Protecting the Planet
Week 5: Alternative strategies or viewpoints, and their limitations:
The kind of practical solution that anyone recommends for a particular environmental problem will depend on their view of the nature and causes of the problem. Sometimes commentators have been influenced by their political views, which are usually classified as varying from the right to the left wing. However, many would argue that nowadays views on the environment do not fit into this traditional spectrum.
It might be more helpful to classify the views as ranging from ‘conservative’, ‘minimalist’ or ‘reformist’, through to the ‘radical’ argument that the whole economic and industrial system needs changing. In ‘green’ language this is the difference between ‘light green’ and ‘dark green’ – and we will explore this further when we look at different environmental philosophies.
There have always been those who believe so strongly in the market that they would leave all these problems alone, provided the market is made as free as possible. The argument goes that once a phenomenon hits someone’s pocket they will start paying to prevent it. If another producer comes up with a product that is more environmentally friendly (and not more expensive!) then the public will start buying that product instead. Competition will make producers change their ways. What’s more, - environmental restrictions and profitable growth are incompatible
I have commented on the problem of market values already (does ‘nature’ have value only in its usefulness to us (*), or is it intrinsically valuable?), and I have also made the observation that we do not seem to deal with problems until they cause us noticeable damage. But this is precisely how the pro-market viewpoint deals with problems: why should we spend money unnecessarily on putative problems, when once a phenomenon hits someone’s pocket they will start paying to prevent it?
(*) There is a worrying (in my opinion) trend towards such concepts as ‘ecological services’ (i.e. what nature does for us), ‘green infrastructure’ (measuring the ‘multiple benefits’ of e.g. green spaces to the community) in discussions about planning. These concepts do at least acknowledge that the natural environment is valuable, but they go too far, in my view, towards counting the value only in so far as it benefits us.
A parallel view to this
stresses that it is only as a result of the market and competition that we
are come up with new technologies at all. If we could not make money
out of something, would we bother with trying to make it? Consequently, the
best way to deal with the negative consequences of industrial and technological
growth is to try to find new and better (i.e. more energy efficient, less
polluting, less wasteful) technologies. We also need to be looking for
technologies that will help to clear up pollution, otherwise how are we going
to do it? And after all, money can be made from clearing up a mess! Witness the
discussion of how it is the Chinese who are processing most of
To solve the problem of
getting international agreement on reducing carbon dioxide (and other
greenhouse gases), the
I shall take this as an example of a market-based approach, although it also depends on international governmental agreement. At first sight it looks like an attempt to put a value on “externalities” – but it is a money value, and then the inevitable happens, i.e. if any reduction in pollution occurs it will be because it makes economic sense to the country concerned, not because of any intrinsic value in reducing pollution. Also I am concerned that desire for profit will mean the scheme is used for profit rather than to reduce pollution. (I will try to explain this below)
Under the scheme, each
country is given a target amount of permitted emissions, and these are
expressed as “credits”. If a country manages to reduce its emissions beyond the
target, it will have credits in hand that it can “sell” to another country that
is likely to exceed its target. If it goes over that figure, it can “buy”
excess credits from elsewhere, but if it still fails to meet its target there
will be fines, in proportion to the excess that it produces. (See the Guardian,
There are now trading schemes that are up and running – for example the European trading Scheme – where millions of tonnes of carbon dioxide are traded each month. In fact, it looks as if banks and others (including Enron, before it collapsed!) are interested in how they can make money from buying and selling pollution credits. If this happens, I am not sure what will become of the original purpose of the scheme. However, the hope is that as governments make their targets more stringent, it will be cheaper to reduce emissions than to buy credits. But this obviously depends on governments being strict, and to date what we have observed is the British government backtracking and reducing pressure on industry. Not only this, but governments have to set targets for particular companies – and this has not been thought through carefully or fairly, according to some critics (Ian Sample, loc cit).
observers (e.g. Michael Meacher, the former Environment minister, Guardian
In 2007 Jonathan Freedland, (Guardian 05.12.07) noted that there is much cash now in the carbon cap-and-trade market: it grew x 3 last year, and is now worth at least $30 bn. My concern is that the whole thing has become a way of speculating to make money, rather than a way to reduce carbon emissions.
