Time had an interesting story about Richard Branson at the end of last month. Apparently the business “visionary” (some would say “maverick”) has taken Lester Brown’s metaphor of climate change action as being similar to the Second World War mobilization a bit too serious.

“Virgin” Branson has set up the Carbon War Room, a new think tank to harness “the power of entrepreneurs to implement market-driven solutions to climate change”.

I guess this is what happens when some people just have too much money, whereas others are struggling to find the financing for sustainability projects which would really make a difference.

Although I agree with Branson that “the world needs entrepreneurial leadership to create a post-carbon economy”, I am still not convinced that the war metaphor is the best way to go about this. It feels to me a bit too close to that other war metaphor, President Bush’s famous “war on terrorism”.

Why does this climate war metaphor fail? Because there is no REAL enemy but for the enemy of our own greed, our political and business obsession with economic growth and our consumer passion to buy, consume and throw away and replace quickly stuff we actually to not need. So much for “market-driven solutions”! And, oops, as the Time article says: “Branson has no interest in any solution to global warming that would involve cutting back on the growth of business or, ultimately, consumption”.
Lester Brown and Richard Branson seem to forget that a war actually makes a lot of innocent victims and destroys lives. It also quickly leads to the call for authoritarian leaders, prisoners of wars and exceptions to the rules of human rights. Furthermore, even if the metaphor would work, climate change is only one of the theatres of this war. What about the new energy scarcity, water, biodiversity, soil and all the other “enemies”?

I am sorry, Mr Branson, but I guess the road to our peace with nature will have to be a lot less violent but also a lot more difficult than playing Churchill.

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