Fast tracking across the days and weeks


Even the Energizer Bunny’s batteries wear down sooner or later. And after two all-nighters, three long-haul trips, a visit with my father and four days of meetings mine should be well worn down. But I’m feel just fine.

And my ailing father is hanging in, too. After my visit with him in the hospital his doctors took a second look at him and decided to fly him out to southern Ontario for surgery. The operation went well, but at 87 he’s having some difficulty bouncing back, so we’ll just have to wait and see.

This idea that batteries wear down is universal, I guess. It seems that even the planet’s batteries are wearing down. I read somewhere recently that James Lovelock, author of the Gaia Hypothesis, said that we should picture the Earth as an 80-year-old woman. She’s already lived for 4 billion years and only has a billion left to go.

According to Wikipedia, Lovelock defined Gaia as: “a complex entity involving the Earth's biosphere, atmosphere, oceans, and soil; the totality constituting a feedback or cybernetic system which seeks an optimal physical and chemical environment for life on this planet.” In other words, the Earth is pretty much a living creature. Lovelock came up with this idea while working for NASA looking for life on Mars. No doubt it was the lack of life there—in contrast to the abundance of life on Earth—that caught Lovelock’s attention.

Given the monumental impact of industry on the environment, this is exciting stuff. A lot of people think so, too. Just this weekend Sharon and I attended the launch of the Council of Canadians convention in Saint John. Maude Barlow, the head of the organization, was there to give the kickoff speech. She was followed up by several other speakers who collectively melded the notions of environmental protection, globalized commerce and politics into their talks.

We took our 10-year-old son with us, who tried his best to pay attention to the speakers, but soon crashed out on his mother’s shoulder. I don’t really blame him. The speeches were all incredibly boring. Maude Barlow delivered a fact-packed presentation with barely enough room to take a breath. None of the speakers thought to use the big projection screen behind them, which would have added some snap and clarity to their points.

That said, all their information was great. And hey, I’m all for saving the planet too. But if their mission was to energize a citizen’s movement, they were only preaching to the choir. Most of the attendees, in not quite a full house, were over the age of 50. And maybe 20% of the crowd was young people under the age of 25. The 30-to-40-somethings were simply missing in action. It’s kind of sad. If the Green Revolution is ever going to take off, we’re going to need a much more engaged public.

The trouble is, the nature of the world’s problems is so complex that most of us simply throw up our hands. And one of the speakers, journalist Garry Leech, pointed it out. He observed that we, Canadians and Americans, practice “electoral democracy”, whereby we show up to voice our opinion every four years, while multinational corporations practice “participatory democracy”, showing up every day of the week to lobby our government representatives in person. How crazy is that? And that was exactly Leech’s point as he urged the audience to wake up and get involved.

This leads us into the whole reality of corporate involvement in almost every aspect of daily modern life. We are now living inside a new paradigm that I would call “universal capitalism”. Meanwhile, all politics continues to be local, and at its most powerful, national. That means corporations operate completely without borders. But citizens do not.

Everything from this observation point forward becomes very dark. And ordinary people don’t like thinking dark thoughts. We just don’t want to think about how deep and pervasive corporate activity has become. Because it now encompasses our entire life support system, from political decision-making to medical research to our food supply to the gasoline we pump into our tanks. When modern corporations run into trouble our entire life support system can and does collapse. At no other time in history has the most affluent mass of humanity been more vulnerable.

According to the Council of Canadians we need to begin fighting the dark forces—to begin the task of taking back control of our local and regional resources. Their website even highlights recent “wins”. Now there’s a part of me that thinks there should be a “win-win” proposition somewhere. And maybe there is.

One of the speakers, John Cavanaugh, an American who runs the Institute for Policy Study in Washington, obviously places a great deal of hope in Barack Obama, and blatantly gloated to his Canadian audience last Friday that for once the Americans have a more progressive leader than we do.

But Barack is not the face of any radical change in the status quo. Obama’s team tells the story, as do recent actions. His chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, was a senior advisor to the Clinton administration. His National Economic Council Director, Larry Summers, was the Treasury Secretary for the Clinton team, and was the former Chief Economist for the World Bank. And so on. These are seasoned status quo people.

Since taking over, Obama’s team have abandoned universal health care, escalated the war in Afghanistan, missed the opportunity to take over the privately controlled U.S. Federal Reserve, and paid out enormous sums of public money, further indebting the American public, to the grossly under-regulated banks and investment houses. Public debt in the U.S. now stands at $14 trillion and counting.

I don’t really think we Canadians need to be taking too many lessons from their new “leftist” president, though I am sure we all wish him well and Godspeed.

So, given all the support politicians like Obama and Harper throw at the status quo, we might ask, “will the batteries in universal Energizer Bunny (the globalized corporate collective) ever run down?” And if they do, will we be ready?

I’m sure those are questions the Council of Canadians would love to address. As for the rest of us, we’re probably just too busy to care. And that’s a shame. But you could check out their website. (It’s


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