It’s a Funny Old World

My father had a saying that he would often use when I had a question about some situation that made no sense.  Rather than try to explain the unexplainable, he would often say:  “Son, it’s a funny old world.”  That didn’t necessarily mean it was humorous.  Most of the time it meant that the situation defied rational explanation because it involved having to accept that humans often thought, made decisions and acted in ways that were crazy.  He wasn’t brushing me off.  He was just saying in his shorthand way that we can’t always explain vexing, exasperating human behavior.


Here is an example.  The Houston Chronicle published multiple stories over the last week about global warming and the havoc it is playing in the U.S. and across the world.  This was not an unusual week.  In fact, it is our new normal.  As climate scientists Katharine Hayhoe and Friederike Otto wrote in their editorial opinion of August 19, 2021:  “Hotter, faster, stronger…This is what climate change is doing to many extreme weather events.  As the planet warms, heat waves are moving faster and burning larger areas, and storms and floods are becoming stronger.”  Scientists are begging us to act to save the planet. 


All of this sounds deadly serious doesn’t it?  It definitely does to me and probably to you, but not to Exxon Mobil and many other of the world’s largest oil & gas companies.


Houston hosted the annual Offshore Technology Conference last week.  This is a huge tradeshow for the oil and gas industry with particular emphasis on offshore production.  On August 19, 2021, The Chronicle’s business section story on the OTC leads with these 2 banner headlines on the same page:  “U.N. climate report adds pressure on oil” and “Oil giants race to fast-track Guyana.”  The story about Guyana says, “Oil giants are racing to develop the world’s most prolific offshore oilfield before fossil fuel demand is expected to decline amid growing concerns about climate change.” The article goes on to say Exxon and other majors have discovered what they think are reserves of 12 billion barrels of oil and natural gas in deep water off the coasts of Guyana and Suriname (South America) and they intend to produce and sell as much of it as they can before it’s too late, i.e., before governments stop them and/or before consumers turn away from burning fossil fuels.  As these oil majors see it and as the governments of Guyana and Suriname see it, the money they stand to make is much more important than the habitability of the world.


The world is facing a climate crisis that is manifesting itself right now and will only get much worse very soon without government, business and individual action.  This is no longer debatable.  Even Exxon Mobil scientists and those of other major oil companies have known this for decades, although they kept their knowledge a secret. 


Considering the dire situation we are facing, one would think it’s time for everyone, including Exxon Mobil, to do everything within our power to save ourselves from catastrophe, but here are Exxon Mobil and the other oil giants trying to squeeze the last penny of profit from their oil, the consequences be damned.


How can you explain this profound and dangerous contradiction in human behavior?


It’s a funny old world.