A couple weeks ago, carbon dioxide within the Earth's atmospheric makeup exceeded, for the first time in human history, 400 parts per million. They've not been this high for the past 3 million years -- when sea levels were approximately 80 feet higher than they are now. And while no massive ice shelves instantly sloughed off in celebration, there was a remarkable ripple through those observing. The tally was as much of an inauspicious milestone for our climate health as we could find. And now we're here, and we've no signs of stopping.
Two weeks after we reached the mark, the shareholders of Exxon gathered to vote on a pair of company policies. With this 400-ppm threshold fresh in their minds, the shareholders of Exxon voted 3-to-1 to bar the implementation of any form of either emission cap or emission goal. At a 75-percent clip, those with a stake in Exxon's fiscal health opted to continue pumping their wealth of dioxides at any rate they pleased. Coming off its second-largest profit in the company's history, shareholders opted to continue the selfsame policies that have helped, perhaps more than those of any other company in the world, smother us in the blanket of carbon dioxide mentioned above.
It was the seventh time such a vote has fallen among Exxon shareholders. As CEO Rex Tillerson said following the decision, "What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?"
It's not necessary to parse Tillerson's idiocies in a blog post. (If you don't "save the planet," there will be no humanity left to save, boyo.) His words are testimony to the epistemic bubble in which he exists, and will present plenty of fodder for those looking, years hence, for individuals and organizations to blame for the carbon swath that lifts tides and melts caps. His statement is as damning and obvious as anything you can hope to find from an empty suit like Tillerson.
And that's not all. Shareholders also voted against providing any further transparency for Exxon's fracking policies, and opted -- at an even higher rate! -- to continue Exxon's antigay policies, prohibiting spousal benefits for those who live even in states in which gay marriage is legal. It was the 16th such defeat for those attempting to extend benefits to couples in loving, committed relationships.
"To me, there is an element of linking [between the votes]," Ben Franklin, one of the organizers with Tar Sands Blockade, told Hair Balls. "There's an avoidance of accountability. They point to the policy that they have right now, and they're saying that's good enough, but look, Exxon -- that's obviously blowing smoke up my ass. [And] on climate change reduction, it's particularly symbolic so soon after us crossing the 400-ppm threshold...I'm really torn if they're confident they and their descendants will ride out the consequences, or, like Lehman Brothers, they're just sure they'll never lose."
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Who knows? Who's to say what ran through Tillerson's head when he decided to somehow believe Big Oil could raise two billion out of poverty -- or that such a maneuver was worth failing to "save the planet"? Who's to say how many of the Exxon shareholders who voted in favor of the continuance of such policies are as crass and crude as their votes would make them seem?
Look: My landlord works at Exxon. I have friends who, for whatever reason, have opted to work within the Big Oil framework, and for Exxon specifically. The company has provided as much of an economic bulwark in our city as anything we've known since independence. As an influential friend in Houston journalism once told me, it's a fool's game to criticize Big Oil in Houston -- even if Exxon will soon be uprooting for The Woodlands.
But this is just...this is something we can't countenance. It's not. This is a move that is especially unfortunate, coming as it did following the recent carbon threshold and the recent moves to recognize same-sex relationships. This is a vote that was as damning a sentence on Exxon and its shareholders as anything they've seen in recent years. This is a move that makes you glad to see Exxon leaving a town that deserves better.
So let The Woodlands keep them. At a certain point -- at whatever unfathomable rate of atmospheric carbon dioxide you'd want -- you have to wash your hands of a company led by a man as doltish as Tillerson, for whom, along with a majority of shareholders, environmental accountability is an afterthought. Let them leave our city. Let them take their idiocies elsewhere. I'll be just fine with that.