I just watched the trailer for “Before the Flood” and spotted a serious error made by one of the talking heads interviewed in Leonardo DiCaprio’s latest documentary. The interviewee says:
“Politicians will do what the people want them to do. Once the American people are convinced, the politicians will fall in line very quickly.”
This fundamental error is the reason climate change is still getting worse. Gilens and Page wrote a paper that demonstrated in 2014 that although politicians respond well to the wishes of billionaires, the average voter has “little or no independent influence” on public policy. This is a difficult fact to accept, as is the reason people have not been shouting louder about the climate crisis.
Ten years ago Al Gore tried to convince us of “The Inconvenient Truth” (2006) that climate change was the most pressing issue of our time. Gore was correct, but his ideas were attacked and marginalized by organized right-wingers. The documentary “Merchants of Doubt” (2015), based on a book of the same name, unmasks the climate deniers, but fails to appreciate the role the corporate media plays in controlling the narrative. For that you have to go back to “Manufacturing Consent” (1992), to learn how the Propaganda Model works. The consolidation of media ownership is part of an even larger problem described in “The Corporation” (2003) which makes the case that if a corporation was a person, they would be considered a psycho.
This is the fundamental root problem of climate change. The biosphere is not under threat because you ate a hamburger this week (although it would be better if you didn’t). The problem is that the greed of billionaires is out of control. The climate scientists are not experts in the politics of power. The mainstream media produces propaganda instead of journalism. Corporations are abusing eminent domain not for public good, but for private profit because the Supreme Court condoned their behaviour. Politicians on both sides of the party divide are beholden to their major corporate donors. The average voter is learning that, worse than being ignored by elected representatives, even if their vote is accepted, it may not even be counted at all. Once we finally realize that the root cause of climate change is a lack of democracy, the way forward becomes clear.
When a critical mass of people wakes up, our peace officers will stop acting like rent-a-cops doing dirty deeds for greedy billionaires. Anti-corruption laws, driven by grassroots action and ballot initiatives, can take government out of the hands of corporations and Wall Street banks, and restore it to the people. Electoral reform can break the corrupt two-party system and ensure that paper ballots are used to audit electronic voting machines. The debate system can be opened up so smaller parties are not unfairly marginalized. When the people take back their power they can stop greedy corporations from destroying the biosphere and solve all kinds of problems.
Every problem has a solution, most have several and you don’t have to pick just one. If you want to be part of the solution, share these ideas with your friends, family, co-workers, clients, classmates and neighbours. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
I’ve been poking around for information on how the money flows from the GMO Lobby to the relatively small cadre of apologists who defend them. When clicking through links about genetic engineering (GE), the same names keep popping up. If you follow the pro-GMO money it tends to lead back to the very corporations who stand to rake in massive profits by keeping people ignorant about what goes into their food supply.
As a starting point, let’s look at Kellogg’s funding of a recent study suggesting that 100 billion cows were healthy right before they were slaughtered for food after ingesting GE feed for only 90-120 days. The study came out of the University of California at Davis, which gets lots of research funding from ‘industry partners’ .
When I started clicking links to the Kellogg Foundation I found some rather odd data. The branding on their website is all about helping children. Nothing in the mission statement about the quality of cow feed. So I searched their grants page for UC Davis and found a number of awards adding up to over six million dollars, only a pittance of which went to grants that had anything to do with children. I fail to see how grants to livestock feed studies mesh with the stated mission of the Kellogg fund.
This sort of inconsistency leads to accusations of corruption and money laundering akin to what the Grocery Manufacturers Association did during GMO labeling campaigns in California and Washington state. Kellogg’s funnelled money into both of those campaigns due to concerns that GMO labeling will eat further into their profits, down 16% in the 2nd quarter. This setback was attributed to changes in eating habits rather than the boycott of Kellogs products to protest their opposition to labeling their GE foods.
I’m not attacking the scientists involved in pro-GE studies. They probably believe that they’re doing good work for the benefit of mankind. Noam Chomsky explained in Manufacturing Consent how the systemic filters ensure that the people who get ahead in the media are the ones whose outlook meshes with that of their corporate masters. There are similar filters operating in academia.
Let’s turn our attention to the cozy group of GMO cheerleaders who jumped on that feeding study like a duck on a junebug and started sharing the shit out of it. I first found it on a Facebook page and followed the links to an article in Forbes by Jon Entine. He’s head of an outfit called the Genetic Literacy Project. Sourcewatch follows the funding through front groups and networked organizations that are funded by right-wing think tanks and ultimately the Koch Brothers, who also support anti-labeling laws.
