Taking corporate power out of our politics – for the sake of our future

Posted November 18th, 2011 in Blog, Featured 1 Comment »

Fostering Ecological Hope
Today from Margaret Swedish:

As usual, I have a lot on my mind. Things are changing so swiftly, but the steady course of industrial corporate society goes on as if there is no tomorrow – which these days is a colloquial phrase that has become too real for comfort.

I want to mention the disturbing nature of our corporate-dominated politics because recent examples and exposés show how much the Obama Administration looks a lot like every one before it – controlled and dominated by the power of corporate money. I mean, this we have known about Congress for some time now. The power of corporate money to determine who gets elected tells us everything we need to know about why the federal government is moving in more and more of an anti-people, pro-wealthy direction.

Food that corporations think not appropriate for school lunches

This week Congress defeated the president’s effort to get healthier food into our schools. Under the pressure of big corporations like frozen pizza companies, like ConAgra and Schwan, pizza is called a vegetable, and Tater Tots will still be served, along with abundant salt and other additives, in school lunches.

We can’t even get Congress to protect our kids from toxic foods and a future of heart disease and diabetes. Well, think of it this way: since GDP is measured by economic activity, all that illness will count towards growth in the health care industry. Corporations that make money treating all these diseases will prosper.

And what about President Obama? While the Keystone XL pipeline opponents are celebrating victory because the decision has been put off until after the 2012 election, plans to do it anyway, or in another way, proceed apace. TransCanada, the aggressive corporation behind the extension plans, with friends in high places in the State Department (you know, like Hillary Clinton), has already agreed to meet the concerns of Nebraska’s Republican government by rerouting the pipeline away from the ecologically sensitive Sand Hills area. They are pleased to say that Nebraskans will have a say in the final route, which is a far cry from saying it won’t happen.

Meanwhile, other proposals will soon move forward to address TransCanada’s rationale for gaining access to the refineries in the Gulf. The major problem is a glut of oil coming into the refineries in Cushing OK. The company needs more capacity for Alberta’s heavy crude, and thus the desire to get access to refineries in TX. One new proposal is to use other existing pipeline capacity, reversing flow from OK to TX. This plan involves Enbridge, a Canadian pipeline company, notorious for an oil spill on the Kalamazoo River last year. The company may begin building the southern portion of the pipeline as early as January. Given the company’s record of oil spills, this is small comfort after the victory declaration.

From the Nov. 14 NY Times article:

In the near term, Keystone XL is not about transporting more oil from Canada’s oil sands into the United States. By many estimates, existing cross-border pipelines will not run out of capacity until sometime between 2015 and 2017.

But many refineries on the Gulf Coast are designed to handle heavier crudes like those produced in Canada, and they are looking to replace lost supplies from Venezuela, which has a tense relationship with the United States.

Keystone XL, if built, would give Canadian oil sands producers a route to the gulf. But an even quicker, though partial, solution could be the one proposed by Enbridge: modifying the existing the Seaway pipeline to flow in the opposite direction, from Cushing to the gulf.

So I don’t trust this White House decision at all. I think it may turn out to be a masterful way of circumventing the growing movement against not only the pipeline, but against the whole oil tar sands industry which is one of the most environmentally destructive on the planet.

Pollution wafts off mid-Atlantic Coast. Photo: NASA Earth Observatory

And why should they be trusted? The other day, NY Times reporter John M. Broder wrote a lengthy exposé of the influence of the fossil fuel industry on Obama’s rejection of the E.P.A.’s proposal for more stringent standards for ozone, the major pollutant in our urban smog. EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson, a close friend of Obama’s for many years, basically had the rug pulled out from under her in the most embarrassing manner by the president as he kowtowed to industry.

I highly recommend reading this article as a crucial contemporary civics lesson. If you wonder why this country is becoming more and more dysfunctional and why democracy is disappearing, check out this example of the power of corporations over our ability to make good policy. While Obama claims that ozone regulations would cost jobs, again, I can highly recommend to him future job growth in the health care industry as more and more of us get asthma, heart and lung disease, and other illnesses due to our toxic air.

The NY Times editorial board pronounced on this in today’s paper, describing exactly how this decision was not about economics or job creation, but simply politics through and through. This is right up there with Congress’ decision to cave to industry in the matter of our school kids’ health. If you wonder who’s running the show, well, there you have it.

So if corporations rule our politics, if politicians’ main concern is access to corporate campaign donations, and if campaign fundraising has become a permanent fixture of our politics in and out of election years, how in the world do we think we are going to meet any of the urgent challenges we face on this planet and in this country?

