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
The following is a Call for Papers for a Special Issue of the academic journal Organization. Full paper submission deadline is 28th February 2017.
‘Human activities have become so pervasive and profound that they rival the great forces of Nature’ (Steffen, et al., 2007)
Through the rapacious consumption of fossil fuels, industrial activities and the destruction of forests, oceans and natural resources, humans have fundamentally changed basic Earth systems. This has occurred at such a scale and pace that Earth System scientists argue we are leaving the Holocene geological epoch and entering the more volatile ‘Anthropocene’. This is a period in which human activity has discernibly affected the Earth’s global functioning to such an extent it is now operating outside the range of any previous natural variability (Crutzen, 2002; Hamilton, 2015; Steffen, et al., 2007). These changes reduce the ‘safe operating space for humanity’ (Rockström, et al., 2009), and include: a likely step-change in the average temperature of the planet this century of around 4 degrees Celsius (New, et al., 2011); the sixth great species extinction in the geological record (Kolbert, 2014); the acidification of our oceans; the disruption of the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles; and the pollution of air and water with a range of chemical toxins (Whiteman, et al., 2013). Extreme weather events, sea-level rise, food and water shortages, and accompanying political conflicts and wars suggest that life this century for much of the planet’s population will be ugly, violent and precarious (Dyer, 2010). The implications for organizations and organizing could not be more profound. Continue reading Call for Papers: ‘Organizing and the Anthropocene’
As many Australian readers will know, ‘energy security’ has become the latest buzzword in government and industry circles. Much of this new focus has been driven by the political fallout following October’s catastrophic storms in South Australia and a state-wide power blackout. In the political recrimination that followed, the Federal Government and some media outlets argued that state government policies favouring renewable energy were (in part) to blame. Both the Prime Minister and the Federal Energy Minister quickly labelled energy security their ‘number one priority’ and established an energy security review to be chaired by the nations’ Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel. Interestingly however, the meaning of the term ‘energy security’ is itself open to multiple interpretations. To a large extent this ‘framing’ of ‘energy security’ reflects a number of developments that are playing out globally in the areas of energy and environmental policy. Continue reading Energy Security: The New Black!
Following a vote by the European Parliament, the Paris climate agreement negotiated late last year has now become legal reality far faster than even the negotiators of the agreement expected. This is good news in an area of science and politics that tends to deliver increasingly grim pronouncements.
A very useful synthesis of what this means for climate politics and the physical reality of climate change is provided in this report by Chris Mooney in the Washington Post. However, as he points out, while climate policy wonks are slapping backs and popping champagne, the implications for climate outcomes this century are not so marvellous. Continue reading Paris and Magical Thinking
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
Last Friday evening I was asked to speak at the international launch of Canadian ecosocialist Ian Angus’ new book Facing the Anthropocene: Fossil Capitalism and the Crisis of the Earth System. The transcript of my address is reproduced below (spoiler – I really liked this book!): Continue reading Launch of Facing the Anthropocene
In researching the climate crisis and our civilization’s inability to respond in any coherent, rational form, I’ve been struck by the way literature (both fiction and non-fiction) often provides insight into our demise.
One side activity here has been to collect quotations from literature, film and elsewhere that resonate for me on these issues. In no particular order I’ve listed some of my favourites below (a few of these featured in our book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction). Look forward to receiving suggestions for others to include! Continue reading The climate crisis in quotations
Excellent review of our book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporation by Anna Barber.
It is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.*
Internet shopping; social media; consumerism; celebrity TV shows; fast food; cheap air travel…they have all been a part of our lives for so long that it’s increasingly difficult to remember a time when this wasn’t our landscape. Perhaps that’s partly why it seems to be so impossible to ingest the realities of climate change, and what it means for our society – our hyper-materialism has thrived for decades, and scaling back now seems incomprehensible. Things will change – they are changing already – and experts are telling us in unison that we cannot keep consuming natural resources at the same rate. Still, though, action remains elusive.
Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations is a brilliantly accessible analysis of the realities of the Anthropocene, and the barriers corporations erect to prevent us from…
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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?
Our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction has been a feature of a number of recent analyses of the climate crisis.
For instance, world-renowned ecologists Anne and Paul Ehrlich recently wrote an article entitled “Faith-Based Economics: The Corporate World and the Survival of Civilization” which critiqued business assumptions of economic growth and neglect of environmental limits. Here they noted:
Corporations are the most organized segment of society that actually believes the message of faith-based economics, although cracks have appeared in the façade. For example two business professors, Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg, have just published a book, (Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction) that provides a detailed and well-documented account of how corporations are destroying civilization by keeping that faith: the standard business-school/Wall Street message that climate disruption, a result of market success in turning natural resources into stuff and waste, can only be cured by business as usual. Faith-based economics requires continued exploitation of natural resources and continued growth of the global economy. As Wright and Nyberg say:
“…corporate capitalism frames business and markets as the only means of dealing with the crisis, rejecting the need for state regulation and more local democratic options. In essence, the prevailing corporate view is that capitalism should be seen not as a cause of climate change but as an answer to it. A problem brought about by overconsumption, the logic goes, should be addressed through more consumption.”
As Clive Hamilton put it in the introduction to the book, “The hard truth is that these corporations would sooner see the world destroyed than relinquish their power.” Continue reading Recent Commentary on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations
There is a disconnect between ever more alarming scientific projections of anthropogenic climate disruption and the contrasting conservatism of mainstream ‘business as usual’ political discourse. This wholly irrational future is the focus of our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction (Cambridge University Press, 2015). It is a disjuncture that makes imagining economic, let alone social or environmental futures a somewhat bizarre enterprise. Nevertheless, let’s consider the conventional view of our future world as presented by mainstream business and political commentators. Continue reading Challenging ‘Fossil Fuels Forever’
Global businesses, many of them now larger and more powerful than nation states, exhibit enormous sway on humanity’s response to the climate crisis. Indeed, in the lead-up to the Paris climate talks later this month there is growing media focus on so-called business “leadership” on climate change. For instance, just last month Royal Dutch Shell, General Electric, BHP Billiton and management consultancy McKinsey & Co. announced the establishment of a committee to advise governments on how to combat global warming while strengthening economic growth. This follows other announcements such as Unilever’s chief executive officer, Paul Polman, emphasising the need for private sector mobilization to close the shortfall in emission commitments made by governments, as well as Virgin’s CEO Richard Branson who has argued that “our only hope to stop climate change is for industry to make money from it.” Continue reading Corporations and climate change
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.
Bill McKibben has argued that “it’s possible that there’s no greater example of corporate irresponsibility than climate change – I mean, these companies melted the Arctic, and then rushed to drill in the open water. ”
With the recent revelations that oil giant Exxon has known about the likely catastrophic impacts of continued fossil fuel use as far back as 1981, it seems McKibben is spot on in his assessment. After all what could be more immoral and irresponsible than knowingly destroying the habitable climate of the only home we have – planet Earth! Continue reading Panel Discussion on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations
The University of Sydney Business School recently featured the new book that Daniel Nyberg and I have authored Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-destruction as part of their Research Highlights series. The book is presented as “a sobering yet hopeful account of how corporate myths have slowed our response to human-caused climate change, and what we can do about it.” You can view the PDF of the story here and the video is below.