "the position determined by science rather than the position determined by politics," as if there was such a thing as science that was not also politics.

Monbiot pulls no punches against the “denial industry," excoriating the negative corporate campaigners for their "idiocy” and bitingly suggesting that some day soon “climate-change denial will look as stupid as Holocaust denial, or the insistence that AIDS can be cured with beetroot.” Yet he has not a word of acknowledgement much less criticism for the campaigners on the other side whose message he perhaps unwittingly peddles with such passion. And here too, oddly, a brief paragraph buried in the text, seemingly unconnected to the rest, disturbs the otherwise inspired reader. “None of this is to suggest," Monbiot notes in passing, "that the science should not be subject to constant skepticism and review, or that environmentalists should not be held to account. . . .Climate-change campaigners have no greater right to be wrong than anyone else." “If we mislead the public,” he allows, “we should expect to be exposed,” adding that “we also need to know that we are not wasting our time: there is no point in devoting your life to fighting a problem that does not exist." Here perhaps some remnants of truth seep between the managed lines, hinting yet at the opening of another space and another moment.
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
oh, so you decided to post that, huh? ...hehehe... :)

I love Rancourt ... his arguments are precisely in line with my thoughts and feelings on this subject.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
FYI this article was written by David Noble, a political science prof at York.
Here, for balance, is a quick Wiki snippet:
In 1983 David Noble founded the National Coalition for Universities in the Public Interest with Ralph Nader and Al Meyerhoff to try "to bring extra-academic pressure to bear upon university administrations who were selling out their colleagues and the public in the pursuit of corporate partnerships."

Noble's leftist politics and aggressive tactics have given him a rocky career. He was denied tenure at MIT, forced to leave his appointment at the Smithsonian Institution, and was blocked from giving the commencement address at Harvey Mudd College because the administration argued he was "anti-technology." At York University his actions are said to have been referred to as "anti-science" and "anti-intellectual" by the university president, Lorna Marsden,[citation needed] and his appointment to the J.S. Woodsworth Chair in the Humanities at Simon Fraser University was suspended following what Noble and others saw as irregularities in the hiring process
That being pointed out. I thought the diatribe was very well written. I would have liked some more examples of 80s and 90s marketing tactics he describes, but I have no reason to doubt him.

This article is really about is corporate strategy and there is a very critical tone to it. The ethical question becomes "Have corporations conspired to falsify the perceived danger of 'climate change' for the sake of profit?"
To me the answer to this one isn't clear from this article and in all honesty I don't believe the corporations or those interested in creating a 'climate change' market have done any wrong here.

It is in corporations self interests to find out about a problem, whether social, environmental or politcal, real or perceived and ask "how can this affect our sustainability" and "what is our responsibility?". It is good business -- and good for the market (some would say society) -- to find solutions that allows a corporation to fulfill it's responsibility AND increase sustainability. While our western world today is awash in 'climate change' propaganda from every soapbox, it's not wrong that corps. are trying to make a buck off it, change their business and stay in business.

It would be wrong however, if so many were promoting an agenda they knew was false. The best strategy for business and those with vested interest in the whole 'climate change' agenda is to stick to the propaganda, the published science and not listen to any other option. Sound familiar?
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
Genesius said:
FYI this article was written by David Noble, a political science prof at York.
I know, I was talking about Rancourt, the source of inspiration for Noble's article.
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
Also, I think if you re-read the article, you'll note that Noble is suggesting that we (individual consumers) remain victims. That the underlying mechanisms of Capitalism have responded to global warming by encouraging consumer markets out of both sides while remaining uninterested in the legitimacy of the politics or the science.

Here is an excerpt from the article that I think is relevant:

If the corporate climate change campaign has fuelled a fevered popular preoccupation with global warming, it has also accomplished much more. Having arisen in the midst of the world-wide global justice movement, it has restored confidence in those very faiths and forces which that movement had worked so hard to expose and challenge: globe-straddling profit-maximizing corporations end their myriad agencies and agendas; the unquestioned authority of science and the corollary belief in deliverance through technology, and the beneficence of the self-regulating market with its panacea of prosperity through free trade, and its magical powers which transforms into commodities all that it touches, even life. All the glaring truths revealed by that movement about the injustices, injuries, and inequalities sowed and sustained by these powers and beliefs have now been buried, brushed aside in the apocalyptic rush to fight global warming.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
~atp~ said:
Also, I think if you re-read the article, you'll note that Noble is suggesting that we (individual consumers) remain victims. That the underlying mechanisms of Capitalism have responded to global warming by encouraging consumer markets out of both sides while remaining uninterested in the legitimacy of the politics or the science.

