The 2016 World Economic Forum (WEF), also known as Davos, named after the Swiss mountain town in which it takes place, now in its 46th edition, opened on January 20 amid grand and rather phony fanfare.
On the agenda: the upheavals brought about by digital technology in all activities, but not only that. Davos is also about glamour and it’s a top venue for celebrities spewing lofty words about their worthy causes along the centerpiece of “saving the planet.” Sadly, George Carlin was never invited and he inhabits too lofty a space now to come down from the heavens to deliver some much-needed gravity to bring everyone down to earth: “We’re so self-important. Everybody’s going to save something now. ‘Save the trees, save the bees, save the whales, save those snails.’ And the greatest arrogance of all: save the planet. Save the planet, we don’t even know how to take care of ourselves yet.” (Source: “George Carlin Quotable,” Goodreads, last accessed January 21, 2016.)
Yet Davos also brings to mind another great American observer of society.
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed—and hence clamorous to be led to safety—by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary. The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false face for the urge to rule it,” said H.L. Mencken. (Source: “H. L. Mencken,” Wikipedia, last accessed January 21, 2016.)
H.L. Mencken remains as relevant today as he was so many years ago; he targeted those hungry for fame, power, or control (often these come in a package deal). To capture the essence of Davos would require a Mencken on steroids, given the sheer viscosity of the smugness.
At the opening ceremony, officiated as every year by founder Klaus Schwab, the Crystal Award was presented to Leonardo DiCaprio—yes, the great actor, known for several award-winning roles movies and also for appreciating 450-foot yachts and intercontinental range private jets—for his environmental commitment.
Those Amazing Environmentalists and Their Flying Machines
The hills of Davos will be alive less with music and more with the sound, more or less pleasant, of more than 40 heads of state and government, 2,500 business leaders, academics, and prominent figures from politics, civil society, and the arts. They will also resonate with the roar of jet engines and V8 engines from limousines.
Besides the sessions featuring the likes of DiCaprio or Bono of U2 fame, this year’s WEF at Davos will also see the attendance of such world political figures as British Prime Minister David Cameron, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, and South African President Jacob Zuma, as well as the presidents of Argentina, Mexico, Afghanistan, and then Justin Trudeau, Canada’s new prime minister.
As for the absentees, some who have an image problem, like President Vladimir Putin of Russia, now suspected of ordering the assassination of Aleksandr Litvinenko by British authorities, who have curiously not charged former PM Tony Blair with ordering the killing of thousands of Iraqi citizens, won’t be attending. Some like Renault-Nissan’s boss Carlos Ghosn were too busy dealing with an emission problem to attend. A North Korean delegation had been invited, but after the big H-bomb test, Great Leader Kim il-Sung was still perceptive enough not to go.
Mr. DiCaprio, still fresh from winning the Golden Globe award for best actor, called on the leaders of finance and politics converged in Davos to come together and fight climate change—even if they might have better luck fighting MMA champion Ronda Rousey or stopping an Indonesian volcano from erupting. Why not? They might even try to stop gravity. Imagine how much less energy the good exo-warrior Leonardo might save to get his private jet up in the air.
“We simply cannot allow the corporate greed of the coal, oil and gas industries to determine the future of humanity,” said the actor during his momentous speech. He also admonished, “those entities with a financial interest in preserving this destructive system [who] have denied and even covered up the evidence of our changing climate.” (Source: “Leonardo DiCaprio rips Big Oil ‘greed’ at Davos business leaders forum,” CBC, January 19, 2016.)
DiCaprio was not alone on the stage of self-righteousness that Davos offers attention-seeking celebrities and leagues of their sycophantic followers. Such eminent scientific authorities as the rapper and entrepreneur Will.i.am, the Danish artist Olafur Eliasson, and Chinese actress Yao Chen were also recipients of the Crystal Award, which recognizes artists who have shown exemplary commitment to improving the state of the world.
Leonardo DiCaprio, along with other climate change theocrats and the many world leaders who try to absorb some of their mojo or coolness via osmosis, arrived to Switzerland using some 1,700 private jets. And yes, this is the same WEF conference that also made “climate change” and “global inequality” the sine qua non of this year’s precious pulpit.
What’s on the Davos Agenda?
Violinist and musical educator Yehudi Menuhin conceived the award, along with WEF founder Klaus Schwab and wife Hilde, to “recognize artists who were inspiring cross-cultural understanding and trust across nations.” (Source: “Congratulations Yao Chen, Leonardo DiCaprio, Olafur Eliasson and will.i.am,” World Economic Forum, January 13, 2016.)