Also, opponents who believe the underlying problem is
industrial growth, not just the increasing production of greenhouse gases, will
not see much benefit from this treaty. It is all very well being a “realist”,
as Michael Meacher is, but if as much damage has been done to the environment
as some scientists claim, then surely the time has come for something more
drastic? However, Adair Turner, former
director general of the CBI, believes that environmental restrictions and
economic and industrial growth are compatible (Simon Caulkin, Observer
Here is John Gummer, former secretary of state for the environment, arguing that free markets are the only real way to stop global warming:
‘Conservatives cannot properly be climate deniers. At the heart of their political stance is a desire to hand on something better to the future than they have received from the past. Now that climate science is so clear, a recognition of the duty to act to protect the next generation follows naturally. Of course, Conservatives have been somewhat cautious. Constitutionally they don’t chase after novelty, and it’s in their character to question fashionable theories.’ He goes on to say that it is no surprise that Margaret Thatcher, as a Conservative and a scientist was committed to fighting climate change. ‘She would have had little patience with mealy-mouthed politicians who refuse to act ‘because the jury is still out’. It isn’t, and she knew it – and that made her the first leader of a major economy to commit to the Rio Earth Summit.’
He makes a strong attack on Trump’s distorted markets, ‘that allow coal owners to make profits while the community pays the cost of the consequent pollution, ill-health and climate change; the market that enables American cotton farmers to damage land and air while driving poor African producers out of business on the back of US subsidies worth more than the value of their crops, etc...
However, he weakens his case, it seems to me, by insisting that ‘Today’s consumers must be charged for the real costs of the products they buy... solving these existential problems [slag heaps, air pollution, flooding] needs the strongest of forces and therefore the most efficient of markets where real costs are charged to customers and companies make real profits.’
Other arguments that oppose the pro-market position should be noted:
(i) the market may throw up new technology, but there is always the possibility that this is accompanied by new problems. For example, when nuclear power was first put into operation, enthusiasts told us we would have virtually free electricity. Experience has thrown up the incredible difficulty and cost of disposing of waste, and the likelihood that cancers have been caused. Now the whole viability of nuclear power is in doubt.
Another example would be how automation was supposed to bring more leisure time, but in practice has meant that we all work harder because the technology enables us to do more. With BSE and CJD we “discovered” some unforeseen consequences of intensive meat production. After all this, isn’t the public right to be wary of new technology having as yet unknown harmful consequences? It is surely little wonder that there is uncertainty about GM crops, mobile phones and radiation from radio masts.
(ii) as the market works on the basis of risk-taking to make a profit, how likely is it that money will be found to deal with very expensive environmental problems? We have noted already that insurers do not have a bottomless purse when it comes to the likely consequences of climate change. Nuclear power, too, would not survive without enormous government subsidy. In fact nuclear power has probably only been worked on because of its connection with bombs. I would maintain that the market can not deal with nuclear power, and that to hand such a dangerous and costly industry over to “free market” forces would not only be dangerous – experience has shown (in this country at least) that a buyer is unlikely to be found.
(iii) inequalities across the globe must be considered, and market forces are not good at this. See also A Gore p 253 for comparative figures on CO2 emissions world-wide.
2. SELF-REGULATION BY BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
Amongst those in business who accept that the dangers of climate change are real, there is still disagreement over the extent to which regulation is necessary. Elkington and Hailes in their best-selling “Green Consumer Guide” (1988), represented the view that business would “green” itself – as a result of market forces, and consumer pressure. They argued for “bridge-building” between business and environmental groups, and they set out a number of criteria that consumers could use in order to make their purchases environmentally sound – which would then put pressure on business to meet this demand.
An argument that was common when ‘corporate social responsibility’ became more accepted was: ‘good business is good for business’.
This position differs from the entirely pro-market view given above, since Elkington and Hailes recognise the need for some sort of outside pressure on firms in order to produce “green business”. However, this is a very mild form of pressure, and often takes the form of providing “consultancy” over environmental issues – whilst building on public alarm over the environment.