Here is an excerpt from the article that I think is relevant:
The point wasn't missed by me and I agree that it's the most important. I just wanted to point out that we can't fault the corporations themselves. If anything the focus should be on education of the individual to be able to respond commercially. The media is the most at fault here IMO. Especially CBC and The Star. There is a good article in the SUN (yes the SUN) written by a climatology professor (FWIW, I'm not promoting the SUN at all, nor suggesting they are more balanced than the Star or CBC, carry on...) who says that we have to question political decisions based on 'Global Warming'. We should demand analysis to back up legislation that bans light bulbs, for example.

So, while I agree we are victims (being taken advantage of), it is not by the corps alone -- in fact they have no reason or responsibility to ensure that we are informed -- it is the media especially and individuals like Al Gore who know better and do have some responsibility to inform individuals who are "victimizing" us.
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
haha, well I think that we can lay blame all around, corporations included. Culpability can be placed on the media, the government, the individual, the corporation, the manager, the worker, the scientist. I think that the "disease" producing the symptoms of global warming relates to dysfunctional elements of our economies, governments and consumer lifestyle. Proposing a solution to symptoms does not address root causes, which are to be avoided at all costs, as those causes threaten power structures and are not profitable. Addressing difficult problems are shirked in favour of something more marketable and appealing to the consumer; something useful for a political campaign, an advertorial slogan or a sound byte on television.
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
Genesius said:
...in fact they have no reason or responsibility to ensure that we are informed...
According to which doctrine? I don't buy this argument, particularly in light of specific corporate responsibility, particularly laws like the nutritional labeling act that requires companies to label their food products.
 

praktik

TRIBE Member
Good article, thought provoking.

While I get his main point that corporations "going green" do nothing to dispell the "myths of capitalism" and in fact, enhance them (ie, "one market under God, the divine providence of the invisible hand will see us through this crisis") I DO think that at the end of the day, the answer to many of our environmental woes will have to be through capitalism, since - despite what I suspect to be the author's underlying wishes - this is the foundation upon which modern society is built.

Not every corporation "greening" itself is doing so out of PR, though the PR benefits are real for every company that does so.

Again, I point you to Ray Anderson (the earnest southerner in "The Corporation" who relays the concept of "the death of birth") and his company Interface Inc - a carpet manufacturer that has not only seen its profits increase through efficiency gains, but has become a model of what companies can do to become sustainable. Another good source to tap is "The Ecology of Commerce" (pointed to by Ray Anderson in the film) which details a model of what "Natural Capitalism" can look like and achieve.

Market answers have their flaws, but just because they come from "the market", does not ipso facto render them immoral, or cynical or destructive. We're not gonna change the centers of power overnight, and while in my heart of hearts I wish for a different world than the one we have now, I don't believe that the answer to the problems of corporate governance in today's world will be realized through revolution - it will happen "through the middle". I think the author's ideological bent against capitalism (not without reason!) has maybe resulted in a cynicism that prevents him from seeing how these kinds of solutions do have the potential to provide great benefits to our environment - not only with respect to global warming, but with regards to chemical pollutants, energy useage and other (less controversial) deleterious environmental effects of manufacturing and industry.

Endnote: I forget which Canadian politician pointed this out (could it have been Dion?) but at some point there were laws passed here mandating more environmentally responsible methods of forestry management for lumber companies. This necessitated the purchase of new equipment to comply with this law. The companies that sold this advanced equipment were from Sweden, and they profited handsomely from the purchase of this equipment for use here in Canada. Is that a bad thing? Are there not ways that environmental and responsibility and profits can go hand in hand? Had Canadian companies been ahead of the curve in developing such technologies we would have been able to capture the benefit that went to Sweden (though we are benefiting from the use of that equipment, if not profiting from the sale).
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
praktik said:
Good article, thought provoking.