Occupy Milwaukee rally - Photo: Margaret Swedish

Well, we have some interesting new movements emerging right now focused on the power of corporate money over our lives and they have changed the political discourse. But this discourse needs to move beyond job creation and inequities to a realization that we can’t return to the old ways of doing economies – industrial economies, economies of endless growth, the rationale behind the tar sands, the pipeline, the caving in on ozone standards, the decisions to drill more and more in the Gulf, in Alaska, and in the Arctic Ocean. That is the vision of decision-makers who are desperate to get more and more energy out of the earth to fuel this growth because they simply do not know what else to do.

If this is what we choose as our job growth strategy, we are in deep trouble indeed. It is the path to more and more disaster. We are surrendering the future, including a viable life for the human community in this planet, by continuing on this course. At some point, we have got to think past the endless election cycles and the corporate money that drives them and start thinking about what it will mean to live in a way that is viable and sustainable in the future. That we seem incapable of doing this is a failure of our politics here and around the world.

We must wrest our politics from the corporations. That is crucial. Meanwhile, we need more and more to build among us the new way of life, resilient communities that can withstand the shocks that are coming and develop a new culture of relationships among us, humans and other creatures, spaces and habitats, that will be the seeds for what emerges amidst the inevitable collapses. And we need to do this with joy, with wonder and awe, with love and compassion, in friendship and solidarity – because we know from how nature works that we are all in this together – or we’re not going to be in it at all.

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One Response

  1. Steven Earl Salmony

    It is almost 2012. Why have many academicians apparently been rendered dumbstruck during my lifetime by what is all-too-obvious? Absolute global human population numbers can be clearly seen skyrocketing since the end of World War II. Are experts playing stupid? Have they been mislead by personal arrogance, extreme foolhardiness and wanton greed or overcome by a lust for influence, privilege and power? Or all of the above? When I was born, 2.3 billion human beings lived on Earth. In a single lifetime of threescore and ten years (1945 – 2015) human population numbers are projected and fully expected to increase by 5+/- billion people. How can so many economists and demographers not see what is happening? Do their professional activities have something to do with science? I say no, definitely not.

    I find much preternatural thought and unscientific research but cannot locate adequate scientific evidence that supports the idea of “human exceptionalism” with regard to the population dynamics of the human species. Although the idea of human exceptionalism is known to be specious from a scientific point of view, because it is of vital importance to ideologues and those who primarily benefit from the way the global political economy is organized and managed, human exceptionalism has not been the subject of sufficient scrutiny by scientists and consequently allowed to stand uncontested during my lifetime. Even today scientists refuse identify the idea of human exceptionalism regarding human population dynamics as the false proposition it is. They remain electively mute when confronted with scientific research that directly contradicts the idea of human exceptionalism. Where is the scientific research to support the idea that human beings are somehow exempted from ecological “rules of the house” in our planetary home, as many so-called experts in economics and demography have regularly and adamantly proclaimed since the time of my birth. The family of humanity appears to have been confused and harmed for many too many years by ideologically driven sycophants and absurdly enriched minions of the rich and powerful who have dishonestly been laying claim to scientific knowledge that they have not ever possessed. Demographaphers and economists are not scientists, the imprimatur of the IUSSP and the Nobel Prize Committee notwithstanding. These disciplines never have been fields of scientific study and never will be, at least not until demographic theories and economic models conform to the biological and physical laws of the world we inhabit, laws based upon the best available science. Science is. And whatsoever is is, is it not?

    Extant scientific research of human population dynamics/overpopulation has been consciously and deliberately ignored by scientists with adequate expertise. They have failed to stand up for science and humanity by speaking truth to the greedmongering movers and shakers of the global political economy who rule the world in our time and appear dead set on ravaging the Earth and degrading its environs until the planet is an unfit place for children everywhere to inhabit. If my perspective could somehow be on the right track, then we are bearing witness not only to the greatest failure of nerve, intellectual honesty, moral courage of all time, but also to an incomprehensible loss of capacity to do the right thing, according to the lights each of us possesses.

    If the population dynamics of the human species is essentially similar to(not different from or exceptional) the population dynamics of other species, then the most attractive, widely shared and consensually validated idea of a seemingly magical, automatic, benign demographic transition to population stabilization of the human species on Earth in the middle of Century XXI is a colossal mistake with potentially profound implications for future human well being and environmental health.