Category Archives: sustainability

Why Business Won’t Save Us From Climate Change

Climate change is now the ever-present reality of human experience. In recent times we have witnessed a procession of huge hurricanes batter the US and Caribbean, record-breaking monsoons flooding Asia, and in Australia, despite the death of up to half of the Great Barrier Reef in back-to-back coral bleaching events, political support for new mega-coal mines and coal-fired power stations. While there is now clear scientific agreement that the world is on track for global temperature increases of as much as 4 degrees Celsius by century’s end (threatening the very viability of human civilization), our political and economic masters continue to double down on the fossil fuel bet, transforming perhaps the greatest threat to life on this planet into ‘business as usual’.

Continue reading Why Business Won’t Save Us From Climate Change

Approaching the precipice? A review of Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Professor Carl Rhodes of the University of Technology Sydney recently published an excellent review of our book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: processes of Creative Self-Destruction in the journal Organization in July 2017. You can read the full review below.

The cover of Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg’s Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations features the artwork Insatiable by Theodore Bolha and Christopher Davis. The image is dirty, brooding and apocalyptic. At its centre is a naked man, bent over and screaming. An industrial landscape weighs heavy on his back as black smoke pumps into the murky sky. As if about to fall to his knees and crawl, he follows a small group of wild animals all heading to a precipice, seemingly unaware of their impending doom. The image is suggestive of humankind’s bleak destiny wrought at the hands of its own creation yet seemingly beyond its own control. It is an ominous and pessimistic portrayal of the effects of an insatiable industrial machine. Continue reading Approaching the precipice? A review of Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

How coastline communities are trying to build climate change ‘resilience’

Earlier this week I participated in a fascinating symposium organised by the Gold Coast Waterways Authority on ‘Resilience, Climate Change and Coastal Communities’. Queensland’s Gold Coast is one of the more vulnerable locations along Australia’s east coast, having experienced a long history of extreme weather events, coastal erosion and loss of life and property. Climate change is likely to take this vulnerability to a whole new level with storms and cyclones of increasing ferocity, flooding, extreme heat and escalating sea-level rise.

Continue reading How coastline communities are trying to build climate change ‘resilience’

What if? Trump’s environmental legacy in 2019

Shortly after the election of Donald J. Trump as 45th President of the United States in November last year, Jane Lê and I were asked by the University of Sydney Business School to imagine what the US would look like in 2019, two years into the new Presidency. So we cast caution to the wind and decided to record a ‘What If’ podcast imagining what Jan 2019 might look like in the US with respect to the environment, energy and climate change.

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Review of A Friend of the Earth

Originally published in 2000, A Friend of the Earth by T. C. Boyle is a gripping, humorous and emotional novel which charts the life of committed eco-activist Ty Tierwater and his battles to confront humanity’s destruction of nature. I first encountered an excerpt from this book several years ago when reading the anthology I’m With The Bears: Short Stories From a Damaged Planet. The chapter ‘The Siskiyou, July 1989’ was something of a revelation for me then, a powerful, slow-reveal vignette in which a man, his wife, young daughter and another set out under cover of night on an arduous and forlorn protest against the logging of the virgin Oregon forest. The horror builds as you realise not only of the protestors’ helplessness when confronted by the loggers and the local police, but also in the love of a father for his daughter as they endure the physical and psychological torment of their protest. Boyle captures both the comedy and torment of a father torn between the love of his daughter and his attempts to fight against humanity’s rampant ecocide. As I started to read A Friend of the Earth this last fortnight, I recalled this tale and realised that this was a novel that speaks directly to one of the key dilemmas of our time: how one makes sense of the destruction of the natural world. Continue reading Review of A Friend of the Earth

Capital & Class Review of Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Book Review: Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations. Processes of Creative Self-Destruction by Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg, Capital & Class, 40(2), pp.394-396, doi:10.1177/0309816816661148n

Marc Hudson, Sustainable Consumption Institute, University of Manchester.

In December 2015 world leaders gathered to proclaim climate change was a threat that they were (finally) going to do something about. After two weeks of speeches and haggling, the deal was done, the world saved. Never mind that the text was silent on fossil fuels, and that in the following week the UK government expanded fracking, the US rescinded a forty year old ban on oil exports and Australia gave new permits for coal mines. Those are minor pesky details; corporate capitalism has the best interests of everyone – rich, poor, black, white, the unborn generations to come, other species – at heart. Continue reading Capital & Class Review of Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Teaching sustainability in the business school: Challenging Business As Usual?

Sustainability has become an increasingly fashionable concept in management education as business schools seek to respond to growing social criticism of business activities. Unfortunately, much of what passes for sustainability teaching involves co-option of the concept of sustainability within existing neoliberal discourse. So, is teaching sustainability in a meaningful way possible in the business school, and if so what might it look like? Recently Daniel Nyberg and I wrote a chapter for a book on Reinventing Management Education that seeks to address this question (you can read a pre-publication version here). What follows is a summary of some of our arguments. Continue reading Teaching sustainability in the business school: Challenging Business As Usual?