While I get his main point that corporations "going green" do nothing to dispell the "myths of capitalism" and in fact, enhance them (ie, "one market under God, the divine providence of the invisible hand will see us through this crisis") I DO think that at the end of the day, the answer to many of our environmental woes will have to be through capitalism, since - despite what I suspect to be the author's underlying wishes - this is the foundation upon which modern society is built.
While I agree that capitalism might be the (necessary) vehicle to address our environmental concerns, Noble's argument is that neither side of the debate is safe from capitalist opportunism and further, that the opportunism has played a significant role in crafting the issue as we understand it. I don't think that this observation is inconsistent with recognizing the necessity of capitalism as a vehicle to achieve certain ends.

The problem is that the issue of global warming is being energetically (haha, get it?) sold to consumers without understanding the science or even coming to terms with what the most significant threats to human life really are. Agriculture, large-scale corporate chemical fertilization, resource extraction, urbanization, pollution, food production, third-world exploitation, deforestation, and so on are all extraordinarily valid and well-understood threats of a rather immediate nature to our existence on this planet. Instead, we choose to spend millions, no sorry, billions on policies that will address "global warming", while ignoring all the other factors I mention above, and more importantly, encourage the individual's belief that a consumer market is a solution.

praktik said:
Not every corporation "greening" itself is doing so out of PR, though the PR benefits are real for every company that does so.
Agreed.

praktik said:
Market answers have their flaws, but just because they come from "the market", does not ipso facto render them immoral, or cynical or destructive.
Absolutely, I think there are certain patterns of behaviour that are destructive, but applying a moral weight to an economic mechanism would be a creative exercise! :)

praktik said:
I think the author's ideological bent against capitalism ...
Really? It might be true that Noble is part of the anti-capitalist parade, but I didn't find that theme to be too forceful in the article.
 

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
nice to see this start some discussion...

you might do well to listen to this ~15 minute audio interview with Noble about the article and its ideas.

I think it better distills the main points - and points of conflict with the rest of the 'alarmist' Left, which has responded with no little hostility:

http://www.rabble.ca/rpn/files/rey/rey-2007-05-29.mp3

(note that it is not streamed.)
 

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
praktik said:
Is that a bad thing?
the bad thing is when solutions are filtered based on suitability to corporate power. that they can be shown to have some good effects often distracts from the fact that they do nothing about, and (by that fact) even bolster, extremely grave social crises which tied to and perpetuated by corporate power. But the fact that a business is profiting off them all too often enables those things which are usually ambiguous at best (without even taking into account their subordination to corporate power) as simply great or at least thankfully progressive

in the audio interview I posted, Noble is asked something like, 'well what would you have them focus on rather than global warming?' and he says simply: "revolution" - what they were focusing on. That is, ending the power structures that caused in the first place 'global warming' and many more already arrived crises that get no comparable attention though they might be more important

So, its pretty hard-core critical... should be taken in that context (which deletes issues of what the 'ethical' thing for those corporations to do would be)

One of Noble's point most here seem to have missed is the co-option and disarming of the global justice movements, by a) making 'global warming' the "most urgent crisis facing the plant" (or something like that, as that Sierra Legal news item posted recently by ~atp~ calls it (thanks for posting that propaganda ~atp~! ;)), making it so pressing as to induce hysteria which grasps at any available 'realistic' solution,* and then b) offering 'solutions' that are safe or even support political/economic power

Thus the climate politics gets seperated from critical-progressive struggle

*and obviously corporations getting behind something makes it 'realistic'
 

~atp~

TRIBE Member
deafplayer said:
One of Noble's point most here seem to have missed is the co-option and disarming of the global justice movements, by a) making 'global warming' the "most urgent crisis facing the plant" (or something like that, as that Sierra Legal news item posted recently by ~atp~ calls it (thanks for posting that propaganda ~atp~! ;)), making it so pressing as to induce hysteria which grasps at any available 'realistic' solution,* and then b) offering 'solutions' that are safe or even support political/economic power
Yep exactly.

