1% for the planet. Why Davos doesn’t matter

Today is the last day of the 2015 World Economic Forum, a weeklong meeting of the global elite addressing the biggest issues we face: climate change, inequality, and terrorism, among others. Politicians, business leaders, diplomats, and a few celebrities paid about $40,000 each to attend the gathering in Davos, Switzerland, where they’ve yakked about how to solve problems like how 2014 was the hottest year on record and how the richest 1 percent of humanity will own more wealth than the other 99 percent combined by the end of 2015.

One question: Who decided we should listen to proposed solutions from the same movers, shakers, and money makers whose decisions got us into this mess? Around 2,500 attendees flew in on 1,700 private jets and a few hundred helicopters, yet the media hangs on their every word, certain that these high-society, high-carbon elites have smart things to say about stopping climate change.

Jo Confino of The Guardian recognizes the problem:

Despite all the talk, the wealthy elite gathered in Davos gain too much status, wealth and power from the maintenance of our destructive economic system to spearhead its transformation.

Not only has the Davos crew has reaped enormous riches from the way things are, but these plutocrats’ obscene affluence also shields them from the negative ramifications of their choices and actions.

Confino illustrates this “prosperity trap” beautifully by detailing how massive cannons shoot artificial snow above Davos to create immaculate ski slopes for the rich and powerful, even as the sky becomes more and more reluctant to coat mountains in white, thanks to the atmospheric warming for which this jet set is disproportionately responsible.

How can we trust these people to fight a problem that hardly affects them? Climate change ranks so low among business leaders’ concerns that this year’s global survey of CEOs failed to even included it among the top 19 issues.

What’s more, money and status effectively segregates the elites from the less fortunate billions who do suffer as the climate changes and the economy takes over the earth.

The 99 percent are not represented at Davos, much less the vulnerable populations whose poverty the forum aims to tackle by any means short of sharing their vast wealth. Women make up just 17 percent of participants, despite the forum’s focus on creating social inclusion. And two-thirds of conference-goers hail from just two continents, Europe and North America, but in reality the global super-elite have more in common with each other as one-percenters than with fellow citizens of their home countries.

Because radical options are off the table at a discussion of delegates so heavily invested in protecting brutal business-as-usual, German journalist Christiane Kliemann wants us to forget Davos:

“It is high time to take our future in our own hands and to realize that our current economy is part of the problem and cannot be part of the solution.”

This post purposefully does not include anything anyone said at the World Economic Forum. I don’t care what they say, and neither should you. I’ll be done thinking about the whole shindig forever one more paragraph from now.

In case you’re curious, the conference’s discourse is summed up best by this satirical video entitled, “Growth first. Then these other things can be dealt with, whatever they are.” (Think I’m exaggerating? Break the no-paying-attention-to-Davos rule for one moment and scan this summary.)



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