Don’t let the billionaires distract you from the inconvenient truth


    In my last ‘View…’ I talked about how corporations are using the guise of capitalism to take us all for a ride. A few people have come up to me since and asked me what we can do. “By the end of your article I had my pitchfork ready!” said one reader, “but what’s the answer, and what’s going to save the environment from them?”

    I’ve had time to mull over this question, and in the words of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’s supercomputer ‘Deep Thought’, I have the answer… but you’re not going to like it. Solving life’s problems – growing inequality, relentless corporate profiteering, and environmental ruin – is, as always, individual action.

    Governments are never going to force big corporations to tidy up their act, or at least pay a commensurate amount of tax, so if you’re holding out for that to happen then you are going to be deeply disappointed. While mainstream political parties continue to accept donations from mining magnates, fossil fuel companies, and other damaging industries with their headquarters in tax havens, the status quo will remain, even if the swirling political rhetoric starts to get a bit edgier. It’s just not in any government’s (or opposition’s) interest to bite the hand that feeds it, even if they need to be seen to at least be taking the occasional nibble.

    Meanwhile the behaviour of our new gods, billionaires like Jeff Bezoz, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckeberg continues to be dangerous, unhinged and unimpeded, but to focus on this alone is just a distraction. In his book Survival of the Richest Douglas Rushkoff compares them with the billionaires of the past, whose wealth was rooted in industries that powered infrastructure, jobs and fuelled communities. Today’s cohort simply own the digital platforms we live, work and rely on every day, without actually producing anything with any stand-alone value – opaque deities. Check out Limitarianism, The Case Against Extreme Wealth by Ingrid Robeyns, in which the author posits that the expansion of the wealth of the world’s billionaires is useless and harmful to the societies of the world, as it goes almost unnoticed by those individuals, whereas even a small amount of growth in the wealth of the non-rich is invaluable to local eco-systems, and in the war on inequality.

    For all their good intentions, the left-wing media and political parties’ obsession with poor corporate and elite behaviour only serves to divert our attention. While this pressure must remain, it’s easy to take the efforts of others for granted and forget that each of us can, and should, make our own difference. It’s too late to wait – with our fingers crossed – for someone else, whether they be the rich, multi-nationals, or by proxy, disinclined and tardy governments. Regardless, for every government that tries to hold the profiteers, corporations and billionaires to account, another will rise to counter any progress, whether it’s in South America, Europe, or closer to home. Sadly, a combination of vested interests, right-wing propaganda and middle-class comfort and apathy will ensure this, like a natural, predictable cycle of humanity at its most flawed. 

    So what does personal responsibility look like?

    Unfair as it seems and not always possible depending on your circumstances, it means:

    • Flying less, or not at all if you are able to holiday and travel locally, and Zoom instead of flying to interstate business meetings
    • Cruising not at all – a journey with no destination is pointless and immensely damaging to the environment and fragile Pacific eco-systems
    • Cutting out beef from your diet – the farming of beef for food represents around 20% of the world’s total carbon emissions. Picture the Amazon being cleared at the rate of a few football fields per minute on behalf of McDonalds
    • Objecting to new gas and coal – this forces big polluters to transition to clean energy quicker
    • Disconnecting your gas if you’re able (and for God’s sake not connecting it to a new or existing property!) and switching to an electricity retailer that supplies 100% renewable energy
    • Buying an EV (second hand if you can’t afford new) and selling your petrol vehicle(s)
    • Buying less stuff – the world’s 16 biggest container ships generate as much carbon emissions annually as all of the world’s cars combined!
    • Shopping local, and farm-direct when you can. Highpoint, Coles and Woolies will survive without you!
    • Avoiding single use plastic, especially take away containers and bottled water, and when stuff does come in plastic, always ask why, and look for alternatives
    • Switching to ethical investments – this deprives fossil fuel giants of funding options
    • Putting less effort into avoiding tax, and more into paying it

    Last but not least, simply recognise what the great goal of ‘enough’ looks like, and just be satisfied.  

    Derek Green
    Derek Green
    I'd rather die wandering than die wondering. Read more of my travel escapades at:

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