Winnie Byanyima was the real hero of the Cost of Inequality panel in Davos

Your moment

For the past few days, a video from the Cost of Inequality panel at the World Economic Forum in Davos has been making some ripples on the internet. What made those ripples is Dutch historian Rutger Bregman reproaching Davos attendees about how amongst all the talk of justice, equality, participation, transparency and social change no one was mentioning the biggest and the most impactful solution: taxing the rich. 

His speech is poignant and includes extremely quotable, tweetable, and headline-friendly sentences such as: “It feels like I’m at a firefighters conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water” or “Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion”. And these sentences have been all over my feed(s) since Monday. Everyone from the Guardian to the Washington Post reported Bergman’s condemnation, painting him as the Robin Hood of our generation. Hell, Vox actually did call him a ‘folk hero’.

I hundred percent agree with Bregman: let’s e̶a̶t̶ tax the rich and hold them responsible for the people who bear the expense of their fortunes. Still, the way the media reported the video and the panel in general leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.

If you watch the video until the very end, you’ll see Winnie Byanyima replying to Ken Goldman, former CFO of Yahoo, and toppling his bigoted white liberalism in the most eloquent manner. Her words are sharp, true and unrelenting; I want to tweet them, shout them from a rooftop and get them tattooed on my body. Yet there is little to no mention of Byanyima in the headlines, news articles nor opinion pieces. All the buzz is about Bregman and all credit goes to him.

To sum up the exchange: Goldman berates the panellists for talking about taxes too much. He claims that currently, the world is experiencing record-low rates of unemployment thanks to the big conglomerates they are attacking. He asks the panellists what can be done to solve the inequality problem besides taxing the rich and powerful and mumbles about creating jobs.

Translation: I really like money and don’t wanna give it up, what can do I to seem like a good person but keep making money with the blood of the people I’m pretending to help.

Byanyima replies:
“Globalization is bringing jobs. The quality of the jobs matters! These are not jobs of dignity. In many countries, workers no longer have a voice. They are not allowed to unionize, they are not allowed to negotiate for salaries. We’re talking about jobs, but jobs that bring dignity.” “Don’t tell me about low levels of unemployment. You are counting the wrong things, you’re not counting the dignity of people. You’re counting exploited people.”

When you watch the panel in full, it is full of eloquent takedowns and extremely quotable, tweetable and headline-friendly soundbites uttered by all panellists: Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean; Jane Goodall, primatologist and founder of the Jane Goodall Institute; historian Rutger Bregman; Oxfam International Executive Director Winnie Byanyima; and Shamina Singh, president of the Mastercard Center for Inclusive Growth.

Yet, in most of the reporting done about the panel, it is Bregman who is mentioned on the headline and in 90 percent of the piece.

At one point, in his lecture lightly concealed as a question, Ken Goldman exclaims: “This is a very one-sided panel... I can’t believe how we picked this panel” in the condescending tone that’s only reserved for rich white men. That might be the one single thing in the world Goldman and I agree on. I also think the panel is quite unbelievable; four women, two of whom are women of colour, and Bergman as the only (white) man (bar the moderator). Such a ratio isn’t a luxury women, especially women of colour, are usually afforded in panels.

Still, what the media chooses to cover is what Bregman says. One news outlet, at the end of a full page covered in Bregman’s quotes, adds: “[Ken Goldman] was told just because people were in jobs did not mean they were not in poverty. [sic]” Who was he told this by? Byanyima. Yet, the reporter doesn’t mention her name once.

The media erasing women of colour and attributing their work to white men and women is not an exceptional phenomenon. It is an everyday occurrence. Take the #MeToo movement. When sexual harassment accusations against Harvey Weinstein took the media by storm, the hashtag and the movement was attributed to famous white women, like Alyssa Milano and Rose Mcgowan, when in reality the campaign was founded by black civil rights activist Tarana Burke ten years prior.

Not acknowledging the social justice work people of colour do and attributing their work to others is a form of oppression. It needs to stop and the media needs to be held accountable.

In The Guardian piece, Byanyima gets a brief mention at the end of the article as another panellist who ‘took up the fight’ when Ken Goldman addressed the panel.

