Davos Diary, Day 1: Setting the Scene

That high-pitched whine you hear is the sound of corporate jets revving their engines in preparation for their annual trip to Zurich, where they will deposit their passengers into fleets of waiting Mercedes, BMWs and Audis to take them up into the Alps and to the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, ...

604636_rothkopf_color_medium_05.jpg
604636_rothkopf_color_medium_05.jpg

That high-pitched whine you hear is the sound of corporate jets revving their engines in preparation for their annual trip to Zurich, where they will deposit their passengers into fleets of waiting Mercedes, BMWs and Audis to take them up into the Alps and to the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Or perhaps it is coming from the chorus of critics who, each year, offer their full-throated denunciations of the global conspiracies they envision are hatched over cocktails and canapés in lavish hotel lounges. Or, even more likely, it is coming from the regular participants in the Annual Meeting, who know that Davos is neither the hotbed of intrigue that critics fear, nor is it quite the lavish spectacle that everyone imagines. They keep coming back because Davos still attracts an array of world leaders and business titans unlike that of any other meeting on the planet. They will do business there, and renew old contacts and friendships. But they will also shiver on the frozen streets of Davos, slip on its unshoveled sidewalks, eat its mediocre food, and endure endless speeches containing very little that is new at all.

We get a hint about what the speeches do contain on a page on the Davos members-only website. It asserts that last year, participants in the annual meeting produced 7,000 tons of CO2 equivalents. The page, part of a Forum climate initiative seeking to make the entire event carbon neutral, goes on to suggest that most of these emissions are from air travel and energy use, but I will reserve judgment, reporting to you what I observe and hear over the next few days for FP’s second annual Davos Diary.

That high-pitched whine you hear is the sound of corporate jets revving their engines in preparation for their annual trip to Zurich, where they will deposit their passengers into fleets of waiting Mercedes, BMWs and Audis to take them up into the Alps and to the Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Or perhaps it is coming from the chorus of critics who, each year, offer their full-throated denunciations of the global conspiracies they envision are hatched over cocktails and canapés in lavish hotel lounges. Or, even more likely, it is coming from the regular participants in the Annual Meeting, who know that Davos is neither the hotbed of intrigue that critics fear, nor is it quite the lavish spectacle that everyone imagines. They keep coming back because Davos still attracts an array of world leaders and business titans unlike that of any other meeting on the planet. They will do business there, and renew old contacts and friendships. But they will also shiver on the frozen streets of Davos, slip on its unshoveled sidewalks, eat its mediocre food, and endure endless speeches containing very little that is new at all.

We get a hint about what the speeches do contain on a page on the Davos members-only website. It asserts that last year, participants in the annual meeting produced 7,000 tons of CO2 equivalents. The page, part of a Forum climate initiative seeking to make the entire event carbon neutral, goes on to suggest that most of these emissions are from air travel and energy use, but I will reserve judgment, reporting to you what I observe and hear over the next few days for FP’s second annual Davos Diary.

David Rothkopf is visiting professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs and visiting scholar at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. His latest book is The Great Questions of Tomorrow. He has been a longtime contributor to Foreign Policy and was CEO and editor of the FP Group from 2012 to May 2017. Twitter: @djrothkopf

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