In fact, John Elkington himself has become a consultant for “sustainable business”, and other environmental campaigners have decided that if you can’t beat them you should join them! For example, Jonathan Porritt (formerly of Friends of the Earth) is now chair of the government’s Sustainable Development Commission, and runs Forum for the Future, a “charity working closely with business”.
I am not convinced that Elkington and Hailes’s argument makes sense: their optimistic view that business is becoming green seems to have little foundation, given the track record of most business in relation to the environment, (as argued above).
It is also hard to see how links between business and environmental groups can be made, since (see next point) environmental groups are often based on a radical philosophy that is not compatible with traditional business methods and values. Moreover, it is not clear to me where consumer pressure will come from – except, as argued above, when consumers are faced with some sort of threat as a result of environmental degradation (by which time it may be too late).
However, it is not too difficult to envisage business realising the benefits of environmental consciousness, and such slogans as - “reduce, recycle, re-use” are attractive to businesses if explained in such a way that they realise they might gain from adopting them! This of course leaves the final doubt: to what extent is a business that boasts of its environmental credentials simply indulging in clever PR or ‘Greenwash’!?
Personally I would apply this argument even to some of the new “green businesses” (see www.GreenBusiness.net) – are these businesses supplying real needs in an environmentally friendly way, or are they simply pushing their way into a “niche market”? (This is much the same argument that I rehearsed concerning Body Shop, in my Corporate Social Responsibility notes: Chapter 1).
Take “Red Jellyfiish” as advertised on the above (American) website: its main activity is selling posters and e-cards with themes about nature – “every purchase helps the environment” presumably by donations from the proceeds to environmental protection groups. You can also click on one of the advertisements appearing on the site and a similar donation is made (out of the money paid by the advertisers presumably). I need hardly say that posters are hardly a basic need, and all sorts of question come to mind about the ecological costs of producing them!
A good example of
environmental awareness: National
Recently we have seen the growth of “social enterprises”, which have environmental considerations as part of their goals – and which seem to have adopted Elkington’s triple bottom line (see below link). These will be dealt with separately, as they are not primarily concerned with the environment. See my notes: Corporate Social Responsibility Chapter 8 : Inequality - Social Enterprise link
‘Sustainability’ is frequently used as a way of describing a process that is environmentally friendly. Surely all businesses should be ‘sustainable’ – i.e. there is no danger of running out of some vital resource, or source of energy. One definition of sustainable is that we should not pass on to our descendants a world which has a worse standard of living or quality of life than what we have now. This formulation gives an ethical underpinning to something that other wise appears to be based on self-interest (for business at least).
Elkington (1997) writes of seven “sustainability revolutions” that he believes must take place to reach sustainable business. These include changes in the approach to markets, values, transparency, life-cycle technology, and governance.
He describes the series of events that have changes our awareness of the environment – in a similar way that I did at the start of this section – identifying three “waves” of sustainability, with peaks and troughs for each. For Elkington, the formation of Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace (1970s), the disasters at Bhopal and Chernobyl (1980s), public battles over environmental issues such as Brent Spar and Shell in Nigeria (1990s), together with the more recent BSE “mad cow” disease etc, and the current phenomenon of globalisation, have all helped us move towards sustainability by convincing business that it must do something. Now, he says, business must be aware of the “triple bottom line” – economic, environmental and social, but this will not be really effective until it is “built into” corporate agendas from the moment a new business is set up. This is very reminiscent of John Humble’s (1973) argument, referred to in my Corporate Social Responsibility notes (Chapter 1, link) and it seems to me to be just as over-optimistic, and lacking in grounds and evidence of actual change inside corporations.
Writers like Elkington are fond of inventing colourful terminology to describe the different business practices they observe with regard to CSR. Thus there are “corporate locusts” (who devour the environment rapidly), “corporate caterpillars” (slowly munching away!), “corporate butterflies” (like Body Shop, with some CSR but many limitations) and finally “corporate honey-bees” who are fully sustainable. He even acknowledges that “corporate butterflies” have an impact on consumers that is out of proportion to their small economic role. How he then can be optimistic and not see the world as nearly over-run by swarming corporate locusts I do not know!
