Chevron, Environmentalists, Hoaxes, and the Ethics of Dialogue

Chevron, the oil giant, rolled out a new ad campaign this week. It announced that Chevron agrees with critics and environmentally concerned Americans that it has critical responsibilities, such as reinvesting profits into socially responsible projects, seeking renewable energy sources, and taking extra steps to protect the environment. “We hear what people say about oil companies – that they should develop renewables, support communities, create jobs and protect the environment – and the fact is, we agree,” says Rhonda Zygocki, Chevron’s vice president of Policy, Government and Public Affairs, in the company’s press release. “This campaign demonstrates our values as a company and the greater value we provide in meeting the world’s demand for energy.  There is a lot of common ground on energy issues if we take the time to find it.” Continue reading

The Most Unethical Businesses and Viatical Settlements

A British website has posted its list of the “10 Most Unethical Ways to Make Money.” Like all such lists, there are some eyebrow-raising choices, both in what is included and what is not, usually attributable to the political and ideological biases of the list-makers. For example, until we have figured out a way to run civilization without oil, it is more than a bit unreasonable to declare the entire oil industry unethical, climate change or no climate change. Oil is on the list, though, while child porn, drug dealing and gambling are not. The list could be the result of a collaboration among Greenpeace and Ron Paul.

Still, most of the inclusions on the list, like blood diamonds, ivory, and sweat shops are neither surprising nor controversial. Placing one of the businesses on the list, however, qualifies as a public service. Most people have no idea what the industry is, or what is unethical about it.

That business is the viatical settlement industry, which preys on human impulsiveness and irresponsibility to make large profits. Unfortunately, the list’s brief explanation of the industry misses its most unquestionable and sinister incarnation: buying structured settlements. Continue reading