What Does a Wax Figure of Chris Hemsworth Have to Do With the Amazon Fires?
By now the whole world has realised that the lungs of the Earth are ablaze. The Amazon fires have been raging for the last month, and many people have raised questions about its global long-term impact. It’s also sparked international criticisms for the lack of progress in tackling climate change. But who is responsible?
A few days ago, it came to light that one particular American company has a relationship with the fires burning in the Amazon: the Blackstone Group Inc. Blackstone is primarily owned by a man named Stephen Schwarzman, who is listed in Forbes list of 100 billionares. His real-time net worth is $US17.6 billion (approximately $AU26 billion).
Essentially, Blackstone has financed a transit port and commercial highway deep in the Amazon rainforest in an effort to facilitate an agribusiness boom in the Amazon. The port and highway allow farming and mining companies to easily transport their goods from the rainforest. The resulting agricultural boom is increasing the rate of destruction in the Amazon to make room to plant grain or soybeans even though the crops are only profitable for 10 to 15 years before new land needs to be cleared. The ongoing destruction which has developed into the blazing fires has been largely attributed to Blackstone’s actions.
When it was first revealed that the Amazon was on fire, it was devastating. There was public outcry from the masses on social media about the lack of media attention and the initial lack of financial support. Somehow, in the midst of the outrage, the company that contributed to the fires remained unmentioned. Days later, when it was released that Blackstone was responsible, it appeared the anguish of everyone had already dissipated.
Being removed from the Amazon, it’s easy to become complacent again. It’s no illusion that people are starting to get fatigued about all the environmental disasters occurring. However, when actions like these are authorised by corporations – it’s important to know how to avoid funding their reprehensible behaviours.
Unfortunately, corporations are specialists in hiding their investments to protect their pockets from PR disasters. Ultimately this means that we all, knowingly or not, have a relationship with these horrible organisations. Something’s got to give and one of the best ways to suffocate corporations is to understand their multifaceted income.
Although there are more than 80 associated companies attached to Blackstone, one particular company was recently acquired – Merlin Entertainment.
“Merlin Entertainment is a global leader in location-based, family entertainment.” That’s right – they operate theme parks and family adventures. In 2018, Merlin Entertainment had 67 million visitors at 120 attractions across 25 countries. Their revenue is more than (AU) $3 Billion.
In Australia and New Zealand alone, Merlin Entertainment Operates:
- SEA LIFE Aquariums (4): Kelly Tarlton’s, Melbournes, Sunshine Coast, Sydney.
- WILD LIFE Sydney Zoo
- Madame Tussauds Sydney
- Sydney Tower Eye
- LEGOLAND Discovery Centre
- Illawarra Fly Treetop Adventures
- Otway Fly Treetop Adventures
For the low price of $99, you can gain entry to these Top Attractions in Australia and New Zealand for the entire year. A family day out just turned into an investment with Blackstone.
Until recently, Blackstone also invested in United Biscuits. United Biscuits distributed biscuits under various brands including McVities and Carrs. These brands not ringing a bell? Perhaps the chocolate coated Digestive biscuits might jog the memory? Or the crackers which appear on so many cheese boards?
Blackstone has infiltrated the Australian financial market, purchasing 80 percent of La Trobe Financial – which has been at the heart of controversial banking behaviour, with multiple clients reporting the non-banking lenders were unethical in their practices. Blackstone recently acquired Vungle too, a mobile performance marketing platform, used by the likes of Canon, Coca-Cola and Colgate (and that’s just the C’s). These ads have crossed screens internationally, with every follow-through click resulting in a profitable turnaround.
The point is – Blackstone is not just a singular company which can be blamed or boycotted. It has a web of investments that reach every continent in the world. It’s not as simple anymore to just blast Blackstone, to tell your friends to boycott the brand or to complain to peers about how shit they are. Obviously not everyone can undergo considerable research whenever there is an environmental disaster. Corporations rely on the anonymity of their structure – they diversify portfolios and make practically untraceable connections to other companies so if one company has a PR disaster, then the parent company is protected from losing revenue. It’s the same practice implemented when international corporations create domestic corporations to avoid being held financially responsible for human rights infringements.
It’s imperative for individuals to understand these structures otherwise there’s still a chance that while you are vehemently against Blackstone burning the Amazon, you’re also adding a profit to their pocket when you’re doing something as simple as clicking an advertisement.
Now – would it be crazy to call Colgate and demand they stop using Vungle to advertise because it’s owned by Blackstone which started a fire? Probably. It’s not about that though. In an era when everyone feels so helpless and powerless, where corporations are so relentlessly unyielding of their horrible practices to make another billion dollars profit, understanding things like corporate structures exactly like Blackstone’s can put the power back with the people.
Instead of simply requesting Blackstone to stop being so ruthlessly destructive, request all of their corporations. Boycott them all. Blast them all. Demand action from each associated corporation. Don’t let these associated corporations hide in the shadows anymore. If you’re going to be upset about the Amazon burning, be upset at the right people.
Even more – start asking questions. It’s our responsibility to investigate a corporation’s relationships with corporations we do support. Ask: what investments does this company have? Who are its subsidiaries? Do these companies have a relationship with me and my super, my bank, my supermarket?
Otherwise you might innocently pose with a waxed-up Chris Hemsworth while on holiday in Sydney and not realise you’re literally feeding the corporation that set the Amazon on fire for profit.
P.S. In case the Amazon fire isn’t evidence enough that Blackstone is horrible – here is a letter addressed to Schwarzman from the Office of the United Nations High Commission, directing Blackstone to stop monetary practices which were purposefully and conclusively creating a housing crisis for disadvantaged people in America because it was an infringement of human rights.
Cover by Carl de Souza / AFP / Getty Images