Archive for » May, 2014 «

Rescuing the planet

The extremely wealthy must somehow be made happier.

Climate change projections indicate that we are already running more than a five per cent risk that the global environment will soon fail to support human life and maybe all life. That is my reading of the odds that optimists offer. Pessimists appear to have given up hope.

A 5% risk of failure may not appear big deal, especially if we are trained gamblers. The stock market ‘entrepreneur’ will gladly accept such odds – and make a killing too – even if he were not among those who can manipulate it. Such low risk is indeed of no consequence when in the worst case one loses a fraction of one’s monetary bet: spare cash, usually. But betting on the chances of the survival of the species, or all of life on earth, is quite another thing.

My understanding is that 99.999% of us have no power to counter the decisions of less than .001% of the world’s people. The views of some 500 or so may determine whether the people of the Central African Republic will continue to live in strife, Sri Lankans get on with each other or fight, a ferocious war erupt in Europe over Ukraine or carbon emissions continue blindly, risking galloping species extinction. The consequences of the latter may appear unthinkable to some but only a matter of debate for others.

The signs are that the so-called elites or top 500 have made up their minds that the risks of carbon emissions are worth taking, for the sake of greater profit. In that event, the rest of humanity – mere spectators – must hope the wealthy have got the math right. For the new global system does not allow room for the 500 to be countermanded. As I see it, there is only one avenue of hope left – and that too rather slim.

We must work out ways to make the 500 happier. Their actions now speak of a miserable outlook on life. Pity rather than envy them and try to reinstate in them the suppressed humanity.  There is an obstacle here: they inhabit another universe.

I haven’t a clue as to what even 50 of them look like – nay, 25. What I have seen confirms the need to reach out in compassion. Only three aren’t hopelessly cheerless in visage: Gates, Slim and Branson – and two of these three don’t look particularly cheerful either. The third may have been spared because he is not quite in the 500. The rest look positively glum. If this is how they look in photos – picked and further shopped for flattering depiction – what must the real things be like? Were they happier people, we’d have a better world. If the rest of us, billions, cannot work out the means to make this lot more cheerful, we are lost.

There remains the small matter of how to get at people who live in a different world. Such an obstacle should not deter us from trying. The consequences of failing are too great to bear thinking about.