There are, then, serious weaknesses in the argument that business is becoming sustainable. Predictions of how the “big picture” is changing – large-scale historical predictions - are fun to draw up, but time has an even funnier habit of proving them wrong! (Burnham, Heilbronner, Marcuse, Marx – their names are legion). One would have thought that after the incredibly complex and supposedly scientific predictions of Marx were demonstrated to be seriously wrong, social scientists would be a bit more humble and recognise the unpredictability of history. This is not to say that we should not say how we wish the world to become – but it seems to me that the basis for these arguments have to be ethical not pseudo-scientific.
Another serious weakness in these arguments about sustainability is that they do not address current inequalities and power structures across the world: to ask the Indians and the Americans at the same time to be “sustainable” is to maintain the gross inequalities (See Corporate Social Responsibility Chapter 7 and Chapter 8) and that were touched on above with regard to carbon emissions. It is surely impossible to expect Americans to give up their way of life altogether, and if carbon reduction is achieved we can be sure it will be done by new and cleaner technology. On the other hand, what do we say to third world countries about their environmental impact? Are they to be denied the standard of living of the developed world?
? Add Ken Clarke re liberal democracies and inequality...
‘Sustainability and ‘sustainable growth’ by
Olivia Hanks –
‘Labour MEP David Martin, was author of a European Committee on
International Trade document celebrating
climate change as creating “new opportunities for the economic development of
The comment, spotted and lambasted by Green MEP Molly Scott Cato, might seem extreme in its suicidal logic: we’re burning down the house, but look, we can use the newly exposed rafters for more firewood!
Yet such statements are the logical conclusion when economic growth is viewed as the goal of all human activity. They lead on naturally from support for wasteful and destructive infrastructure projects like Hinkley Point, Trident and any number of ill-conceived road schemes on the grounds that these projects will provide jobs. This is the Labour position from which the party will have to free itself before it can have anything meaningful to say about climate change.
It has been known to us for decades now that there are limits to the growth of an economy based on the extraction of fossil fuels and minerals. At first, the focus was on the finite nature of the planet’s resources: the economist and philosopher Kenneth Boulding famously observed in 1973 that “anyone who believes exponential growth can go on forever in a finite world is either a madman or an economist.”
Supporters of the pro-growth status quo have come up with a phrase to reduce
their cognitive dissonance: ‘sustainable growth’. The use of the word
‘sustainable’, with its association with the green movement, makes this phenomenon
sound ideal to the appearance-conscious capitalist: we can keep building and
burning all we like, with a friendly nod to the treehuggers. But, lest we
forget, ‘sustainable’ means ‘can be maintained’ – maintained indefinitely.
Political and business documents are littered with examples of the word
‘sustainable’ achieving nothing but a warm sense of satisfaction for those
involved. The second point of the trade committee document states that “any
current and new economic activity should be carried out in a sustainable way in
order not to undermine the
When we go back to thinking about what growth actually is, we quickly realise that the idea of it as a) a goal and b) sustainable doesn’t make sense in any field. Whether it’s an ecosystem, the human body, or a friendship group, for example, any system regulates itself so that it can continue to function – it doesn’t expand indefinitely. Growth is the means by which a system reaches the optimum size for its function.
Yet when it comes to the economy, we have stopped speaking of growth as a means to ends we might once have considered its functions: better health, prosperity or quality of life. Growth itself has become the goal; and if growth is the goal, then the economy will never reach a size that is ‘big enough’ – it will always demand more resources. That cannot be sustainable.
We are able to mentally project the upward curve of growth endlessly into the future because we view time as a straight line. We can rely on fossil fuels only if we have this linear view of time, since each fuel can be used only once – an extreme example being fracking, where wells are exhausted and abandoned almost immediately as companies move on to new sites, ignoring the obvious snag that the Earth’s land doesn’t actually stretch on for ever. The linear model of time allows us to imagine a future onward march in which we discover ever more resources and solutions to the problems we are creating today; an upward curve which allows us to predict only a continuation of that curve. This leads to a dangerous reliance on future technology, as found in the belief that geoengineering will save us from climate change – releasing us from any obligation to change our high-carbon way of life today.
Societies with a more cyclical understanding of time, like Native American and many African cultures, would feel this to be a nonsense: our ways of living must be such that recurrence is possible. Sustainability is fundamentally circular, as proponents of the circular economy understand.