Byanyima didn’t ‘take up the fight’, she has been fighting the fight for decades. She had started fighting the fight before Bregman was even born. We need to start giving women of colour the recognition they deserve in their work of making the world a better place, a liveable place for all.

Here’s my headline suggestion for that video:
Winnie Byanyima, Ugandan aeronautical engineer, politician, and diplomat, tells rich white man to shove his jobs up his money vault...

Or something like that.

More Stories

  • The Sky has a Limit

    Company blogs

    Join us for the second of our Kinder Conversations - the Sky has a Limit.

    Following our investigation into the Future of Meat in February, we've turned our attention to the sky. We'll be talking about whether air travel can be more sustainable, and how.

    We're delighted to be hosting this event in collaboration with our friends at TQ, the Amsterdam tech hub where we're based. 

    📅 When Monday 17 June 18:30 - 20:30
    📭 Where TQ, Singel 542, Amsterdam
    🎯 Why should I fly Kinder? To hear about the latest research and technology making air travel more sustainable. To find out what you can do to reduce the impact your flights are having. To share a drink with like-minded travelers, and sample some of our vegan snacks (including beloved Professor Grunschnabel ice cream, as seen at the Future of Meat event)

    🎫 How can I get in? We’re offering two ticket levels: Economy (free) and Business Class (for the price of a donation to Cool Earth). Secure your seat now!

    More about The Sky has a Limit

    Here at Kinder, we believe that greener travel is one of the key ways in which we can tackle the climate crisis. Travelling green can mean a lot of things, but right now we’re concerned about the aviation industry.  

    If aviation were a country, it’d be a top 10 polluter - and C02 emissions from air travel are growing many times faster than any other form. We’re already in a very dangerous position, and although there are many potential solutions, we sometimes feel overwhelmed and uncertain about what to do about it.

    That’s where Kinder Conversations comes in.

    Kinder Conversations is a series of events which delve into the biggest issues facing the world. 

    At the Sky has a Limit, we’ll be bringing together representatives from research and technology, the aviation industry and the not-for-profit sector to talk about sustainable air travel. We’ll hear more about the problem, and a lot more about the solutions.

    Plus, there’ll be time to get a drink from TQ’s bar (buying a drink helps our friends from TQ support more events like this), try some vegan ice cream, and chat to fellow travellers about the steps you can take to travel greener.

    ✈️ Are you ready to #flykinder? Then secure your boarding pass here

    Read more
  • How flying cars could help solve the problem of air pollution


    I don't have a driving license and when pressed about getting one by friends tired of chauffeuring me around I usually say I will only get one if I can drive something cool, like the Batmobile or a flying car. Unfortunately, I might have to honour that promise as it seems that flying cars are finally taking off (alas, no commercial Batmobiles in sight).

    Indeed, several promising startups around the world are working to deliver the "car of the future"  over the next few years. Like the Dutch company PAL-V that showed off a limited edition of its flying car at the Geneva Auto Show in Switzerland.

    The PAL-V is a hybrid between a car and a helicopter (or more precisely, a gyrocopter), able to reach a top speed of 160 km/h on the tarmac but also get airborne in just 5 minutes, hitting airspeeds of 180 km/h over a range of up to 500 km. But since buying a PAL-V will set you back around € 350,000 I might have to pass on this one. Moreover, flying this beauty requires not just a driving license but also (understandably) a license to fly, and that's just too much for me.


    Thankfully, other companies are developing vehicles that need no driver at all. Aerospace manufacturer Bell Helicopter, for example, is working on Nexus, an air taxi capable of taking off and landing in the middle of a city (whereas the PAL-V still needs a runway, albeit short, to get airborne).

    Called VTOLs (short for Vertical Take Off and Landing), these aircraft aim to become sort of an Uber of urban air travel, bringing customers to the opposite part of the city or even to a nearby city in a matter of few minutes.

    If you're at JFK airport in New York, for example, and have a meeting in Manhattan, instead of embarking on a 1-hour, Cosmopolis-style taxi ride, you could just hail a flying car and be downtown in 5 minutes.  

    Futuristic as it may sound, concrete plans to make it come true are underway. Earlier this month, German startup Lilium successfully completed the first test of its new five-seater Lilium Jet, an electric vehicle that, according to the company, will have a range of 300 km and a top speed of 300 km/h. 

