Torch Article: Reverendly Yours - Rev. Tom Goldsmith

01 November 2019

Do you think it’s possible that the researchers at Exxon Mobil have regrets about deliberately misleading the public about the effects of fossil fuels on climate change? Corporate leaders engineered their business plan that netted $290 billion last year. Obviously good for the company, but destroyed the Earth. Where were the whistle-blowers when we needed them?

The researchers themselves were dead accurate. They knew the facts did not support the self-serving science back in the 1970’s when they predicted that fossil fuel emissions could be catastrophic. By 1982 they predicted that the atmosphere would contain 415 parts per million of carbon dioxide by 2019. Exxon researchers were some of the best in the country, able to forecast not only the precise amount of CO2 37 years into the future, but the consequences as well: rising sea levels, intensified storms and fire, agricultural disruption, etc. But in Exxon’s effort to ensure their own prosperity, they deliberately confused the public by insisting that climate change was merely politically motivated. 

I am trying to understand how saving the planet and protecting public health and safety have devolved into a political issue rather than a human issue. The seeds for corporate indifference towards the public were planted back in our “Gilded Age of Robber Barrons,” when businessmen smelled the riches attained through ruthless and unscrupulous practices. The capitalistic impulse of placing profit far ahead of people and the Earth never subsided. Boeing’s lust for profit recently caused two fatal yet preventable airline crashes. And more locally, the Inland Port, forced down the throats of the Salt Lake Valley citizenry, will demolish a vital ecosystem, pollute the air with coal and diesel fumes, and sacrifice a quality of life for the sake of business dollars. Anyone who (logically and humanely) supports the planet and the lives of future generations is labeled either a socialist or a terrorist. Let me remind you: Exxon spent more than $30 million on Think Tanks to sway the public to go against their own best interests. 

Beyond the headlines and photos and reporting on the California fires, we find a terrified and vulnerable population. My children and grandchildren are in the mix. Their homes have not yet been set ablaze, but they inhale the smoky air, all power has been lost, and there’s no cellphone service. Schools are closed and so are businesses. A fear has penetrated the minds of all: Is this the new normal? 

Our last contact with them came when they traveled 30 miles to regain phone service as they were desperately looking for ice to place in coolers to save some food before spoilage. There is no ice to be had anywhere in Northern California. And if there were ice to be sold, can you imagine the price a 10-pound bag of ice could command? Supply and demand keeps our nation humming. 

Maybe everything really is reduced to political motivation. One political party consists of climate change deniers; the other party seeks alternative energy solutions. One party wants government to end regulations; the other party relies on regulations to keep people safe and alive. And we have a huge election coming up in exactly a year. It’s a referendum on the life of all species including humans. It’s a referendum on the future. You would think we might have learned a lesson or two by now about greed extinguishing life itself. But Exxon has released its latest business plan: A 25% increase in oil output by 2025. The writing is on the wall. Have we become illiterate? TRG