Richard Branson / Jim Jones – separated at birth?

So they were drinking pinot grigio, not Kool-Aid. And the locale wasn’t Jonestown Guyana but Necker Island, Branson’s “private getaway” between Tortola and Anegada. The guest list wasn’t social misfits from Frisco but among other luminaries, Tony Blair, William McDonough, Larry Page and Paul Allen.
Richard Branson had invited them. And he would ask: “So, do we really think the world is on fire?” And they would reply: “Yes, the planet is on fire.”

I can find no better example of the mass suicide humanity has now endeavored toward. The decadence, the apparent denial, the gross contradictions and the self-serving platitudes snap me out of my upbeat moments to cry out: “we are doomed!”

Certainly Branson and company have become a grotesque caricature of our society’s elite intersection of destructive wealth, pangs of guilt and utter weakness.

Exhibit A, on a silver platter:

Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, talked about his latest project, Tesla Motors, a Silicon Valley company that makes sexy electric sports cars retailing for $100,000. Page has ordered one.

Or should we worry when informed that Mr. Page jet-pooled to the Caribbean? I mean, how totally carbon conscientious!

Memo to environmental groups: if you’re serious, stop having physical conferences that forces participants to fly across continents. Make them virtual and set and example with your actions not just your speeches. ( I suppose it’s too late to cancel the Aspen Institute’s Environmental Forum just underway?)

As Jim Jones mesmerized members of the Peoples Temple while he plotted their demise, so Mr. Branson celebrates, with a P.T. Barnum gusto, our most decadent aspirations, reaching its apotheosis with Virgin Galactic. But something is amiss. Mr. Branson still appears to recognize the abyss toward which the rocket ships are carrying us.

Given this Mount Rushmore like split personality, one is left asking what does Mr. Branson really believe? Does he, like his friend and customer, James Lovelock believe we are all doomed, so no matter, enjoy life to the fullest. (read most decadently – haven’t you noticed? It’s our birthright to fly anywhere in the world we desire and eat and drink anything we can stomach.) Let the next generation sort it all out! Or does he believe, ostensibly anyway, Mr. Blair, who proclaims the imperative to fight it?

Which is it Mr. Branson? You can’t have it both ways. Either you are a brother of Jim Jones and our Pied Piper, or you really will transcend the P.T. Barnum caricature and help lead the way toward a salvation of sorts. Jones or Moses? Actions speak louder than words….I’m not optimistic.

I must add, the only thing that could make me more depressed about the whole thing is to look into myself. For while the Richard Bransons of the world have a disproportionate destructive influence on our future, the fact is, our middle class American lifestyle is THE destructive force. I made the Checklist Toward Zero Carbon as a guide for myself, my neighbors and my friends so we might lessen our middle class environmental destruction.

Let’s work to be different – let’s all fight. Download the checklist. Edit it for your local conditions, make it your own, and pass it on.

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One Response to “Richard Branson / Jim Jones – separated at birth?”

  1. Tim Gerdes Says:

    I first learned about Branson’s private island today. Diane Rehm’s mentioned the summit on her show, where she interviewed James Gustave Speth about the destructive force of a capitalistic, “growth” society on the environment.

    Diane cited Branson and asked whether entrepreneurial behavior could solve our problems, missing the point entirely. As you point out, we’re all part of the destructive force. Speth agreed, citing our consumption-focused “affluenza” as the root-cause of our ecological collapse.

    But i still can’t but help thinking of Branson as something of a Bond villain, with a luxury paradise to flee too, once things turn too ugly.

    While we are all part of the problem—having made his fortune from shiny plastic discs and air travel—Branson’s has profited greatly from his “disproportionately destructive influence” and will be better prepared than most to deal with an increasingly unpleasant ecosystem.

    In that regard, I find this glib, elitist summit all the more offensive.

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