Monday 19 August 2002

Follow the money

by Ian Willmore, Friends of the Earth

Close your eyes and imagine for a moment that you are the boss of a great big US oil company - Exxon Mobil perhaps.
There's an Earth Summit coming up. World leaders are meeting in Johannesburg at the end of August to talk about what's happening to the planet. There will be discussions about corporate behaviour and about climate change. This could be bad news for one of the world's great polluters, particularly if any international action is actually agreed. So, you really would prefer the whole thing to be a useless talking shop.

Fortunately you and your company have friends in high places, and particularly in the White House. So you could just pick up the phone and make your views known. But that's not very subtle, is it? And there are loads of annoying little campaigners running around out there trying to organise a boycott of your company's products because of your previous attempts to scupper the Kyoto climate treaty. You've also been denying that you do anything as sordid as direct political funding of Presidential candidates. So let's have a little finesse.

What to do? Well, it's a much easier problem to solve than you might first think. There are dozens of right-wing, gun-slinging, free enterprise, Republican think tanks and pressure groups out there. So let's fund them. And then let's leave them to give George W Bush his marching orders...

...It's easy to see why two weeks of a Summit might not be enough to make real progress, even if George Bush's lack of heart, brain and courage did not make him resemble a genetically modified amalgam of the Tin Man, Scarecrow and Lion from the Wizard of Oz. And it's easy to see why the media may simply decide that the whole thing is a giant and pointless waste of air. But remember, that's what Exxon want us to think. They paid good money to wreck the Earth Summit and they don't want ordinary punters like us demanding that our politicians stop posturing and start tackling some of the greatest threats to our common home.

Full story...