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Big Oil, Climate Collapse and the Human Heart


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Ein Gespräch mit Prof. Leo Burke

It is stating the obvious to say that climate collapse is one of the biggest crises of our time, and may, in fact, be one of the biggest in the history of our beautiful planet.  

The two sides of the crisis seem very clear. On one hand, there is our living planet that over billions of years has created a thriving and evolving ecosystem that in itself is a big living organism, beautiful, fragile, and alive. On the other hand, there is our modernist capitalist culture, which is based on a materialist, monetarised perspective on reality. From this perspective, nothing is really real that cannot be measured and then valued in money. This materialist perception on reality has become the biggest threat to life on earth. And Big Business, particularly Big Oil, leads the campaign to insist that this is the only reality–thereby threatening the diversity of life on Earth.

Enter Leo Burke. While he would agree that there is truth to this perspective, Dr. Burke has a different story to tell. In his professional role, Dr. Burke is Professor of Management and Director of the Global Commons Initiative at University of Notre Dame. As part of a  “Climate Investing” initiative, last year he participated in two meetings with CEOs and other leading managers of some the world’s biggest oil companies at the Vatican, where the Pope was also present. The question at these meetings was simple, “What can we, the oil companies, do to stop climate change?” Was this just a high level “green washing” show? Or does the climate crisis have the potential to bring us humans–all of us–together in a new way?

This week on Radio evolve, Thomas Steininger speaks with Prof. Leo Burke talks about his heartening experiences with a new post-oppositional form of climate activism.