A recent story in Yahoo News tells us about one of the more interesting people making millions of dollars feeding people: John Mackay, founder and CEO of Whole Foods which is a “Green Company” that prides itself on paying its employees well and selling only foods that are safe to eat. Presumably. But Mr. Mackay has a tendency to put his foot in his mouth occasionally, as he himself admits. He appears to be a bundle of contradictions.
His commitment to the environment is coupled with a commitment to free-enterprise capitalism which he insists “can eliminate poverty on the planet.” He doesn’t say how this can be accomplished, but magicians never reveal their tricks. Nor does he explain how he can reconcile his commitment to free-enterprise capitalism (which is a fiction) with the corporate attack on the planet. He is convinced that business has earned a bad reputation in this country due to its narrow focus on profits at the expense of a social conscience (duhhh); he thinks there needs to be a balance. He himself takes a salary of $1.00 a year and leads what he calls a “simple life.” But he is convinced that global warming is “not that big a deal,” and this is where we need to note the position of his foot vis-à-vis his mouth. He knows not whereof he speaks.
He seems to think that global warming is simply a matter of a few degrees of temperature which shouldn’t be too big a challenge for adaptable humans. But as noted in a previous blog a recent report from the National Climate Assessment that involved 300 scientists, including scientists from NASA, tells a disconcerting story of a warming planet that is already having serious repercussions. Climate change is a big deal and it is in large measure the result of human activity.
The report tells us that “Certain types of weather events have become more frequent and/or intense, including heat waves, heavy downpours, and in some regions floods and droughts.” The Northeast has experienced an increase of 74% in heavy rainfall since 1958. The country is currently experiencing severe drought in 65% of the farming areas, which should prove a problem for sellers of foods, such as Mr. Mackay — not to mention those of us who will have to pay more for basic foods or watch items disappear from the shelves altogether. There have recently been record numbers of hurricanes and tornadoes and the Frankenstorm Sandy is regarded as one of a number of freak storms that are predicted to become more common.
The effects of climate change will not only be felt in food production and the increasing costs of repairing damage from freak storms, but it is already resulting in rising sea levels that have displaced entire island communities, melting ice caps, thawing permafrost, and reduced animal habitat. It will also take a toll on human life and health as the Assessment predicts “increased risk of asthma and other public health emergencies, widespread power blackouts, mass transit shutdowns, and [again] shortages of food.”
Mr. Mackay is wrong. Climate change is a big deal. And he is making a huge mistake to pretend it is not and ignoring plain facts while he insists that free-enterprise capitalism can “eliminate poverty” when corporate profits are predicated on the exploitation of workers, “downsizing,” and “outsourcing,” and while the typical corporate CEO makes 475 times as much as his employee. Mr Mackay doesn’t only have his foot in his mouth; he has his head up his butt.