On September 23, 2019, a 16-year-old Swedish teen with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism, went before the UN General Assembly where many of the planet’s leaders were assembled and told them: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words.” Speaking with passion and emotion Thunberg accused them of ignoring the science behind the climate crisis. She scolded them, saying: “We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth — how dare you!”
Needless to say, it took little time for the unbelieving climate change deniers and fossil fuel advocates to respond. Michael Knowles of the Daily Wire appeared on Fox News’ The Story calling Greta a “mentally ill Swedish child,” causing a spokesperson for Fox to later tell the Washington Post, “The comment made by Michael Knowles who was a guest on The Story tonight was disgraceful — we apologize to Greta Thunberg and to our viewers.”
Knowles’s comment underlies the empty vacuous nature of the denier response to climate change. They attack the messenger rather than trying to refute the message. In a column published September 27, 2019 titled “Don’t listen to Greta Thunberg”, Richard Lowry, editor of the conservative National Review and an advocate for nationalism, suggested Greta Thunberg was just a naïve child being used by adults with their own agenda to use climate change as a means of overthrowing the current system. He tries to belittle and disrespect youth who are becoming more active and exhibit more concern than adults by claiming support from philosopher John Stuart Mill who he claims once said “kids have nothing interesting to say to us. They just repeat back what they’ve been told by adults, with less nuance and maturity.” He intends to convince us young people have no value or voice in expressing concerns about the world they will soon inherit.
Lowry then launches into throwing out a variety of statistical data that prove things are getting better but have no meaning or value in the argument before us. It is all an attempt at misdirection and distraction. He finishes by revealing his condescension and ignorance of the issue by responding to youth concerns about whether or not the climate issue will be addressed and given the attention it needs in time to still have a world they, their children, and their children can live and survive on. He says, “This is nuts, and it’s the adult enablers who are ultimately responsible. As for the kids, they’ll be all right. One day, they will grow up, even in a warming world.” That ‘warming world’ is precisely the problem Lowry and other deniers fail to understand and demonstrate they are incapable of comprehending.
Lowry’s piece was followed by Cal Thomas on September 28, 2019, with a piece titled “Knowing it all at only 16 years old” that attempted to delegitimize Thunberg by focusing on her age at 16 and condescendingly trying to label her a know-it-all. He continues by disparaging the United Nations as the only entity having less credibility than a teenager. He sneers at the climate change issue as being a “secular doctrine” obviously preferring to believe that Jesus will soon arrive with the heavenly cavalry to save the chosen elite and whisk them away from the earth they destroyed. Thomas notes the science textbooks used in schools “mostly embrace the climate change scenario, so why wouldn’t kids believe what they read and what they’re taught?” This exposes the basis of our problem by people like Thomas who have spent their careers attacking facts and attacking the science that contradicts their narrow view of reality.
Thomas concludes by pulling in all the examples of failed predictions made over the last 50 years without acknowledging the many others that have proven correct. He reveals his own denial and disbelief in a quote of a Washington Post article from 1971about the coming of a new ice age noting the paper, “which like most other media, now claims climate change and a warming planet is “settled science.” Thomas ends by suggesting Thunberg return to Sweden with a copy of the Competitive Enterprise Institute (a libertarian think tank) summary of failed predictions so she might “…discover that some older people might know more than she does about most things…” But it is precisely because adults have failed to demonstrate they know much that has caused youth to take an active role in this issue. It is Thomas and those of like minds who cannot bring themselves to accept the science because to do so will result in the crumbling of the fantasy world they continue to believe in and hold on to even as their ship lists heavily to starboard and begins to sink. The question is not whether the ship will sink, but when.
Wrapping it up was Alex Epstein founder and CEO of the Center for Industrial Progress, a for-profit think tank advocating the use of fossil fuels, who tweeted on October 7, 2019, “Every child in the wealthy world should be grateful to the previous generations that have gifted them with unprecedented capabilities to flourish on this dangerous and deficient planet….” He went on saying he was sorry for Thunberg’s unhappiness and false beliefs and ended by tweeting “…I must still condemn Greta’s ignorant efforts to outlaw fossil fuels, because if her efforts succeeded it will make billions of people’s lives truly wretched.” To add emphasis, he finished with “The disempowered people of Venezuela are a preview of life under global @gretathunberg policies.
