I confess that, until just a couple of years ago, when I heard “the Alps” (no matter if they were Swiss, French, German or Italian), I immediately thought of clean air, mountain goats, and Evian.
All clean, progressive, evolved.
But from the moment I first heard the World Economic Forum (WEF) presentations in Davos, and saw their white and disturbingly male audience, I knew that the scenario was part of the paradox in the matter.
And nothing is more frustrating than watching young people like Greta Thunberg hit that wall of sad reality.
“Our house is on fire,” said the Swedish student activist, who set the tone for global climate change activism at last year’s conference. “At Davos, people like to talk about success, but financial success has come with a price tag, and on the climate we have failed. And unless we recognize the failures of our system, there will be unspoken suffering.”
A year later, and as Thunberg herself said, “Our house is still on fire.”
I hate to be the group’s killjoy, but seeing the audience at the WEF patronize a teenager who has more sense of belonging in the world than all of them put together is frustrating, to say the least.
As Stephen Rodrick described the event, the Forum could have been “nestled in the Alps,“ but “the first thing you smell is not the crisp cool mountain air but the noxious fumes of an endless stream of belching black Mercedes driving the plutocrats to their appointed places to discuss inequality amid a badge-access-system that is about as egalitarian as the ancient Indian caste system.”
Rodrick wrote for Rolling Stone how Thunberg had to redirect such ridiculous questions as “How do you deal with all the haters?” to the risk of global temperature reaching a point where catastrophic changes are irreversible.
“These numbers aren’t anyone’s opinions or political views,” said Thunberg exasperated. “This is the current best-available science.”
She told the media: “I know you don’t want to report about this. I know you don’t want to talk about this, but I assure you I will continue to repeat these numbers until you do.”
However, if we go down in history, the WEF was founded fifty years ago to bring together the world’s largest corporations in a membership-based NGO. Today, it has around 1,000 member companies whose annual revenues exceed five billion dollars.
Many of these companies, as you might expect, depend on their direct or indirect links to environmentally unfriendly productions, such as Bank of America, BlackRock, Citi, Goldman Sachs, HSBC, Sberbank. Barclays, Bridgewater Associates, JPMorgan Chase, Lazard, Paypal, Brazil’s Banco Bradesco, and Russia’s VTB, according to QZ.com
Similarly, the U.S. president, who has shown his skepticism and denial about climate change, warned members of the event about environmental activists, whom he called “perennial prophets of doom.”
“They predicted an overpopulation crisis in the 1960s, mass starvation in the Seventies, and an end of oil in the 1990s,” he added. “These alarmists always demand the same thing: absolute power to dominate, transform, and control every aspect of our lives. We will never let radical socialists destroy our economy, wreck our country, or eradicate our liberty.”
But according to an Oxfam study cited by the Washington Post, the world’s billionaires, including those members of the Forum, “control more wealth than 4.6 billion people or 60 percent of humanity,” so, in that case, the U.S. president’s fear — which is surely shared by much of his audience — is precisely that of losing their exclusive power.