Now, the award, like so many other worthy pursuits, has been commandeered by environmentalism, itself hijacked by climate change, which passes as the ultimate and one and only problem the world faces today.
In their speeches, both DiCaprio and Will.i.am praised Bill Gates—no parvenu to Davos, for supporting a “zero-emissions” future. To her credit, Ms. Chen, who is very popular in her homeland of China, was recognized for her work on behalf of the UN refugee agency UNHCR, which does actually confront all too real human tragedies.
As Leonardo said: “Enough is enough. You know better. The world knows better. History will place the blame for this devastation squarely at their feet.”
To his credit, Leonardo said he would donate $15.0 million to the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation to fund sustainability and conservation projects around the world. (Source: Ibid.)
Indeed, climate change, specifically the anthropomorphic or fabricated variety, has been all the rage at Davos for years. The fact that the WEF summit occurs little over a month after the Paris Climate Conference, held last November to December, has made the topic even warmer at the summit. While celebrities will focus on the climate and perhaps poverty, which offer the best opportunities for self-promotion and emulation of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the more constructive talks will confront security—that is, geopolitics—of the new and far from reassuring “normality” of global growth, oil and commodity prices.
The focus of the four days of the summit will, however, be the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the changes imposed on digital innovation. While companies like Facebook, Alphabet, and Apple are among the protagonists of the digital age, along with all the other players that make the digital world possible, many stand to lose.
The WEF released a study warning that within five years, the digitization that is affecting many areas is likely to cause a net loss of 5.1 million jobs in 15 more countries, due to redundancies resulting from jobs that will no longer be needed thanks to automation and robotics. (Source: “Five Million Jobs by 2020: the Real Challenge of the Fourth Industrial Revolution,” WEF, January 18, 2016.) Against the backdrop of the enchanted mountains of Davos, the shadow of China’s lower growth rate—the lowest in 25 years—and its effects or causes on the apparent hurricane affecting stock markets worldwide that started in 2016 remains. The collapse of oil prices is a related concern.
As for the environmentalist sideshow, is there much difference between those trying to convince us that humanity is provoking an environmental catastrophe—the flavor of the moment being global warming—and those suggesting man is incurring God’s wrath because of moral depravity?
Periods of weather anomalies are presented as signs of the coming devastation of the environment, whose signs may be the extinction of species, disappearing coral, and polar bears floating on isolated icebergs. (Source: “Al Gore’s ‘drowned polar bear’ AIT source under investigation,” WUWT, July 28, 2011.)
Davos and Champagne Catastrophism
Climate catastrophism, rather than climate change (a natural phenomenon whereby the climate is always changing), is driving the new energy revolution, much like the drive to score military victories has driven technological innovation. Therefore, solar panels and wind farms (so-called alternative energy sources) are driving many otherwise sane humans to encourage the spending of billions to install solar panels and the like. This is not because solar or wind power is efficient, but more because these have a prophetic effect, absolving us from the sin of enjoying our civilization and technology.
Our cities are polluted, says DiCaprio. Who would deny it? However, today, they are less, not more, polluted than even 20 years ago and less polluted than 300 years ago, when the Industrial Revolution hadn’t even appeared in a crystal ball.
Contrary to what environmentalists are implying, the environment is improving in developed countries. The real environmental emergency comes from underdevelopment. This has been one of the tragedies of environmentalism. Climate change alarmists like Bono or DiCaprio have appropriated the discourse, fueling fear to discourage it, while somehow dealing with some personal issues by adopting self-righteous causes.
The record of the doomsayers’ credibility is not good. We cannot travel to the future, but we can check past predictions, after all, catastrophism is as old as humankind. In recent decades, the 1960s and 1970s were rife with catastrophist ideas, the most famous of which was Paul Ehrlich’s “Population Bomb,” which predicted that in the 70s and 80s, hundreds of millions of people would die of hunger. Just to clarify, the food situation in the world, even in the poorest countries, has generally improved. Indeed, Ethiopia, on the brink of the famine popularized by Live Aid, has one of Africa’s fastest-growing agricultural sectors and economies.
In 1972, the study “The Limits to Growth,” published by the Club of Rome and translated into 20 languages, sold nine million copies and is often cited by environmentalists. It warned of the “depletion of natural resources,” even suggesting that by 1993, the world would have no more gold, mercury, zinc, oil, and natural gas. Not only are these resources still available, but modern extraction techniques have made them so abundant that there is a glut and commodity values today, 25 years after the doom scenario, are cheap—perhaps too cheap.