Societies like ours, with a linear view of time, may be more inclined to focus on the short term because it’s all we can see; we talk of ‘future generations’, but it is a fairly abstract concept. If, however, we understand time as cyclical, in some sense we are future generations too.
We cannot rebuild our entire way of thinking on a cyclical model (regardless
of what a recent
Comments on report by Sustainable Development Commission at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/mar/30/g20-sustainable-development-commission
Update: Examples of Corporate Social Responsibility/irresponsibility!
airlines resist plan to include them in emissions targets!! IATA says 170
countries oppose the proposals to maker flights in and out of EU subject to
caps that apply to power stations etc.
Shell: sponsored conference on
the environment, but still burning flares in
Christian Aid report, by Andrew Pendleton 190207: only 16 of top 100 meet govt guidelines on greenhouse gas emissions – almost 200m tonnes missing from annual reports. Top 100 produce 12-15% of our emissions. True figures should be 67% higher..
Consumers International and Accountability (includes National Consumer Council and Which) report, June 2007, says 40% distrust business claims about the environment, and 50% not sure. 60% believe scientists, 50% believe pressure groups. Family and friends are also trusted more than business or politicians. Only 17% trust the media… Director of Accountability: Philip Monaghan (international non-profit making body). [Terry Macalister, Guardian 19.06.07.] Survey of consumers’ actions shows 60% often reduce energy use, nearly 50% bought energy-reducing light bulbs, but complaints about cost of environment-friendly products, and 1/3 “confused”.
3. THE GREEN CONSUMER: CHANGING LIFESTYLE
Many of those concerned about the environment would feel that it is worthwhile adopting a green lifestyle: for some, this can also put pressure (see next point) to make business and industry “behave better”. However, of course, your lifestyle is your individual choice and may have no effect on society whatsoever. Hence, I would see green lifestyles or green consumerism as belonging to the “light green” or ‘conservative’ or ‘minimalist’ end of the environmental movement (although some individuals might adopt a very deep green lifestyle – vegan, anti-car, etc). I will deal with the “dark green” approach later.
The “light green” position is that capitalism can be reformed – and that it is our responsibility as consumers and businesses to find ways of doing the least damage possible to the environment. We can do this by adopting a green lifestyle.
Thus, as with Elkington and Hailes’s “green consumerism”, what we are given is guidelines for us to modify our purchasing behaviour. There is little explanation as to what will motivate us to do this however. The most widespread guideline to environmental impact is the “carbon footprint”: for those who wish to minimise their “carbon” impact, it is possible to measure how much carbon (i.e. fossil fuels) we have used each day in various activities (from boiling a kettle to leaving the computer on standby, or from driving some miles in a car, to travelling by air). Once we know how big our “carbon footprint” is, we can all take steps to reduce it.
The same procedure can be used for whole businesses or nations. This is sometimes called “carbon accounting”. If we go beyond only thinking about fossil fuels, and include other impacts on the environment, we can identify an “ecological footprint” for each of us (or, again, for a given business, industry, or nation).
Whilst these measurements produce some interesting information, and can be used to “shame” excessive polluters, there are obvious limitations with this approach. First, do companies or nations feel “shame”?! Or are they only concerned about their wealth or their power? Second, there is an underlying drive for growth that still has to be dealt with: to significantly reduce all our ecological footprints would surely require a re-structuring of whole economies and societies? This is even more obvious if, thirdly, we consider the inequalities that exist between the developed and less-developed world: the main polluters are countries like the US, and they should surely have to reduce their footprints first and further than the rest – but how is this to be done?
On the other hand, leading a green lifestyle within developed countries is increasingly feasible – for example, houses that are sustainable and have nearly no environmental impact (Passivauhs) have been designed and built, according to Steve Rose, the Guardian 29/11/2004. (see www.earthship.com or www.lowcarbon.co.uk). They are “heated by the sun, generate electricity from solar and wind energy, use rainfall, process their own sewage through plant beds which also produce bananas all year round”. They also can be built using waste such as old car tyres.
