SPEAKING TRUTH TO OBSCENE WEALTH
February 01, 2020 by Extinction Rebellion
The World Economic Forum (WEF) is a nongovernmental organisation (NGO) that was founded in 1971. The WEF’s mission is cited as ‘committed to improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas’. It is a membership-based organization, and membership is made up of the world’s largest corporations. The WEF hosts an annual meeting at the end of January in Davos in the eastern Alps region of Switzerland.
The rising tide of climate chaos that we now see almost constantly (most recently, in Australia’s unprecedented bushfires, which have killed a billion animals) proves that the corporate model of running the world for profit has failed. I was part of a small delegation that attended Davos for the first time ever with this stark message for the rich and powerful: the best way that you can help the world at this desperate moment in human history is to get out of the way. You have failed completely (except at making yourselves filthy rich), and it is time to allow power to return to the people.
I call upon you, if you honestly care about facilitating a future for complex life on Earth, to stop being the ‘elite’. Extinction Rebellions third demand is to enrich, deepen and renew democracy, but right now you make that impossible. If you really want to help, then tell the truth: that we are in an escalating climate and ecological crisis and we must act with the sufficient urgency and scale required to deal with it. Then, step aside: join the groundswell seeking to empower Citizens’ Assemblies on climate to succeed where our ‘representative’ system of government has failed.
And, as a gesture of goodwill, end once and for all the ultra-high-consuming festival of mutual back-slapping that is your ‘World Economic Forum’.
I am going to call you what you really are. You are not the global elite… You are the polluter elite. The 99% will realise more and more deeply, as this crisis escalates, that you are blocking a route to survival
Davos is the problem. Our demands to revive democracy, so as to decide together exactly how to act radically now on the climate emergency, are the solution.
The twin themes of this year’s WEF were ‘sustainability’ (i.e. ending the death spiral of our living planet) and ‘cohesion’ (i.e. ending the insane levels of inequality that blight our societies). What you in the Davos elite don’t realise is this: the 99% have already been making the connections between these two things. They – we – know there is massive carbon inequality in this world, directly paralleling the massive financial inequality that is making any societal cohesiveness impossible. The 99% know that you hold greater responsibility for climate chaos: from your hyper-luxury lifestyles, and because you invest and profit from companies deforesting the Amazon and burning fossil fuels as if there’s no tomorrow (which, tragically, you make more likely with every passing year).
I am going to call you what you really are. You are not the global elite… You are the polluter elite. The 99% will realise more and more deeply, as this crisis escalates, that you are blocking a route to survival.
To say all this is not in the least to depend on an ideology of ‘socialism’ or ‘anti- capitalism’. The reason the 1% must change so much (more than the rest of us) has nothing to do with any ideology: it simply follows directly from the nature of the emergency. There just isn’t room in the atmosphere left for the pollution that issues from private jets. Just as, during the Second World War, food rationing was necessary: not because of any ideology, but because we saw clearly that we were all in this together.
I write therefore without rancour. I am simply naming the reality. Indeed, I say all this with sympathy and even love in my heart. It is going to be very very difficult for you, the billionaires who dominate our press and business world and who gather in Davos to pretend that you are the solution rather than the problem, to accept that it is not possible for you to both remain extremely wealthy and also pass a liveable shared ecosphere on to the next generation of humans.
But exactly that is the truth.