The annual meeting of the World Economic Forum starts in Davos this week. It is to be officially attended by world political and business leaders – and unofficially, hopefully, by lots of not-for-profit and protest groups whose goals for people and the planet do not include how to make the most money for themselves.
The theme for the meeting is “Globalization 4.0 – Shaping a Global Architecture In The Age Of The Fourth Industrial Revolution.” Ironically, many of the world’s political leaders are not able to attend the meeting. They have been unavoidably detained elsewhere dealing with the fallout from Globalization 3.0, which has seen many people reduced to second and third class citizens facing joblessness, homelessness, food poverty, and a rapidly overheated planet.
Our Prime Minister may be the centre of attention. She is on three panels: Safeguarding our Planet, More than GDP, and a panel on mental health. All of which are strongly interrelated. Root causes can be traced back to inequality caused by exploitation of both people and the planet by the few. This is what those on the outside of the meeting will be saying.
On the inside, many will still be peddling never-ending economic growth for business and austerity measures for governments to reduce spending on essential services, with a large dose of greenwashing sprinkled in.
They are desperate to preserve their businesses and their privileged way of life. They want us to believe unfettered economic growth will miraculously solve the problem of climate change and reduce poverty and inequality. Maybe they even believe it themselves.
Hopefully the world political leaders at the forum will realize that business leaders have had at least forty years to prove their theories. It hasn’t worked. Even in a privileged country like New Zealand this thinking has created a society in which many, including those in paid work, can’t even rent a roof over their head without government assistance. Emissions are not reducing nearly fast enough, and rubbish is accumulating, because eventually nearly everything produced becomes rubbish. It’s time to stop listening.
The solutions are there. There is enough wealth to eradicate poverty, and everything that goes with it, if it is distributed equitably. There is enough food for everyone if it is shared. There are alternative to fossil fuels and the ubiquitous plastic. Climate change can be halted.
Globalization 4.0 will need to abandon the sacred myths of neoliberalism and focus instead on the UN declaration of human rights.
Globalization 4.0 will need to provide adequate housing, health care, education, and a living wage for everyone now. Not set an aspirational goal to achieve this in 20 years time.
Globalization 4.0 will need to acknowledge that infinite economic growth is not possible or desirable, and incorporate the views of alternative economists (like Kate Raworth and Ann Pettifor, to name a couple).
Globalization 4.0 will need to acknowledge that a cap must be placed on the amount of wealth able to be accumulated.
Globalization 4.0 will need to acknowledge that the remaining fossil fuels will have to stay in the ground and we will have to stop endlessly producing stuff – with or without help from robots.
Globalization 4.0 will need to be very different from Globalization 3.0. Tell them Jacinda!