When I started sharing my views on Twitter, I got into a lengthy exchange with Kevin Folta at the University of Florida. I didn’t find any links to Kellogg’s there, but I did stumble onto some fascinating reports on how the Koch Brothers bought a department and tried to buy the presidency of another of Florida’s state universities. Of the 12 institutions in Florida’s state system, UFlorida has the largest endowment and enrollment and also appears on the list of recipients of Koch brothers’ largesse. Unfortunately, a lack of transparency makes it impossible to determine how much Koch influence might be exerted at UF. Regardless, it is clear that Folta has solid connections to the Genetic Literacy Project and other GMO cheerleaders who present at the same conferences.
Why should you care who funds whom? It’s not just that a handful of corporations are trying to get a stranglehold on the world’s food supply. You should care that YOU DON’T LIVE IN A DEMOCRACY ANYMORE. Let that sink in. This is not just my opinion. Princeton academics have documented this fundamental shift to oligarchy. Predictably, this story received almost no coverage in the mainstream media. Chris Hedges describes what has happened as a corporate coup d’etat. The same kind of stealth tactics that Big Ag pursues have also been used with great success by Big Pharma, Big Oil and Big Tobacco and Wall Street took it to a whole new level. Naomi Klein‘s new book, does a great job of explaining how capitalism is destroying the biosphere.
If the corporations have already won, as Hedges and a great deal of evidence suggests, what are the people to do? Citizens in the U.S. and Canada will have to take back democracy from the ground up, starting at the municipal level. (Take a look at what they’re doing in Seattle if you need some inspiration.) In every election at the provincial/state or federal level the number one issue we need to demand accountability on in Canada is ELECTORAL REFORM. In the U.S., campaign finance needs reform to address the corruption and legal bribery that has quietly robbed the people of their power.
Expect the bullshit machine try to scare you with all manner of reasons to keep the status quo. Don’t drink their kool-aid. An estimated 400,000 people who hit the streets of New York on September 21st to demand action on climate change were just the tip of the iceberg. As more North Americans realize their country has been stolen by the .001%, I predict we will see even larger crowds in the street. The police state cannot prevail against a populist uprising.
Billionaire venture capitalist Nick Hanauer points out that when economic inequality reaches the record levels we are seeing, the result tends to be an uprising or a police state. Then Ferguson happened and showed America the police state had already arrived. Peace is a good thing. Nobody wants a violent revolution, but maintaining the status quo is not an acceptable option to anyone who values their civil rights or the biosphere we depend on for survival. If you don’t get off your arse and demand your democracy back, you will condemn your children to live as serfs on a poisoned planet, who think they are ‘free’ because the media told them so.
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Some old white guy behind the wheel is absolutely not letting go. He’s too impaired to appreciate the danger his own children are in. In fact, he may be smoking crack, which explains why his foot is jammed down on the accelerator. He could be Rob Ford, Steven Harper, any Republican, or the Koch Brothers, but let’s just call him Capitalism. We all want to get out of the car, but if we shift our weight too fast while trying to scramble out the back hatch all at once and the drive wheels touch the ground, we’re all going over. Hmmmm. What to do.
Here’s an idea, one by one, without tipping the balance, lets just carefully climb out the rear doors so that it doesn’t matter if the fat cat in the driver seat takes that nasty, smelly motor car over the cliff. How do we do this? Some of us are already out there, growing organic food in our own gardens, and some are choosing to make Christmas presents instead of buying truckloads of stuff others don’t need or even want. Every time you choose public transit or ride your bike and leave your car at home, you are helping to shift the balance of power. Growing numbers are coming out of the media fog and standing up to say no to tar sands expansion, no to fracking and yes to saving our biosphere together.
We are at a social tipping point on this small, blue planet. The guy behind the wheel is about to glance over his shoulder and realize that he isn’t going to be taking a whole bunch of us with him. If enough of us get out and vote to place firm limits on the increasingly dangerous powers of transnational corporations we may even be able to hook up a tow line and prevent a tragedy.
Thanks, Captialism, for getting us into this interesting predicament. Now go home, you’re drunk.
This random insight hit me as I tumbled into bed two hours too late last night, having written 6 blog posts in 2 days. No recreational drugs were involved in this effort, not even caffeine. It was as if I turned on the spigot at a well into which thousands of bits of information had been pumped, building up the pressure. All the little bits of evidence that the world is going to hell in a handcart were shoved together inside a brain not quite big enough to hold it all, and now the flow has reversed.
