On a recent flight I sat next to a politician who operates in the energy sector. Seizing the captive hour, I asked her why, when the oil sheikhs are allocating vast revenues to developing renewable energy technologies and building renewable energy cities like Masdar City in the United Arab Emirates, are other governments still banging on about the merits of investing long-term in fossil fuel.
First she looked at the airflow knob on the panel above with such intensity I was expecting Masdar City to descend from it. Next she looked out of the window with such expectation I was convinced she was seeing a mirage of Masdar City on the clouds.
Interpreting her response as interest I explained that people are already moving into Masdar City where they are using the most advanced wind, sun and geothermal energy in the world to provide power and natural air-cooling for the entire city, which will be totally green. They are not using any fossil-fuel energy whatsoever in any part of it.
“Isn’t it wonderful and why would they be doing this if it isn’t the future?” I enquired. Infected by my enthusiasm the politician stared at the emergency escape instructions and said something about stakeholders. I cannot tell you what else she said because the term ‘stakeholders’ has a profound effect on me. It causes me instant, temporary deafness and a bout of petit mal.
Everyone from energy politicians to Obama is talking about stakeholders these days and I don’t know who they are. Are they good or bad, are they rich or poor, are they human? Is the woman who was driving in front of me on the way to the airport who threw her cigarette butt out of her car window a stakeholder? Is the man currently sitting on the other side of the aisle from me who is reading my newspaper from his seat a stakeholder?
I don’t know. All I know is that whoever they are, we cannot get away from them. Ask anyone in business or politics any question whatsoever and they’ll say something about stakeholders.
At the end of the world when we’re still pouring putridity into the rivers and poisoning the skies; when we’re still pumping up the population to another couple of billion and pummeling the Earth beyond the Milky Way, the last person standing will put their hand and ask ‘Did we engage the stakeholders?’
Which is a very good question because, after recovering from my temporary deafness and listening to the politician talk about jobs, it occurred to me we need a new vocabulary. Terms like stakeholders, along with ‘climate change’ and ‘global warming’ are so overused and so little understood, they need to be replaced.
They are getting in the way of good green sense. We are arguing about whether climate change or global warming exists while maxing out on stakeholders and carbon emissions as the world burns.
“Hang on, almost done,” the man reading my newspaper interrupts before I turn the page. Stranger things have happened and I angle it towards him, wondering whether he’s a stakeholder. He’s taking in an article titled: “Do you think that global warming will pose a serious threat to you or your way of life in your lifetime?” It’s a Gallup survey that states as of March 2013, 64% of Americans do not believe global warming is a threat.
“What do you think?” I ask. “Best you ask a politicians about that,” he replies, then adds: “Thanks, I’m ready to go on.”