81 billionaires have more wealth than half the world and some are in Toronto

David SuzukiDavid Suzuki is a world-renowned scientist, broadcaster, activist, co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation and author of more than 30 books on ecology (written with files from senior editor Ian Hanington).

When one person has more money than entire nations and 81 billionaires have more wealth than 50 per cent of the human population, there’s something wrong with the system. That includes Toronto’s David Thomson and family — behind a media empire that includes the Globe and Mail and a stake in Bell Canada — who ranked at number 22, with a net worth of $54.4 billion, on Forbes’ 2023 ranking of the richest people in the world. How can we possibly sustain a global economy that rewards rampant consumerism, waste, profit for its own sake and disregard for the natural processes that keep us alive and well?

At the nexus of all that’s wrong with the human experiment is the fossil fuel industry: gas, oil and coal. 

Industrialists who have built their obscene fortunes on gas, oil and coal have also amassed untold power. To maintain their grip, they’ve put enormous amounts of money into front groups, industry organizations, political campaigns and politicians, PR companies and media — often deliberately deceiving the public about the damage their products cause.

This includes not just downplaying or denying the evidence that burning fossil fuels is plunging us into climate catastrophe, but also lobbying and paying off politicians to make the regulatory environment more conducive to their lucrative activities.

Consider a case currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that could make it more difficult for federal agencies to implement climate and other environmental legislation. Support for the plaintiffs reads like a list of U.S. climate science denial organizations, including the Buckeye Institute, Cato Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute and others, many funded by organizations connected to the oil billionaire Koch family. 

Although much is centred in the U.S., the fossil fuel behemoth is international. Here in Canada, we have Australia’s richest person — mining company owner and climate science denier Gina Rhinehart and number 52 on Forbes’ 2023 list— trying to get the Alberta government to let her companies mine coal on the eastern Rocky Mountain slopes.

Why these billionaires insist on causing more destruction just to add more to their already overflowing coffers is beyond comprehension. It’s also unfathomable why we put up with their excessive power and wealth and the toll their products are taking on us all and passively accept the inevitable toil and ever-widening wealth gap a fossil-fuelled consumer economy stokes.

The consumerist, fossil fuel era must end. We need systemic change.