I’ve been dismayed by the wide variety of problems we face today, and the inability of people to just connect the dots and realize that our children’s children are in grave danger and we need to do something about that before its too late. Divisions between any two groups on this planet are a problem because they distract us from the deception that that’s more important than the air we breathe and the water we need to live on this planet. If you think about basic human needs that we all have in common it really is not that complicated. We are all human, and beyond that, we are all Terrestrial.
We are all on and of this Earth. This planet is our home, just as we are home to billions of tiny micro-organisms that populate our skin and our intestinal tracts. The health of the parent organism depends on the health of its population, and too many of these populations are ailing. It doesn’t have to be that way. I’m sick of a culture where rape is considered acceptable to joke about while we allow massive corporations to rape the planet for the profit of the few. If the Earth is our mother, think about that. We allow corporations to rape our mother. Yes, that is a truly disturbing picture. How many of us are saying that’s OK, as long as I get paid for it? Under the law of this land the person who co-operates with a crime is guilty as an accessory to it. It’s time to wake up to that fact.
I often tell my child that every problem has a solution and most have several. Saving the Earth has millions of solutions and we don’t have to pick just one. Some of us are pushing to divest from fossil fuels, others are fighting to get genetically engineered foods properly labeled and others want fluoride out of the drinking water. There are thousand of courageous people working at worthy and noble causes. These are all important, but the task of fixing all that is broken in our world will be much, much easier once we have wrestled control of our democracies out of the bloody hands of corporations who are murdering mother earth.
Repairing our broken democracies really is the foundation of any plan to save the world. That is the first prize we must keep our eyes on. That is the intermediate step that will bring all our plans closer to fruition. Terrestrialism is a little seed of an idea that I would like to plant in other brains. As an identity, it spans every living being on this planet – it is a club we already belong to. If you can shift your perception to encompass that idea, the world you perceive will change into a far less threatening place.
If you’re wondering how this will work, understand that it really is all about what you focus on. If you are focused on repairing the damage we have done to the biosphere so that our grandchildren don’t drown during a hurricane, how important is it to establish exactly who knocked down the world trade centre? Once you realize that the past cannot be undone, but the future can be saved, it becomes easier to entertain two conflicting viewpoints in your brain as well as in your circle of friends, without making a big deal out of it. Bringing the guilty to justice is certainly a worthy cause, and that is a goal we should work towards, but our basic needs for air, clean water and healthy food must be prioritized.
Keeping the goal in mind is helpful when fracking your brain by filling it up with the thousands of points-of-view that you are exposed to every day. Some of these ideas will stay with you, not unlike the chemicals that are pumped into the ground under our aquifers, but many will be ejected as unhelpful. Whenever you find a deep fissure between ideas, look for the elements of distraction and deception that go along with the politics of division, and realize how many of these dichotomies are false and illusory. We are all of this earth and we all have a duty of stewardship towards her.
Genocide is one of the four crimes against peace identified in international law. When a movement started to add Ecocide to the Rome Statue of the International Criminal Court, the backlash was tremendous. If you follow the money it is easy to see why. Corporations have a legal obligation to put profits before people and an ecocide law would seem to supersede that. So the vicious cycle continues; resource depletion, scarcity, conflict, war, and more environmental destruction. Huge corporations are raking in billions this way, and whine that any change would damage the economy. News flash – the economy has already been trashed – and it was Wall Street that did it, not the tree-huggers.
It doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to choose between the environment and the economy. That is a false dichotomy which doesn’t hold up under scrutiny. Pressure to divest from fossil fuel companies will encourage many to shift their production to clean energy. Political pressure can shift subsidies from dirty oil to sustainable sources.
Enshrining ecocide into law will only be successful where democracy has been reclaimed from the corporations who control the medium and the message. The legal concept of superior responsibility means that the buck stops at the top. CEO’s and company directors don’t want to end up in jail, but that doesn’t need to be the end game in an ecocide prosecution. Corporations could be carved up into smaller units and still maintain employment and earn profits for their shareholders. I don’t buy corporate fear-mongering because, as Polly Higgins points out in her TEDx talk, of the 300 companies who profited from slavery, not one went out of business when it was abolished.
Meanwhile, at the grassroots level, we can add ecocide to our vocabulary and start tossing it around more generously. We can paint it on banners and march it through the streets. We can throw it at political candidates and demand that they respond to it. And when corporations stick their fingers in their ears, pretending they don’t hear it, we can vote with our dollars.
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