Oh the humanity!

Rex Tillerson, Exxon CEO

A Mahatma Gandhi for the 21st century?   Not exactly. Even so …

For one shining moment in Houston, Rex Tillerson, head of the world’s most powerful corporation,  asked a Gandhi-like question.  Speaking about climate change at the ExxonMobil annual meeting last week in Houston,  Tillerson asked:

‘What good is it to save the planet if humanity suffers?     The statement strikes you right away on about a dozen levels:   First, obviously, without a planet,  we wouldn’t have to worry about suffering humanity.  Secondly, the possibility of a “saved” planet seems rather unusual, coming from Tillerson, since it begs the question: “from what?”  And finally, the idea that real people might actually be suffering, and that this might have some relationship to Petroleum Products, makes it seem almost as if a ray of light had pierced  the cocoon of wealth that wraps so tightly around the Tillersons of this world.

The question — what good is it? — presents a bona fide dilemma, evidence of actual ethical reasoning.   This is remarkable thing, because at some point, in that discussion, you can turn the question around and look through the other end of the telescope:

What good is cheap oil if we end up wrecking the planet?  

THAT  is the question that most of US have been asking.  And that’s why its so surprising to hear about Tillerson engaging on that level. Even if he ends up with the wrong answer, or even the wrong approach to the question, it is the kind of ethical reasoning that is needed.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if  Tillerson kept asking that sort of question?

By Bill Kovarik



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