There are many green products (the Ecover range for example) on the market; there is more interest in organic gardening, including composting food waste; you can buy cosmetics and clothing made from hemp – which is more environmentally friendly for developing countries to grow (see www.thtc.co.uk for the Hemp Trading Company, or www.motherhemp.com), and you can even arrange to have a green funeral: www.naturaldeath.org.uk! Re-usable water bottles (see www.sigg.com) are made by a Swiss company sustainably, and free from phthalates and Bisphenol-A (which can leach out in landfills).
the other hand, Phillip Inman (Observer Business 22nd Jan 2017)
warns: ‘Urging people to stop consuming stuff in order to slow the rate of
climate change is a gambit that is doomed to fail.’ Expecting people to put off
buying things ‘isn’t going to happen’... It’s not for nothing that economists
base their assumptions on populations having unlimited wants... Consumption is
how most people measure progress...’ He then quotes the extraordinary figures
for people flying out of the three big
Andrew Simms, in a G2 supplement on global warming (19th Jan 2017)
points out: 70% of all flights by
Divestment: recently (writing 2015) The Guardian has started a campaign to get investments taken away from the fossil fuel industry. Here is a link to a piece about the Gates Foundation, which gives a lot of money to charity etc, and Bill Gates has said that climate change is the most serious problem we face, and yet it invests heavily in oil and mining: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/mar/19/gates-foundation-has-14bn-in-fossil-fuels-investments-guardian-analysis
4. PRESSURE GROUPS: ‘pressure groups’: the way to persuade companies?
- based on the belief that (a) businesses need pressurizing into protecting the environment and (b) not all consumers are environmentally aware, nor does everyone want to be actively involved
- work by raising public (and companies’) awareness of environmental issues, and by e.g. ‘shaming’ a company (coke bottles. Tate and oil company sponsorship)
- can promote environmental awareness by snappy slogans e.g. ‘reduce, re-use recycle’...
- can work with local councils and government (by putting pressure on MPs)
- again, may be fighting a losing battle against commercialism, consumerism, capitalism.
- can companies be ‘shamed’?
- will not change the nature of capitalism, and this is not enough if you believe that environmental damage comes from deep aspects of society and the economy
But: commercialism, consumerism, capitalism are the real problems?
5. POLITICAL PARTIES (to be dealt with later) political parties e.g. greens: to get elected and change legislation. But: a slow process?
6. GOVERNMENT REGULATING THE MARKET: regulations and laws: most effective?
Believing that only limited change can be brought about by or within capitalism
prompts some to turn to the state, or to international bodies with the power to regulate and control business. Socialists often make the assumption that with state control, or workers’ control, we will automatically adopt greener industrial practices. There is a questionable logic at work here: state ownership does not necessitate care for the environment, and in fact could be carried out in a manner that is totally un-ecological – as was seen in the former Soviet union, which turned out to be (along with communist East Europe) one of the world’s worst polluters. (Conversely, it is possible to take measures to protect the environment without at the same time converting to socialism. Andre Gorz (1987) recognised this when he wrote of the danger of “eco-fascism”).
Those such as Gorz who want to maintain a link between socialism and ecology must “add” something to the idea of common or state ownership as promoting equality. It could be argued, for example, that planning the economy must involve long-term perspectives, which in turn must mean ecological sensitivity. Gorz (1994) argues for an “eco-social rationality”, but the strongest point he makes is that this rationality is quite incompatible with capitalism’s drive for growth and profit and its creation of never-ending needs (see on the consumer in Corporate Social Responsibility Chapter 5 - marketing link). Where his thinking is lacking is on how to implement this eco-social rationality, and he even seems to have made socialism less important than ecology in some of his writings.
Having said this, there still remains the further, real/practical problem for “traditional” socialists that most of the experiments that have been carried out so far with state planning have led to an unaccountable bureaucracy. This might be, as many believe, because “power corrupts” or, more subtly because planning came to be regarded as a specialised activity, in which the amateur public could not be involved. Another way of putting this is that the problem is ‘technocracy’ – rule by technocrats, or by technology itself!
But: even if government intervention is the only way to deal with a problem, the public still needs to be ‘brought on-side’, and some will resent any kind of government intervention.
