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Global Warming Profiteering

Oregon is “the hub, for whatever reason, of the for-profit fire industry,” writes journalist and South Eugene High School grad McKenzie Funk in his book Windfall: The Booming Business of Global Warming (Penguin Press, 2014, $27.95). Funk writes not simply of how we are preparing for a warmer planet, but rather he focuses on those who see the melt, drought and deluge of climate change as a market opportunity. Funk will speak at 6 pm Thursday, June 5, at the Eugene Public Library, free. 

According to the most recent National Climate Assessment that came out earlier in May, Pacific Northwest forests are already feeling the effects of the 1.3-degree temperature increase from 1895 to 2011 that has hit this area. The report says that global sea levels have risen about 8 inches since 1880 and are projected to rise 1-4 feet by 2100. 

Funk writes of how climate change alters the geopolitical map: “melting glaciers around the Matterhorn had shifted a border in place since 1861 — it followed a ridge of snow that was no longer there — causing Italy and Switzerland to sit down and start negotiating a new one.” In Kashmir, he writes, experts worry “the accelerating melt of the Siachen Glacier would further provoke the India-Pakistan fight.”

What sounds like a disaster to planners, farmers, millions of predicted climate refugees and all of us who will be affected by drought, heat and flooding sounds like a gold mine to some major companies, according to Funk. Rather than tell the twice-told tale of how climate change is a disaster overtaking our planet, Funk, son of David Funk of marketing agency bell + funk, tells of the big business of climate change and of those who profit and grow from someone else’s crisis — from Oregon’s burgeoning industry of private firefighters for hire to Israeli snowmakers and Dutch sellers of seawall technology.

Writers and journalists struggle over how to call attention to the dangers the Earth faces from global warming and demonstrate that we need to change our ways. Windfall does just that while simultaneously showing that climate change and how we deal with it — or don’t — is deeply intertwined with who controls the wealth of the planet.