Crawford Hollingworth: only corporations can solve global issues

Crawford Hollingworth's new book - Global Over Development - parodies the typical annual report with an provocative look at the dark side of progress

If ever there was a company report worth paying attention to, it's this year's Global Over Development (GOD) Inc. annual report. GOD's annual report is different from the average stuffy, boring read. Instead of extolling the virtues of the CEO and carefully burying anything deemed unpalatable to shareholders, GOD's report presents only the most sobering facts about the state of the world, delivered through the mouths of cartoon characters.

It begins with an address from the plucky Chairman Peter Progress who, in turn, introduces seven CEOs driving seven core businesses. The stated missions of these companies would make a PR executive blanche: widen the gap between rich and poor, provide sex and drugs on a global level, grow the world's waste mountain, erase personal privacy and ensure that more of the world's population is either under or over weight.

The illustrated format and humorous dialogue might be considered childish but the message is far from it. As the CEO's brag about their achievements in creating a world of over consumption, sleaze, rubbish, exploitation, division and Big Brother-like surveillance it becomes clear that we, the readers, are the unlucky shareholders.

The CEOs include Mr. X. Terminator at Global Exploitation Inc, Mr. D. Visive at Divide and Rule Inc, Ms. X. Plicit at Sleazy Inc, Mr. X. Crement at World Trash Inc, Mr. I. Spy at Big Brother Inc, Ms. E. Normous at Big Fat World Inc and Mr. N. O. Space at Urban Crush Inc.

The author of this tragic-comedy illustrated report is Crawford Hollingworth, pictured left, who after a career spent in the fast moving corporate world as a global futures expert decided to broaden what he saw an as exclusive dialogue on the state of the world. By grouping together some of the most hard-hitting facts and statistics about the side effects of global development in a novel format, GODs annual report is an eerily powerful and innovative approach to awareness raising.

‘I became frustrated by the hi-brow debate. I would go to certain places and mention "sustainability" and the people look at you like you're mad. The awareness actually takes place in this micro world. I suddenly thought I wanted to try to create a semi graphical way of conveying the information in a more palatable slightly more tongue-in-cheek way to people who don't read the Guardian.'

Hollingworth's cartoon characters are meant to bring the masses of information on the state of the world to 20 rather than 40 somethings, and he blogs in their names on his site. The idea is that, in changing the context of how people receive information, you can change how they process it.

‘The gap between action and behaviour has become wider in modern society. The world has become busy and complex. It's easier to have an attitude and not find a way to express it. This isn't about making people activists. You read it, you snigger a bit and you feel slightly complicit, because you are. That makes you more open to positive changes. GOD is trying to use both sides of the brain to make people more aware therefore give them more chance to act,' he says.

Moving on

Whether this approach is successful in converting the unconverted to ‘the awakening' that Hollingworth refers to remains to be seen.

‘By 2050 people will be living to age 110 and the retirement age will be closer to 85. Imagine what our kids' lives will be like, imagine 5 generations living in one family. We may have a world population of 9.5 billion. It won't be a one-product -fits-all kind of world,' he says.

In a surprising twist, Hollingworth believes that corporations are the answer to the world's problems as only they, not governments, have the capacity and the power to create change and solve global issues.

‘We are looking at a much more urban, more populated, more resource scarce world. I believe by 2050 most of the products we have will be rented. No one will be able to just chuck things away. If they do, the products will be traced and that person will be fined,' he says.

‘Sony spends lots of money looking for ways to make TVs from renewable sources- no one else is going to do that. It is the companies that actually rely on the earth's resources who will be the keenest to protect it. We can be cynical and blame them for the issues or support and encourage them to find new ways to a better future,' he says.

Perhaps, but one read of this parody of contemporary progress and you will see the dark future that corporations, in their arrogance, have given us so far.

Global Over Development Inc. annual report by Crawford Hollingworth is available on Amazon


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