Recently I started exploring the possibility of combining my decade-long research focus on the climate crisis with my passion for photography. This idea began to develop after several years of photographing climate protest rallies and environment related events at the University of Sydney. However, the idea of a dedicated photography project documenting Australia’s fossil fuel addiction and the physical, social and political consequences of climate change really started to gel as I stood on banks of the Hunter River in Newcastle a few months back watching another huge bulk carrier entering the world’s largest coal port to take on another load of climate destroying fossil fuel.
Human civilization has now irrevocably altered basic Earth systems. Two centuries of industrialisation and economic globalization based upon the rapacious exploitation of fossil fuels, and the destruction of forests, lands, oceans and cultures has disrupted the Earth’s atmosphere and ice caps and devastated the biosphere. This has occurred at such a scale and pace that Earth scientists argue we are leaving the Holocene geological epoch and entering the more volatile ‘Anthropocene’.
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’.
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
Nathan Lemphers, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto
‘Business as usual’ is no longer an option. In this book, Christopher Wright and Daniel Nyberg probe the roots of the climate crisis and reveal the intractable relationship that capitalism has with the degradation of the environment. Publishing one year after Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything, Wright and Nyberg echo the sobering refrain that the problem with climate change is not emissions but capitalism. Continue reading Environmental Politics Review of Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations
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!
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
Daniel Nyberg and Christopher Wright
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.
Humans are having an extraordinary impact on the life of the planet with species extinction rates now 100-1000 times the background rate. From a largely local phenomenon of habitat-loss and over-exploitation, biodiversity decline has now become systemic, driven by our increasingly globalized economy, expanding consumerism and accelerating climatic change. Indeed, many scientists believe we are in the midst of the sixth mass extinction event in the Earth’s history, and that the impacts on biodiversity, our life support system, will accelerate over the next century.
On October 7th, the Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) and the Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) at the University of Sydney will be organizing a Sydney Ideas public lecture delivered by two of the country’s leading researchers on biodiversity decline from environmental and economic perspectives.
Professor Lesley Hughes from the Department of Biological Sciences at Macquarie University and the Climate Council will pose the question ‘Can Biodiversity Survive the Human Race?’. In her talk she will explore how we let things get this bad, whether we still have a chance to save the Earth, and what we can all do to avert catastrophe.
Our second speaker, Manfred Lenzen, Professor of Sustainability Research at the University of Sydney, will explore how globalization and international trade are key drivers of biodiversity decline. He will outline his research which charts how demand for consumer commodities in developed economies drives species extinction in developing countries.
Details for this exciting event can be found here.
We find ourselves in an era of what we might call creative self-destruction. We’re destroying ourselves – it’s as simple as that.
Economic growth and exploiting nature’s resources have long gone hand-in-hand, but as repeated warnings from scientists and reports such as the latest from the IPCC tell us, they now constitute the most ill-fated of bedfellows. Climate change, the greatest threat of our time, is perhaps the definitive manifestation of the well-worn links between economic progress and devastation.
In the decade ahead, Australia and the world will face environmental, social and financial challenges of an unprecedented scale. These include tensions between economic growth and environmental degradation, a need to dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions in response to climate change, and pressure to improve social inclusion and equity in a world of significant poverty and inequity. Businesses are clearly key players when it comes to responding to these challenges, but can businesses look beyond their short-term bottom line and better balance their economic needs with social and environmental priorities?
In focusing on these issues, recently the University of Sydney Business School launched its Balanced Enterprise Research Network (BERN) which explores how business in particular, can better balance economic, environmental and social concerns and improve the well-being of a wide range of stakeholders, including employees, communities and society more generally.
Business corporations are key players in the on-going political debate surrounding climate change. In producing the goods and services of the global consumer economy, corporations are major producers of greenhouse gas emissions. However, corporations can also play a leading role in the mitigation of those emissions through increased efficiencies and the development of new technologies. As a result, the business response to climate change can often appear conflictual. ‘Corporate greening’ and innovation contrast with examples of business obfuscation and the organised funding of climate change denial (e.g. as this recent documentary outlines).