Opinion: World Economic Forum Helps Our World Move Forward

I was inspired by watching a few of this year’s World Economic Forum proceedings online. I believe those involved are charting a positive course forward for the world at a high level, contrary to some public figures who have recently decried its usefulness.

As noted in Wikipedia,

The World Economic Forum (WEF) is an international non-governmental and lobbying organisation based in Cologny, canton of Geneva, Switzerland. It was founded on 24 January 1971 by German engineer and economist Klaus Schwab. The foundation, which is mostly funded by its 1,000 member companies – typically global enterprises with more than US$5 billion in turnover – as well as public subsidies, views its own mission as “improving the state of the world by engaging business, political, academic, and other leaders of society to shape global, regional, and industry agendas.”

Such a safe meeting format does need to exist for productive dialogue to occur amongst industrial, political, and social leaders. To make true change sink deeply into corporate and governmental systems, lighting cars on fire, throwing soup on priceless paintings, and smashing small business storefronts will not create a deep and lasting positive impact. But it will certainly scare everyone, at all levels of society. A quiet and secure environment for meaningful dialogue among those who can have significant impact on global systems – particularly those related to climate change – makes perfect sense.

I believe peaceful protest is a human right. “Nonviolent resistance has been shown empirically to be twice as effective as armed struggle in achieving major political goals,” notes the United States Institute of Peace. Yes, let us continue to protest, but peacefully. And I think we need to let go of the idea that everyone can participate in high level meetings like those of the World Economic Forum. WEF has made video recordings of its meetings available for remote viewers, and it publishes information about its accomplishments online routinely. Social media allows every human being with access to it, the opportunity to share opinions online. Let us all continue to share our opinions and concerns in this way, respectfully.

As the third Monday of January is celebrated as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, I thought it would be appropriate to share MLK’s approach to nonviolence.

King did not experience the power of nonviolent direct action first-hand until the start of the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. During the boycott, King personally enacted Gandhian principles. With guidance from black pacifist Bayard Rustin and Glenn Smiley of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, King eventually decided not to use armed bodyguards despite threats on his life, and reacted to violent experiences, such as the bombing of his home, with compassion. Through the practical experience of leading nonviolent protest, King came to understand how nonviolence could become a way of life, applicable to all situations. King called the principle of nonviolent resistance the “guiding light of our movement. Christ furnished the spirit and motivation while Gandhi furnished the method” (Papers 5:423).

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Center at Stanford

Returning to Austin as I conclude, I was delighted to learn during this year’s WEF meetings, “World Economic Forum Launches the Centre for Trustworthy Technology.” The new Centre in Austin will “promote responsible production and use of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning, blockchain, virtual reality and quantum computing.” People everywhere are rightly concerned about how their data is used. “Societal trust in and acceptance of technology is dependent on the technologies in question being designed in an inclusive, ethical and responsible manner.” What better place to establish the new Centre than Austin, Texas!

Carolyn M. Appleton

Member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Austin Chapter

Photograph of the Kings is courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Opinion: Texas leaders determined to stop progress on measures to reduce air pollution

Re: January 13 2023, Texas Tribune article, “EPA Moves away from Permian Basin air pollution crackdown”.

Texas leaders are determined to stop progress on measures to reduce air pollution by oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin no matter what it does to Texans’ health. Oil and gas companies have wielded their power for many years and continue to do that. the Biden administration is trying to lower oil prices after oil shortages around the world after the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. Oil companies have pressurized Texas leaders enough for the EPA to back down from air pollution crackdown.

We need policies that can reduce our dependence on oil and gas and encourage clean energy research and development. Ask your members of Congress to enact laws to transition away from pollution causing energy sources to clean energy that would lower ozone levels and improve air quality. I suffer from pollution regularly.

We want leaders who would work for their constituents’ health and well- being.

Kalpana Sutaria

Project Manager, City of Austin and Member, Citizens’ Climate Lobby Austin Chapter

Submitted to the Austin American-Statesman

January 2023