It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it


The headline above is from Upton Sinclair, the famous American activist-novelist. In his book,The Jungle, Sinclair railed against the unsanitary conditions in meat packing industry of the time. Things haven’t changed too much since then, as the Maple Leaf listeriosis outbreak proved a few years ago.

So what do our salaries depend on most today? The oil and gas industry. The agribusiness industry—which includes aquaculture and forestry—and their wholesale chemical war on pests and weeds. The hi-tech sector that includes genetic modification and other risky business. In short, everything New Brunswick produces.

The bottom line is this. Almost all of what we’re doing is trashing the natural environment. I won’t belabour this, other than to say climate change is accelerating into a global monster, and species are being exterminated at a faster rate than at any time in the planet’s history.

But if we don’t get a paycheque, we can’t eat, right?

But without functioning natural ecosystems, there can be no paycheques. It’s kind of a dilemma, right?

Governments have become increasingly skilled at sucking and blowing about this. Yes, they say, we support environmental responsibility. Yes, they say, we’re here to grow the economy and protect jobs. Which digs them right into the heart of the problem.

Our erstwhile premier, the gallant Brian Gallant, came out this week championing the Energy East pipeline. According to Global News, he said he will do whatever necessary to make sure the $15.7-billion Energy East pipeline proceeds and delivers crude—and jobs—to his province. Meanwhile, one of the largest hurricanes in history is tearing its way through Florida, with another one right behind. Climate change? Obviously not our problem.

His counterpart, our telegenic priming minister, Justin Trudeau, threaded the same needle with support for pipelines to the BC coast—while trying his best to position Canada in a good light in Paris—by maintaining Stephen Harper’s commitment to reducing our carbon emissions to 30 percent of 2005 levels by 2030. The question becomes, how? Building new pipelines and promoting ongoing oil sands extraction can hardly help that mission.

Ironically, 40,000 people from 195 countries flew into Paris for the climate talks. I guess the environmental impact of that was lost on them.

But back to New Brunswick. What would it take to move the province into a totally environmentally-sustainable economy? Quick answer: exactly the same things the world would have to do to change the global economy. Longer answer: change the entire economic system from capitalism, profits, extraction and externalizing costs (that is, not paying for corporate environmental rape) to another model.

Unfortunately, such a revolutionary change would be slightly difficult to pull off. The first obstacle is the simple fact that New Brunswick’s corporations have effectively staged a government coup. Almost all of our provincial politicians take their marching orders, indirectly, from corporate interests. Because…well, just because those corporations are the ones supplying all the paycheques. Including the public sector paycheques that come from our taxes that come from our wages that come from those corporations. Got it?

Of course, there are hundreds of small businesses in the Maritimes that don’t follow this pattern. The new chocolate business in Nova Scotia started by a Syrian family is an example. In the grand scheme of things it has a relatively low impact on the environment. Local organic farmers would be a better example. The point is, we can do much better. We need to do much better. Time is running out.

It’s easy to put the onus on the private sector. But the private sector is based on a profit model. What we need is a sharing model. Which means a public model. Which means the public sector.

In the past, Canada’s public sector invested in great sharing enterprises: the national railways, the national postal system, the St. Lawrence Seaway, and more, up to and including defending Europe from fascism (which ironically, is the private sector turned psychopathic).

It’s long past time our public sector cuts ties from the corporate sector and began doing its real work: transitioning our economy from what has clearly become a global environmental disease into something that works. So our children will inherit a planet that still supports human life.

We’ve got it wrong. It’s not people and jobs first. It’s about protecting the host.

Additional reading:


  1. Protecting the host. Yes. Well said. Don't see it happening any time soon, which is sad.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts