Tag Archives: Climate Change

New York Times Offers More Advice on Activism

New Orleans       The editorial page editor of the New York Times has embarked on an interesting strategy in recent years.  I’ve made some small comments about this in the past, but the pattern is so unmistakable that this is no longer a matter of coincidence or happenstance, but clearly either an overt editorial strategy or a sly, underground one, but either way, it’s both fascinating and constructive.  The Times has obviously decided to regularly open its op-ed page to people who might have recommendations about how to engage in more effective activism or at least activism that the Times and its view of its readers would find acceptable activism.

I started noticing this last year, but with the 2020 election up for grabs, climate change a blisteringly hot topic, pun intended, and their new skepticism on tech-dominated social media as a change methodology, they obviously decided they needed to get into the game.  There were suddenly some columns on what they saw as effective community organization.  There was one recently from an academic highlighting organizing in Arizona.  Several days ago, there were props for the c4 arm of the old Center for Community Change, a community organization and economic development support center in Washington, sharing their adaptation of grassroots, community organizing techniques to huge increases in voter participation among infrequent voters.   This weekend there were tips from another author on her views of how to effectively impact climate change.

I like this encouragement of organizing and activism, but my support is categorical.  The Times doesn’t want folks going all Hong Kong out there.  They want people in the streets, but mainly if they are walking towards a voting booth.  Part of their new found enthusiasm for organizing, as we can see in their selection on the climate op-ed, includes a message in these dark times that young and old need to organize, but they need to keep it all within the lines.  No desperation or disruption is necessary.  The Times wants all of us to know that change is possible, but keep it under control.

That said, here’s the advice from Emma Marris under the headline, “Stop Freaking Out About the Climate”:

  • Ditch the shame
  • Focus on systems, not yourself
  • Join an effective group
  • Define your role
  • Know what you are fighting for, not just what you are fighting against.

Nothing wrong with any of those points.  We could do worse than to have lots of people who are sitting back and working their worry beads, jumping into the fray with that advice.

At the same time, tactics and strategy still counts.  Sometimes we have to go outside the lines in order to move the targets.  Often it is not the middle of the road that wins, but the radical edges that force change.

When reading and taking advice on action, keep an open mind, but always try to understand where people might be coming from.  That wasn’t in the op-ed column, but that’s my advice to all of you as well.

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Figuring Out Which Companies are Naughty or Nice

Quebec City    Even as the Brexit landslide seemed to be building in the formerly United Kingdom, the European Union leadership was piecing together an ambitious plan to achieve climate goals by 2050.  Their plan was to reach net-zero in carbon emissions at that point in a sweeping economic transition.  Some countries like Poland that still depends on coal for 80% of its electricity production were balking at embracing the process, but leaders of the EU seem willing to put billions of euros where their mouths are and help financially grease the changeover.

The new head of the European Central Bank, Christine Lagarde, is also arguing for policy initiatives that would use monetary and banking policies under their supervision to push forward on climate change as well.  She’s not alone.  The Bank of England also is saying something similar.  In the United States, the arguments are still raging with the latest shot being President Trump twitter bashing the child campaigner, Greta Thunberg, and telling her to “chill,” of all things, in a spit fight over climate warming.

All of them want to figure out which companies are cleaner or dirtier than others, but that’s not easy.  The so-called ESG scores for companies, which stands for environmental, social, and governmental factors, are still a long way from an exact science.  A good example is the fact that ESG investment funds reportedly have the fifth largest set of investments in Saudi Arabian firms, who are pretty much the opposite of climate change crusaders.  One of the commissioners on the US Security Exchange Commission was quoted calling the current state of ESG ratings little more than “Labelling based on incomplete information, public shaming, and shunning wrapped in moral rhetoric,” which hardly counts as an enthusiastic endorsement.

Don’t get me wrong.  I would love to see a unified score that allowed all of us to follow benchmarks for corporate performance on all of these issues involving responsible behavior.  The full page, glossy ads in national magazines, the endowed chairs at big universities, and droning claims of good deeds on public radio from oil, chemical, drug, and other companies trying to convince us that they are so-called “good” corporate citizens could be thrown in the garbage can, if we had a good, independent set of measurements where there was common agreement on which companies had been naughty or nice.

Sadly, we seem to have none of that.  We have different rating companies competing for what is estimated to be a $3 trillion dollar set of investments tracking ESG and from what I read here and there, all of them are using different standards and categories.  Since many of the companies aren’t exactly enthusiastic about being tracked closely, they aren’t helping provide accurate and timely data either, so we end up with a crapshoot pretending to be science.

Most of us aren’t investors of course, but a real rating system would eventually trickle down to us as consumers where those of us at the bottom could join in putting the squeeze on the bad companies and just maybe, miracles never cease, get some help from the big investors joining us at the top.

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