No doubt Alex’s true concern is that if we get serious about global warming, he won’t have money to continue his propaganda show promoting fossil fuels and climate change denial disguised as a thinktank. The reference to Venezuela exposes his real concern by trying to spread false fear using an irrelevant reference.
On September 23, 2019, Chris Hedges published in Truthdig “Saving the Planet Means Overthrowing the Ruling Elites”. In it, Hedges says the recent world-wide climate strike will have no more impact than the many other mass mobilizations in recent years in the U.S. to protest the Iraq War or the women’s march following the election of Donald Trump. Why? Because in the corridors of power we don’t count for much. He points out if we lived in a democracy our aspirations, rights, and demands, especially the climate change emergency, would have an impact because we would be able to vote into power those who would carry out the change. We would be able to demand environmental justice from our courts. We would be able to change the distribution of resources to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions.
The reality is we no longer have those abilities where elections have been tilted to eliminate minorities and gerrymander electoral districts to give more power to a particular segment of the electorate so 30% can hold power and control government at the expense of the rest of us. Hedges observes since the ruling elites and the corporations they serve are the principal obstacles to change and that they cannot be reformed, they must be changed.
That doesn’t sound like an easy task, in fact, it seems highly improbable at this moment. Not only that but there is another aspect of equal or greater importance that must occur. Our current economic paradigm must also change. We can no longer ignore reality by assuming man is rational and allowing activities that externalize social, environmental, and other costs we find inconvenient to our acquiring benefits from our economic activities while we plunder and destroy our planet. While that may seem an insurmountable mountain to climb, I am reminded of a quote from Wayne Dyer, psychologist, and author of many works, who astutely noted, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” The thought summarizes perfectly what must happen and will once most of us realize the truth of the predicament we face.
There is a growing awareness of climate change and global warming are real and the strange weather many of us are experiencing is not an anomaly but the new normal. At the same time, we are aware of the inequalities in pay and distribution of wealth as that reality is constantly rubbed in our faces watching TV, movies, and the evening news. Making matters worse, the awareness our elected officials pay no attention to us who elect them, ignoring our cries for help and relief, while doling out huge tax benefits in the millions and billions of dollars to corporations and the uber-rich who delight in lecturing the rest of us about our deficiencies.
Hearing rumblings from below and fearing what it might mean the Business Roundtable recently adopted a revised statement of purpose saying “Americans deserve an economy that allows each person to succeed through hard work and creativity and to lead a life of meaning and dignity. We believe the free-market system is the best means of generating good jobs, a strong and sustainable economy, innovation, a healthy environment and economic opportunity for all.” Nearly 200 corporate executives signed this meaningless and empty statement that “pledges” the corporate community will do better, be more socially and environmentally conscious, and a better citizen worthy of our praise and respect.
What is ignored is that those companies signing the statement are the very ones who are most responsible for the gross inequality of incomes we have, the undermining of our democracy, and the destruction of the planet through their business activities and utter disregard for the planet.
What they want us to forget is that almost 50 years ago Lewis Powell, a corporate lawyer at the time, but soon to be appointed by President Nixon to the U.S. Supreme Court wrote a memo now famously known as the Powell Memo or Powell Manifesto in which he outlined a plan for a corporate attack on our institutions and government to prevent more progressive elements they viewed as detrimental to business and corporations from gaining control of society.
In the 50 years since its inception, they overachieved and were not only successful in their quest but also gained control over vast elements of American society and government to be able to dictate their desires regardless of what party label holds a majority. They basically infiltrated government at all levels, media, academia, religious institutions, created thinktanks and left no area unattended. The results are all around us displayed in the wealth inequalities, the demise of our democracy, and denial of climate change and global warming.
The election of Donald Trump resulted inadvertently or otherwise in the exposure of the plutocracy and oligarchs as they assumed important positions in government and set about plundering the country’s wealth with impunity. With the blinders gone they are no longer hiding their obscene wealth and corruption but instead, flaunting it.
The new statement of purpose signed by more than 180 CEOs of the Business Roundtable is a smokescreen, nothing more. It is intended to appease and distract us from focusing our anger and attention on where it needs to be directed. This group represents an important part of the elites and principal purveyors of the economic paradigm that must be changed if we are to save the planet, our democracy, and what remains of the values we claim are dear. Time is of the essence.