Also governments can be manipulated by commercial/industrial interests, see George Monbiot’s article about Liam Fox and his network of contacts and lobbyists, and ‘dark money’ (Guardian...:
‘Dark money is the term used in the US for the funding of organisations involved in political advocacy that are not obliged to disclose where the money comes from. Few people would see a tobacco company as a credible source on public health, or a coal company as a neutral commentator on climate change. In order to advance their political interests, such companies must pay others to speak on their behalf.
Soon after the second world war, some of
We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the
dark money network operates. The remarkable story of a British member of
parliament provides a unique insight into this network, on both sides of the
In 1997, the year the Conservatives lost office to Tony Blair, Fox, who is
on the hard right of the Conservative party, founded an organisation called The
Atlantic Bridge. Its patron was Margaret Thatcher. On its advisory council sat
future cabinet ministers Michael Gove, George Osborne, William Hague and Chris
Grayling. Fox, a leading campaigner for Brexit, described the mission of
The diplomatic mission Liam Fox developed through
Another funder was the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. It paid for a
In 2007, a group called the American
Legislative Exchange Council (Alec) set up a sister organisation, the Atlantic
Bridge Project. Alec is perhaps the most controversial corporate-funded
thinktank in the
To run the
Among the members of
Kyl, now retired, is currently acting as the “sherpa” guiding Jeff Sessions’s nomination as Trump’s attorney general through the Senate. Jim DeMint resigned his seat in the Senate to become president of the Heritage Foundation – the thinktank founded with a grant from Joseph Coors of the Coors brewing empire, and built up with money from the banking and oil billionaire Richard Mellon Scaife. Like Alec, it has been richly funded by the Koch brothers. Heritage, under DeMint’s presidency, drove the attempt to ensure that Congress blocked the federal budget, temporarily shutting down the government in 2013. Fox’s former special adviser at the Ministry of Defence, an American called Luke Coffey, now works for the foundation.
The Heritage Foundation is now at the heart of
Trump’s administration. Its board members, fellows and staff comprise a large
part of his transition team. Among them are Rebekah Mercer, who sits on Trump’s
executive committee; Steven Groves and Jim Carafano (State Department); Curtis
Dubay (Treasury); and Ed Meese, Paul Winfree, Russ Vought and John Gray
(management and budget). CNN reports that “no other
Trump’s extraordinary plan to cut federal spending by $10.5tn was drafted by the Heritage Foundation, which called it a “blueprint for a new administration”. Vought and Gray, who moved on to Trump’s team from Heritage, are now turning this blueprint into his first budget.
This will, if passed, inflict devastating cuts on healthcare, social security, legal aid, financial regulation and environmental protections; eliminate programmes to prevent violence against women, defend civil rights and fund the arts; and will privatise the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Trump, as you follow this story, begins to look less like a president and more like an intermediary, implementing an agenda that has been handed down to him.
In July last year, soon after he became trade secretary, Liam Fox flew to
How did Fox get to be in this position, after the scandal that brought him
down in 2011? The scandal itself provides a clue: it involved a crossing of the
boundaries between public and private interests. The man who ran the
By the time details of this relationship began to leak, the charity
commission had investigated
When Theresa May brought Fox back into government, it was as strong a signal
as we might receive about the intentions of her government. The trade treaties
that Fox is charged with developing set the limits of sovereignty.
In April 1938, President Franklin Roosevelt sent the US Congress the following warning: “The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.” It is a warning we would do well to remember.’
Update: April 2nd, Observer, Carole
Cadwalladr: ‘Dark money’ is posing a threat to the integrity of British
elections, warn data experts. Our electoral laws are lagging behind the
technological developments. The media policy project at the LSE warns ‘there is
a real danger we are heading down the
The UN has criticised pesticide manufacturers for perpetuating the myth that their products are essential to prevent hunger in the world:
Finally, governmental legislation is restricted to each country, while many problems are international, so:
7. International and inter-governmental bodies: e.g. WHO, IPCC can play very useful role. But: can be weaker than national governments, and can also suffer from mistrust.
8. International civil society organisations: Naomi Klein argues these are the only way forward: we have to engage people and bypass corporations. But: may still need national or inter-governmental legislation to be effective?