    The reason electric flight is such an exciting area of research is not just because flying taxis will allow a handful of high rollers to drastically cut on their commuting time. Electric flying cars might be really good for the environment too.

    A recent study published by Nature highlighted that, in some cases, flying cars could eventually be greener than even electric road cars, cutting emissions while reducing traffic on increasingly busy roads.

    Moreover, developments in the field of flying cars could also boost the research on electric flight at large, including long haul electric flights, sort of the Holy Grail of aviation. And, as known, the civil aviation industry needs to find effective ways to lower its carbon emissions as soon as possible. 

    However, as explained by Hugh Hunt in an article on The Conversation that we republished here on Kinder World, "gaps in necessary technology and practical uncertainties beyond the cars’ promising physics mean that they may not arrive in time to be a large-scale solution to the energy crisis and congestion." 

    Read more
  • Why the current state of aviation is one of the main threats to our planet


    Let's get this one thing straight: most people prefer flying to other modes of transport, and we seem to do it more and more often. The airline industry is booming and 4.1 billion passengers have been transported last year. Almost every figure one looks at shows the impressive increase in flights over the last two decades.

    Alexandre de Juniac, head of the International Association for Flight Transport proclaims: “In 2000, the average citizen flew just once every 43 months. In 2017, the figure was once every 22 months. Flying has never been more accessible. And this is liberating people to explore more of our planet for work, leisure, and education. Aviation is the business of freedom."  

    However, this ‘business of freedom’ runs on fossil energy carriers as planes still almost exclusively fly on kerosene. Kerosene is a fuel produced by oil refining and carbon dioxide (CO2) is the major product of burning kerosene. The 2-5% of all global CO2 emissions the aviation industry emits is caused by its fuel consumption (and choice). And unlike other fuels like diesel or gasoline, airlines don't pay taxes on kerosene in most countries — making cheap air travel possible.

    In 2018 Europe’s biggest airline Ryanair became number 9 in the list of Europe’s biggest CO2 emitters and still claims to be the ‘greenest and cleanest airline’. Andrew Murphy – the aviation manager at the European Federation for Transport and Environment — argues that Ryanair the new coal when it comes to climate pollution. Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, on the other hand, dismisses such claims by saying the claims are ‘’complete and utter rubbish’’.

    Other airlines, like KLM who partly uses renewable jet-fuel, are acknowledging the problem but they aren't too far behind Ryanair on the list of emitters. 

    The growth of the industry is not expected to slow down. India and China are the biggest growth markets, the latter alone is building 200 new commercial airports in the next ten years. Moreover, industry forecasts suggest that emissions will rise by 700% until 2050 which amounts to more than 4% of the world’s remaining carbon budget.

    If we want to reach the goals of the Paris Agreement, every the average earthling has a quota of two tons of CO2 per annum but just a return trip between New York and Amsterdam generates three tons already.

    Compared to other modes of transport planes are the biggest CO2 emitters per travelled kilometre followed by cars, buses and finally trains which are the least polluting. The CO2 emissions, however, are only one half of the medal. The impact of flying on global warming is different than most other transport as it happens in the air high above the ground where the processes that cause or reduce global warming happen. These include CO2 and nitrogen oxide emission but also cloud formation, ozone and soot as well as methane reduction.

    The climate impact of the emitted greenhouse gases in the stratosphere are three times higher than on the ground. Flying also causes condensation trails and fog clouds in certain weather conditions. Such clouds can have a warming or a cooling effect on the climate. One way to improve the climate effect of flying would be planning better routes where warming clouds are avoided and the formation of cooling clouds is favoured — our current routes have an overall warming effect.

    So, hypothetically, some flights with clever flight-route planning might even reduce global warming. However, as we don't have time to hypothesise, we need to find and urgently implement other ways to bring down the impact of flying, like using better fuels or even better planes.

    This article was written by Eric Schuler for Kinder World. Schuler is a PhD candidate at the University of Amsterdam and works on new industrial sustainable chemistries to turn captured CO2 into useful things such as plastics or fuel. He's also a photojournalist with an interest in climate and land-use change.

    This story features:
    Read more