~atp~ said:
...the issue of global warming is being ... sold to consumers without understanding the ... what the most significant threats to human life really are. Agriculture, large-scale corporate chemical fertilization, resource extraction, urbanization, pollution, food production, third-world exploitation, deforestation, and so on are all extraordinarily valid and well-understood threats of a rather immediate nature to our existence on this planet. Instead, we choose to spend millions, no sorry, billions on policies that will address "global warming", while ignoring all the other factors I mention above, and more importantly, encourage the individual's belief that a consumer market is a solution.
I should mention that the above threats are all (arguably) symptoms of a larger disease that "global justice movements" are trying to address but that are co-opted by corporate interests.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
~atp~ said:
haha, well I think that we can lay blame all around, corporations included. Culpability can be placed on the media, the government, the individual, the corporation, the manager, the worker, the scientist. I think that the "disease" producing the symptoms of global warming relates to dysfunctional elements of our economies, governments and consumer lifestyle. Proposing a solution to symptoms does not address root causes, which are to be avoided at all costs, as those causes threaten power structures and are not profitable. Addressing difficult problems are shirked in favour of something more marketable and appealing to the consumer; something useful for a political campaign, an advertorial slogan or a sound byte on television.
This is a very important point you make. The raison d'etre for modern society seems to becoming make more, get more. I'm pretty sure this is what you're suggesting the "root cause" is, though not using my extreme language. If the consumption of products; whether oil, food, clothing, electricity -- most things really -- is continually being promoted and propagated by business and supported by governments, there will be no real solution to our "climate change" (somebody please come up with a better catch-phrase. I really dislike this term) problems.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
~atp~ said:
According to which doctrine? I don't buy this argument, particularly in light of specific corporate responsibility, particularly laws like the nutritional labeling act that requires companies to label their food products.
Specifically, this doctrine is much in line with the teachings of Peter Drucker. The idea is that business exists to provide a service and does indeed have social and political responsibilities, but only in the interest of maintaining or improving this service, which in theory is demanded by the customer. Your example of the nutritional labelling act is one that supports my original point. It was the information provided by the scientific community and the media to the consumer that forced the government to enact legislation. While a business case could be made that it would have been benificial for a food corporation to have identified the issue earlier and supplied the market with something it didn't know it needed yet, there was no real responsibility there.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
deafplayer said:
hence the diagnosis of sociopath....
I disagree. A sociopath is one who has abnormal and anti-societal behaviours. The role of business is to provide a service, in order to do that and maintain sustainability it can not be anti-societal or abnormal. A business must follow the laws in place while providing the service demanded of it, that is their responsibility. You're trying to make it seem like these businesses are knowingly doing harm to society when that is not the case here.
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
News release of a report by the Lawrence National Centre for Policy and Managment released in Feb:

http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/February2007/09/c6595.html

Here is a link to the actual report: www.ivey.uwo.ca/lawrencecentre/energy/report.htm

Here's a summary of the four recommendations found in the report:
Lawrence Summary said:
1. Financial market incentives: governments should establish an investment framework to facilitate the development and commercialization of technologies that will transform Canada’s fossil fuel-based economy into a low carbon economy, and create new export, employment and economic growth opportunities... These could include tax credits for the early adoption of clean technologies, flow-through shares and refundable tax credits for capital investment in research related to low carbon solutions.

2. Education initiatives: programs should be developed to increase public awareness on climate change in order to stimulate demand for cleaner energy alternatives, engage consumer participation in GHG reductions and create a culture of conservation among Canadians... Public education initiatives should involve in-school studies on climate change and GHGs; forums for businesses to share and learn about best practices; programs to encourage the development of co-op job placements in the energy sector; and initiatives to encourage private investment by industry in marketing and educational campaigns. It should also include university and college training programs for jobs in the energy, agriculture and engineering fields as well as climate change sciences.

3. Concerted, long-term action: business, government and academia must together build an integrated, long-term approach to GHG reductions that leverages the full range of policy options and involves all key players... Alongside the integrated approach essential to the development of a clean electricity supply, simultaneous efforts are required to reduce overall energy demand and improve energy efficiency.

4. Ongoing public policy development: governments should continue building on GHG reduction initiatives to improve outcomes and leverage new technologies and approaches as they become available... This could include assessing the costs of climate change to Canadian businesses, governments and consumers, and measuring the impact and effectiveness of various types of tax shifting.
This is obvious high level effective business strategy for Canadian business. We can't fault business for this, we can have a say in where our tax dollars are sent though and who gets these tax breaks. Make no mistake about it, your looking at a large basis for a new North American economy. Whether or not it will be profitable or effective depends on two things, 1) The speed and effectivness of R&D'ing new technology. 2) Marketing said technology.

