According to my correspondence from progressive groups and the Democratic Party (of which I get a lot), a sinister syndicate has established a shadow empire in America's heartland. Its name is Koch Industries. Its capital is Wichita, Kansas. And it is characterized by malevolent values, hostile intentions and unlimited resources. While I haven’t yet tired of beating on this straw man, I do think that having an “enemies list” with only one entry may oversimplify the American political landscape – and I urge my radical-chic, tree-hugging, eastern-elite, limousine-liberal fellow travelers to expand their search for corporate scoundrels. For example, here’s a $32-billion corporation whose massive timber operations, according to a Sierra Cub report, “are destroying [Argentina’s] Ibera Wetlands and displacing thousands of farmers.” The corporation’s two wholly-owned subsidiaries have planted a “pine tree monoculture [that] threatens the region's biodiversity and . . . forces people off the land.” Its other natural-resources plays include “dairies in New Zealand, farmland in sub-Saharan Africa, industrial agriculture in the Brazilian cerrado, and vineyards in California.” It may seem odd to buy 10,000 acres in a drought-stricken state to plant a water-intensive wine crop – unless, as some point out, you’re really after “a well-timed water play in light of the region’s worsening groundwater shortage.”
Who is this corporation that seems up to its global eyeballs in environmental skullduggery? Why, it’s Harvard University, my alma mater – my nourishing mother – which in April became the first American university to sign the UN’s Principles of Responsible Investment.