Thursday, December 31, 2015

It's getting too hot and scary for me

I went to a New Year's eve party for about 40 mins last night. Friends of friends. The house turned out to be over the top ostentatious (at least for my taste) .. the hostess worked as a lawyer. Making conversation, I asked "what kind of law do you do?" She said "tax" .. I said, "you mean tax avoidance". She disagreed and didn't actually appear to take immediate and strong offence and I have absolutely no proof or even evidence that her morals are any different to mine (the house was owned by her father) .. but I just had to leave.. I felt contaminated staying there. My friend took me home, later returning to the party, apologising that I had suddenly felt unwell (which I had)..

I reacted in the context of knowing so many companies in Australia (quite lawfully) pay no tax, including the coal conglomerate Adani. 

"For years, Australians have been berated by big business, and their boosters in parliament, about the punitive and stifling impact of the 30 per cent corporate tax rate. For years, we have been subject to a flood of econo-babble about the need to "incentivise investment" by cutting the "uncompetitive" corporate tax rate. And, for years, we have been lied to. Either that or the people making such claims were entirely, and wilfully, ignorant of the facts".

I feel the same revulsion when I think of Dubai etc, eg the exploitation of "guest" workers, more like slaves, many of whom have been involved in the construction of grandiose but potentially lethal high-rise death traps, coated with flammable material . I try not to fly Emirates.

We have a culture that pays Russian roulette with the environment. The evidence is now terrifying to those who look: escaping methane blasting holes in the tundra,  above zero temperatures at the North Pole in mid-winter and 72 deg F in New York City on Christmas Eve. Fish are appearing in puddles in Miami, migrating through the porous limestone with the seawater. As the seas rise top officials in Florida Miami try to censor the words "climate change".

Perhaps my reaction was intensified as I have been working very intensively in the last few days on a Wellcome Trust grant proposal to do with reducing poverty in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, and with enhancing planetary health

I have been in opulent places before, but have never felt as strongly repulsed. But I feel the same way when I think of Joe Hockey (and his partner's) fortune .. I think such inequality is truly wrong (I also think this about Kathy Jackson and her partner, even though I used to admire her.)

There is a profoundly disturbing disconnect between haves and have nots. As the "haves" get more out of touch, do they think they can move to another planet when this one becomes too hot and strange?Spring in December in NYC is beautiful and alluring, but so was inspecting the receding sea bed before the tsunami. Perhaps dangerous climate change starts at 1 degree, not two. And two degrees could occur by 2036.

Happy New Year!