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Half Full or Half Empty?

March 22, 2011 – An article entitled “Green growth: Time to grasp the green future,” published yesterday in The London DailyTelegraph, a British newspaper, has me wondering whether to laugh or cry. Its approach is upbeat, and its source of information – Lord Stern, author of The Stern Review – would strike most as impeccable. Skeptic that I am not (believe me, I’m very easily swindled), the article strikes even me as pretty naïve.
“For some of the biggest global companies, the debate about climate change is over.” Well, *&$^#@!, that only took 30 years!! “The world’s big insurers, retailers and miners are all taking seriously the threat that severe, man-made climate change will heat the atmosphere to catastrophic levels unless radical action is taken.” Notice who’s listed first? Big insurers. Munich Re, Germany’s largest insurance company, has been lobbying that government for decades, because of the endless payments they’ve had to make due to extreme weather. Amazing what being in the eye of the storm can do for a company’s perspective.
Lord Stern continues, “The big companies really do understand that the future has to be low carbon … at Davos … It was especially striking hearing what the big retailers like Tesco and Walmart are doing …”. While Walmart has indeed perfected talking the talk, and may even be matching that to a degree with walking the walk, I find it highly instructive that it was only during the last election cycle (2010) that they finally contributed more to the Democratic Party than to the Republican Party. Why would that be, if they’ve really “got religion?” Can it possibly be unclear to Walmart which party represents the interests of the people, and which party represents the interests of corporations? Hmmm – I think I just answered my own question.
The article’s author, Andrew Stone, goes on to regale us with one astonishing fact after another: “In many countries, businesses are actually ahead of their national governments in recognizing their need to act on the issue.” Geez Louise, what’s next?! Stone fails to mention that, enlightened though they may be, these same businesses have forgotten how to lobby their governments regarding this most-important-of-all-subjects. Quick, somebody show me a picture of a Walmart lobbyist deep in earnest conversation with a powerful congressional committee chairperson!! Anybody besides me catching a whiff of playing both sides against the middle? Where I come from, that’s known as opportunism.
As if all that weren’t enough, Stern contends that “China … is retooling the nation in a dramatic dash for green growth.” Once again, we are, in fact, discussing an entity whose goal for the present is being all things to all people. China’s growing presence in Southeast Asia, primarily for the purpose of using their ports to facilitate shipment of oil to China, is matched by the impending construction of a coal-shipping port in the state of Washington. The United States’ ratcheting up of coal-burning limitations on power plants has resulted in a search for new customers on the part of American coal mining operations.
Surely we can applaud China’s belated interest in minimizing pollution. The fact remains, they have laid waste to far too much of their country’s environment.

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