By David Edwards
10 January, 2004
and Independent newspapers recently reported that over the next 50 years,
global warming could drive a quarter of land animals and plants into
extinction. According to a four-year research project by scientists
from eight countries, published today in the prestigious journal Nature,
1 million species will have disappeared by 2050. The findings have been
described as "terrifying" by the report's lead author, Chris
Thomas, professor of conservation biology at Leeds University.
said: "When scientists set about research they hope to come up
with definite results, but what we found we wish we had not. It was
far, far worse than we thought, and what we have discovered may even
be an underestimate." (Quoted, Paul Brown, 'An unnatural disaster,'
The Guardian, January 8, 2004: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1118244,00.html)
The predicted disaster
is based on a mid-range forecast of possible outcomes. The worst case
suggests as many as 58% of species could become extinct - the best case
suggests 9%, still catastrophically high.
The Guardian and
Independent both devote editorials to the report. The Guardian writes
of "a fresh wake-up call about the dangers of global warming".
As a possible response, the editors cite Chris Thomas, who suggests
"an immediate and progressive" switch to technologies that
produce little or no greenhouse gases, combined with active removal
of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. ('The death of species', Leader,
The Guardian, January 8, 2004)
response to the problem", the Guardian continues, "is to blame
governments. They certainly carry a great deal of the responsibility..."
America is then criticised for abandoning the Kyoto protocol to limit
greenhouse gasses. Britain is praised for being "more or less on
target" with regards to Kyoto, with its performance assisted "fortuitously
by the unrelated decline of its polluting coal-mining industry".
No mention is made of the fact that Kyoto is itself a trivial response
to climate change.
Finally, the Guardian's
editors note: "Although governments undoubtedly have a leading
role to play, there are plenty of things that individuals can do that
could make a dramatic difference... having a shower rather than a bath,
putting a 'hog' in the lavatory cistern, recycling household rubbish,
disposing of household chemicals carefully, encouraging wildlife in
the garden and composting vegetable cuttings".
individuals aside, there is of course one other group that might be
deemed worthy of mention - transnational corporations. In 1991, in his
book US Petroleum Strategies In The Decade of the Environment, Bob Williams,
a consultant to the oil and gas industry, described the industry's number
"To put the
environmental lobby out of business... There is no greater imperative...
If the petroleum industry is to survive, it must render the environmental
lobby superfluous, an anachronism." (Quoted, Andrew Rowell, Green
Backlash - Global Subversion of the Environment Movement, Routledge,
Ron Arnold, also
an industry consultant, told a meeting of the Ontario Forest Industries
"You must turn
the public against environmentalists or you will lose your environmental
battle." (Quoted Sharon Beder, Global Spin - The Corporate Assault
on Environmentalism, Green Books, 1997, p.22)
The response was
businessmen like Richard Mellon Scaife and Joseph Coors, and conservative
treasuries like the Mobil and Olin foundations, poured money into ad
campaigns, lawsuits, elections, and books and articles protesting 'big
government' and 'strangulation by regulation', blaming environmentalists
for all the nation's ills from the energy crisis to the sexual revolution."
(Kirkpatrick Sale, The Green Revolution, Hill and Wang, 1993, p.49)
a senior executive at transnational PR firm Hill and Knowlton, predicted
"I think the
companies will have to give in only at insignificant levels. Because
the companies are too strong, they're the establishment. The environmentalists
are going to have to be like the mob in the square in Romania before
they prevail." (Beder, op., cit, p.22)
With much of life
on earth threatened by mass death, not one word of this appears in today's
Guardian or Independent, where climate change continues to be presented
as a kind of wildlife issue somehow existing outside the realities of
corporate greed, propaganda and control.
It is fine for our
corporate media to rage against the destruction of our world, but it
is not in the business of doing anything about it - literally the reverse
is true. After all, the same edition of the Guardian that features today's
"terrifying" report, carries large, lucrative adverts for
Lexus cars, Toyota cars, Audi cars, BMW cars, American Airlines, Dixons
computer equipment, Office World, HSBC, Magnet, and so on - adverts
promoting endlessly rising mass consumption on which all broadsheets
depend for 75% of their revenue. Doing something means taking on exactly
these corporate interests, exactly these materialist versions of life,
liberty and happiness. Doing something, in fact, means taking on corporate
interests like the Guardian newspaper.
editors are equally happy to describe the appalling fate in store for
us without feeling the need to tell the truth about the cynical causes
and obstructed solutions. The editors warn of the coming mass death:
"it is not an asteroid that will have caused this, of course: it
is us. The Sixth Great Extinction will be an entirely human achievement."
('The sixth great extinction is avoidable - if we act now', Leader,
The Independent, January 8, 2004)
It is "us",
although most of us - the public - are excluded from meaningful politics,
debate and action by corporate interests. We are excluded by the corporate
media - media like the Independent - which naturally have nothing to
say about the exclusion or their role in making it possible.
"There is still
time to take action against climate change, and some world leaders,
notably Tony Blair, are committed to doing so"; but the continuing
reluctance of George Bush to take the threat seriously invites disaster.
Again, not a word
about the organisations destroying our world by obstructing action on
climate change. The US National Association of Manufacturers, for example,
representing much of US industry, was candid enough in its letter to
George W. Bush in May 2001:
"Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of 14,000
member companies of the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM)
- and the 18 million people who make things in America - thank you for
your opposition to the Kyoto Protocol on the grounds that it exempts
80 percent of the world and will cause serious harm to the United States."
(Michael E. Baroody, NAM Executive Vice President, Letter to the President
Concerning the Kyoto Protocol, May 16, 2001,
That other great
voice of US business, the US Chamber of Commerce, declared in a letter
to the US president:
is an important issue that must be addressed - but the Kyoto Protocol
is a flawed treaty that is not in the U.S. interest." (www.uschamber.org
July 19, 2001)
The US Chamber's
website notes that it is the world's largest business federation representing
more than "three million businesses and organisations of every
size, sector and region".
In our view, the
corporate media's long-term, stubborn refusal to address the real issues
behind global warming - the corporations fighting with unrelenting ferocity
to destroy not just the Kyoto protocol but the environment movement
itself - represents the ultimate betrayal of us, our future, and our
willing to participate in this betrayal are complicit in unimaginable
crimes against humanity. They must be held to account for their actions.
We must demand honesty, action, an end to corporate obfuscation - if
there is to be a future