I personally am not in favour of tax incentives or any kind of major government incentive to promote and develop these new technologies privately. I think if the government wants to fund a large part of the technology, it should receive a large part of the licensing revenue. Keep in mind our market here is relatively small, it's not enough to just convince Canadians that we have a serious Global Warming problem.

Last, I just want to point out that I don't agree with the majority of Candians (some polls have me believe) that Global Warming is the #1 political issue to be addressed. I think EDUCATION REFORM should be #1 by a mile. I think the proper educational reform (not just regarding climate issues) will be best for Canada and her economy going forward, but that's another topic altogether.
 

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
the 'diagnosis of sociopath' remark was a reference to the popular and critically acclaimed documentary film The Corporation, which spends about three hours showing how corporations as they exist in real society and in law and etc exist to disregard societal interests to the point of sociopathy.

since its rise of western society this regime of exclusive self-interest and societal subordination to concentrated wealth has gotten us into the pollution crisis (regardless of global warming) in the first place, along with several others including intl. poverty, violence etc...

I think it basically has little to no credibility as a way to get us out

As for corporations not being at 'fault' because its their job not to care about society in their dealings, yeah thats the problem - just cus thats the way it is doesn't mean its not wrong. Why shouldn't people consider this wrong? It seems pretty insane to have the institutions which run society be dedicatedly anti-social...
 

Genesius

TRIBE Member
deafplayer said:
the 'diagnosis of sociopath' remark was a reference to the popular and critically acclaimed documentary film The Corporation, which spends about three hours showing how corporations as they exist in real society and in law and etc exist to disregard societal interests to the point of sociopathy.
There are balanced view points out there. I've watched some of the movie, but found the viewpoint extremely biased. While it's disturbing what some corporations do solely exist to increase profits etc at any cost, I think the onus should be on share-holders, governments and major investors to keep those business in check, NOT wholly or even majorly the 'corporations' themselves. I'm not saying that there isn't neglect and fraud and illegal manouevering. And I'm not excusing those actions at all. Understand this: The corporations have a responsibility to the law and the societies they operate in.

deafplayer said:
since its rise of western society this regime of exclusive self-interest and societal subordination to concentrated wealth has gotten us into the pollution crisis (regardless of global warming) in the first place, along with several others including intl. poverty, violence etc...
What do you mean, "exclusive self-interest and societal subordination"? Can you cite some examples how these qualities have "gotten us into the pollution crisis"? What do you see as an alternative? Who in these corporations should be held responsible?

deafplayer said:
As for corporations not being at 'fault' because its their job not to care about society in their dealings, yeah thats the problem
You're misrepresenting me. I never suggested it's their job to not care about society, in fact I said exactly the opposite.

deafplayer said:
... It seems pretty insane to have the institutions which run society be dedicatedly anti-social...
First of all, again I disagree that corporations are 'anti-social' or even 'pro-social'. Whatever environment they operate in, they have to look at sustainability and be responsible to their shareholders and government. Second of all, corporations do not and should not "run society". They are in the business of sustainability and not 'running society', that doesn't mean they wont try to affect societal changes, but it's the governments responsibility to ensure that societal interests are upheld.
 

SellyCat

TRIBE Member
Genesius said:
Understand this: The corporations have a responsibility to the law and the societies they operate in.
And it can be argued that their behaviour is merely a reflection of the standards--or lack thereof--that society and governments hold them to. There's a lot of hypocrisy in the anti-corporate movement. People still derive great enjoyment from the over-grown fruits of consumerism while lashing out against its sponsors. Like boycotts, for example: how do you choose to boycott one "imperialism sponsoring" corporation and not another?

Anyway...I agree that governments need to be far more active in subordinating corporate interests to social ones, because there's no reason why these entities would do it themselves without a mass change in the values of business people.
 

deafplayer

TRIBE Member
Genesius said:
I think the onus should be on share-holders, governments and major investors to keep those business in check
but all the entities you mention share the same class interests!

I'll respond to your other points later...
 
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