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March for... um... a plan

25 Sep 2019 | OP ED Watch

Mike Gerbis, CEO of “GLOBE Series”, which describes itself as “in the business of transformation” (oh, that’s original) as “part of a constellation of organizations that includes The Delphi Group, EXCEL Partnership and Leading Change” that “work together toward a common purpose: to achieve a sustainable, prosperous and socially just future in a generation”, tells his staff to join the climate strike marches on Sept. 20 or 27, and urges other CEOs to do the same, because blah blah blah.

Hold on, some may say. That “blah blah blah” is too dismissive. He is trying to save the planet. Hip hip hooray. The problem is, his rhetoric is so trite it put our fingers to sleep just typing it. Starting with “The reasons are everywhere, from increasingly frequent mega-storms of unprecedented ferocity to heat waves, melting polar ice caps, droughts, famine, crop failure, the rise of respiratory disease as air pollution worsens, and the spread of diseases to new areas as the planet warms up.”

This passage is at one dull and fantastical, because none of these things are happening. But Gerbis doesn’t stoop to offer evidence for his boilerplate alarmism as record crops keep being recorded, storms don’t get worse, the Greenland ice cap and Antarctica fail to melt, droughts end, famines don’t happen, air pollution keeps falling and we don’t have Ebola. Apparently facts are now beneath the crusaders.

Instead Gerbis drones on with praise for Greta Thunberg, “the 16-year-old Swedish woman who has already made a big impression at events like the UN Climate Conference and the World Economic Forum”. (And can see carbon dioxide with her eyes, though he didn’t mention that superpower.) And how about the stunning originality of “it all has an enormous cost, which is only going to increase as we delay significant action — higher health care costs, higher insurance premiums, more tax dollars spent on repairing damaged infrastructure, lower crop yields, rising food prices, declining standards of living, rising sea levels, loss of wildlife habitat”? Or “climate change is not a partisan issue. It is not an east-west or north-south issue. It is not even about politics. Climate change impacts all of us… It threatens our businesses, our health, our children’s future, the natural environment we love and enjoy… everything all of us as a nation hold dear and treasure”?

Maybe it’s good branding. The Mountain Equipment Coop is also giving its staff the day off on Sept. 27 and it’s a good bet that most of its customers will approve and it will strengthen their brand loyalty. But even an ad is meant to be catchy. This stuff is deeply forgettable.

One small original item: He says “We have less than 11 years to avoid the very worst of what climate change can bring”. So not the standard 12. His watch is actually running. And to his credit “If you think I’m being alarmist, you are quite right. This is the time to be alarmist.” But when do we get to hear any evidence that isn’t bunkum? And if you’re right, what are we to dooooooo?

A brilliant idea. That’s what we need. A brilliant idea: “we need to change now, and we need you to work with business and civil society to develop — and implement — a bold plan of action.” And here’s a deep thought: “mass peaceful civil action, emulating campaigns like the civil rights crusade in the U.S., will force our leaders to focus on what’s at stake and come together to find fair and feasible solutions.”

Again it’s a simulacrum of thought not the real item. The mass peaceful action for civil rights in the United States wasn’t to force “leaders to focus on what’s at stake and come together to find fair and feasible solutions.” And if Martin Luther King Jr. had talked like that we wouldn’t remember his name.

The mass civil rights movement came after people realized the solution was to stop treating other human beings horribly because of their race, and it pushed leaders to pass laws against doing anything of the sort. Those marchers had the solution. These ones have boiling hot pablum. We demand “fair and feasible solutions” and we demand them now. We just don’t know what they are. Even though we are the adult leaders the kids are demanding should act.

Still, you get a day off and feel good about yourself. And the world doesn’t end.

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