Climate Crisis (and Whitewashing) at This Year's Davos

Lessons learned from the 2020 World Economic Forum and a racist Associated Press photo crop.

It's official—the climate crisis has finally become a mainstream issue. Once a niche interest relegated to granola munching hippies, the severity and immediacy of climate change has forced the hand of even the suit-est of business executives.

Nowhere was this sea change made more apparent than at this year's World Economic Forum (aka: Davos) where, in a surprising priority shift, the world's most influential global leaders, corporate titans, and thinkers gathered to discuss and consider the climate crisis' effect of finance, and vice versa.

Talks ranged from carbon tax structures to the widespread employment of a sustainable alternative metric to the GDP called the ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) as a way to assess global wellness. Leaders were even heeding keynote speaker Greta Thunberg's call to divest from fossil fuels.

In the words of New York Times opinion writer Tim Wu, "Woke capitalism...was the dominant motif at Davos 2020." The official theme of this year's conference was "Better Capitalism."

While certainly exciting, this shift in attitude from the private sector should not be confused with climate justice and certainly celebrated with a grain of salt. An unfortunate Associated Press photo wherein Ugandan climate advocate Vanessa Nakate was cropped out of an otherwise all-white photo op makes for a very telling case in point.

A subpar apology (Nakate's name isn't mentioned until the fourth paragraph, and she's referred to as an "African" climate activist as opposed to Ugandan) was issued and the photo was retracted and replaced with the original after a response video posted by Nakate detailing her outrage went viral.

In sum, be wary of corporate environmentalism. Even their best intentions can crop out and ignore anything that doesn't fit within a whitewashed framework.

Read more on Time.