Bill McKibben wrote a piece last week in which he looks past the Koch brothers, who are finally getting the scrutiny they deserve, to the number one enemy of climate action: the US Chamber of Commerce. According to McKibben, the US C. of C. “spent more money lobbying in 2009 than the next five biggest players combined; they spent more money on politics than either the Republican or Democratic National Committees.”
And while they claim to represent 3 million businesses, the majority of their funding comes from just 16 companies. Given the fact that the Chamber has been expending so much effort attempting to thwart any attempt to control carbon emissions, it’s not hard to guess who has been filling the Chamber’s pot.
It was the Chamber of Commerce that backed a lawsuit trying to put the EPA on the defensive in a public trial over the validity of climate science. Ironically, the Chamber’s VP of Environment, Technology and Regulatory Affairs compared the trial to the Scopes monkey trial, which questioned the validity of Darwin’s theory, suggesting that, according to the Chamber, climate science is no more valid than evolution is.
One brief they filed on the issue claimed that global warming was not a problem because “populations can acclimatize to warmer climates via a range of behavioral, physiological, and technological adaptations.” PG&E withdrew from the Chamber as the result of this debacle. McKibben’s 350.org is hoping that other business will follow suit by signing onto their campaign called, “The U.S. Chamber Doesn’t Speak for Me.”
Naomi Klein recently appeared on Democracy Now to talk about climate change among other things. She has a new book in the works on the topic. She raised the question of why the right sees global warming as such a profound threat to their agenda. She explains that curbing global warming means upending free trade, switching instead to more localized, lower carbon, economies. This is bad for centralized corporate control. Next she covered the dreadful inequality that the developed world has foisted upon its poorer neighbors down south. That would inevitably lead to corporate regulation and redistribution of wealth. And finally, there would need for a strong United Nations to organize the international cooperation that would be required to avert catastrophe.
The symptoms of stark economic disparity and extreme environmental disruption reveal the flaws in the defunct premise of a fundamentally extractive global economy upon which the Chamber and its allies firmly but temporarily rest. The Chamber will ultimately fail in its attempt to shoot the messengers, because the messengers are not the McKibbens and the Kleins of the world, but rather they are the melting icebergs, the dying polar bears, the expanding deserts and the multiplying storms. Other messengers in the form of water scarcity, soil depletion and food shortages wait their turn behind them, too many for even the Chamber’s many bullets. We will change or we will perish. The delays being purchased by the Chamber and their kin will only serve to tilt the odds towards the latter.
Wes Jackson in his insightful and compelling book, Consulting the Genius of the Place, suggests that we consider replacing the Chamber of Commerce with a Chamber of Resilience, recognizing that it will be resilience, not growth that will save us, if we are to be saved. And that is a whole other ball game. To become resilient is to join sides with Nature, and to see just how independent of the extractive economy we can become. We would need to step away, as some enlightened companies are starting to do, from the impulse to move as much product as possible out of the earth, passing momentarily through our hands, before heading to the landfill, and focusing instead, on what is truly needed.
RP Siegel is the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails. Like airplanes, we all leave behind a vapor trail. And though we can easily see others’, we rarely see our own.
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