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A Bigger Threat than Climate Change

  |  Joy Howard

Yesterday, a proposed amendment to the Patriot Act to protect the privacy of Americans’ internet browsing history lost in the Senate by one vote, meaning that the government can continue to obtain the internet history of any American without a warrant.

We can see the cataclysmic domino effect of government intrusion on citizens’ internet history in places like China, where the prevailing viewpoint is that countries that have “inadequate controls on the propagation of extremism on the internet” are at risk of terrorist attacks. The memory of one’s privacy is subsumed by the government’s need to control and harm its citizens.

We are now one step closer to such a dystopian reality.

To me, the loss of internet-history privacy is more dangerous to us than climate change. Hear me out. No one can doubt that climate change is the singular threat to humanity, except those who do: climate deniers, who now rule our country. So here’s the thing. How will we fight climate change if we can’t organize to do so? If we can’t securely text each other or Google the words “climate change,” is there anything we can do to stop it? What’s a bigger threat than climate change? Not being able to do anything about it.

This is why I believe that the best brand managers are activists and their brands are platforms for social change. I live this mantra, because like democracy—capitalism isn’t the best, it’s just better than everything else, and it’s our job to make it work for people and the planet. I call it social enterprise, natural capitalism, or simply good business.

My time leading brand marketing at Patagonia gave me the invaluable opportunity to connect with the many environmental activists with whom the company has been working for more than 40 years. When you see Patagonia take a stance—whether it be on climate change, dead-beat dams, or sustainable agriculture—it’s one that’s well informed by and grounded in communities dedicated to change. After all, Patagonia’s original mission statement (before they simplified it to protecting our home planet—finger in the eye to you, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk) was written by the legendary ad man & environmental activist Jerry Mander. His cause should be self-evident.

I learned a lot from my time there, but here are the highlights. Quantifiable change comes from people working together to do what’s best for everyone. The ones who do this are the real heroes—the mothers like Rachel Carson, the organizers like Cesar Chavez, the monkey-wrenchers like Edward Abbey. They care about the children, the planet, and those without the ability to defend themselves. They do so regardless of whether they’re in danger, mocked, or persecuted—and they will be, because they are a threat to the status quo.

I left Patagonia for the tech world, which doesn’t have the best record when it comes to agitating for social change. But there are world-altering issues, like internet-history privacy, that we can and must impact. Because our truth is our voice. And if we lose that, we lose each other, and we are our only hope.

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