Explaining Creative Self-Destruction and the Climate Crisis

Recently, Daniel Nyberg and I did an interview with Catherine Zengerer on radio station 2SER’s “On the Money” show about our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction.

The interview is a good outline of many of the core arguments in our book. As the summary accompanying the interview outlines:

With climate change an impending reality it seems the world has a problem with overconsumption. But according to two business professors we are failing to address the very cause of climate change – capitalism.

Neoliberal economists argue that climate change – a market problem, is addressed by a market solution. But according to Professor Christopher Wright and Professor Daniel Nyberg more consumption is not the solution in a society where the environmental model is often traded off for a business model. Can we have our cake and eat it too?

You can hear the full interview (about 10 minutes) here.

 

Creative Self-Destruction and the Climate

Leading public intellectual and Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University, Clive Hamilton very generously wrote the excellent Foreword to our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: processes of Creative Destruction.  Below is an adapted version of that Foreword recently published in The Conversation.

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In his 2006 landmark report on how we should respond to the climate crisis, Nicholas Stern characterised global warming as an ‘externality’, a damage to others due to market activity whose cost is not met by those who cause it. Continue reading Creative Self-Destruction and the Climate

New book on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Our new book Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction has just been published. Based on research that Daniel Nyberg and I have been conducting over the last 6 years, the book explores the complex relationship that the corporate world has with climate change and the central role corporations play in shaping political and social responses to the climate crisis.

In the book, we explore the different processes through which corporations engage with climate change. The principal message is that despite the need for dramatic economic and political change, corporate capitalism continues to rely on the maintenance of ‘business as usual’. As outlined in this short summary in The Conversation this involves the myth that ‘green’ capitalism is a viable response to the climate crisis. This response enables the incorporation of critique and the maintenance of corporate capitalism despite the dire environmental consequences. Continue reading New book on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations

Representing Climate Change?

Writing about climate change often requires some type of visual reference particularly given the way our eyes are drawn to the visual in social media settings and more generally in public debate. But how do you visually represent the human-induced climate disruption we are now living through? As Naomi Klein has demonstrated so powerfully, climate change ‘changes everything’! And yet despite its profound impacts, it is a phenomenon that is also diffuse across space and time.

This was an issue that I confronted late last year when Daniel Nyberg and I completed the manuscript for our forthcoming book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction. With the draft manuscript sent off to the publishers, we then agonised over the book cover design. An early offer from the publishers presented a somewhat anodyne image of suited business people on an  escalator (the sort of thing one sees everyday on management textbook covers) – probably relevant in that context but nothing really about climate change. Continue reading Representing Climate Change?

Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations out in September

Our new book Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction will be released in both paperback and hardback in late September. You can view the website for the book here.

Based on research that Daniel Nyberg and I have been conducting over the last 6 years, the book explores the complex relationship that the corporate world has with climate change and examines the central role of corporations in shaping political and social responses to the climate crisis. Continue reading Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations out in September

Road to Paris and Science Based Targets Initiatives

On May 1, the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the University of Sydney Business School  hosted an event in collaboration with the UN Global Compact, the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and WWF Australia on the Road to Paris and Science Based Targets Initiatives.

This forum launched the initiative ‘Science Based Targets‘ – which aims to encourage businesses to set new, ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets in the run up to the COP21 talks in Paris later this year. Formed as a response to the urgent call by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) to decarbonise the economy, the initiative adopts a scientific approach to climate action in line with the latest IPCC report, and highlights the central role that business must play in responding to the climate threat by reducing GHG emissions in line with the best climate science. Continue reading Road to Paris and Science Based Targets Initiatives

Climate change and the curse of creative self-destruction

Daniel Nyberg and Christopher Wright

Published in Mercury Magazine 2014, Summer/Autumn (Special Issue on Sustainability), Issue 7-8, pp. 042-049. Artwork by Bojan Jevtić.

As any student of economic history knows, the notion of destruction has been a grim constant in attempts to characterize the relationship between capitalist dynamism and ever-spiralling consumption. Marx and Engels warned of enforced destruction. Joseph Schumpeter championed a dauntless culture of creative destruction. And now we find ourselves in an era of what we might call creative self-destruction.

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Vanishing Nature: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid

The declining diversity of our biological systems has been an on-going feature of human history. As we have developed ever more ingenious and efficient technologies to harness and exploit the natural world, so our impact on nature’s bounty has been crushing. One of the most emblematic examples of this process for me was reading Mark Kurlansky’s marvellous history Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World. Once a bountiful species (so great in number that John Cabot famously proclaimed in the 1490s that men could walk across the backs of cod on the Grand Banks), Atlantic cod were by the 1990s decimated through the introduction of industrial fishing techniques. Indeed, recent human history is littered with similar examples of species decline and extinction as a result of our industry. Reading Elizabeth Kolbert’s recent book The Sixth Extinction, one of the most tragic is the story of the last great auk; powerful flightless birds that were hunted to extinction in the nineteenth century; the last breeding couple killed in an island off Iceland one June evening in 1844.

Continue reading Vanishing Nature: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid