No real solutions coming from World Economic Forum in Davos #Polycrisis #Davos

“I think we have to see that something is dying,” Michelle Furrer, the manager of a Swiss guesthouse, told The New York Times, looking out at the rain as it washed away what little snow had accumulated in the alpine ski resort of Sattel-Hochstuckli. “We have to accept that, and then we can try to build — to find something else.”


The innkeeper’s comments were not that different from what needed to be said down the road at the World Economic Forum in Davos. There, too, the recognition is dawning that the war in Ukraine and other geopolitical worries, post-pandemic economic disruptions and the ongoing threat of climate change were all exposing something fundamentally wrong about the world economy and how it is structured. The question is how many decision-makers will actually accept that fact, and then “try to build — to find something else.” The economic ministers may prove to be less serious than the innkeeper.”

The annual meeting brings finance ministers and major players in the world economy to the glitzy, insanely expensive Swiss resort. There, as titans are wont to do, they strategize about how to manage the future.

“In its most promising light, Davos can be a place to build consensus on solutions for global challenges like poverty, inequality and climate change,” says Eric LeCompte, executive director of JubileeUSA, a religious advocacy group that seeks to address the structural causes of poverty and inequality. “The dark side of the World Economic Forum is that it is self-selecting and largely represents the voices of the super-rich. Many people who attend are not elected and come from extremes on the right and the left. The actual voices of the most affected by poverty, inequality and climate change are largely absent.”

Honesty is the key word for Rupert Read’s new book Do You Want to Know the Truth?
Rarely is this book what one would consider ‘light’ reading. Collecting some of Read’s most prominent writings over the last few years with an original introduction and conclusion which serve to tie the writings together, Read delivers perhaps his most damning account of the coming future of climate chaos, yet does so with compassion and a call to action so forceful that the reader can’t help but be motivated to be part of the change we so desperately need.
Read challenges you from the first few pages and asks you a single question – do you really want to know the truth? If the answer is ‘yes,’ as it must and will be for a great many people, then you will have to deal with the pandora’s box that comes with confronting the depressing truths of climate change. Indeed, pandora’s box is an apt metaphor for this book. After agreeing to confront the truth the reader will go through a slew of difficult chapters that will challenge the outlook of even the most infectious of optimists. Nevertheless, Read makes sure you are left with one thing: hope.
A commendable strength of this book is that it is written with sympathy and empathy from a man who clearly wishes that his words weren’t true. The subject of climate degradation is a difficult one to discuss, and indeed that is why so many people willingly ignore it or at least don’t confront the difficult repercussions of it, and Read knows this. The result is that the reader is not left alone to confront the most horrifying of truths; the author is aware of the hurtful nature of confronting climate reality, and is always sure to recommend action so as to not to leave the reader in a state of despair. Indeed, often Read recounts his personal struggles in facing up to ecological collapse, and this empathetic writing style acts as a companion to a reader who may be realising the dire nature of our epoch for the first time. Discussions around our climate-change-impacted future are extremely difficult to have, but they are also so vital. This book offers a resource that could encroach the subject to people who have so far avoided it precisely because it is sympathetically written.
The writing is stark, as can be expected given the subject matter, but the real triumph of this book is Read’s ability to seek out causes for hope in a sea of hopelessness. Where others could easily fall into paralysed nihilism or despair, especially after chapters like “why I had to tell my students that I fear for them” and “what else would you have me do,” Read urges us to recognise that an honest reflection of climate collapse could be an invigorating tool for advancing the global climate movement. Indeed, Read recognises that a central tenet of organisations such as Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for a Future was their call to tell the truth, unabated and unabridged, to the public. The success of those organisations lends weight to the argument that truth-telling has a real power to cut through the endless tirades of rubbish espoused by politicians and world leaders and inspire real change.
If you agree with Read’s synopsis of the situation, then you are faced with another question; why isn’t this being treated as an emergency? Read documents government responses to other emergencies such as the COVID pandemic or the Russian invasion of Ukraine showing the abundance of resources that can be mobilised at short notice if the situation is treated with the appropriate gravitas. The issue is a lack of will from governments to face up to the climate emergency and take the appropriate actions. Indeed, Read argues we should stop referring to it as an ‘emergency’ until we are ready to treat it as such. The trick, then, is to be able to convince governments to view climate change with the same level of importance as these other emergencies, and to do this you need the mass mobilisation of the public, which Read also explores and advocates for.
It is easy to answer ‘no’ to Read’s question of whether you want to know the truth. It would be lovely if we could bury our heads in the sand, pretend that climate chaos is not here or does not affect us, and not open the pandora’s box of climate honesty, but in the end we must face up to our duty as responsible citizens to confront the truth, because only from such truth can we decide where to go next. Herein lies the importance of this book; it’s not one to curl up in front of the fire with this Christmas, it’s not a page-turner thriller where you can’t wait to find out what happens next, it’s not comfortable reading. In fact, it is quite the opposite. It is uncomfortable reading, because the truth is uncomfortable, but that’s precisely why it needs confronting.
Do You Want to Know the Truth is a vitally important piece. To stand staring into our future which will be undoubtably worsened by climate breakdown can be intimidating and unnerving, but to confront the truth is also essential and potentially liberating. If you can bravely answer ‘yes’ to the title and accept the whirlwind that comes with it because you believe deep down that knowing the truth is the right thing to do, then this book is for you. It is a rare piece where the insights within may just change who you are and what you are willing to do.
Do You Want to Know the Truth is available as an Ebook for free on a pay-what-you-want basis.

