The climate change denier at the helm of Whole Foods

2010-01-11

in Rants, Science, The environment

Disappointingly, it seems that Whole Foods CEO John Mackey maintains the scientifically untenable position that we don’t know what is causing climate change. Furthermore, he thinks that those seeking to regulate the dumping of greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere want to: “raise taxes and increase regulation, and in turn lower our standard of living and lead to an increase in poverty.” This seems in keeping with how people sometimes have absurdly overblown concerns about the degree to which certain things are dangerous (terrorists, kidnappers, genetically modified organisms), while not appreciating the overarching threat to humanity and the planet’s ecosystems that climate change represents.

People need to appreciate that our wastes, being released into the atmosphere, are threatening the future basis for all human welfare. We need to stop obsessing about plastic bags and GM soybeans and begin with the serious work of replacing our energy sources with zero-carbon, renewable options.

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

R.K. January 12, 2010 at 12:03 pm

Sheer pretentiousness is reason enough to avoid Whole Foods.

Matt January 12, 2010 at 3:41 pm

We need to stop obsessing about plastic bags…

I disagree with this line of reasoning, attending to different forms of pollution are not mutually exclusive. This is sort of like asking a cop “don’t you have a murder to solve?” after you’ve been pulled over for speeding.

Milan January 12, 2010 at 3:45 pm

I think it’s more akin to asking cops who are busting people for small-scale drug possession whether or not they could be using their time better. We do need to prioritize, whether the area of concern is crime or climate change.

Part of the problem is that people are often willing to take one or two actions, at which point they feel they have done their part. If those actions are trivial – like using re-usable grocery bags – then people are getting the false sense that they are helping with pressing environmental problems.

Milan January 12, 2010 at 3:49 pm

The whole plastic bag thing also rankles with me personally for two reasons:

1) I don’t have a car, and usually do my grocery shopping at random times when I happen to be near a store and heading homewards. As a result, I am never carrying the reusable bags shops sometimes force me to buy. They just pile up in my kitchen.

2) I use plastic grocery bags in place of plastic trash bags. If I run out of grocery bags, I will need to buy trash bags to replace them. Surely it makes sense for grocery bags to serve both purposes.

I realize that some people end up with more bags than they can re-use, but this has not been the case with me. During the summer, I carry groceries in my bicycle panniers. During the winter, my stock of plastic grocery bags grows since I cannot cycle. During the summer, I draw it back down again.

Milan January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Plastic bags have come up before:

In a discussion on steady state economies, in my review of the film The Age of Stupid, and in a discussion of whether environmentalism is a religion.

Earth Hour is another example of a trivial environmental action that risks seeming significant to people.

Matt January 12, 2010 at 4:28 pm

I would argue that getting people used to being inconvenienced is valuable in the fight against climate change. Both earth hour and reusable bags accomplish that, albeit on a small scale.

But, with plastic bags, the problem is not necessarily climate change but damage to ecosystems.

Milan January 12, 2010 at 5:03 pm

Marine ecosystems, especially.

Our priority for plastic bags should be making sure they end up in landfills, rather than the water. That, and eventually making most of them from biomass rather than petroleum.

Tristan January 12, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Since plastic bags require such a small amount of oil to produce, they might be a good candidate of something to use bio-fuel for.

Milan January 12, 2010 at 6:21 pm

The grocery store I go to already makes them out of some sort of supposedly biodegradable biopolymer.

R.K. January 18, 2010 at 4:26 pm

While I object to the pretentiousness of Whole Foods, at least they are trying to be socially aware (though it may be more about profit-driven marketing schemes than about genuinely moral decisionmaking).

How many other companies are probably headed by climate change deniers? They just get a pass since – unlike Whole Foods – they weren’t trying to be ethical in the first place.

Milan January 18, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Whether Whole Foods’ ethical approach is all about marketing or driven by genuine belief doesn’t matter all that much, when it comes to the standard to which the CEO is being held is concerned.

Whenever someone sets themselves up on a moral pedestal, they open themselves to harsher scrutiny than a member of the general public. If you want to become a priest and then spend your life gambling and having casual affairs, don’t be surprised if people criticize you more than they would criticize a private citizen doing the same thing. By the same token, if you are running an ‘ethical’ store, don’t be surprised to find people annoyed when you deny the existence of the biggest ethical problem the world is facing.

Tristan January 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm

“(though it may be more about profit-driven marketing schemes than about genuinely moral decisionmaking)”

If capitalism stands a chance at surviving, it’s because the system will produce as profit-driven marketing, the same content that genuine moral decision making would produce.

Milan January 18, 2010 at 4:49 pm

The durability of a system of societal organization and the degree to which it is ethical aren’t necessarily related. That is especially true when it comes to systems of organization that can arise as the result of bottom-up activities, like how rudimentary forms of capitalism emerge wherever people have goods, the ability to provide services, and the opportunity to bargain with one another.

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