There was some movement on climate change. A coalition of trade ministers at the meeting announced some agreements on aligning trade policy with sustainable development goals. “As trade ministers, we need to deliver both economic results and sustainable results … we should have done this years ago, but this is the time for action, and it’s time to start these sorts of coalitions,” Julio José Prado, Ecuador’s production minister, told The Washington Post. He called the effort “way overdue.”

Others worried that not enough is being done. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres denounced fossil fuel companies in fierce terms, saying the corporations are “racing to expand production, knowing full well that their business model is inconsistent with human survival.”

Swedish activist Greta Thunberg was even more emphatic than Guterres, saying, “We are right now in Davos where basically the people who are mostly fueling the destruction of the planet, the people who are at the very core of the climate crisis, the people who are investing in fossil fuels etcetera, etcetera and yet somehow these are the people that we seem to rely on solving our problems.”

LeCompte also thinks more attention needs to be paid to implementing the global minimum corporate tax. “Currently the developing world loses about a trillion dollars a year because of corruption and tax evasion and tax avoidance. Curbing global tax avoidance and evasion is critical for getting countries the revenues they need to build infrastructure, end poverty and address climate change,” he told me. “We’ve made strides on moving Congress to pass legislation that can help stop global tax evasion and corruption. We moved the G20 to agree on global corporate minimum tax. While the G20 global minimum corporate tax agreement is really critical, we need to increase the tax rate and we need to move forward implementation.”

Not all the news from Davos was grim. It appears the crypto bubble has burst. “Last May, the dressed-up shop fronts that line both sides of the Promenade street running through the Swiss ski resort were dominated by crypto firms, rolling in bitcoin,” reported Reuters. “Now there are just a handful and the executives who have made it to Davos have swapped their hoodies for blazers, despite sub-zero temperatures outside”

JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon said, “Bitcoin is a hyped-up fraud, it’s a pet rock.”

The problem with Davos is that we need a global response to the issues we face, but the kinds of perspectives one gets from finance ministers and financial tsars are narrow, crimped, too deeply vested in particular interests and ideologies to think imaginatively about how to move forward. They are not wrong, and their perspectives contain important expertise, but they lose the forest for the trees. The deeper need is to reimagine how we assess the economy in terms of the well-being it confers on those who participate in it, especially the poor, that is beyond their grasp. The “Commonhealth,” as my philosophy professor Paul Weiss used to call it, can’t emerge from the neoliberal paradigm that still holds sway.

Pope Francis is clear that we need global solutions — he called, after all, for “one world with a common plan in Laudato Si’,” Anthony Annett, author of Cathonomics: How Catholic Tradition Can Create a More Just Economy, said in an interview. “But he’s also deeply suspicious of globalization — in Fratelli Tutti, he noted that: ‘ “Opening up to the world” is an expression that has been co-opted by the economic and financial sector.’ It seems unlikely that the corporate titans gathering at Davos are making this distinction.”

“I lift up my eyes toward the mountains; whence cometh my help?” asks the psalmist. Davos may be in the mountains, but there does not appear to be much help coming from there.

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